Green Bank, West Virginia is small, with around 150 people living inside the Allegheny Mountain Range, part of Appalachia. But this tiny community is growing, not because of the views but because of what it’s missing – wifi and electromagnetic chaos.
Green Bank is part of the National Radio Quiet Zone (NRQZ), established in 1958 by the federal government to reduce “harmful interference to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory”, located nearby. It encompasses 13,000 square miles and is home to one of the world’s largest radio telescopes.
In the NRQZ you won’t get a cell phone signal, radio reception, and you definitely won’t find a WiFi hotspot. But this is one dead-zone that people are flocking to.
Known as “WiFi refugees”, Green Bank is attracting people who have experienced negative health reactions to electromagnetic fields—those put off by WiFi and cell phones. As of 2013, more than 30 people have relocated to West Bank claiming Electromagnetic Sensitivity, and all of them have reported remarkable improvements.
“I used to be sick all the time when I lived in Iowa. I was in constant pain,” said Diane Schou, according to the Daily Mail. “If anyone came near me with a cell phone or a device with Wi-Fi I would be in agony. But since I’ve moved to Green Banks the illnesses have cleared up.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) says electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) is characterized by a variety of symptoms but is not part of any recognized syndrome. The list of those symptoms most common with EHS are: “dermatological symptoms (redness, tingling, and burning sensations) as well as neurasthenic and vegetative symptoms (fatigue, tiredness, concentration difficulties, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitation, and digestive disturbances).”
How common is EHS? We simply don’t know. These symptoms are common with a variety of illnesses and conditions; isolating their cause as electromagnetic fields is difficult. The WHO indicates studies of EHS have revealed that people who claim to be sensitive to the fields are no better at detecting their presence than other people. They cast doubt on the sensitivity as a “real” condition.
But don’t tell that to the WiFi refugees of Green Bank.
“It began with a constant ringing in my ears. I couldn’t sleep in the house anymore and I felt sick all the time,” said Deborah Cooney, formerly of San Diego. “Any food I brought into the house would make me feel ill. I got heart palpitations. It was like I was slowly being poisoned.”
So far, Sweden is the only country to recognize EHS as a medical condition. But as the proliferation of WiFi technology continues to spread and claims of EHS become more common, that could soon change.