A British mother claims that her teenage daughter killed herself over her allergy to her school's Wi-Fi signals.
According to The Telegraph, "A mother claims a Wi-Fi allergy killed her daughter and is accusing an Oxfordshire school of failing to safeguard children against the physical effects of wireless technology, an inquest has heard.
Jenny Fry, 15, was found in woodland near her home in Chadlington, on June 11 this year after texting a friend telling her she would not be going to school and intended to kill herself. An inquest heard the teenager was intelligent and organised but that her life had been made a misery due to the prolonged effects of a condition known as electro-hypersensitivity (EHS).
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Jenny's mother, Debra Fry, said her daughter suffered with tiredness, headaches and bladder problems as a direct result of wireless internet connections at Chipping Norton School."
Debra Fry's claim that that her daughter could sense-much less was made ill by-electromagnetic waves and fields (EMFs) has found little or no support in the medical community.
The World Health Organization, for example, concluded that "well controlled and conducted double-blind studies have shown that symptoms do not seem to be correlated with EMF exposure... these symptoms may be due to pre-existing psychiatric conditions as well as stress reactions as a result of worrying about believed EMF health effects, rather than EMF exposure."
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Nonetheless, concern over the effects of EMFs (via power lines) have been around since the 1970s, and resurfaced in the past decade as cell phones have become ubiquitous. Indeed, there is a burgeoning market for so-called "EMF shields" that can be inserted into cell phones that allegedly block harmful electromagnetic waves (though consumer groups say there's no evidence they are effective).
In May of this year, Berkeley, Calif. became the first American city to pass a measure requiring that cell phones be sold with a health warning about the exposure of users to radio frequency radiation.
Despite no credible scientific evidence that EMFs and cell phone radiation can cause cancer, some people claim that they can actually sense or feel the presence of radio waves. Signals pass harmlessly through our bodies all time, and always have. All our lives-and even before we were born-we have been surrounded by television, radio, and other waves.
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High-energy cosmic waves including particles called muons pass through us all the time; as a Space.com article noted, "About 10,000 muons pass through our bodies every minute. Some of these muons will ionize molecules as they go through our flesh, occasionally leading to genetic mutations that may be harmful. At present, the average human receives the equivalent of about 10 chest X-rays per year from cosmic rays. We shouldn't be alarmed by this, since it is just part of the natural background radiation under which humans and our ancestors have been exposed to for eons."
Dr. Harriet Hall, a blogger for the consumer protection website ScienceBasedMedicine.org, notes that "the symptoms that ‘EMS' patients report are real, but there is no evidence that they are caused by EMF exposure. In provocation studies, patients were unable to tell when they were being exposed to radiofrequency emissions, and they reported the same symptoms regardless of whether the devices were turned on or off."
In other words no one is suggesting that the people who believe they have EMS are not suffering from real symptoms, but instead that they are misattributing what is causing those symptoms. A rash, for example, might be caused by an undiagnosed allergy, sensitivity to laundry detergent, or something else but be assumed to have its origins in unseen electromagnetic waves.
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Despite Fry's mother's claims, it's not clear why her daughter killed herself (or even that she intended to); she was clearly emotionally troubled and just because they both believed that she was sensitive to EMFs (and that the symptoms she described were attributable to that) does not mean she actually was.
Even if sensitivity to Wi-Fi had been demonstrated, Mrs. Fry's assertion that "Wi-Fi killed my daughter" is a stretch. Many people suffer miserably from seasonal allergies, but it would be difficult to prove that pollen, for example, in any way "caused" a sufferer's suicide.
There also seems to be some confusion about what drove her to suicide; a news article in November reported that Jenny was "still deeply upset" following the suicide of a close friend a year earlier, and barely mentioned EMF sensitivity.
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One concern doctors have is that the focus on EMFs may have caused Fry's parents to ignore other warning signs.
A 2013 report from Bad Science Watch, an independent non-profit consumer protection watchdog and science advocacy group in Canada, found that claims of health problems associated with Wi-Fi and EMFs are not supported by science, and that the fear mongering has real consequences for the public: "families are being been misled into believing that their children are suffering from EHS and may miss an opportunity for early diagnosis of real and serious health problems in their children."