Its been a while since I talked about electro-sensitivity and I tend to assume its a “given” that readers of my blog know that this is one of the pivotal health issues that taxes and bewilders me, but do they? Sometimes, when something becomes the elephant in the room, we try even harder than ever not to give it attention and I realise I tend to act as though my electro-sensitivity is “normal”, since it has become so to me.
However, with recent symptoms being more acute than ever, I set about (double) checking my environment for likely triggers and, though I had called the experts in (two years ago) and done such a lot of work to make my environment as “clean” as possible, I still found there were loop holes.
One currently unavoidable “hole” is that we have a teenager at home and, as she is studying for major exams, she requires access to internet, on at least two gizmos, “at all times” (though I’m not convinced the “need” isn’t more of a “desire” a lot of the time…these kids think they can’t breathe without it). Its been a long easter break…
That aside, when she’s not here (or asleep for hours, as teenagers are), I either do what I do without access to internet most of the time or use an ethernet wire for all my internet connection and so does my husband. Which means that, with four or five clicks on my home hub software, the wi-fi facility is switched off and my house, in theory, is “quiet”…or is it. To my horror, I discovered last night that even when my BT Infinity hub has its wi-fi switched off, there is a second wi-fi element inside that box linking it to the Openzone Network providing a hotspot wi-fi service to any casual passer-by outside my house (and the volume of these passers-by is steadily increasing as we live in a rapdily expanding and already busy village centre). In other words, this has the capacity to send and receive wi-fi signals through my living room walls without me even knowing it…yes, even when I have switched wi-fi off. This is because, when you agree to become part of BT’s ever-so-handy wi-fi Openzone Network, you also agree (read the small print!) to offer-up your home hub as a hot-spot to that network. Yes, those 5 million hotspots boasted by BT consist of many of our living rooms when we, perhaps naively, imagined them to be largely made up of cafes and business and certainly not routers that have had wi-fi disabled (we thought).
Whilst I (very occasionally) value having access to a BT hotspot when I’m out…say, if I need to download of map of where I’m going or double-check if a particular shop is open, the trade-off in this arrangement is abysmally one-sided. For me, wi-fi in the home makes for chronic and debilitating pain, severe headaches, the shrillest kind of tinnitus, burning and itching skin, hot flushes, blurred vision and aching eyes, waves of nausea or upset stomach, cystitis, heightened emotions, brain fog, forgetfulness or inability to think clearly, weak muscles, painful joints fatigue, dizzy spells…(the list goes on). That in return for the occasional access to wi-fi on the move (bearing in mind I don’t go out as much as most people, given the above, and avoid making my phone live unless I’m desperate) is a pitifully poor arrangement; especially as most public places offer free log-in to their own service these days. Thankfully the blog Are You Hosting A Hotspot that pointed this out to me (thank you Michelle) explains exactly how to “opt out” of this arrangement, which I now have…but when I think of the months that I’ve been using ethernet wires yet unwittingly subjecting myself to close-proximity wi-fi, it makes my blood boil at the lack of transparency, and the naive and even dangerous assumptions, loaded into the terms of such an arrangement.
This wasn’t the only loop hole that I came upon in one evening of research. The next was that some BT hub models harbour DECT technology which means that, even when you have put yourself through the minor inconvenience of removing all cordless landline phones from your premises (which, hopefully, all electro-sensitives will have done very early in their process since they are deemed as detrimental to health as having a mobile phone mast in the middle of your lounge), your internet hub might be merrily sending out the same radiation as if you still had a cordless phone cradle in the room. Thankfully, my current BT Infinity hub does not incorporate this…but the version 3 that we had throughout all the early years of my health deteriorating did have this DECT technology (long after we ditched cordless phones) and it makes me quite livid to realise this.
The final discovery of my evening, and its one which makes me feel as though more tec-savvy readers will laugh at me for my naivety but (maybe its a generation thing) it never occurred to me that this would be the case; I learned that my MacBook has bluetooth! Yes, that thing which has me red-hot and feeling accute spikes of nerve pain the moment it is live on someone’s mobile in close proximity, especially in the car, is on the machine I use day-in-day-out and defaults to being “on” straight out of the box from the manufacturers. Of course, we found it lurking on my husband’s Macbook too. Was this one of the reasons my electrosensitivity went soaring after switching from an old style Windows computer to a Mac three years ago? I hate to say so, given my “complicity of ignorance”, but yes!
Beneath all these easy to miss modern-day loopholes or, should I say, dreadful health pitfalls to the electro-sensitive person, lie a series of assumptions. Those assumptions are 1) that constant exposure to wi-fi or bluetooth have no health implications 2) that everyone wants them as standard = we are “opted in”, not “opted out” from the point of transaction 3) we require no choice (reflected by the fact that the newest BT hubs have no facility to switch-off wi-fi, for instance) and that ALL people want these facilities ALL the time, no exception. I am already wondering how I will keep abreast of using technology, as I must for work and want to for recreation, when the headphone socket is removed from all gizmos, forcing users towards the bluetooth version of everything. As my options shrink, I will be forced closer and closer towards a choice to use technology or not, and no middle ground; as will we all.
I want to add another observation from last night’s research since it’s a phenomenon I’ve come across before. When I was researching this topic, I found a guy in the forum on the BT website asking how to turn off the DECT signal from his BT hub. To his credit, this guy kept extremely calm and did not allow himself to get sidetracked into any of the highly aggressive and belittling comments that came up in response to his request but it was like watching a pack of hyenas descend on a wounded gazelle to witness how some people react when others claim to be electro-sensitive. I witnessed the same phenomenon in the Apple forum a couple of years ago, where a guy was claiming to have received leg burns, like extreme sunburn, from using his Mac, even when it was on an appropriate lap tray (for the record, I also experience this with both Macbook and iPad and , in fact, cannot tolerate the latter at all for this reason, thus have had to “retire” what was once my favourite piece of techno equipment for being completely incompatible with my health). Again, the hyenas were upon him, tearing his “anecdotal pseudo-science” to shreds and angrily, defensively, throwing every bit of man-made logic they could to argue why the very-real physical pheonomenon he was describing simply wasn’t possible. It fascinates me how this absolute RAGE comes up in certain people when they hear about electro-sensitivity; there’s something gladiatorial and blood-craving, explicitly macho and self-righteous about it, like the left hemisphere turned Frankenstein and run amok. This trait demands the absolute right to be “correct” and “all knowing” about the world and will not make even a modicum of room for the admission that we still don’t know everything there is to know about the technology we are devising, or its long-term effects on our biology. These people are so saliva-spittingly enraged at this version of their modern reality being challenged that their extreme, jump-to-it defensive behaviour can only suggests they are afraid, for some reason, of people speaking out about their real-life experiences. Its as though anyone admitting that their encounters with modern technology haven’t been all pristine or positive will crack the very ceiling of the world they hold so dear. Yet it has never been more important that those who experience heath effects in relation to technology speak out and be heard; and it’s not that we need to get rid of that technology but, perhaps, that we can evolve it to be better…together, in dialogue with one another. There is still a lot of work to be done to make wi-fi technologies human-compatible and we need that dialogue to take place if we are going to get there. There are thousands upon thousands of people reporting the many and varied, yet pretty consistent, symptoms of electro-sensitivity and more speaking up every day; we can’t all be wrong!
So, does eliminating wi-fi for a few hours or even longer make such a difference to life and to health? In my experience, yes it does. On the days and weeks when I am able to switch off altogether or use ethernet uninterrupted, I feel calmer, smoother, less hot, clearer headed; my skin doesn’t tend to burn (please bear in mind that I am also sensitive to variations in natural EMFs plus there is pretty-much nowhere that any of us can completely hide from wi-fi; the logins of about seven neighbours come up within range when I scan for wi-fi from my house). Without my own wi-fi enabled, my hot flushes are minimised, headaches are rare, I can think more clearly, I feel less frenetic or inexplicably adrenalised during my daily activities and many of my health symptoms subside or go quieter. And it’s not just me; my husband really notices this difference too and has opted to go completely wired at the office as well as home these days, keeping his phone switched off unless making a business call, just as I do. Of course, the major thing we do as a family is turn off the wi-fi overnight, even on holiday (assuming we can locate the router) and even the last two hotels we stayed in had a policy of switching off wi-fi overnight for health reasons; yes, this level of consciousness is catching on if you look out for the signs. We also noticed, not for the first time as we drove from our recent “country” holiday back to the Thames valley, where we live just 30 miles from London, how the combined effect of everyone’s electro-smog seemed to switch on suddenly and then rapidly drum-up to fever pitch, when we reached about 50 miles from London’s epicentre and as housing became denser. As the suburbs in this heavily over-populated portion of the UK fill up to almost bursting point with new-build housing estates (we have about five of these being constructed very close to us right now), gobbling up all the spaces and the green belt, those of us who feel electro-smog in our bodies can tell just how impactful upon health this wif-fi soup is becoming. To me, one of the ways that it manifests is as an extremely shrill head tone that becomes so much more intense, high-pitched and relentless (droning on constantly, day and night) when I am in this part of the world, whereas it is still there but so much softer in other locations. Yes, we plan to move…but this can’t happen immediately and I have to do what I can do to mitigate the effects in this last bastion of personal safety and wellbeing, my home. We all do; hence the topic of this blog.
Should you want to disconnect the wi-fi on your BT hub, by the way (given these instructions are hard to find and not exactly straightforward…as even the BT technical assistant trying to talk me through it discovered, becoming almost as confused as I was) the way to do this is as follows:
Go to the Home Hub Manager on your computer as per the instructions with your wi-fi kit. Once there, click on Settings, choose Advanced Settings where you will be asked to log in with your password, it will then say a few words (see left) and offer the option to Continue to Adavanced Settings (choose this). More text will come up as below so choose wireless from the tabs at the top. A screen will come up with the words Wireless Network Enable and it is here that you choose “no” and apply. To reverse this in order to switch wi-fi back on, should you need to, you just need to go through the same process and choose “yes” to that question.
To opt out of BT’s hot-spot scheme, follow the easy instructions in Michelle’s Blog, below.
Are You Hosting A Hotspot? – Michelle’s Blog
(Older) BT Home Hubs with Built in DECT Digital Phone Base Stations &
Identifying Your BT Home Hub (does it have DECT) – John Jamieson, Wave Goodbye blog
Check how many hotspots are near where you live… Find a wi-fi hotspot.
BT wi-fi page for opting out of hotspots https://www.bt.com/wifi