School WiFi Blamed for Child's Symptoms
Three anonymous plaintiffs - 12-year-old "G" and his two parents - sued the Fay School, a private institution about 25 miles from Boston. They claim in federal court that the school has not cooperated with them to reduce the child's exposure to WiFi emissions.
People with Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome, or EHS, suffer from painful reactions to exposure to electronic activity, particularly from devices the emit radio waves, such as cell phone towers and WiFi networks.
Diagnosis of the disorder is controversial for its lack of scientific research and was portrayed in the AMC series Better Call Saul. The main character's brother suffered from the syndrome, but in his case it was entirely psychosomatic.
In spring 2013, the Fay School installed an industrial-capacity WiFi network into the school that was accessible in all classrooms. After the new network went live, G began coming home with headaches, itchy skin and rashes that would recede in the evening, and vanish over the weekend and during summer vacation when he was not near the school, the lawsuit claims.
When the child returned to school for the 2014 academic year, his symptoms got worse, resulting in him having to regularly leave school early.
The parents found that their child's condition may have been caused by exposure to increased electromagnetic activity after learning that, right before their child began suffering the symptoms, the school had installed a new, industrial-strength WiFi network.
"Exposure to Wi-Fi emissions at the levels emitted by the type of Wi-Fi to which the children are exposed in Fay classrooms causes, in those persons affected, most notably children, the symptoms of EHS, which include severe headaches, fatigue, stress, sleep disturbances, skin symptoms such as prickling, burning sensations and rashes, muscle aches, nausea, nose bleeds, dizziness and heart palpitations," the lawsuit states.
After being continually denied access to the school in order to test their student's classroom, and having their request that all classrooms in which their child is present have the WiFi network replaced with a hard-wired Ethernet denied, the parents sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"G's continued exposure to the high-density Wi-Fi emissions, without any attempt at a reasonable accommodation by Fay to avoid or minimize them, violates the ADA," the complaint states.
The science behind EHS is in dispute, with many researchers agreeing that the symptoms are real, but it is unclear what the actual causes are.
Martin Blank, a Columbia University professor, has researched the issue extensively and wrote a letter of support for the plaintiffs included in their complaint.
"I can say with conviction, in light of the science, and in particular in light of the cellular and DNA science, which has been my focus at Columbia University for several decades, putting radiating antennas in schools (and in close proximity to developing children) is an uninformed choice," Blank wrote.
A National Institutes of Health 2009 double-blind study on Idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic field found that when both the researchers and the test subjects were not aware whether or not they were actually being exposed to electromagnetic activity, symptoms of electromagnetic hypersensitivity vanished.
"Despite the conviction of IEI-EMF sufferers that their symptoms are triggered by exposure to electromagnetic fields, repeated experiments have been unable to replicate this phenomenon under controlled conditions," according to the study. "A narrow focus by clinicians or policy makers on bioelectromagnetic mechanisms is therefore unlikely to help IEI-EMF patients in the long-term."
The World Health Organization also recognizes that while the symptoms of electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome are real, the actual cause of those symptoms is not clear.
A representative from the school did not respond to a request for comment.
The child and his parents are represented by John Markham of Markham & Read in Boston.