Electrosmog. The Independent has seriously excelled itself this time

May 31st, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, electrosensitivity, independent | 96 Comments »

This is genuinely fascinating: from the article in today’s Independent, electrosensitivity now seems to be growing into an explicitly alternative diagnosis, to go with alternative therapies. For this article your Bad Science Bingo high scorers are: q-link, homeopathy, misrepresenting Sweden, and ignoring the provocation studies.

environment.independent.co.uk/lifestyle/article2600308.ece

My war on electrosmog: Julia Stephenson sets out to clear the airwaves
How one woman fought back after being diagnosed by her naturopath with overexposure to Wi-Fi and mobile phone frequencies
Published: 31 May 2007

A few months ago I noticed I was feeling dog-tired and drained all the time. Usually a good sleeper, I’d suddenly begun waking up early in the morning and finding myself unable to go back to sleep.

It wasn’t only me that was drooping. My once-lush plants had lost their lustre too. Ridiculous, considering how well I look after myself – and my plants.

I am well-doctored, to put it mildly. I probably consult more doctors than Woody Allen, who has separate screenings of his movies for his doctors. Everyone is entitled to a hobby; mine just happens to be my health, and what a fascinating hobby it is.

When at a loss to explain my new malaise, I visited my naturopath. It may sound unorthodox, but if it works, who cares?

She insisted that my exhaustion was caused by electromagnetic “smog” in my flat. The problem, she explained, is that our dependence on office and communications equipment (especially mobile phones and the masts needed to power them, as well as microwaves, computers and electrical equipment), exposes us to frequencies that can have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing, especially if we are run-down, or if our immune system is compromised in some way.

This made sense, as my symptoms had begun soon after installing wireless technology in my sitting room. Wireless (Wi-Fi) technology allows you to access emails and the internet anywhere in your living space. It’s convenient but I could live without it if meant having more physical energy. So I immediately turned off my wireless network and replaced it with broadband.

My naturopath is not alone in her concern. There is growing evidence that Wi-Fi technology is harmful. When the Swedish town of Götene activated their new Wi-Fi system in May 2006, within hours the local hospital emergency services were receiving calls from residents complaining of a number of symptoms: difficulty breathing, blurry vision, headaches and even cases of heart arrhythmia. On 23 May 2006, Sweden’s STV followed up the story on their current affairs programme “Debatt”.

The worldwide centre of the mobile phone industry, Sweden is where much of the research on environmental illness has been carried out. It was the first country to recognise electromagnetic hypersensitivity as a valid medical condition, and has set up a federal body to assist sufferers of those affected (www.feb.se). There have been calls for the Swedish government to close down the nation’s Wi-Fi networks, pending further investigation.

Those concerned about possible side-effects believe that our unprecedented exposure to electrical equipment, mobile phones and Wi-Fi mean that we are surrounded by a soup of electromagnetic smog at all times. In effect, we live in an electro-dictatorship: even if you haven’t voted for this technology by say, owning a mobile phone, you may still suffer the same effects as those who have. For example, although I’ve turned off my wireless access I can still tap in to my neighbour’s Wi-Fi downstairs.

Research being carried out by industry, the Government and academics has so far failed to find a persuasive link between mobile phone masts and health problems. The Department of Health and the Mobile Operators Association insist that British masts conform to international safety standards. A research group commissioned by the government-funded Health Protection Agency reported: “Exposure levels from living near to mobile phone base stations are extremely low and the overall evidence indicates they are unlikely to pose a risk to health.” But it continued: “Research has limitations and the possibility remains open that there could be health effects from exposure – hence continued research is needed.”

Many doctors are now convinced that this powerful technology is storing up huge problems for our future health. To date, 1,200 physicians in Germany, and 2,000 worldwide, have signed the Freiburger Appeal, a petition for severe restrictions on wireless technology. The doctors say they are seeing a dramatic increase in certain diseases and symptoms in their patients.

“Any imbalance in our electromagnetic field creates a disturbance in cell structure and function, which can lead to illness in sensitive individuals,” says London-based complementary health practitioner Dr Nicole de Canha.

Even cordless hands-free home telephones – such a boon to multitaskers, enabling one to patiently listen to friends and family for hours while cleaning cupboards, re-potting house plants and reorganising the CD collection – are now off-limits. Their electrical force-field is nearly as powerful as that of a mobile phone. Since I’m now chained to a phone on a lead, my cupboards are filthy and my friends are neglected. But at least I’m less radioactive.

It’s much harder to avoid mobile phone masts, however. Over the past 10 years they have sprouted all over the country to power the mobile phones owned by over 95 per cent of the population. To find out how close you live to a mast go to www.sitefinder.radio.gov.uk. The results may shock you: there are now 35,000 mobile phone masts in the UK, and chances are that several are in your immediate vicinity. It’s supposed that you are never more than 10 feet away from a rat in London; you may find yourself even closer to a phone mast.

Despite being implicated in a number of health problems – something that alarms parents of the one in 10 schools located close to masts – these masts need no planning permission and are often disguised in trees, petrol stations, shop signs, even church steeples. For instance, the support pole for the golden angel weathervane on Guildford Cathedral is actually a mobile mast, supporting several antennas. In return for access to the coveted hilltop site, the golden angel was regilded. It seems that even God cannot offer protection from this insidious pollution.

Fortunately there are steps that concerned individuals can take to reduce the amount of “electro-smog” to which they are subject. Like many people, I’m mobile-dependent, but I now use a headset that delivers sound through an air-filled wireless tube similar to a doctor’s stethoscope (but much smaller, so you don’t look like you’re on call). Conventional headsets transmit sound to the earpiece through a wire, but as wire is an electrical conductor it may also deliver radiation directly to your head. Since I’ve started using the tube I no longer experience headaches or a slight ringing in my ears.

You could also try the Q-Link pendant, which employs “sympathetic resonance technology,” something that the makers declare “repairs and tunes your biofield”. Friends who wear a Q-Link report that they feel healthier and more energetic.

The homeopathic medicine company, New Vistas, and the Australian flower essence company, Bush Flower Remedies, both make drops that claim to reduce the amount of radiation stored in the body.

Also, for the past two months I’ve been using an electro-magnetic field protection unit plugged into a wall at home. The device was created by engineer and homeopath Gary Johnson. Disturbed with the increasing number of patients coming to him with skin problems, exhaustion, blurred vision, and symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome, he suspected that they might be sensitive to electromagnetic radiation (EMR).

“The heart of the unit is a programmed microprocessor unit that produces a holograph field that is amplified through an internal aerial system. This protection field protects the human system from the negative effects of EMR,” says Johnson. He says he has had great success in alleviating patients’ symptoms, and claims the unit offers unlimited protection from any negative electromagnetic emissions in a 700-square metre radius.

Professor Leif Salford, of Sweden’s Lund University, has been researching the effects of phone masts for 15 years. He says that exposure to radiation emitted by mobile phones and masts can destroy cells in the parts of the brain responsible for memory, movement and learning, and calls mankind’s dependence on mobile phones “the world’s largest biological experiment ever”.

As yet, no one knows what price we will pay for our dependence on modern technology.

Additional research by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, USA (www.niehs.nih.gov) and the Office of Communications, the independent regulator for the UK communications industries (www.ofcom.org.uk)

How to block the rays

* Magnetic field protection boxes start at £235 and are available from www.subtlefieldtechnologies.com

* Q-Link pendants cost from £70 at www.qlinkworld.co.uk

* Anti-radiation mobile phone headsets are available at www.rf3now.com or the Sloane Health Shop, London SW3 (020 7730 7046)

* Australian Bush Flower Essences can be found at www.ausflowers.com.au

I should add that I feel it is unacceptable for anyone in the comments to be rude about people who suffer with symptoms; however this is a journalist writing in a newspaper, both should take responsibility for what they print, and so the science content of the article is very very much fair game.


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96 Responses



  1. gantlord said,

    May 31, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    This is too much. I’m just about ready to give in… Half the world is evidently mad. We must be mad for expecting the mad ones to see sense. So we’re all mad.

  2. dave_the_m said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    “The heart of the unit is a programmed microprocessor unit that produces a holograph field”.

    Ooooh, where can I get one of those :-)

  3. ibycus said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    “Since I’m now chained to a phone on a lead, my cupboards are filthy and my friends are neglected. But at least I’m less radioactive.”

    *gobsmacked*

    In the last 2 weeks of misrepresentations of this subject, this is the worst and most flagrant example I have seen.

  4. Fyse said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    “But at least I’m less radioactive.”

    Unbelievable.

  5. Persiflage said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    Ah, at last something we can test! Break out the Geiger counters, grab a stadium of people who believe they’re electrosensitive, put ‘em up for a month in an area protected by these devices and we’ll see if they’re less “radioactive” afterward.

    *sigh*

  6. Tony Jackson said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    Last Sunday it was sodium benzoate, the silent child killer. Before that it was GM cannabis and now we have this double-distilled BS. I’ve pretty much had it with the Independent as far as science is concerned. Evidently, they seem to think it’s good editorial policy to chase the Daily Mail’s tail. They must be desperate.

    Their legitimate science correspondent Steve Connor is a good man fallen among fools and knaves. He should jump ship at the first opportunity.

  7. shortdoug said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    good grief.

    “as wire is an electrical conductor it may also deliver radiation directly to your head”

    how does that work then? i could understand if it delivered electricity directly to your head if you held it against it, but radiation?

    and i certainly want to see one of those holograph fields. sounds trippy.

  8. shortdoug said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    good to see the Qlink pendant getting a plug too.

  9. Geeb said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    Mr Johnson’s incredible unlimited protection device:

    www.johnsondrug.com/

    (Possibly a duplicate post, due to dodgy internet connection – apologies if so!)

  10. Ginger Yellow said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    That whole article reads like a Private Eye parody. The passage from “Fortunately there are steps…” to “700 square metre radius” is mindbogglingly credulous. How do these people function as human beings? They must get scammed every other week.

  11. TheEvilSciencePixie said,

    May 31, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    I’m fascinated by the mixed units. It’s either a 700 metre radius, or 700 square metres. I’ve never seen a square circle, believing it to be against the laws of physics, but obviously the Independent is operating in another dimension.

  12. briantist@work said,

    May 31, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    This is what happens when you put Bad Science out as Panorama.. someone at the Indy believes it.

    Bad Science: It is, are you?

  13. JohnK said,

    May 31, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    “…the science content of the article is very very much fair game.”

    There isn’t any, really. Self-proclaimed hypochondriac points at something she can’t understand and blames it for her malaise. Bet her GP loves her.

    The slightly jaunty style smacks of ad-copy, wonder if she’s on commission for any of that junk she’s promoting.

  14. ibycus said,

    May 31, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    88,787 square miles (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Britain), 35,000 mobile phone masts (if that figure is to be believed…) you do the maths.

  15. Tim Worstall said,

    May 31, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    “holograph field”

    No, no, you’re all being mean.

    She’s just got confused between hologram (didn’t we prove last time around that it was light bulbs causing all the problems?) and holograph.

    Those hand written documents will get you every time.

  16. evidencebasedeating said,

    May 31, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    so doing the maths, is the Independent now reporting science at a level of 5 DMWU’s?*

    they’re certainly living up to their name. Independent of rational thought – must have a new editor…

    just waiting for Dr John Briffa to be installed as their ‘medical correspondent’, and Patrick Holford as their ‘nutrition and lifestyle’ consultant, oh, and a royal patronage from Charlie boy, and its a flush!

    *Daily Mail Woo Units

  17. pv said,

    May 31, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    “I am well-doctored, to put it mildly.”

    Lobotomised, in fact!

  18. kayman1uk said,

    May 31, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    What happened to her plants? They were introduced as exhibiting droopiness at the start of the article but never made a reappearance. Did they get better? Or die because they couldn’t support the weight of the six or seven magical pendants she presumbly drapes across them?

  19. bazzargh said,

    May 31, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    “mobile phones owned by over 95 per cent of the population” – 6% of the English population are under 5. So a significant number of pre-schoolers are on pay-as-you-gnaw contracts then?

    (the Oftel residential survey 2003 puts the ownership rate at 75% of adults – www.statistics.gov.uk/STATBASE/ssdataset.asp?vlnk=7202)

  20. Dr Aust said,

    May 31, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    In response to the electrosmoggie who accused me of taking a blinkered view of the published literature on EMF exposure (My one-line summary would be: “Lots of noise; little heat or light”) I thought I would share this one with you:

    Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2002 Jul;205(5):353-60.

    Frick U, Rehm J, Eichhammer P.

    Risk perception, somatization, and self report of complaints related to electromagnetic fields–a randomized survey study.

    Exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) as well as EMF-related complaints has increased over the past decades. However, it is unclear whether these complaints are related to the electromagnetic or other physical properties of these fields per se, to salience of EMF in media, or to both. What is the prevalence of EMF-related complaints in the general population? What are the influencing factors on this prevalence? Does reporting of EMF-related symptoms depend on cognitive factors? To answer these questions, a survey with random variation of three cognitive factors was performed. As expected, EMF-related complaints were reported more by females and people with higher somatization tendency. Age had no significant linear effect on EMF-related complaints. The cognitive condition of threat produced a significant contrast effect among people with high somatization tendency on EMF-related complaints. Cognition can influence reporting of EMF-related effects. Thus, in future research of such effects, psychologically influencing factors should be included. Also risk communication should incorporate knowledge about social cognition.

    Other interesting studies: in countries where some physicians practise complimentary medicine, these doctors were significantly more likely to be told by patients that they were were “electrosensitive”. And in one Swiss survey, 5% of people claimed they were electrosensitive, while a whopping 50% were “worried” about electrosmog….arrrrrgh!

    “The most common health complaints among EHS individuals were sleep disorders (43%) and headaches (34%)” [PMID: 17193782]

    Nice specific symptoms, then.

    I’ve got it… electrosmog is the new neurasthenia:

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurasthenia

  21. Crispy Duck said,

    May 31, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    I’ve cracked it… these people get broadband with wi-fi installed, then within days they get “skin problems, exhaustion, blurred vision, and symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome”… Dr Johnson (homeopath) “suspected that they might be sensitive to electromagnetic radiation (EMR).”

    They’re just staying up all night, staring at their computers and wanking. It all makes sense.

  22. Ginger Yellow said,

    May 31, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    It would have to be a hypersphere. A 3 dimensional sphere still has a one dimensional radius. Maybe Stephenson was working on the Poincare conjecture. Someone should tell her it’s already been proven.

  23. Crispy Duck said,

    May 31, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    “Wireless (Wi-Fi) technology allows you to access emails and the internet anywhere in your living space.”

    “emails and the internet” – another n00b who doesn’t know the difference between an internet and a world-wide-web.

    “I immediately turned off my wireless network and replaced it with broadband.”

    And also doesn’t know the difference between broadband and a wi-fi network, and doesn’t realise that she’s had broadband all the time, regardless of whether she had a wireless network plugged into it.

    Not surprising that she doesn’t know what radiation is either. I’m reminded of the Lenny Henry sketch in which Trevor McDoughnut announced that, following the renaming of Windscale to Sellafield, “radiation” would henceforth be known as “magic moon beams”.

  24. ayupmeduck said,

    May 31, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    That Independent article is totally ‘kin awesome. One of the best things I have ever read. Laugh out loud stuff. I haven’t got a copy at hand, but intend to get hold of it and have it framed. Panorama don’t even come close to this.

  25. le canard noir said,

    May 31, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    What has happened to the Independent editorial policy? Barking.

    As discussed many times here and elsewhere, electrosensitives are the new cash cow in the woo world. I must spend some time tonight re-tuning the quackometer to spot this nu-woo. It fails dismally on this article and only gives it 1 Canard. It ought to be 10/10. In fact, I must make a Spinal Tap version for articles like this and make the dial go all the way up to 11.

  26. thescientist said,

    May 31, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    correct me if im wrong but when an alternating current passes through a wire it causes an alternating electromagnetic wave to be emmited. So what is the point of the device that plugs into the wall socket? surely this just adds another electromagnetic wave to the smog.

  27. le canard noir said,

    May 31, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    Yep, the scientist. You might want to check out www.holfordwatch.info/2007/05/holford-jumps-on-wi-fi-broadband-waggon.html

    for more wi-fi misunderstanding fun…

  28. ffutures said,

    May 31, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    Holy crap…

    Re. my comments re. the last electrosmog thing… I now suspect that some idiot will add it to the National Curriculum.

    Wonder how much this would add to NHS costs if someone was stupid enough to treat it as a real medical condition.

  29. le canard noir said,

    May 31, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    Well, I think the point is that these people are suffering real symptoms of some sort – it is just their explanation is off kilter and the quacks are exploiting that. its a bit like selling diet aids to anorexics in my book.

  30. Martin said,

    May 31, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    Didn’t Julia Stephenson win one of Ben’s Bad Science awards a couple of years ago? Complaining about MMR whilst driving around talking on a mobile phone or something.

    Also, as an engineer can I distance myself and my entire profession from Gary Johnson. Is this an engineer in the sense of ‘electrician’ or ‘university graduate with a degree from a recognised university’? I’m hoping it’s the former, although I’m not sure I’d like him to re-wire my house.

  31. Beej said,

    May 31, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    Martin, you might be thinking of Juliet Stevenson, star of the “emotionally biased” MMR drama Hearing The Silence.

  32. Kess said,

    May 31, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    As an electronic engineer I want to get hold of one of those holograph generator boxes – and get the lid off.

    If it proved not to contain a “programmed microprocessor unit”, or anything else of value for that matter, I wonder if Ms Stephenson will change her tune and apologise.

    Somehow I doubt it.

  33. pv said,

    May 31, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    “it is just their explanation is off kilter and the quacks are exploiting that”

    I think, le canard, it’s the quacks in the main who are providing the explanation. All the same symptoms are pretty much accounted for by sleep deprivation, daylight deprivation and eye strain from staring at a monitor for hours at a time.

  34. JQH said,

    May 31, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    How did that harebrained hypochondriac’s ravings ever get the editorial nod? It’s got to be the most ridiculous thing the Indie has ever published. And how much is she paid for writing such crap?

  35. sball said,

    May 31, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    I actually emailed her this morning and linked to your previous Q-link article. Her out of office reply is:

    “I am out of the office until 6.6.2007. If your query is urgent please contact my assistant on 020 7589 1212.

    Or don’t bother. Whatever.”

    Class :)

  36. Ben Goldacre said,

    May 31, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    small world. that’s the number for chelsea police station and i have a mate who used to use exactly the same gag.

  37. TimW said,

    May 31, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    Even the radius of a hypersphere is still one-dimensional…isn’t it?

  38. stever said,

    May 31, 2007 at 9:30 pm

    hilariously, spectacularly, staggeringly poor journalism. Instant badscience oscar, seriously, It has to be the all time worst ever. Everyone at the IOS really should resign in shame. how such unspeakable drivel ever made it into print almost defies belief. the only credible explanation is that we are being had – this is all an elaborate postmodern joke at our expense. I really really hope so.

    Reading it was actually making me ill and, wierdly, my house plants are also looking a bit peaky.

  39. TimW said,

    May 31, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    “The homeopathic medicine company, New Vistas … make drops that claim to reduce the amount of radiation stored in the body.”

    I thought this couldn’t possibly be true but I popped over to their website and searched for “radiation” and yes they already have products for this newly-invented illness.

  40. Brian S said,

    May 31, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    Hi
    Long time reader, first post had to add my pennyworth on this one. As a radio amateur I have a keen interest in all things emc for a variety of reasons (mainly to avoid a visit from Ofcom for causing interference).

    “(especially mobile phones and the masts needed to power them, as well as microwaves, computers and electrical equipment), exposes us to frequencies that can have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing,”
    This covers every frequency from 50Hz ac (which we have lived with since the beginning of the 20th century) up to microwave, is she blaming them all?

    “Even cordless hands-free home telephones – such a boon to multitaskers, enabling one to patiently listen to friends and family for hours while cleaning cupboards, re-potting house plants and reorganising the CD collection – are now off-limits. Their electrical force-field is nearly as powerful as that of a mobile phone.
    Since I’m now chained to a phone on a lead, my cupboards are filthy and my friends are neglected. But at least I’m less radioactive.”
    If she becomes radioactive while using a cordless phone there’s something seriously wrong with her phone!

    “these masts need no planning permission and are often disguised in trees, petrol stations, shop signs, even church steeples.”
    I’ve seen a mobile phone mast disguised (badly) as a tree, never in a tree. I wonder if the radio emission would keep birds warm at night? I wouldn’t think petrol station operators would like having a mast on their premises.

    “He says he has had great success in alleviating patients’ symptoms, and claims the unit offers unlimited protection from any negative electromagnetic emissions in a 700-square metre radius.”
    Surely if he’s referring to electromagnetic emissions they must be alternating current, what is he doing about the positive part of the emission?
    If he has found a way of cancelling out electromagnetic emissions I’m sure the military would be interested!

  41. Agema said,

    May 31, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    Julia Stephenson is barely a journalist.

    It’s been quite a long time since I last got the Independent, but as I recall she’s a green activist, and more a dilettante commentary writer on her personal experiences than a journalist who goes out and, like, finds stuff out. Nor would this be the first time she’s handed readers a green-agenda/ alternative therapy/ pseudoscience, thought-free load of waffle. Very postmodern, really. Don’t bother with totalitarian ideology like checking facts and weighing the evidence, just say what’s happening to you and send it for print. She’s normally buried in the supplement section somewhere, and like many things in that section, it’s really for fairly wealthy people to think about things to waste their money on indulging foibles. Not for any kind of news value.

  42. hinschelwood said,

    May 31, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    “negative electromagnetic emissions”

    I find this fascinating. Does it mean “bad vibes”, or does she really think that electromagnetic waves can have a negative polarity?

    I only mention it as nobody else has mentioned this piece of nonsense. And somebody else has already done my favourite bit, the great advice about not wearing headphones with a wire, because the wire can conduct electromagnetic waves to your brain.

    I’m starting to understand “Wonko the Sane” from that Douglas Adams book. Sometimes it really does look like the entire world is turning into a lunatic asylum.

  43. Kess said,

    May 31, 2007 at 11:09 pm

    “The homeopathic medicine company, New Vistas … make drops that claim to reduce the amount of radiation stored in the body.”

    Even better, it’s described as a Detox remedy so presumably it causes all the radiation stored up over the years to be expelled from the body. A scary thought.

  44. ayupmeduck said,

    May 31, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    Hidden amongst laugh out loud stuff are a couple of new “facts” that I now notice are repeated across various other Woo sites.

    One of these is the so-called Freiburger Appeal. I’ll take a look at this in more detail, but so far I can’t actually find a list of the 1200 physicians that have signed. The only list I can so far find has less than 350 names on it. Furthermore, I’d not call them physicians. The signatories include large numbers of, wait for it…homeopathic “doctors”, “Heilpraktiker” (I can’t translate this, it’s sort of a non-doctor-doctor), “Orientalist” doctor, “Umweltmedizin” (literally “enviromental doctor), … my word, I loose the will to live trying to figure out what sort of doctors these are.

    The list seems to have been going been started 5 years ago, so even if they do have 1,200 sign-ups, it’s pretty pathetic showing.

    To sign up, you only have to put you name on a fax form, so it’s pretty easy to fake.

    Anyway, don’t take this as gospel, I need to dig a bit deeper. But it’s interesting that this list of so often quoted by English speakers in a “look at the pragmatic Germans, they know what they are talking about” manner.

  45. Dr Aust said,

    May 31, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    Oops… forgot. Not the thing that caused the illness. For a homeopathic remedy it has to be an infinite dilution of something that produces the same SYMPTOMS.

    Since the most prominent reported symptoms of claimed electrosensitivity are sleep problems and headaches, I am now wondering how to prepare a 30c homeopathic dilution of either

    “life”

    or

    “small children”

  46. Dr Aust said,

    May 31, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    - And had forgotten Ben’s excellent article about the electrosensivity “provocation” studies (link at top of blog) which found no effect of weak EMF.

    Reminds me somewhat of when I looked up the papers on food allergies a while back. A result that emerged from several studies was that about 90% of the people who were absolutely totally convinced they had food allergies showed no reaction to their demon substance when administered it in a double-blind placebo-controlled food challenge.

  47. Dr Aust said,

    May 31, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    Ayup

    “Heilpraktiker” just means “health practitioner”, so anything health-related for which you need licencing from the state. In Germany that would include all of osteopaths, counsellors, herbalists , acupuncturists, homeopaths etc. etc.

  48. daikon said,

    June 1, 2007 at 1:25 am

    “negative electromagnetic emissions”

    this is a result of gaining your scientific education from “He-man and the masters of the universe” and other animated shows. almost every other episode, some kind of demon made of “negative energy” turns up. as every schoolboy knows, all you have to do is zap it with some “positive energy” and everythings rosy at castle greyskull.

    i assume that’s how they came up with the holographic force field spectrum analyzer perpetual motion machine.

  49. ayupmeduck said,

    June 1, 2007 at 7:46 am

    @Dr Aust – As you point out, Heilpraktiker can only do alternative medicine They are not allowed to call themselves “Artz”, or in other words are not allowed to call themselves “Doctors” in the medical sense. Furthermore, the German state does not have any recognized training to become a Heilpraktiker. The vast majority work part-time. That’s why I see them as “non-doctors”.

    But according to the Independent article, these Heilpraktiker are classified as “physicians”. Now the term “physician” is used in my world for a Doctor or Surgeon, and certainly does not cover part-time homeopathic workers with zero medical training.

  50. Littleshim said,

    June 1, 2007 at 8:27 am

    “A few months ago I noticed I was feeling dog-tired and drained all the time. Usually a good sleeper, I’d suddenly begun waking up early in the morning and finding myself unable to go back to sleep.”

    It’s funny, that’s happened to me too. Only I just put it down to insomnia, general stress and ‘one of those things’. Lots of people go through this kind of thing.

    “It wasn’t only me that was drooping. My once-lush plants had lost their lustre too. Ridiculous, considering how well I look after myself – and my plants.”

    Right, so this “electrosmog” affects both humans and plants, with their completely different biologies? The poor plants must be gutted, missing all that sleep.

    “When at a loss to explain my new malaise, I visited my naturopath. It may sound unorthodox, but if it works, who cares?”

    If something goes wrong with her car, does she consult Uri Geller?

    “She insisted that my exhaustion was caused by electromagnetic “smog” in my flat… The problem, she explained, is that our dependence on office and communications equipment … exposes us to frequencies that can have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing, especially if we are run-down, or if our immune system is compromised in some way.”

    Is that right? So this “electrosmog” effect must involve the immune system somehow, which seems pretty odd. I mean, I’m pretty sure my immune system can’t repel electromagnetic radiation, but what do I know? Those immunology lectures were all of two years ago, after all.

    “This made sense, as my symptoms had begun soon after installing wireless technology in my sitting room. … So I immediately turned off my wireless network and replaced it with broadband.”

    Wow. I wonder where she was getting her Interweb from before she had broadband?

    Repeat after me: Coincidence does not equal causality.

    I mean, I bet every time I clap my hands, somebody in the world has a baby. Or a heart attack. What does that tell us? Well, nothing.

  51. SciencePunk said,

    June 1, 2007 at 8:29 am

    I’m speechless. There really is nothing I can say that will be more insulting to the Independent than this article.

  52. Rich Scopie said,

    June 1, 2007 at 8:36 am

    Please tell me that this woman no longer has a job.

  53. tommyd said,

    June 1, 2007 at 9:24 am

    is she right to use ‘wi-fi’ and ‘mobile phone network’ interchangeably? are they not different frequencies and strengths? and when she talks about Sweden’s ‘wi-fi network’ which does she mean?

  54. kim said,

    June 1, 2007 at 9:41 am

    Just did a Google on Julia Stephenson. I’m assuming this is her:

    www.chalettiara.com/journo.htm

    Explains a lot.

  55. dbhb said,

    June 1, 2007 at 9:48 am

    Feel obliged to share a little gem that a friend of mine just came up with when shown this Independent article…

    “The real problem is that genetic mutations that normally would have died out are now being allowed their own newspaper columns.”

  56. Mojo said,

    June 1, 2007 at 10:32 am

    kim said, (June 1, 2007 at 9:41 am)

    “Just did a Google on Julia Stephenson. I’m assuming this is her:

    www.chalettiara.com/journo.htm

    Explains a lot.”

    Yes, that certainly seems to be her. I did a Google search yesterday and came up with this page from the same site (but apparently not linked to from it):

    www.chalettiara.com/

    Since it says “The Independent’s Green Goddess ..new website coming soon..” I assumed it was still under construction and looked no further.

  57. Johnny said,

    June 1, 2007 at 11:50 am

    “To date, convincing evidence linking the phones to serious health problems, such as cancer, is lacking, says Leif G. Salford of Lund University Hospital in Sweden.” 2003
    www.sciencenews.org/articles/20030222/fob1.asp

    Just took a quick look at what Leif says in the Swedish media, it seems he makes rather doom laden comments about extrapolating from his evidence in rats, where damage is shown, to humans, where he has no evidence – and not actually done any research on this, that I can see.

  58. Wonko said,

    June 1, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Let me try a different explanation for this poor woman’s obvious distress: Clearly working for a national newspaper is a stressful occupation – so much so that the tools of one’s trade (computers, the internet, mobile phones, etc) cannot be left at the office. These wicked devices that allow the world of work to encroach into our private space leave us unable to switch off. No wonder this poor woman is experiencing early waking (a common symptom for people living with prolonged stress).

    However, since the macho culture that prevails in the media industry (and medicine) does no allow the admission of what is taken to be personal weakness, you need to find any external cause no matter how implausible rather than face up to the fact that you are overworking, your work-life balance is shot, and you are experiencing mental health problems.

    Stress, I think is a far more plausible explanation that electromagnetic smog.

  59. HowardW said,

    June 1, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    Great spoof article! The Best! Come on, own up, who actually wrote it? If it wasn’t you Ben, who was it?

    Wait, surely it’s not…?

    That has to be the most depressing and simaltaneously the most ridiculously funny article I’ve read in years. If you wanted to write a spoof, you just wouldn’t be able to come up with material HALF as good as that. It’s a kind of natural genius for nonsense.

    “I am well-doctored, to put it mildly.”

    No comments on what all her other doctors said? Did she just carry on getting more consultations until she got an answer suitably whacky that she was satisfied?

    “When at a loss to explain my new malaise, I visited my naturopath. It may sound unorthodox, but if it works, who cares?”

    If WHAT works? If you get the diagnosis you’re satisfied with, who cares if it’s actually true or not? Maybe the NHS should try a bit of that…

    “This made sense, as my symptoms had begun soon after installing wireless technology in my sitting room”

    Jackpot!

    “But at least I’m less radioactive.”

    Double bonus gold-plated jackpot!

    “the unit offers unlimited protection from any negative electromagnetic emissions in a 700-square metre radius.”

    Hahahahahahaha!

    (and the unit’s effectiveness has been measured as at least 457 mega tomatoes per square Farad).

    Maybe the links to the snake-oil type products at the end give the game away.

    Seriously, I’m stunned. This is the worst piece of science-related journalism I think I’ve ever read. Can we set up some kind of award for this woman?

    Howard

  60. doctormonkey said,

    June 1, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    “A few months ago I noticed I was feeling dog-tired and drained all the time. Usually a good sleeper, I’d suddenly begun waking up early in the morning and finding myself unable to go back to sleep.” – not a psych or anything but this sounds like depression

    “I am well-doctored, to put it mildly.” – a hypochondriac? or maybe just consulting the wrong “doctors”, eg homeopaths and other wastes of space/blood/organs/air, she may also be a regular GP heartsink

    Was the naturopath simply providing an alternative and possibly not very effective form of psychotherapy for her depression (that I have just diagnosed…) the alternative may be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome but as this also seems to respond well to psychological therapies (or anti-depressants) but is characterised by even more normal medical results than depression (and possibly a higher socio-economic class!!!???) we can only speculate on which tests she had done as part of her Tired All The Time (TATT) screen.

    “My naturopath is not alone in her concern. There is growing evidence that Wi-Fi technology is harmful. When the Swedish town of Götene activated their new Wi-Fi system in May 2006, within hours the local hospital emergency services were receiving calls from residents complaining of a number of symptoms: difficulty breathing, blurry vision, headaches and even cases of heart arrhythmia” – of course, prior to this everyone in Götene lived to be 912 and never had a sick day in their life… or maybe it was just co-incidence?

  61. Ephiny said,

    June 1, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    I agree, especially since most of the symptoms I have heard described by ‘electrosensitive’ sufferers are absolutely classic symptoms of anxiety, and possibly depression – headache, insomnia, palpitations, nausea, stomach cramps, muscle aches etc, even skin problems and rashes can be caused or exacerbated by prolonged anxiety. And possibly once they are fixated on the WiFi and phone masts as the cause of their symptoms, they are reinforcing the symptoms by their increased anxiety every time they see a wireless router or a mobile phone.

    Of course that doesn’t prove they are ‘only’ suffering anxiety, however it seems like a more plausible explanation than electrosensitivity, and surely the one they should try to treat first.

  62. Kells said,

    June 1, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    How one woman fought back after being diagnosed by her naturopath with overexposure to Wi-Fi and mobile phone frequencies

    It’s all there in the first sentence. Naturopath. Being more neurotic than Woody Allen is also a giveaway. I wouldn’t mind if the article was written with humour (I know it’s hilarious but not intentionally) but the prices on all these crap cures is totally exploitative.

  63. bad chemist said,

    June 1, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    “I am well-doctored, to put it mildly. I probably consult more doctors than Woody Allen, who has separate screenings of his movies for his doctors. Everyone is entitled to a hobby; mine just happens to be my health, and what a fascinating hobby it is.”

    I have a new diagnosis – hyperchondria.

  64. doctormonkey said,

    June 1, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    there are some nice disambiguation lists around of the differences between hyperchondriasis, attention seeking behaviour, etc

    what I can never remember is the two which are always thinking you are ill and always thinking you have cancer as these two are different

    many thanks Ephiny – anxiety is, of course, often associated with depression, to the extent that one often simple refers to anxiety/depressive illness

    if anyone actually knows anything about psychiatry can they please correct me – I am self acknowledged as fairly hopeless at it :-)

  65. Ambrielle said,

    June 1, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    Is this also her? www.fionaharrold.com/life_coaches/julia.html

    I had a look at that first link (www.chalettiara.com/journo.htm) but I thought that I couldn’t have the right person.

    Hope we aren’t getting too personal for you Ben, but honestly, she has her own agenda (“Green Audit”).

    I also thought it was quite telling that we never got to find out whether she was magically ‘cured’ after turning off all that evil EMR.

    Also, “But at least I’m less radioactive.” That is why no-one should ever be paying her as a journalist. Creative writing maybe, as that seems to be her ambition.

  66. Dork said,

    June 1, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    A few minutes ago I noticed I was feeling dog-tired and drained. This made sense, as my symptoms had begun soon after reading a ridiculous article in The Independent…

  67. Delster said,

    June 1, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    so this gizmo

    “The heart of the unit is a programmed microprocessor unit that produces a holograph field that is amplified through an internal aerial system. This protection field protects the human system from the negative effects of EMR,”

    Has an aerial system in it for amplifing a holograph field does it??

    Assume for a moment that a holograph(ic?) field can be amplified through an aerial system. Surely what would result is an EM signal of some kind which would add to the “electrosmog” problem…. not to mention a fairly strong one at that as it can cover a 700m radius compared to most wi-fi unit’s max range of 100m or so.

  68. Dr Aust said,

    June 1, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Ambrielle wrote:

    “….“But at least I’m less radioactive.” That is why no-one should ever be paying her as a journalist. Creative writing maybe, as that seems to be her ambition.

    Of course, much of what is in the papers is exactly that – creative writing. Indeed, most of the highest paid people in journalism, I suggest, are columnists who in many cases are primarily entertainers.

  69. Mojo said,

    June 1, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    Ambrielle said, (June 1, 2007 at 2:28 pm)

    “Is this also her? www.fionaharrold.com/life_coaches/julia.html

    Yes, the photo certainly seems to be the same person. In the paper version of the Indie the article was accompanied by a large photo of her talking on her non-cordless phone, surrounded by all her anti-electrosmog fetish objects.

    According to the site you link to, she “has built up a huge data base of green information and expertise”. In this context, “green” would appear to mean “totally wrong”.

  70. GlennF said,

    June 1, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    I’ve got a good one. A colleague emailed me about a beauty product that prevents artificial electromagnetic radiation from harming you: Clarins Expertise 3P. It also apparently keeps you free of pollution’s effects, washes your dog, and deposits large sums in your checking account. I wrote it up on my Wi-Fi site (illustrated with Madame Curie, of course); the product is sold at Sephora. Too much!

  71. Quixotematic said,

    June 1, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    Fun though it is, I think it is pointless getting worked up about Stephenson’s article. She is clearly just a hack who has been commissioned to write a topical piece to appeal to a certain section of the Indy’s readership. She makes no actual claims that any of these gadgets or gizmos actually work and really does not appear to believe what she is writing herself.

    Its bad journalism, perhaps but ‘bad science’? Its not _any_ science.

  72. triplejay said,

    June 1, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    yeah it’s pointless I do agree to a certain extent Quixotematic but the thing is a lot of people still seem to people trust what they read (also what they see on Panorama lol.) I personally have had enough of bad science being disseminated through our media. Just cos it’s a ‘comment’ or ‘lifestyle’ piece, should not mean it does not have to stand up to scrutiny. Can anyone tell me what’s the best way to register a complaint against Independent articles? I seem to remember their reader’s editor being more focused on grammar, over-zealous metaphors, and punctuation placement (the “apostro-fly?”. Hardly work to inspire confidence in an impartial, committed news ombudsman. And don’t say the bloody PCC, please. Spare me.

  73. BSM said,

    June 1, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    ” The device was created by engineer and homeopath Gary Johnson. Disturbed with the increasing number of patients coming to him with skin problems, exhaustion, blurred vision, and symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome, he suspected that they might be sensitive to electromagnetic radiation (EMR).”

    I’d love to be a fly on the wall when one of these bozos ‘invents’ another one of these marvellous gadgets. How can they tell whether they’ve wired up it all up properly?

    I still think the all-time prize has to go to this one;

    www.bio-resonance.com/elybra.htm

    The only question that ever needs to be asked is, how do you know whether it works? Or, can you tell whether I’ve taken a vital component out of this one?

  74. sball said,

    June 1, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    The article was so stunningly, horrifically bad that I half expected them to print some sort of apology in today’s edition.

    No sign of one that I can see, though.

  75. Robert Carnegie said,

    June 1, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    As far as I can make out, a “holograph” is a document written on paper and signed -which is bad luck if you were expecting a stereoscopic David Bellamy to appear and exorcise radiation from your body.

    It was funny when Doctor Who oozed the radiation (um, X-rays?) out of his body into his shoe and then binned the shoe, though.

  76. Mojo said,

    June 2, 2007 at 7:47 am

    Quixotematic said, “Fun though it is, I think it is pointless getting worked up about Stephenson’s article. She is clearly just a hack who has been commissioned to write a topical piece to appeal to a certain section of the Indy’s readership. She makes no actual claims that any of these gadgets or gizmos actually work and really does not appear to believe what she is writing herself.”

    If you check out some of the Websites linked to above, you’ll find that she is highly regarded enough for the Green Party to have allowed her to represent them in general elections. Certainly more than “just a hack” who “does not appear to believe what she is writing”.

  77. Mojo said,

    June 2, 2007 at 7:59 am

    P.S. if you follow the link on that page to the instruction leaflet, you will find that “it will even continue to work if the batteries are dead.” So that may answer your question about telling whether a vital component has been removed from this type of device: you can’t. It will still work just as well!

  78. BSM said,

    June 2, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    “So that may answer your question about telling whether a vital component has been removed from this type of device: you can’t. It will still work just as well!”

    Even better than that…

    I’ve saved a load of money by eliminating all the components in their entirety. The trick is not to buy one of the machines at all. I’m pretty happy that my ‘no device’ works the same as the ‘real’ thing.

  79. BSM said,

    June 2, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    Also from Mojo’s link;

    “the device is fitted with a special kind of microphone which converts speech into subtle vibrations.”

    Hmm…I thought speech WAS subtle vibrations.

    Ah, ha. Now I see how the machine works. It takes those subtle vibrations and transforms them into subtle vibrations.

    These people have invented the stethoscope. Brilliant.

    p.s. I just followed the “Home Page” link at the bottom of the page:-

    www.remedydevices.com/index.htm

    “We are sorry but we have had to close, temporarily, due to unforseen circumstances”

    If only I could dowse, I could ask why they had to close.

  80. BSM said,

    June 2, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    www.remedydevices.com/skeptics.htm

    “I know that nothing I say or do is going to change the attitude of people like that, a great many who also think that Homeopathy is also fakery or just plain woo-woo, in spite of the fact that this form of medicine is used daily by huge numbers of people worldwide, 100 thousand million people in India alone, (10% of the population) also by the Royal Family in England, and by the Prime Minister and his wife, and in countless Hospitals and surgeries throughout the world.”

    10% of the population of India is 100,000 million.

    That’s not sea levels rising, it’s India sinking under the the weight of its population and dragging us all down with it.

  81. MountainKing said,

    June 3, 2007 at 9:09 am

    You will find some informations about the “Freiburger Appell” here (a very good page on that topic, in German though):

    www.ralf-woelfle.de/elektrosmog/redir.htm?http://www.ralf-woelfle.de/elektrosmog/2002/021021ho.htm

    The Appell claims an increase in a lot of different diseases including brain tumors and leukemia and that the “doctors” who started it just know that the dieseases increased at the same time their patients were much more exposed to electrosmog. A scientific rebuttal pointed out that statistics dont show any increase in the numbers of diseases and that theres still no proof for any causal connection between the diseases and the exposure to frequencies.

    www.scientificjournals.com/sj/ufp/Pdf/aId/5638

    The reaction of the creators of the Appell is telling: they work with the people, try to help them, save the world and just know that their hypothesis is correct while the stupid, misguided scientists in their “ivory towers” dare to ask for data, statistics and rational explanations. Of course you will find the common attacks on “school medicine” and the hint, that any contradicting data is most likely influenced by the industry.

  82. Deano said,

    June 3, 2007 at 10:16 am

    Hard to know whether to laugh or cry…

    … but I’ve come to the conclusion that this woman’s whole life is a fantastic piece of ‘conceptual art’…

    I can only assume that the Green Party chose here as a candidate in a moment of equal opps inspired madness; I mean cute, fabulously wealthy, aristocratic, bonkers chalet girls aren’t part of their general demographic.

    ..but I predict a defection to David Cameron’s Tories any moment now..

    … actually this is a case where ad hominem arguments seem perfectly justified…

  83. gadgeezer said,

    June 4, 2007 at 12:50 am

    The Independent on Sunday wants to hear from you on how it can improve itself. “What do you want more – or less – of? What subjects, people or stories would you like us to cover? And how can we make your paper’s website more relevant to you? All ideas and suggestions welcomed here.”

    ios.typepad.com/ios/2007/05/your_suggestion.html#comment-71553860

    Well – does anybody have any suggestions for them – like employing scientists to fact check copy written on healthcare or scientific subjects by people who don’t have a scooby?

  84. siwilks said,

    June 4, 2007 at 10:43 am

    www.bio-resonance.com/elybra.htm

    The device above claims to be able to be able to synthesise a homeopathic remedy for crop circle formations and the periodic table? Uh?! Heavily diluted men in wellies for the former I guess then – although at the dilutions necessary for a homeopathic remedy that would just be a pot of water obviously. But a remedy for the periodic table! Now that’s what the world has surely been waiting for!

  85. siwilks said,

    June 4, 2007 at 10:51 am

    www.remedydevices.com/copier2.htm

    “None of these devices require any battery or mains supply as the energy they require is supplied by internal resonators which will never run down. All Copiers are guaranteed for 1 Year so long as the case is not opened and internal components interfered with.”

    Could anyone possibly be stupid enough to have any reason to return this? Um, my energy copier doesn’t work – It consistently fails to disobey the first law of thermodynamics.

  86. siwilks said,

    June 4, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    I wonder if the periodic table is symptomatic of the types of pulsing radiation produced by wi-fi routers? Just think though, a short course of treatment from the e-lybra 8 and you would be able to go back to the good old days of earth, wind, fire and water.

  87. Robert Carnegie said,

    June 9, 2007 at 9:30 pm

    Presumably the guarantee applying only if it isn’t opened was copied off an electronic product that actually works – it’s a common provision.

  88. interslice said,

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    I have been wearing one for about 2 weeks.
    1st day i felt different – more solid – more calm.
    After 2 weeks I began to fall asleep at work in my chair … ! I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

    I have had that before – I was looking for a cure – hence enter Q-Link.

    I took it off this morning before my shower and felt an immediate sense of ahhhhhhhhhhhhh relief.
    i’ll give it one more try as i know something is there – i had it tested by a friend. However i think it’s possibly evil. :)

    I also noticed I was giving away energy to others around me, esp kids … and from some I was taking it – it seemed to become very unstable after a while … perhaps i was fighting it somehow?

    I am a coeliac – and have been looking for something that would give me more energy. I also get sleepy when i drink coffee! PErhaps my body is just too screwed up for the Q-link to figure out what to do. When i passed it to a friend she said it was “adjusting” soo who knows.
    For me it didn’t work – it nearly destroyed me – thats my two cents.

    pls contact me if you have also had negative feedback – i have only found one other negative review.

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