There’s at least one section of our community not joining in the frantic clamour for high-speed broadband at present. It’s not that they don’t want the economy to grow and public services to benefit from faster internet connections.
It’s just that the cost to their health of all this rapidly-proliferating telecommunications and electrical technology is already too great a price to pay.
Although not yet a medically-recognised condition, an estimated one per cent of the population believe they suffer from Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS or ES).
Stinging eyes, all-encompassing fatigue and debilitating sensations clouding the head are among the most common symptoms reported by self-professed EHS sufferers.
And their symptoms are getting worse. At nearly 80, Rathmore woman Delia O’Brien has witnessed her fair share of technological progress, but only in recent decades has her health started to suffer at an increasing rate.
She’s now on a one-woman campaign to raise awareness of what she sees as the very real threat to our health of our growing dependence on technologies utilising higher and higher frequency radiowaves and electromagnetic fields (EMF) to transmit information with seemingly every passing year.
Her concern over the powerful tech is two-fold: There’s the impact on her own health as someone who is ES, but there’s also what she fears is the stealthier impact on the health of the wider population from proliferating radio signals.
“It’s not an easy thing to convince people about,” Delia told The Kerryman.
“As someone with ES it is getting so bad for me now that to get to Killarney I have to drive via Knocknagree and Gneeveguilla to avoid masts and I daren’t go near the town centre anymore. with the EMF generated by masts, CCTV and all these devices today.”
She’s been trying to convince successive Irish governments for years of the threat to the general population she sees, having written to everyone from John Gormley to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Jan O’Sullivan and, most recently, Minister for Communications Denis Naughten. “The World Health Organisation (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified radio-frequency electro magnetic fields as Group 2B, meaning they are possibly carcinogenic to humans, a classification that applies to all RF-emitting devices, including Wi-Fi.”
Public health concerns over the effects of the emerging wireless technologies are not new, just witness the controversy over the one-km rule. Her fears were heightened after a chance meeting with a man at the Coolwood recycling facility outside Killarney recently.
“I would love to hear from him again as I never got his name, but he informed me how his father had passed away from leukemia, one of three to die from the disease in their locality where masts are present,” she said.
As someone deeply sensitive to EMF, Delia looks on herself as something like a canary in the mine for the wider populace – becoming physically sick from what has been described as an ‘electrosmog’ thatshe fears could well be taking a steady, low-level toll on many.
“I’ve written to the National Parents’ Council on the introduction of WiFi to schools which I think is a disgrace.
“God only knows what effect it has on children at such a crucial stage in their physical development.”
If ES people’s symptoms are an indication of concern for all it’s a conversation Ireland needs to be having, Delia said.
While science is sceptical on the ES front, Delia is convinced:
“It is estimated one per cent of the population is ES, which represents over 40,000 people in this country alone. ”