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Tower Switch-Off Embarrasses Electrosensitives 292

Posted by samzenpus
from the radiation-placebo dept.
Sockatume writes "Residents in Craigavon, South Africa complained of '[h]eadaches, nausea, tinnitus, dry burning itchy skins, gastric imbalances and totally disrupted sleep patterns' after an iBurst communications tower was put up in a local park. Symptoms subsided when the residents left the area, often to stay with family and thus evade their suffering. At a public meeting with the afflicted locals, the tower's owners pledged to switch off the mast immediately to assess whether it was responsible for their ailments. One problem: the mast had already been switched off for six weeks. Lawyers representing the locals say their case against iBurst will continue on other grounds."

*

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Tower Switch-Off Embarrasses Electrosensitives

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  • by DJ Particle (1442247) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:05PM (#30782252) Homepage
    The fact that the case still isn't dismissed apparently means the lobby of electrosensitives is rather strong there :(
    • by Shakrai (717556) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:07PM (#30782294) Journal

      It also proves that America doesn't have a monopoly on legal stupidity and that we still export something ;)

      • You're both correct.

        Of course once it goes before a judge, and he reviews the evidence that the Tower was shutoff earlier, then the case will be dismissed because there's an obvious lack of causation.

        The symptoms must be caused by something else.

        • by afidel (530433)
          The symptoms must be caused by something else.

          Yeah, hypochondria and/or fraud. The defendant should countersue for lawyers fees for such a frivolous suit.
          • by v1 (525388) on Friday January 15, 2010 @04:19PM (#30783218) Homepage Journal

            I doubt they'd get anything for frivolity, as hypochondria is real and people may have sincerely believed they were being affected by the tower. Frivolous lawsuit laws are to protect against malicious litigation, and I doubt that's the case here.

            That said, they're still a bunch of nutheads. To not have said "oh... it was OFF for the last month? hummm maybe it's just ME". But no, to persist saying the tower is causing their problems, indicates they have "other unresolved issues" besides hypochondria.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by asaz989 (901134)
              RTFA. They're not continuing their lawsuit by still insisting that the tower radiation causes their health problems. Instead they're talking about how it obstructs their view, violates the zoning laws that preserve the picturesque image of their town, and in general lowers their property values. Turns out there are interests with money behind the hypochondriacs.
            • by Mister Transistor (259842) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @12:46PM (#30791056) Journal

              This idiocy also extends to the mysterious malfunctioning of any electronic device in the radio-phobe's houses!

              True Ham Radio story - my mentor told me when putting up an antenna at home, put up the mast and antenna but deliberately DON'T connect a feedline to it or use it for a week or two.

              Sure enough, two of the neighbors on my block came to complain of TV and telephone interference. I casually handed them a binocular so they could notice there was no wire to the bottom of the antenna, yet.

              They sheepshly apologized and went away... Unlike these idiots who are persisting in their delusion.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      The fact that the case still isn't dismissed apparently means the lobby of electrosensitives is rather strong there :(

      Well it was the lawyer who said that the case would continue "on different grounds", not the court.

      What that tells me is that this lawyer is not being paid on a contingency basis. :)

    • by nomadic (141991)
      The fact that the case still isn't dismissed apparently means the lobby of electrosensitives is rather strong there :(

      According to the article the lawsuit also alleges failure to follow certain environmental/legal procedures when building the tower. What does that have to do with "electrosensitives."
    • by wizardforce (1005805) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:40PM (#30782726) Journal

      Olivier added that anyone who thinks that their legal case is based only on health issues is sorely mistaken, adding that their case is not built on health concerns alone, but rather various other aspects related to the mast, including the public participation and environmental approval processes which they are confident are flawed.

      They really really don't want this tower anywhere near them and now that the electrosensitivity excuse didn't work they're trying other approaches.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sonnejw0 (1114901)
      iBurst Corp. should settle the case by offering to pay for a Colonic treatment for each defendant ... sounds like symptoms that "procedure" could "cure".
  • by iamacat (583406) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:08PM (#30782306)

    There can well be something else that causes symptoms of area residents which is not related to microwave radiation. This may or may not be related to iBurst. For example, construction of the tower could have used toxic materials responsible for rashes, headaches and so on. The fact that symptoms appeared at the same time as the tower still bears investigation, but the world is full of coincidences.

    • by CdBee (742846) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:09PM (#30782326)
      The world is also full of hypochondriacs
    • I would say water related illness or something in their house. It would be funny if there was a TV, Radio station or something near by.
    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:27PM (#30782542) Homepage

      There can well be something else that causes symptoms of area residents which is not related to microwave radiation.

      Sure, sure. The symptoms could be "real" (as in caused by a real external factor rather than hypochondria), and caused by something in the environment.

      This is what the end result of the long-time theories that high tension transmission lines were causing cancer. The EM radiation was harmless as always, but the herbicides they used to clear the ground under the towers was not.

      The question in my mind which TFA doesn't answer and could point out whether or not this is the case: When the company announced that they were turning off the tower, did the residents symptoms abate? If so, they're clearly mental in origin. If not, well, maybe they didn't believe the cell company, or maybe there's something in the environment that is actually harming them.

      If their symptoms are real, an actual chemical being their cause makes so much more sense that it just boggles me that this isn't the first thing people choose to blame. But no, their insistence on it being due to EM actually gets in the way of the more straightforward investigation.

      • by wizardforce (1005805) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:46PM (#30782830) Journal

        If their symptoms are real, an actual chemical being their cause makes so much more sense that it just boggles me that this isn't the first thing people choose to blame. But no, their insistence on it being due to EM actually gets in the way of the more straightforward investigation.

        I believe that the simple explanation for this is that the idea of chemicals around the tower didn't occur to them as being the cause; it was so much more obvioys for them to latch on to the idea of microwave "radiation" being the cause. After all, the first thing people generally think about in terms of these towers is the microwave transmission not little things like pesticides used to clear the land near the transmitter.

      • by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:53PM (#30782934)

        caused by something in the environment.

        They could also be caused by wanting to get money for nothing.

    • I'm sorry, but why is this moderated troll? This sounds like a valid avenue of investigation.
      • by navygeek (1044768) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:47PM (#30782842)
        Clearly someone disagreed with him.
    • by astar (203020)

      I do not have much use for coincidence. On the other hand, I do not have much use for what passes as statistical reasoning. Given that the cell tower had been turned off for some time and the lawsuit is proceeding, I speculate that there is some evil involved on the part of the plaintiffs. I do like patterns. Here in the United States I would assume intentional and conscious anti-development ideology. This is almost a world-wide problem, but the particulars of a country still count for something

    • by eric2hill (33085)

      Ad hoc, ergo propter hoc.

    • by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Friday January 15, 2010 @04:36PM (#30783454) Journal

      People claiming to be suffering from ill effects from power lines, radio towers and signals from the martians has been cause célèbre for several decades now. I frequently run across these groups as a communications consultant working with utilities. Sometimes what I want to say is "if you are so concerned about power lines why don't you disconnect the power to your house?".

      Right now since you are sitting in front a computer to read this, you are exposed to a great deal more RF energy than a microwave dish that is 100 feet up in the air is putting out.

      It is like the hysteria surrounding cadmium in children's toys that is also this weeks latest worry. People will cite cancer clusters and anecdotal evidence yet when confronted with the facts they will jump to some other reason. After going through a long process with community groups and concerned citizens it ended up being an issue about what color the antenna was.

  • Perhaps (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ircmaxell (1117387) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:09PM (#30782316) Homepage
    Perhaps this proves that "electrosensitivity" is more mental than tangible....

    The issue that remains is if a company can be held responsible for the mental anguish that it indirectly caused. (I mention indirectly, because the act of constructing a tower isn't directly changing peoples mental condition, it's simply "turning on" something that may have been there)... Either way, it should be interesting to see how this pans out...
  • Faraday Cage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by quangdog (1002624) <`quangdog' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:11PM (#30782354)
    I had a physics professor who's wife was concerned about the EMF coming off the power lines that ran near the plot of land upon which they were contemplating building (through a common area behind their back yard). His solution? During the construction of his house he installed wire mesh in all his walls, ceiling, doors and floors. While he left his windows as standard windows, he said that he got no cell phone, radio, or TV over the air reception in the house.

    The worst part was that he freely admitted that his wife was a loon.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jjohnson (62583)

      I'm not sure if this is brilliant or crazy. On the one hand, the resale value of his house just dropped 30% if that little fact is revealed before closing. OTOH, a house with no outside signals getting in sounds amazingly peaceful.

      • by alen (225700)

        too bad a lot of modern cell phones receive email and texts via wifi

        • And you think that wireless networks are somehow immune to the effects of Faraday cages?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by TERdON (862570)

            No, but usually you'd put your WiFi router inside your house. Hence, the house would work as a Faraday cage around the rest of the world, keeping all WiFi signals within the house (might be a good idea for tinfoil-hat wearers, btw)

          • by tixxit (1107127)
            If they are inside the cage, then yes.
      • by WilyCoder (736280)

        " a house with no outside signals getting in sounds amazingly peaceful."

        You must have big ears!

    • Re:Faraday Cage (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mbkennel (97636) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:27PM (#30782546)
      Of course grounded wire mesh wouldn't do much to reduce the very low frequency magnetic fields coming from power lines. I bet he knew that. I also bet he didn't tell his wife that.
      • Re:Faraday Cage (Score:4, Informative)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:42PM (#30782766) Journal
        He probably also didn't tell his wife that, in many cases, when a cellphone is in an area of very weak or nonexistent coverage its response is to kick its transmitter into full "Scotty, we need more power!" mode in an attempt to remain in contact.

        This isn't good for battery life; but it also doesn't do much to reduce your EM exposure.

        If he doesn't mind the risk of spending a month of nights on the couch, he should tell her to use a bluetooth headset so that she can keep her dangerous cellphone's danger rays away from her brain. Hilarious, until she finds out that you've advised shoving an RF transceiver in your ear canal in order to reduce RF exposure, then things get ugly...
      • by khallow (566160)

        Of course grounded wire mesh wouldn't do much to reduce the very low frequency magnetic fields coming from power lines. I bet he knew that. I also bet he didn't tell his wife that.

        It should work quite well on external low frequency signals (depending on how grounded it really is). Internal 60 Hz is a different story though. The stuff that gets through the best would have a smaller wavelength the mesh spacing.

    • Re:Faraday Cage (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Amouth (879122) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:53PM (#30782928)

      The worst part was that he freely admitted that his wife was a loon.

      It's not the worst part - to be honest that is just how it is - if it made her happy and comfortable living there then he did what he needed to.

      the worst part is - he isn't alone - the rest of us poor suckers would do it too.

      • by ettlz (639203)

        the rest of us poor suckers would do it too.

        Install a wire cage in exchange for getting my leg over?

        Yeah, I'd do it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by keithpreston (865880)

      The worst part was that he freely admitted that his wife was a loon.

      Don't most people freely admit that there wife is a loon?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by jbeaupre (752124)

        Don't most people freely admit that there wife is a loon?

        Looks both ways.

        Yes.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by keithpreston (865880)

          Looks both ways.

          It's ok, you wife either doesn't read slashdot, or already knows she is a loon.

  • see my gorgeous little child was at a restaurant and a heartless cruel waitress walked by with a thai peanut sauce dish and well my child got a good whiff of it. and now as a result every day for the last 3 months his intellectual development and emotional focus has been totally off. the swine flu shots have only made it worse, i swear he is borderline autistic now

    i've gone to the principle of his school and insisted that all children's bags be searched and sniffer dogs bought in for the sake of peanuts destroying our children, but he babbled something about correlation and causation- completely uncaring and unsupportive!

    to make matters worse afterwards i went to mcdonalds and ordered a big mac and felt nauseous a few weeks later. i didn't know what it was until a friend of mine told me there is a bad case of celiac disease going around. environment destroying corporations just don't care that they give people celiac disease and warm the atmosphere with cell phone waves. now i have to be on a gluten free diet for the rest of my life!

    • I just met a woman like that yesterday. I asked her a couple questions about, "How do you know peanuts are at fault for your illness?" hoping she'd provide some evidence to back-up her claims, butshe refused to answer. She just saying she "knows" it's the peanuts, and I some stop asking annoying quesions.

      She had no reasoning ability whatsoever.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PRMan (959735)

        As an allergy sufferer, I can tell you that she is tired of armchair doctors telling her she is wrong when she has done 100 times as much research on the subject as you ever will.

        If you just met her, I almost guarantee that's the case. I only discuss my allergies with people that care about me and actually want to have an honest conversation (see, Slashdot, I love you). Arguing with you about it is a massive waste of time that she has been through dozens of times already only to be told she's a loon job f

    • by ckaminski (82854)
      Are you ever going to finish that movie? Lol.

      Nice rant, btw. Hits entirely too close to home for me. :-/
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tool462 (677306)

      Dude! Stop making fun of my mom! :(

  • by boojum.cat (150829) <stephen...langer@@@nist...gov> on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:18PM (#30782432) Homepage

    Why is this in Idle? It's a real issue, not because the electrosensitives are right, but because they cause real trouble. Good evidence against them is valuable.

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday January 15, 2010 @06:01PM (#30784654)

      It's a real issue, not because the electrosensitives are right, but because they cause real trouble. Good evidence against them is valuable.

      All the evidence is against them as it is. That hasn't stopped the damage they cause. There needs to be large, punitive punishments against people who use pseudoscience judicially. But this country won't do it for the same reason this country allows people to kill their children over their religious beliefs and kids who have never read a book wear that fact like a badge of pride in many schools.

      I'm sorry to say... but maybe vigilante justice might be a better solution -- they'll worry less about their EM poisoning if they're being chased by heavily-armed scientists.

  • Placebo waves.
  • Well.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Renraku (518261) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:23PM (#30782500) Homepage

    Perhaps they've been coached into doing this? Like a conspiracy of some kind? Perhaps by lawyers?

    • Re:Well.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:45PM (#30782820) Journal
      I suspect that at least some of them are fully sincere. Hysterical and incorrect; but sincere. It wouldn't totally surprise me, though, if there is also a set of people who just think that the tower is an eyesore, or that some part of the planning process wasn't correctly followed, or otherwise just want the tower scrapped, who are happy to tell the first group "Oh gosh, yes. The terrible headaches, you should sue..." and use them as the useful idiots.
  • Withdrawal (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ichijo (607641) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:27PM (#30782536) Homepage Journal

    Clearly they are suffering not from the effects of radiomagnetic radiation, but from withdrawal! Quick, turn it back on!

  • by ZSpade (812879) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:29PM (#30782576) Homepage
    Either it's placebo from seeing the tower (like a hypochondriac) or they're out for a quick buck. I Vote quick buck.
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:30PM (#30782598) Homepage

    This limits the construction of any EMF emitting source including things like cell phone towers and power lines. There is enough belief in the idea that EMF causes medical problems that companies are pretty much unable to push construction projects ahead in the face of opposition.

    The result of this is that building a new transmission line in a new area is pretty much off limits unless it winds around to avoid existing structures by miles and miles. If someone can see it, they can use this as an argument to prevent (or at least delay) construction. I have seen this happen in Illinois.

    Anyone thinking that we are going to get all sorts of new "green" superconducting transmission lines for wind and solar power needs to understand the seriously wacked out nature of these protesters. Until these issues are really put to rest, they will prevent progress on many fronts.

    Think the cell phone brain cancer rumors are over? This is the same people, and it keeps coming up every few years.

    • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Friday January 15, 2010 @04:48PM (#30783612)

      The result of this is that building a new transmission line in a new area is pretty much off limits unless it winds around to avoid existing structures by miles and miles

      My dad was the engineer who planned the route for a new transmission line to a community which was growing very quickly. When the town locals heard about the route, they demanded that they bury the line (there was no alternate route) and they demanded the electric company pay the extra cost.

      The company wasn't going to pay for burying the line, so it resulted in a game chicken. Turns out people stop pulling out these bullshit theories when they start suffering from blackouts.

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:31PM (#30782606)
    Hold it a second, are they implying it is possible to embarrass someone who thinks they are "electrosensitive" and is wiling to say so publicly?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      People claim to be Democrats all the time... what's the difference?

  • ham operators (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:34PM (#30782640)

    When ham radio operators erect a new mast in their backyard, they often leave it unconnected for a month or two. When the inevitable complaints of baby monitors malfunctioning, televisions going crazy, and other non-sense crap from their neighbors blamed on the mast gets reported to the FCC or the police,
    the ham radio operator calmly leads them outside and shows them the disconnected cable that goes nowhere and does nothing.

    Perhaps commercial entities should take note of this, given our remarkable slide into the cesspool of stupidity where we believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories, vaccinations causing brains to turn into jello and yellow smoke to pour out, and how we're being poisoned by EM waves, and a particle accelerator's going to cause the world to end.

    Seriously... There should be an idiot tax on court filings.

  • Flu vaccine (Score:3, Funny)

    by EsJay (879629) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:37PM (#30782678)
    Clearly the culprit is mercury from flu vaccines
  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:40PM (#30782732)
    It doesn't matter that the actual tower is completely inert. What people believe about it absolutely can cause headaches, nausea and sleeplessness. You can replicate this effect very easily by giving people sugar pills and telling them that they will lower their blood pressure, but have side effects like headaches, nausea and sleeplessness. The people who eat those inert pills really will sleep less and have more real headaches. It's not because they're somehow crazy. All humans, including the readers of slashdot, are susceptible to placebo effects.
    • by hyades1 (1149581)

      The placebo effect is mitigated by information. The only way to "treat" the hypochondriacs was to tell them after the fact that their symptoms had been caused by a completely inert tower.

  • by GradiusCVK (1017360) <originalcvk.gmail@com> on Friday January 15, 2010 @04:08PM (#30783086)
    I don't think people who go around complaining all day about their electric field allergies are the type who care about their image in the community. Chronic victims crave attention, positive or negative - these people will no doubt end up on the local news talking about how stupid they are because of the way society has abused them over the years.
  • by jameskojiro (705701) on Friday January 15, 2010 @04:17PM (#30783186) Journal

    Reminds of the Radio tower in Fringe last night that was being used to mess with people's senses to make ugly mutants look normal. Maybe the answer lies in Mutating the residents so they HAVE to live under it otherwise they will be shunned as weird looking mutants......

  • by BlackSabbath (118110) on Friday January 15, 2010 @04:21PM (#30783254) Homepage

    Look, these residents may be complete fucking loons but...

    According to TFA, iBurst furnished technical reports proving the tower was turned off in early October.

    In other news, British American Tobacco furnished reports showing that cigarettes have no negative health effects.
    In other news, Exxon furnished reports showing that increases in CO2 are likely to transform the world into a tropical paradise.
    In other news, CIA medical officers report that water-boarding releases calming endorphins in detainees.

    I'm just saying...

  • by moehoward (668736) on Friday January 15, 2010 @04:35PM (#30783448)

    I recently moved away from a cell antenna site that was placed within 100 feet of my kids' bedrooms (by literal distance, not just horizontal). When the site was proposed, I googled the research and then I spoke with the scientists regarding possible dangers. They were more than happy to speak with me over the phone. The advice was that there are no longitudinal studies, so they can't say what might happen when growing up so close to a site. That is, they need 10-30 years to actually conduct these longitudinal studies. They said "no problem" regarding the older analog stuff, but they said that there are stats that can't yet be explained. That is, there is a correlation for problems, but they can't figure out the causation when it comes to this multiplexing digital stuff. The ongoing research efforts seem to stress DNA replication (mitosis) errors and later meiosis. So, this would be of particular concern to kids and young adults where you have lots of both going on in particularly interesting parts of the body, like the three B's (brain, bones, balls).

    The really cool thing is that the scientists were more than happy to speak with me. I do the same thing in my line of work. When an interested person calls, I geek-out and am more than happy to take the call and spend the time.

Scientists will study your brain to learn more about your distant cousin, Man.

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