15-year-old Jenny Fry’s mother described, in an England court, her daughter’s Wi-Fi allergy as a “life of torment” and exposed to the public a school she feels should have done more. Jenny eventually committed suicide, something Jenny’s mother feels strongly could have been prevented by the school had they had been more amenable to change.
Jenny’s body was found near her home in Chadlington on June 11. On that same morning, Jenny’s friends received text messages from her stating that she felt down and wanted to die. Debra Fry told the court that her daughter’s Wi-Fi allergy, also known as electro-hypersensitivity (EHS), led to bouts with tiredness, headaches and bladder problems. She felt the school’s Wi-Fi made things even worse. According to her mother’s testimony, “As soon as Jenny walked away from a router she felt instantly better. She was aware of what was going on, but nothing could be done,” and “It’s a misunderstood condition and schools are reluctant to do anything because the Wi-Fi companies have money and tell schools it is safe.”
The headmaster at the school, Simon Duffy, said: “Jenny’s safety at school was just as important as anyone else’s. Just like many other public spaces, Chipping Norton School does have Wi-Fi installed to enable use to operate effectively. The governors are content that the installed equipment complies with the relevant regulations and will ensure this continues to be the case.”
Public Health of England does not recognize the condition. A Facebook page paying tribute to the teen’s much too early death has been set up, but it is unclear if the family is involved in it directly.
So what is EHS? According to WHO:
EHS is characterized by a variety of non-specific symptoms, which afflicted individuals attribute to exposure to EMF. The symptoms most commonly experienced include dermatological symptoms (redness, tingling, and burning sensations) as well as neurasthenic and vegetative symptoms (fatigue, tiredness, concentration difficulties, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitation, and digestive disturbances). The collection of symptoms is not part of any recognized syndrome.
EHS resembles multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), another disorder associated with low-level environmental exposures to chemicals. Both EHS and MCS are characterized by a range of non-specific symptoms that lack apparent toxicological or physiological basis or independent verification. A more general term for sensitivity to environmental factors is Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance (IEI), which originated from a workshop convened by the International Program on Chemical Safety (IPCS) of the WHO in 1996 in Berlin. IEI is a descriptor without any implication of chemical etiology, immunological sensitivity or EMF susceptibility. IEI incorporates a number of disorders sharing similar non-specific medically unexplained symptoms that adversely affect people. However since the term EHS is in common usage it will continue to be used here.
The highest cases are reported in Sweden, Germany, and Denmark. There are generally very little in the way of “treatments” from mainstream sources, however, it is safe to say that avoidance of Wi-Fi would likely be at the top of the list in terms of treatments. Clearly, that’s no small feat for many of us who work directly with Wi-Fi on a daily basis (raises hand). I’d be completely out of work if I avoided it. And it would make urban living difficult to negotiate. I am fortunate to show no symptoms, of course, but that might not tell the full story. With all the electro waves surrounding us on a daily basis, we can’t possibly know all the long-term effects yet. Consider Wi-Fi for a moment, which has only been in our lives in great density for just over a decade’s worth of time. That’s not enough time to surmise the toll it might be taking on us.