Reality check: the truth about electrosmog and wifi allergies

There are a number of recurring tech myths that get tabloid papers in a tizzy and electrosmog is one of their favourites. Like councils banning Christ

Like councils banning Christmas, tales of wifi allergies turn up at least once a year. This time it's the story of a club DJ who can't leave home because of the pernicious spread of wifi hotspots.

Electrosmog? That definitely sounds like a made-up word.

That's because…it is. Electrosmog is the tabloidese version of the more pseudo-scientifically named electrosensitivity. Sufferers of electrosensitivity believe they have physical and psychological symptoms caused by electro-magnetic fields.

The source of those electromagnetic fields? Mobile phones, mobile phone masts and your humble wi-fi connection.  

Sufferers of electrosensitivity genuinely believe they're being blighted by wi-fi but there's little or no actual prove. The World Health Organisation has discussed the issue and stated that there is no scientific basis for a link between health problems and electro-magnetic fields.

But it says in this Daily Mail story that "electromagnetic sensitivity, affects two per cent of the population".

But it doesn't say where that statistic comes from. The World Health Organisation has reviewed a number of studies carried out to validate the claims of electrosensitivity sufferers. Almost all of them found that people claiming to suffer from the effects of electromagnetic fields can't detect whether they're near one of not.

Steve (the man in the Daily Mail's story) might find that he feels better in his house in Cornwall with its 18in thick walls and waving his wi-fi detector around but that doesn't actually prove anything.

I definitely get a headache when I'm exposed to other people's mobile phones though. Particularly when kids on the bus play that tinny music

That's not wi-fi allergy, that's a severe tosser intolerance.

Ben Goldacre's written extensively about the electromagnetic sensitivity myth on his Bad Science blog. If you are a believer, you can try