Wifi – does it affect our health?

Maybe not yours, but it definitely affects mine!

I’d slept badly and awoke in the early hours of the morning with my head pounding and an all too familiar cloudy tension between my temples, a pressure behind my eyes and that slightly cross-eyed feeling. I lay there and observed the tension creep persistently down my neck, across my shoulders and down towards my chest, into my arms and down towards my hands. I felt as if my head was fizzing, frying. I had never felt it this bad before! Surely our new neighbour hadn’t had her phone connected yet.

I got out of bed and went to have a shower, hoping to clear my head. I could not believe it, so long with no problems and now this all of a sudden. I began to panic, if this was the Wifi from our new neighbour, how on earth was I going to live with this? I dried myself, my head still pounding, and switched on the Wifi Analyser on my phone. There it was, four new signals, all strong. Four?! No wonder my head felt as if it was going to explode.

We had lived in our new house, an end terrace, for 18 months with no direct neighbours. I felt vital and full of energy and had had no headaches in this time. The other houses were far enough away that the Wifi signals were weak by the time they got through our walls. I knew before we moved that I had problems with Wifi and looking for a new house to minimise this issue had not been easy. We had decided on this end terrace in the town, as we had figured that logically we would then only have one direct signal to deal with. But now, there were four strong new signals.

One of the culprits was quickly identified as being the 2.4Ghz frequency of our own Wifi. The previous evening there had been a thunderstorm and one enormous clap of thunder directly over the house had caused a brief electricity cut-out. Our router had reset and the 2.4Ghz Wifi signal, normally switched off, was back on.

I had lived for years with no Wifi in the house, knowing that I suffered from headaches which then developed into severe dizziness if I was exposed to Wifi for a couple of days. This had been confirmed when we had stayed in a hotel where there were Wifi transmitters outside every room, throughout the grounds and even on the beach. On entering the hotel room when we arrrived, I immediately felt the tension and cloudiness in my head, which then developed into a constant headache after 1-2 days. On the third day I was so dizzy I could hardly get out of bed, and I ended up dragging myself around for the remaining weeks “holiday”. On returning home, it took 3 weeks for my head to clear. I was so concerned about my apparent lack of mental ability that I went to our local GP to have a dementia test. I passed, but I had still felt incapable of holding any information in my head or being able to negotiate any complicated thought processes.

Recently however, I had discovered, through a random process of trial and error carried out by my partner, that I did not seem to be sensitive to the 5Ghz Wifi signal, but to the 2.4Ghz signal. Most modern mobile phones and computers receive both signals, so it was a simple process to disable the 2.4Ghz signal on our router and still have Wifi in the house…which everybody else in the family appreciated!

Now, I had just been exposed to four full strength 2.4Ghz signals and I felt dreadful. My whole body seemed to be screaming in objection. Ok, so one was now switched off, and two of the others had BT (British Telecom) AP addresses. They must be coming from next door. I went round and explained the situation to our new neighbour who very kindly agreed to ask the BT engineer to switch off the 2.4GHz signal. (This can be completed simply via the BT software, but as a non-techy person she had wished to call the engineer, who to BT’s credit had come out.) Two days later, I received a message from my neighbour confirming that the 2.4Ghz Wifi signal had been switched off and wishing me a relaxed and chilled evening. But flopping on the sofa with a cup of tea after having been out, I did not feel as relaxed as I had anticipated, and my head was beginning to pound again. The tension between my eyes, giving me that slightly cross-eyed feeling, was back. I checked the Wifi Analyser again. One further signal had disappeared, but the communal BT-Wifi signal was still there loud and strong, transmitting at 2.4Ghz. After a further call to BT from my neighbour, this communal signal, the third Wifi signal, also eventually disappeared. But the fourth was still there, with no AP address to identify it, and so was the fuzzy, cloudy tension in my head.

After a little bit of Google research, we found that this signal was probably coming from a cordless phone station. Older stations were still transmitting at 2.4Ghz. However, I did not feel at this point that I could now ask my new neighbour to replace her phone!

We had previously started to do some research into various ways to shield Wifi signals and had decided to try using EMF Shielding Paint, which we had already started applying to the walls behind which our neighbour’s router and phone was situated. Using the maximum strength of paint after 3-4 coats we were getting a fairly good attenuation of the signal. I was trying to see the bright side in that this extraneous signal was now useful in assessing how effective our painting was. We found that the effectiveness was increased by creating an obstacle course for the signal by painting the inside and side walls of cupboards and painting the back of doors and free-standing furniture. We also used layers of aluminium foil stuck down with wallpaper paste on the upstairs floor and on top of the kitchen cabinets, the kitchen being below our bedroom. The signal strength that I seemed to be able to cope with was around -80dBm. As a comparison, the minimum useful signal strength for Wifi is -67dBm, so I was still being affected by a signal strength much weaker than that that was useful for transmission.

During the boring, slightly depressive process of painting half of our walls black, I began to reflect on previous experiences over the years, with what I now considered to be probable issues with Wifi. As previously stated, I have never wanted or had Wifi in the house until recently. However, this will not have stopped the Wifi from direct neighbours entering our living space. Wifi first appeared in 1998. After we had moved in 2002 I suffered from exhaustion and a constant feeling of not-being-quite-with-it. At that time I was diagnosed as having food intolerances. Our upstairs neighbour had Wifi. We moved again in 2005, this time into a semi-detached on a modern estate where the houses were closely packed together. I was studying to become a Heilpraktikerin (Alternative Practitioner) and can well remember the constant fuzzy, unclear feeling that I often had in my head whilst trying to learn, fearing that old age was creeping in (I was 40 years old) as I often felt incapable of following through and learning complicated physiological processes. As a reference, I had been a research scientist and obtained a Ph.D. in 1993. Repetitive aggressive migraine-like headaches followed, with chronic exhaustion and a lack of energy, which finally led to a sinking into a depression and clinical burn-out in 2010.

Who knows? There are many factors related to these symptoms, but knowing what I know now, I strongly believe that Wifi was also one of the significant contributors to these symptoms and illnesses. I have had the luck to be able to live in an almost Wifi free environment for two and a half years, feeling and enjoying the energy of life, the vitality, the absolute clear-headedness, the delight in being able to follow detailed and complicated thought processes and to begin to learn new things again. The sudden presence of Wifi made very clear that it does affect my health, even if you think it may not affect yours.

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