“Technophobes” Find a Home With No Cell Phone Usage in Green Bank, WV

Some people believe that “smart” electricity meters and other devices that bring consumers wireless telecommunications also make them sick according to The Washingtonian. This community that’s afflicted by “electromagnetic hypersensitivity,” or EHS, claim they’re suffering due to electromagnetic frequencies that radiate wirelessly and control our cell phones, WiFi networks and more. The condition causes symptoms such as headaches, nausea, insomnia, chest pains, disorientation, and digestive difficulties.

But is this disease legitimate? And if you believe you’re suffering from it, how can you escape the triggers in today’s ultra-connected world?

You just might have to travel to Green Bank, WV, a town where you can’t use a cell phone to place a call or even send a text message. Four hours outside of D.C., in this rural farm town, you won’t have access to wireless internet, Bluetooth, Starbucks or shopping malls, either The Washingtonian reported. Everything that we’re used to using daily from a telecommunications perspective is outlawed in this town, courtesy of the local government. The town is a federally mandated zone where wireless signals are forbidden due to its radio telescopes, including the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), a 485-foot tall dish. It’s the largest of its kind in the world and one of nine in Green Bank, owned by the government and operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).

Over the last few years, people suffering from EHS have flocked to the town where, in 1958, the FCC established a 13,000-square-mile National Radio Quiet Zone where electromagnetic silence is still enforced, 24/7. This influx of “electro sensitives” – over a dozen since 2007, in a town of 143 – has caused some rifts. The newcomers want restaurants and stores to shut off lights while they’re dining or shopping, which creates issues with long-time residents. Many residents have lashed out at electro sensitives due to their demands, including shoving matches, leaving dead roadkill in mailboxes and purposefully exposing EHS sufferers to electronics.

That brings us back to the question of whether EHS is real, which is debatable. Believers cite a study conducted at Louisiana State University in 2011, where researchers exposed one electrosensitive to an electromagnetic field and found hypersensitivity affecting the neurological system. Conversely, Timothy J. Jorgensen, a professor at Georgetown, who researches the effects of environmental radiation, commented that the LSU study sample was too small to provide accurate conclusions and that more comprehensive studies have failed to show a correlation between electromagnetic radiation and symptoms. And many long-time residents of Green Bank are skeptical that EHS even exists based on their exposure to area electro sensitives.

So, whether EHS is real or not, sufferers might find their sanctuary short-lived. The National Science Foundation, who funds the telescope, might have to shut down the Green Bank campus due to budget constraints. If this is to happen, Green Bank will no longer be a tech-free zone. In the meantime, electro sensitives and Green Bank residents will just have to learn how to get along in their “disconnected” corner of the world.

April 19, 2017      

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