The northern peninsula town of Sebastopol gave up free Wi-Fi in favor of fear mongering: Local citizens petitioned their city council to turn down an offer by Sonic.net to put free Wi-Fi in the city. I respect the council's decision in the sense that the vociferousness enough of the opposition was met by a reaction that the council had doubts placed in their mind. The council shouldn't be expected to be fully briefed on every possible ill (real or not) that their decisions could cause. One might think that they would thought to gather more info; rather, they rescinded an agreement already underway.
The article notes, "But critics said good studies exist that show ill effects to both adults and children from such signals." Unfortunately, those same critics consistently point to a handful of old studies, studies that aren't peer-reviewed, and information (not studies) provided by groups that either have a set agenda and ignore all new information, or have a vested financial interest in selling equipment to people who believe they are subject to woes based on electromagnetic radiation.
As the Sonic.net blog notes, Wi-Fi is already extensively deployed around Sebastopol, and their new network would be high up off the ground, reducing the strength of the signals far more than many access points that people would be walking by on a daily basis.
CEO Dane Jasper offers this incredibly cogent paragraph about the current state of clinical research around electrosensitivity; it appears to be based partly on the exhaustive work done in a University of Essex led study that presented results last year:
"The studies show that self-identified electrosensitive individuals DO exhibit real symptoms, including headache, skin rashes and anxiety. But, double blind studies show that the symptoms are unrelated to exposure to the radio signals. In other words, electrosensitive individuals placed in a shielded room and not exposed to radio signals do exhibit symptoms. They exhibit more symptoms if they believe the transmitter is turned on, and their manifestation of symptoms is not apparently related to the on/off status of the radio equipment."
This backs up my contention, now supported by many studies, that the folks who believe themselves to be victims of EMF are victims of something. It may be partially psychosomatosis, or quite likely, an array of other health issues that can't be easily categorized and treated, akin to multiple chemical sensitivity disorder and, the double-blind studies show, having no relationship to EMF whatsoever. But, an important but, requiring treatment and consideration.
Dale Dougherty, the editor and publisher of MAKE (one of the coolest magazines to come into being at any point in the last decade), writes about this issue, since he's based in Sebastopol, the headquarters of O'Reilly Media, his employer. The comments on his blog entry are tremendously interesting, too.
Update: There's a strong local angle, with a master (physics professor) and apprentice (engineering grad). The master thought there might be harm from EMFs given off by electric blankets, hired the apprentice, and decided there wasn't an effect. The apprentice took the other path, and now sells EMF mitigation services that range from hundreds of dollars to $25,000.