Inquest in UK teen suicide over wi-fi allergy claim

Jenny, aged 15, committed suicide last summer. She had a history of health issues. Her mother attributed her problems to electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

Mother claims wifi allergy killed her daughter and accuses school of failing to safeguard children – Telegraph

Mrs Fry told Oxfordshire Coroners’ Court that Jenny had started showing signs of EHS in November 2012 and that the closer she was to a wireless router, the worse she felt.

“Jenny was getting ill and so was I” said Mrs Fry. “I did some research and found how dangerous Wi-Fi could be so I had it taken out of the house.

“Both Jenny and I were fine at home but Jenny continued to be ill at school in certain areas.

It’s a tragedy to have a young life claimed in this way. And it’s a tragedy that the mother was misinformed to do the best thing to perhaps prevent it. EHS, also known as electrical hypersensitivity, and Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF) in the medical literature, is not recognized as a single illness. That is, electromagnetic fields, including wi-fi, have never been found to be the cause of harm in the levels that surround us daily. The Telegraph notes that back in 1932, there was a claim of “radiowave sickness”. To this day, there is NO evidence that radio waves have harmed people as claimed.

This could be shown to those who claim this disability by constructing a relatively simple, blinded test using a wi-fi router. But it’s not done.

The science results shows no harm, but you can’t tell that to people who are suffering because they believe that it does. Belief overrules facts. A growing number of people do subscribe to the unsupported idea that there is something to this mostly thanks to media coverage. Parents threatened to sue in other cases alleging their children are affected with this condition. Some parents and individuals want the rest of society to give up tech conveniences in order to placate their desire to be free of all EMFs. That’s irrational and a dangerous precedent to invoke.

What is suggested in this article is that her mother’s belief in the wi-fi allergy and attention to it could have made the situation much worse. Also, Jenny may not have obtained the behavioral or medical help she may have needed due to this red herring of EHS. It’s unpleasant to say such things but the fact is that something bad happened and it should NOT happen again. Ignorance and misinformation is dangerous. Just the news surrounding this case will prompt even the casual viewer in the audience to give this fear more concern than it warrants. We expend energy by fearing the wrong things and overlook more important ones. Science must inform our decisions. Let’s hope it does in this sad situation as well.

What does the science say about EMFs? Here is a roundup of reputable findings. The debate is not about the science. It’s about belief and fear.

Reality of electromagnetic sensitivity is not decided by a French court

Canadian consumer protection group reports: Wifi hazard claims unsupported by science

See all our past stories on electromagnetic sensitivity here.


  17 comments for “Inquest in UK teen suicide over wi-fi allergy claim

  1. MBDK
    December 2, 2015 at 1:41 PM

    The gullibility/stupidity of humans never ceases to amaze me. Still, in a manner similar to the symmetry in physics, it seems the ingenuity of mankind parallels the *ahem* less inspired. So, IMHO, for every person devoid of the capacity for critical thinking there should be one Einstein. Unfortunately, it is the foolish that garner the most attention from the press.

  2. Peebs
    December 2, 2015 at 2:34 PM

    I read about this yesterday. What struck me was that she was fine at home because they disconnected the WiFi.

    I was sat at home earlier and had a quick look to see what signals I could pick up on my phone. A quick scan showed six different providers.

    Has nobody pointed this out to the Mother?

  3. Christine Rose
    December 2, 2015 at 3:54 PM

    This is just heartbreaking. There was clearly something wrong here. Depression? Child abuse? Munchhausen by proxy? Asthma? Cystic Fibrosis? Maybe they’ll do an autopsy and find out. Fat lot of good it would do now, though. It’s a failure of parenting, a failure of the school system, a failure of the health care system.

  4. busterggi (Bob Jase)
    December 2, 2015 at 4:53 PM

    I’m sure her mother would refuse to believe it. Just like turning off your radio means there is no radiation present.

  5. Dana
    December 2, 2015 at 7:35 PM

    Watching someone take their family through countless “alternative” treatments for everything under the sun is difficult to endure. This wifi sensitivity thing is a new one, to me. Regardless of the facts and proven research, most of the people that subscribe to these things will not be swayed, in any way. This is so incredibly sad to me, on a personal level.

  6. Mnemosyne
    December 3, 2015 at 6:50 AM
  7. December 3, 2015 at 8:39 AM

    I hate linking to Daily Mail but I did find this interesting.

  8. Mike C.
    December 3, 2015 at 9:41 AM

    That’s just absurd. There’s no such thing as an allergy to WiFi. It’s like being allergic to radio waves.

  9. Bonnie
    December 3, 2015 at 11:53 AM

    I can understand the mother blaming wi-fi – that’s easier to bear than blaming herself.

  10. MBDK
    December 3, 2015 at 2:27 PM

    Actually, if you read the entire post, she still claims Wi-Fi harm. At the bottom of the long article were these two paragraphs:

    “Both her parents also argued that Jenny’s suicidal ideation was the result of radiation poisoning because of Wi-Fi in the home and at school.

    Mrs Fry said her daughter had ‘classic’ symptoms of being sensitive to electromagnetic fields but was unable to produce any medical evidence that her daughter had suffered.”

    I congratulate the writer for giving it the proper treatment. State the facts (that they made the odd complaint). Don’t over-emphasize it’s importance. Conclude with more facts regarding no medical evidence.

  11. Gary Crowell
    December 4, 2015 at 1:35 PM

    If ever that double blind test is done, I hope they take the trouble to find an EMC chamber or screen room (faraday cage) to conduct it in. There would be near-zero radiation in the room other than the test device. Otherwise the subject will weasel out by claiming that there were ‘other sources’.

  12. MBDK
    December 4, 2015 at 1:43 PM

    As of 2005, at least 31 blind or double blind tests were done. As for the chamber or cage, I did not take the time to individually assess. But, for what it’s worth:

  13. Blargh
    December 4, 2015 at 3:07 PM

    As the poster above pointed out, they’ve been done, and EHS has never stood up to scrutiny.

    But as for the test conditions, I would be most concerned with soundproofing. A surprising number of electronic devices generate audible noise (power supplies are the biggest culprit, but pretty much anything beyond “battery soldered to an LED” can make noise). If you can tell when the test is hot, it’s completely invalidated. It’s also often the kind of noise that doesn’t necessarily register consciously, and the kind that some people can hear and others can’t.

    I ran into someone once who was utterly convinced that he was sensitive to electromagnetic fields – not a hypersensitivity, but that had some sort of sixth sense to detect them. Once he had listed some examples of things he could supposedly detect – things like dimmers, wall warts and fluorescent lights – it was easy to figure out that he was simply hearing them. With a lot of patience (while snark is very tempting and very satisfying in those situations, it’s not very effective when you’re trying to convert someone), an explanation of magnetostriction, and examples of a) other things he should be able to hear if I was correct and b) what he shouldn’t be able to hear if he was correct and I wasn’t, I eventually actually managed to convince him of what was really going on. It’s one of those rare times when I’ve debunked someone’s beliefs and actually been thanked for it afterwards.

  14. Sporkfighter
    December 6, 2015 at 10:52 PM

    In a manner of speaking, your friend *was* sensitive to electronic equipment. He could sense it.

    Perhaps you didn’t so much debunk his belief as explain it. He now knows he has very good hearing rather than some odd extra sense, and that’s why he accepted your rational explanation.

  15. December 7, 2015 at 8:06 AM

    I can hear the TV on mute. The kids can hear high pitched sounds (for adults, this is the first to go). Such things should be controlled but I still say this can be tested.

  16. Woody
    December 13, 2015 at 7:31 AM

    Indeed, MBDK, let’s base our conclusions only on the evidence, removing the possibility of corrupting biases and everything else that may poison a rational decision.

    All the best,

  17. Mac
    December 14, 2015 at 11:01 AM

Comments are closed.