Relatively early adopters of technology, Fiona Williams, then a web content editor and writer, and her husband, a software engineer, first installed Wi-Fi in 2009. Fiona soon noticed that when it was on she began to get migraine-type headaches from which she had not previously suffered.
These only occurred at home during the day when the Wi-Fi was activated. She was careful to switch off all appliances at night to save energy and experienced no symptoms then. Since 2010, Fiona has disabled the Wi-Fi in her home.
In 2015, Fiona started to become sensitive to mobile phones and tablets, finding it difficult to hold or even be near a mobile phone when switched on, up to a distance of about a metre. She had rarely used her phone in any case, always preferring to text than speak on it. However, she was feeling agitated and unwell and would get headaches and earaches when in close proximity to someone else on a call or even when their phone was just switched on.
Sick from school Wi-Fi
In 2015, her son and daughter (then aged 9 and 5) also exhibited sensitivities to school Wi-Fi, both with headaches, body aches, agitation and sleep problems which disappeared at weekends and in the holidays.
Her daughter was also experiencing facial rashes and a rapid heartbeat while at school which disappeared over the weekend - the symptoms would reappear when mobile phones were charging in the same room as her. Meanwhile her son experienced headaches and severe haemorrhagic type nosebleeds on exposure to strong Wi-Fi signals. Read more here.
Due to back-to back garden layouts built into the back of a hillside, and thick Bath stone walls, there is no Wi-Fi signal at the back of Fiona's house, and only one intermittent bar of Wi-Fi signal near the front windows (some distance from where her children sleep). The family has no microwave, cordless phones or smart meter, and mobile phones are not switched on in the house. Fiona is therefore able to reliably compare her children’s exposure to wireless radiation at home and at school.
Reducing electro-smog - what were the effects?
Fiona got rid of her mobile phone in December 2015. In addition, limiting her exposure to electro-magnetic fields from domestic appliances and lighting, and avoiding Wi-Fi hotspots and large groups of smartphone users where possible, has enabled her to manage her electrosensitivity. However, she has become more isolated socially as a result of some of these changes.
Now age 6, Fiona's daughter has much reduced symptoms, thanks to the changes at home and the timed switch-offs at the Infants school. However, on days when the Wi-Fi is switched on there, she still reports difficulties remembering and thinking in class, and has sleep problems. She also experiences body aches, ear aches and headaches if she spends time in a Wi-Fi hotspot or near a smartphone or tablet.
Fiona's son, continued to experience effects including occasional headaches, irritability, noise sensitivity and fatigue, worsening as the school week progresses. He complained of "never feeling right" at school and of difficulty thinking and remembering. He was allowed to sit by the window during lessons at the furthest point from the router in his classroom but the Wi-Fi was on constantly at his school.
Then, after two years of campaigning by AWARE, and concerns raised by more than 30 parents about unexplained symptoms their children were experiencing, in July 2017 the school agreed to address the issue. Their IT provider discovered that multiple routers throughout the school were creating a repeating effect. There was double and even overlapping Wi-Fi coverage in some areas, creating a signal strength that was many times greater than you would find with domestic Wi-Fi.
Since then, adopting a precautionary approach, the school has removed the double coverage and reduced the signal strength by a further 50% and some classroom routers have been turned off. All the classrooms have wired internet connections anyway and there have been no complaints from staff about adverse effects on teaching or learning. The children, including Fiona's son, have found their symptoms have significantly reduced. The school has no plans to reverse the policy.
Origins of the AWARE campaign
In 2015, Fiona began researching the health impacts of Wi-Fi exposure and realised that we are all at risk from wireless radiation, with babies and children the most vulnerable. Electro-sensitives are simply the "canaries in the coalmine".
In the summer of 2015, she began a campaign to inform her children’s schools (St Saviour’s Infants and Juniors, Larkhall in Bath) about the particular risks to children. In February 2016, she was joined by another parent with similar concerns - Vanessa Williams-Grey.
Fiona Williams, March 2017