There's A Secret Compound In West Virginia For People Severely Allergic To Electromagnetism

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity. It sounds like a serious medical condition, but there's only one problem – scientists say it doesn't exist. And yet, people who suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, or EHS, claim that it causes debilitating health problems, including rashes, heart palpitations, nausea, and headaches. If the disorder doesn't even exist, then what is the electromagnetic hypersensitivity treatment? 

One option is moving to Green Bank, a small town of under 150 people in West Virginia. Green Bank, WV, is in the National Radio Free Zone, a 13,000 square mile area surrounding the world's largest radio telescope, which can pick up radio signals from 13 billion miles away. In the Radio Free Zone, wireless signals are banned and residents live like it's the 1920s. But moving to West Virginia is a pretty drastic choice for a disorder with no medical proof.

Can electromagnetic fields cause illnesses? Will EHS eventually become an accepted disease? Or will artificial intelligence destroy humanity before wifi signals take us down? Could EHS be the first sign of the singularity, where machines become more intelligent than humans and take over the world? Maybe the modern-day hermits in West Virginia are on to something.

  • Rural West Virginia Is The Only Refuge For People Who Suffer From Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity
    Photo: Jarek Tuszyński / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

    Rural West Virginia Is The Only Refuge For People Who Suffer From Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity

    Imagine getting a terrible headache every time a cell phone rings, or becoming nauseous if you run your microwave. How would your life change if electromagnetic frequencies, found in everything from radios and televisions to wifi and cellphones, made you physically ill?

    Sufferers of electromagnetic hypersensitivity say that the modern, wireless world makes them sick – literally. And the only known cure is to move to a little known forested part of West Virginia called the National Radio Free Zone. 

  • The Astronomy Observatory Requires Absolute Radio Silence

    West Virginia is home to the Green Bank Observatory, also known as the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. The research facility captures radio wavelengths from across galaxies. In order to search the universe for radio signals, the observatory runs eight telescopes, including the Green Bank Telescope, the largest radio telescope in the world. 

    But in order to operate, the telescopes need absolute radio silence – any interference from local radio signals would make it impossible to pick up galactic transmissions. And so the U.S. government established the National Radio Quiet Zone in 1958.

  • The World's Largest Radio Telescope Only Works Because Wireless Devices Are Forbidden

    The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is home to the world's largest radio telescope. The telescope is 485 feet tall. An entire college football stadium could fit inside the dish. And it clocks in at a weight of nearly 17 million pounds. It is so powerful that it can pick up signals from 13 billion light years away – or capture the energy signal given off by a single snowflake hitting the ground.

    But the powerful telescope only works because of the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000 square mile area where all wireless devices are forbidden. To people who suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, the National Radio Quiet Zone is the only place on the planet where they are safe.

  • Other Than The High-Tech Telescope, Life In Green Bank Is Removed From The Modern World

    For people who live in the National Radio Quiet Zone, life is very different from the rest of the modern digital world. Radio, television, and cellphone towers are banned. There are no cellphones, Bluetooth devices, microwave ovens, or iPads. Even remote control toys and garage door openers are not allowed. Any wireless signal could interfere with the telescope's important scientific work.

    And to make sure that no one violates the rules, the town owns a surveillance truck that monitors radio frequencies, acting as the "radio police."

  • Even The Cars In Green Bank Are Old-Fashioned
    Photo: Jarek Tuszyński / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

    Even The Cars In Green Bank Are Old-Fashioned

    In addition to the prohibition on any wireless signals, including radio waves, the Radio Quiet Zone also tries to limit other electronic interference. That means that even the cars are old-fashioned. To avoid interference from automobile electronics and even spark plugs, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory limited their cars to those built before spark plugs. 

    Avoiding electronic frequencies was much easier in 1956, when the site was built. The biggest problem was radio noise – even the television industry was still new. But today, we are surrounded by wireless devices, which is a huge problem, according to people who suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

  • What Is Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity?

    Electromagnetic hypersensitivity, or EHS, is a disorder that can cause a range of symptoms. People with EHS say they suffer from redness, tingling, and burning sensations in their skin, as well as fatigue, tiredness, dizziness, and headaches. 

    But the symptoms are so vague, as well as different for each patient, that the World Health Organization says the symptoms are "not part of any recognized syndrome." Or, in simpler terms, science does not recognize EHS as an actual illness. The WHO goes on to say that "the symptoms are certainly real, [but] there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF [electromagnetic field] exposure."