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'Allergic' to Wi-Fi? Move to West Virginia

People with electromagnetic hypersensitivity "allergies" to cellular and Wi-Fi signals are moving to the tiny town of Green Bank, W.Va., to get relief from their symptoms.

Green Bank Telescope
This bad boy is the reason Green Bank has no cell phones or Wi-Fi. Geremia/Wikimedia Commons

There's a place where Wi-Fi and cell phones are non-existent. It's not in the middle of the rain forest or from a time long, long ago. It's in Green Bank, W.Va.

Green Bank may sound like geek hell, but it's heaven for people who believe electromagnetic radiation makes them sick. The BBC chatted with a couple of these refugees from technology and they described symptoms ranging from physical pain to fatigue.

"When I'm exposed to the cell phones, it hurts to think," Green Bank resident Diane Schou told the BBC. She describes herself as a "technological leper" who has found relief since moving from Iowa to West Virginia.

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity has been the subject of some controversy. The symptoms may feel very real, but a 2007 study led by Elaine Fox of the U.K.'s University of Essex showed that short-term exposure to a typical GSM base station-like signal did not affect well-being or physiological functions in sensitive or control individuals.

The scientific research hasn't stopped Green Bank from gaining new residents who are fleeing the ubiquity of modern cell towers and Wi-Fi base stations.

The quiet town owes its unusual wireless-free stature to the Green Bank Telescope, a monstrous creature that's the world's largest fully steerable radio telescope. The area around it is designated as the National Radio Quiet Zone in a bid to minimize interference with the telescope.

That means that 13,000 square miles along the border of West Virgina and Virginia is blissfully free of ringing cell phones, push e-mail alerts, and free Wi-Fi at Starbucks. Actually, Green Bank doesn't even have a Starbucks.

Green Bank is starting to sound more and more like a sweet vacation spot. Your "limited access to e-mail" vacation auto-reply would actually be true for a change.

Of course, if Green Bank wants to really capitalize on its status as a wireless-free haven, the town of 143 residents should build a movie theater. No text messaging or obnoxious ring tones during a film? That would be worth moving for.