'Allergic' to Electronics: Man Sues Neighbor Over Gadget Use

Stepping into Arthur Firstenberg's New Mexico home is, in some ways, like stepping back in time.

No TV. No computer. No cell phone. Electronically speaking, he said, his home is more 1980 than 2010.

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The Santa Fe man, 59, said, intellectually, he has no problem with technology. It's just that, physically, he can barely tolerate it, he said.

"I've been dealing with this for 30 years and I was in medical school at the time when this became a problem," he said. "I had completed three years of medical school and was unable to finish."

Firstenberg said he has been diagnosed with electromagnetic hypersensitivity, a controversial condition that makes him extremely sensitive to electromagnetic fields. In the presence of appliances, computers, wireless routers and other consumer electronics, he said, he experiences nausea, headaches, insomnia and heart arrhythmia.

The condition is so severe, he said, that he's now pleading his case in court, asking for an injunction to force his neighbor to turn her electronics off, despite a shortage of scientific studies establishing electromagnetic hypersensitivity as a medical disorder.

In a January lawsuit filed against Raphaela Monribot with the First Judicial District Court of Sante Fe, Firstenberg asked for an injunction prohibiting Monribot from operating equipment that might harm him, as well as $530,000 in damages. Monribot filed a motion to dismiss the suit and the case is under review.

Plaintiff: Only Real Treatment Is to Avoid Electronics

According to his lawsuit, Firstenberg met Monribot in May 2008, when he hired her to cook for him in the home she rented. In June 2008, when Monribot was required to travel for family business, the complaint says, Firstenberg subleased her home. In September of that year, when the owner placed the house on the market, Firstenberg purchased the home for $430,000, he said.

Firstenberg said that the only real treatment for his condition is to avoid electronics and for, about a year, his home had been his sanctuary. But, in September 2009, when Monribot returned to Sante Fe and moved into a house about 25 from his own, his symptoms returned, he said.

Within days, he said, he started having cardiac problems, including heart arrhythmia.

He said he approached Monribot and asked for help in figuring out which appliances were behind the symptoms.

"I didn't want to go to court. I just wanted her to work with me," he said. "She basically refused. ? I felt like I had no choice but to give up my home."

Since moving out, he has stayed with a friend who shares his sensitivity to electronics and some nights, he said, he has slept in his car.

Monribot, a digital media artist and designer who is about 60-years-old, said the two were friends when she left the country to handle family matters, but after she moved into the house close by (at his suggestion, she said), their relationship became strained. She said that the lawsuit came after three months of back-and-forth with Firstenberg over her electronics usage.

"While I disabled the Wi-Fi for his sake - and took on the considerable inconvenience involved - he was relentlessly pursuing me regarding the iphone and the electric wiring in the house," she told ABCNews.com in an e-mail.

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