A lawsuit filed by a Massachusetts couple claiming that a school's Wi-Fi network is harming their son is drawing attention to a condition that is so controversial that many in the medical community even question its existence.
The parents filed a lawsuit claiming that the Fay School in Southborough has "high-intensity Wi-Fi emissions" that have harmed their son, identified in the lawsuit only as "G" because he is a minor. The parents are also not identified in the lawsuit to protect the identity of their son. "G" he has a condition called Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome (EHS), according to the lawsuit, filed on Aug. 12 in state court.
The syndrome has been controversial and its existence has been the subject of debate in the medical community. The World Health Organization recognizes the condition but clarifies that it is not a medical diagnosis since there is no symptom criteria and since it has not been proven to be caused by electromagnetic field sources.
However, "G" reportedly had multiple symptoms after the school switched wireless Internet systems.
"The high-density Wi-Fi used in the Fay classrooms is causing G to suffer headaches, chest pains, nosebleeds, nausea, dizziness, and rashes, all recognized symptoms of EHS," the family claimed in court papers on Aug. 19 seeking an injunction to force the school to take action.
The family is asking that Ethernet cables be used in classes when the boy is present or that the school revert to an old Wi-Fi network that they claimed did not cause their son to have symptoms.
The boy's physician wrote to the court saying his symptoms may get worse if the exposure continues.
"The complete extent of these effects on people is still unknown," wrote Dr. Jeanne Hubbuch in the lawsuit. "But it is clear that children and pregnant women are at the highest risk. This is due to the brain tissue being more absorbent, their skulls are thinner and their relative size is small. There are no studies that show that exposure to these two vulnerable groups is safe."
The family is seeking damages in the amount of $250,000, according to court papers.
In a statement sent to ABC News, school officials said they had hired a company, Isotrope LLC, to analyze the radio communication signals and emissions in 2014.
"Isotrope’s assessment was completed in January 2015 and found that the combined levels of access point emissions, broadcast radio and television signals, and other [radio frequency emissions] on campus 'were substantially less than 1/10,000th of the applicable safety limits (federal and state)," the school said in a statement.
Questions about the safety of electromagnetic radiation have gained steam as wireless technology has become more pervasive. However, research into EHS and health effects of Wi-Fi exposure has yet to indicate how these technologies could be causing symptoms as long as radiation is kept within acceptable levels.
"It has been suggested that symptoms experienced by some EHS individuals might arise from environmental factors unrelated to EMF [electromagnetic fields]," the WHO explained. "Examples may include 'flicker' from fluorescent lights, glare and other visual problems with [visual display units], and poor ergonomic design of computer workstations. Other factors that may play a role include poor indoor air quality or stress in the workplace or living environment."
While the syndrome is not fully understood, WHO recommends that patients seek medical attention from a health professional to evaluate their symptoms.
Studies on the health effects of Wi-Fi remain limited, but appear to show no conclusive signs of ill effects related to Wi-Fi exposure. One study with 120 subjects exposed some people to Wi-Fi radiation and others to "sham" Wi-Fi radiation and found no significant differences in the subjects' reactions or symptom severity.
In another small study, people watched news reports linking Wi-Fi exposure to negative health effects. When those subjects were exposed to "sham" Wi-Fi, some reported feeling the same ill effects that had been reported in the news program.