Every evening, Kate Bernier of Berkeley deposits a day’s worth of ice into a cooler, then fills the cooler with the contents of her fridge. She turns the power off and crawls into bed. Sometimes she listens to French poetry on a battery-powered tape player. She kind of likes it. She says it makes her feel like she’s camping.
Around the same time Bernier shuts off the electricity, Annie Mills of Walnut Creek slides into a faraday cage, or a mesh box that shields from electromagnetic fields. Mills and her husband sleep in the cage every night.
What motivates such behavior? Both women are trying to escape the reach of electromagnetic radiation. Both say they’re electro-hypersensitive — that anything that’s electrically charged literally makes them sick. And they’re not alone. At least a dozen people interviewed for this story in recent weeks claim to suffer electro-hypersensitivity or have tumors caused by electromagnetic exposure. Sue, who asked her last name remain anonymous for this article, wrote in an e-mail: “I am living in the near vicinity of 32 SmartMeters and it has made my life a living hell.”
Although electro-hypersensitivity is not a disease recognized by most medical practitioners, Bernier, Mills and others insist their suffering is real. One by one, they approached the Berkeley City Council at meetings in June and July to speak publicly for the first time about what many consider to by a purely psychosomatic condition.
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