"A massive radiotelescope prohibits any mainstream electronics from being used nearby
(Green Bank, West Virginia, 22 September 2011, Chris Hurst, Anchor/Reporter)
Tranquil Pocahontas County is not where Diane Schou planned to end up.
“It’s difficult for me to know that it’s an affliction that anybody can share with anyone,” she says. “Anyone can get this.”
Eventually she connected the dots. She says the electromagnetic radiation from the tower made her sick. Her doctor agreed, saying her symptoms were caused by electromagnetic sensitivity.
“We told him about the cell tower and his reaction was, ‘Move.’”
While not a formal diagnosis in America, electromagnetic sensitivity is recognized in several European countries. And last May, the World Health Organization classified it as a possible carcinogen.
“I would call myself a refugee/fugitive and I would say it’s ‘electromagnetic radiation fugitive,’” she says.
She's found peace and health in West Virginia. Inside the “National Radio Quiet Zone,” a 13-thousand square mile piece of land free from most radio signals. Inside it are Covington, Clifton Forge, Lexington and Buena Vista. But even more restrictive is the ten mile radius around a massive radiotelescope that maps outer space. Without it, there'd be no “Quiet Zone.” It's taller than the Statue of Liberty and receives radio waves from across the universe. But any electromagnetic signals within a ten-mile radius could potentially ruin their research.
Mike Holstine works at the site and says they constantly monitor for any electromagnetic radiation that would disrupt work in Green Bank. No Wi-Fi. cell phones, rogue radio waves are allowed.
“It's been likened to a single snowflake hitting the ground, that’s how weak these signals [from space] are,” says Holstine.
Michelle Bubnis and her husband moved just outside Green Bank in April. A few years ago, she noticed electronics giving her a burning on the side of her face. She too was diagnosed by doctors with electromagnetic sensitivity.
“I think that people who come here are simply trying to get out of pain,” she says. “It’s a life and death situation.”
The couple is building a home near the telescope. When she lived in Texas, for months she was a shut-in, living in a back bedroom in her house.“I need to be in a radiation free environment so that I can think and I can function as a human being,” she says. “I can go outside now! At my house in Austin, there was so much radio frequency around, everyone had Wi-Fi; I couldn’t go outside.”
And even though this is not the life she wanted, some parts of her life have been changed for the better."Suffering makes a person more compassionate, it makes a person more understanding, it makes a person count their blessings," she says.
There aren't steadfast estimates on how many people suffer from Electromagnetic Sensitivity, but health organizations around the world put it between from 2 to 5%.
People in Green Bank say only a handful have moved to the area to seek relief, but all expect more to move there in the future."