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Retired Electronics Professor Wants To Create Wi-Fi Free Refuge

CANON CITY, Colo. (CBS4) - Instant updates, video calls, movies in the palm of your hand. Wireless technology has revolutionized the way we communicate, but now some people say there's a potential downside. Some people claim Wi-Fi and cellphone signals are making them sick.

Gary Johnson of Canon City doesn't go far without his gigahertz solutions radio frequency detector. The retired electronics professor even takes the handheld contraption to church with him.

"I would be sick after going to church," he said.

He said would get hit by a debilitating fatigue which would last 24 hours after attending Sunday service.

"You know something is wrong but it's hard to point to one organ and say it hurts right here," Johnson said.

By using his frequency meter, Johnson was able to determine his church was a hot spot because of a cellphone tower situated across the street.

WIFI wi-fi tower
(credit: CBS)

"There are times when it reads well over 1000 (megahertz)."

So he decided to attend church services in the neighboring town of Florence. It is 15 minutes further away, but says he feels fine there and his meter shows fewer frequencies.

Johnson believes the signals affect him and some others who suffer from a condition called electromagnetic hypersensitivity, or EHS. He likens it to a peanut or a pollen allergy.

"We just got put together in a way that's more sensitive than other folks."

Inside Johnson's Canon City home he has a landline telephone instead of a smartphone. He also gets the Internet from a hardwired computer. At one point he mistakenly switched his router to broadcast Wi-Fi and says it almost killed him.

"Do I need to write my will? Do I need to bring things up to date? This is bad."

He turned it off and started feeling better the next day.

Dr. David Carpenter, Director of the Institute of Health and Environment at the University of Albany, says there is strong evidence that EHS is a real syndrome which could harm up to five percent of the population.

"They walk around feeling ill and don't know what to do about it," he said.

Other doctors say the evidence connecting Wi-Fi to illness is just not there. New York University neuropsychologist Dr. William Barr thinks the condition is all in your mind.

"They establish a belief that something has the potential to cause a symptom and when they come into contact with that cause they develop those symptoms," said Barr.

Back in Canon City Johnson said he's received about "50 emails from people all over the world looking for a safe place to live." He thinks his 59-acre plot of land in the town of Rockvale would be the perfect place. He owns an undeveloped gulch with high walls that block just about every kind of frequency.

"This would be a good sanctuary," he said. "People could come here and heal. Spend some time here for a week, a month, a year, and leave feeling better."

Johnson says he feels better in his gulch, a place where his frequency meters go silent.

Mark Ackerman is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. Follow him on Twitter @ackermanmark

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