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There's No App For That: 'Electrosensitive' Activist Sues To Stop Neighbor's iPhone Use (Update Jan. 14)

January 6, 2010, 12:00 am
By Corey Pein


Update 4:44 pm, Jan. 14: Hi, HuffPo readers. Check out our follow-up to this story here.

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Regular SFR readers may remember the name Arthur Firstenberg. He's the "electrosensitive" activist who has campaigned against wi-fi in public buildings and, more recently, against digital television broadcasts.

Firstenberg claims that the low-level electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell phones and other modern gadgets makes him, and others "sensitive" to radio waves, suffer terribly. The side-effects of exposure, he believes, include "nausea, vertigo, diarrhea, ringing in the ears, severe headaches and body aches, crippling joint pains, insomnia, impaired vision, impaired muscular control" and other ailments, some potentially deadly.

In the past, he has taken his case to City Hall, where he found a polite if unreceptive audience.

Now, Firstenberg wants a judge to stop his neighbor from using her iPhone, her wireless internet and her laptop charger, saying the radiation has forced him from his home.



He also wants $530,000 in damages, including $100,000 for pain and suffering.

The lawsuit was filed Jan. 4 at the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe. Firstenberg's attorney, Lindsay Lovejoy, Jr, is a graduate of Harvard and Yale, as well as a former Assistant New Mexico Assistant Attorney General who has argued cases alongside now-US Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM.

Read more about this bizarre lawsuit after the cut. We'll update this post as we learn more.

Lovejoy did not immediately return a message left at his office.

Update 1:46 pm, Jan. 7: Lovejoy did not immediately return a second message—but he has been talking to KOAT, according to Melissa Vega, a reporter for that station. SFR just dropped by Firstenberg's neighbor's house, where Vega and a cameraman are parked outside, waiting for the woman to exit.

Vega says Lovejoy told her he wants the case to play out in court (rather than in the media, presumably).

Update 2:14 pm: SFR's Zane Fischer points out that if the iPhone next door was bad for Firstenberg, that KOAT news truck must really be murder.

Update 3:21 pm, Jan. 8: Today, the Santa Fe New Mexican picked up this story. Firstenberg isn't giving much to them, either, although Tom Sharpe takes care to note that Firstenberg is keeping his bedding in his car. Does that mean he's living in it? Firstenberg (and his lawyer) haven't returned SFR's messages.

From a purely egotistical perspective, it's annoying that the New Mexican didn't credit SFR with finding this story first. Sure, it came from a public record, but respectable newspapers give that kind of credit to their competitors.

There's a more serious problem with Sharpe's story: It essentially takes Firstenberg's claims about the existence of individual electrosensitivity—and the adverse health effects of casual exposure to wireless signals—at face value.

This is irresponsible: People could get scared for no good reason.

Which raises to one likely reason why Firstenberg and Lovejoy haven't returned SFR's calls: They know we'll ask them to defend their outlandish claims.

As SFR reported last summer:
Not only do Firstenberg's claims lack scientific backing, they don't make logical sense. People complaining of DTV-related health problems “don't understand the difference between digital and analog,” Dave Thomas, founder of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, says.

Perhaps, if the judge doesn't dismiss his lawsuit immediately, actual scientists can be called to address Firstenberg's claims in court.

In the meantime, Firstenberg ought to be asked how much money he's made promoting his theory of electrosensitivity.

Update 9:35 am, Jan. 13: Firstenberg probably hasn't made much money. He's been getting disability payments for years (in part for his electrosensitivity) and, according to court documents, had been relying on his mother to purchase a home for him.

New and return visitors: Be sure to check out out the follow-up to this story in the print issue of SFR that hit the streets today.

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Here are JPEGs of Firstenbirg's lawsuit. Click to enlarge.


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