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Wi-Fi foe sues neighbor for using electronics: Man says electromagnetic sensitivity has forced him to live in his car [The Santa Fe New Mexican]
[January 08, 2010]

Wi-Fi foe sues neighbor for using electronics: Man says electromagnetic sensitivity has forced him to live in his car [The Santa Fe New Mexican]

(Santa Fe New Mexican, The (NM) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 8--A Santa Fe man who says he suffers from electromagnetic sensitivity is suing his next-door neighbor for refusing to turn off her cell phone and other electronic devices.

Arthur Firstenberg, who has actively opposed the proliferation of wireless systems in public buildings, claims he has been made homeless by Raphaela Monribot's rejection of his requests.

Firstenberg and Monribot, who have homes only 25 feet apart in a west-side neighborhood, both declined to discuss the lawsuit Thursday.

Monribot's actions have effectively ousted Firstenberg from the house he bought last year and forced him to stay with friends or in his car, says a document filed Monday in state District Court by lawyer Lindsay Lovejoy Jr.

Firstenberg "cannot stay in a hotel, because hotels and motels all employ wi-fi connections, which trigger a severe illness," says the request for a preliminary injunction. "If (Firstenberg) cannot obtain preliminary relief, he will be forced to continue to sleep in his car, enduring winter cold and discomfort, until this case can be heard." The case has been assigned to state District Judge Daniel Sanchez, who has yet to set a hearing.

According to an affidavit signed by Firstenberg, Monribot has known about his electromagnetic sensitivity, or EMS, since May 2008, when he hired her to cook meals for him in her home. He said that after he explained his predicament, she began turning off her cell phone and computer "to spare me the pain of EMS." Firstenberg said he began to sublease a house Monribot rented at 247 Barela St. when Monribot went to France, where her husband, Jean-Pierre Monribot, is a citizen and where one of their daughters lives. But, after the landlord threatened eviction because the rent was unpaid, Firstenberg said, he purchased the house on Sept. 26, 2008, for $430,000.

When a house at 246 Casados St. -- which backs up to the one on Barela Street -- came up for rent, Firstenberg said, he notified Monribot, who rented that house in October 2008.

"Within a day of (Monribot) moving in, I began to feel sick when I was in my house," Firstenberg wrote in his affidavit. "(Monribot's) house is located 25 feet from my house. Further, because the two houses at one time were on a single lot, their electrical systems are fed from a single main cable. In fact, the electric meter for my house is mounted on (Monribot's) house. Electromagnetic fields emitted in (Monribot's) house are transmitted by wire directly into my house." Firstenberg said that when he visited Monribot in her new house, she told him she had purchased a new iPhone and leaves it turned on at all times so family members can reach her. When he asked her if she could use a land line in the house, she "flatly refused without explanation," he said.

"I also observed a computer in use, compact fluorescent lights, dimmer rheostats, and other sources of electromagnetic radiation," he said. Monribot "agreed to phase out the fluorescent lights, but she declined to consider any limitation on her cell phone, or to turn off her computer when not in use, or to replace dimmer switches. In fact, a few days later, (Monribot) installed a wireless network for her computer. All of these devices emitted electromagnetic radiation and triggered my EMS with life-threatening reactions, which included a heart arrhythmia." Firstenberg said he looked into separating the utility connections between the two houses, but Public Service Company of New Mexico has not yet suggested any solution. He said Monribot inquired about the PNM discussions last fall, saying, "I am feeling a bit guilty." Firstenberg's motion is accompanied by dozens of notes from doctors, some dating back more than a decade, about his sensitivities. Firstenberg, 59, said he began to experience stomach pains, memory loss and other symptoms as a medical student at the University of California, Irvine, in 1980. Since then, various physicians have diagnosed him as being extraordinarily sensitive to both chemicals and electromagnetic radiation, he said.

Since moving to Santa Fe five years ago, Firstenberg has been active in groups that have unsuccessfully tried to stop the city from installing wireless systems at City Hall and public libraries. He has also opposed the installation of cell towers in Chimayo and Madrid, a remote monitoring system for the city water system and controlled burns in national forests.

The issue of wireless systems could come to a head Feb. 10, when the City Council considers a new telecommunications ordinance, two franchises for new communication systems and a resolution asking the federal government to allow municipalities to consider health and environment consequences of cell phone towers.

Firstenberg declined to be photographed Thursday outside his home on one-lane Barela Street. The back seat of his car, a Nissan with California license plates, contained the bedding he uses to stay warm at night.

"Everybody's trying to find me," he said. "I'm trying to lay low." Contact Tom Sharpe at 986-3080 or [email protected]

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