Anne Cautain and Bernadette Touloumond live the life of hermits in the cave near Saint-Julien-en-Beauchêne in the Haute-Alpes region. The two women have sought refuge there due to their hyper-sensitive reactions to the electro-magnetic radiation caused by waves from wireless communication.
The two have tried to make their cave comfortable, installing two beds and a small table. Yet their candle-lit sanctuary has no heating or electricity.
“This will be my third winter here,” Cautain told the AFP news agency. “Believe me. I would prefer to be in a house, sitting in front of the fireplace.”
The 55-year-old has long suffered from terrible headaches, which she says are a result of her sensitivity to the electro-magnetic radiation.
She had previously lived in a farmhouse in the region but then the installation of mobile phone masts made it impossible to stay there, she told Alpes 1 radio. Her daughter, Laure Cautain, appealed for the creation of so-called “white zones,” areas free from electro-magnetic pollution.
Robin des Toits, a group that campaigns against mobile phone masts, estimates that only a few dozen people in France suffer from this extreme form of electro-sensitivity also known as EHS, but that around 3 percent of the French population are prone to milder forms of the condition.
EHS is not, however, officially recognized as a medical condition. “There is no proof of a causal link between exposure to radio frequencies and hypersensitivity,” the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) concluded in a 2009 report.
Dominique Belpomme, professor of oncology at the Paris-Descartes University, argues, however, that clinical studies have proven that electro-magnetic rays can adversely affect health. He said that Cautain and Touloumond could probably be treated for their condition, for example with antihistamines.
Cautain, however, prefers natural methods. She and Touloumond are growing organic marrows, apples and pears in crates that line the entrance to their cave residence.
Despite their extreme solution to their health problems, the two women refuse to consider themselves drop outs.
“When I arrived in this cave I asked myself what had I done to end up here. I couldn’t believe it,” said Touloumond, a former flight attendant, now in her 60s. “I’ve been treated like a crazy woman,” she told AFP. “I’ve lost a lot of friends and my family find it hard to understand.”