Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I thought I'd come up with something else for you to worry your little heads about.

As the Belfast Telegram writes:

It's on every high street and in every coffee shop and school. But experts have serious concerns about the effects of electronic smog from wireless networks linking our laptops and mobiles, reports Geoffrey Lean

Being "wired-up" used to be shorthand for being at the cutting edge, connected to all that is cool. No longer. Wireless is now the only thing to be.

Radiation levels from wireless internet in schools are being investigated after a British study found emissions in a classroom there three times higher than those from a mobile phone mast. It should be noted that in Britain guidelines from the Health Protection Agency already state that masts should not be sited near schools because of a possible cancer link and other health risks.

The World Health Organisation says there are "no adverse health effects from low-level, long-term exposure" to wi-fi radiation.

But Sir William Stewart,, of Britain's Health Protection Agency, said there was growing evidence of possible harm from radio-frequency radiation.

He explained: "There may be changes, for example in cognitive function.

"There were some indications that there may be cancer inductions. There was some molecular biology changes within the cell."

Wireless computer network technology, or Wi-Fi, is widely used in schools. Some private ones require all students to have laptop computers and use wireless internet access during lessons.

But only limited local studies have been done on radiation levels from classroom Wi-Fi.

Scientists believe children may be more vulnerable to radio-frequency radiation emissions than adults because their skulls are still growing and are thinner.

This raises questions over the safety of children bent over computers being exposed to radiation at very close quarters reports the Daily Mail.

Philip Parkin, general secretary of Britain's Professional Association of Teachers, said: "I am asking for schools to consider very seriously whether they should be installing wi-fi networks now and this will make them think twice or three times before they do it."

In Australia, Hobart independent communications consultant Don Maisch said urgent research was needed to find out if the technology was a health risk.

“I would be concerned if my child was going to be in the room (with wireless connected laptops) for a long time,” Mr Maisch said.

He said new connections with higher frequencies were being used, which might mean radiation exposure was increasing, potentially causing problems such as fatigue, headaches and low-level memory problems.

Meanwhile, numerous schools in New Zealand are to undergo testing for radiation emissions. The National Radiation Laboratory will investigate radiation levels in classrooms in Christchurch schools.

Some scientist sharply disagree that there is any real evidence of a danger here.

The Norwich Union reports on studies carried by Kenneth Foster, professor of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, in which he examined more than 300 different wi-fi signals of various strengths at over 50 sites in four different countries. His conclusion was that "in all cases" signal levels were "very far below international safety limits".

These scientists generally believe that Wi-Fi ought to be safer than mobile phone radiation because Wi-Fi devices transmit over shorter distances and so can operate at lower power.

'Radio waves (Wi-Fi) and other non-ionising radiations have been part of our lives for a century or more and if such effects were occurring then damage or other untoward effects would have been recorded and studied. Professor Malcolm Sperrin, director of medical physics at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, told the BBC.

And that some say is the problem. They say that we are all now living in a soup of electromagnetic radiation one billion times stronger than the natural fields in which living cells have developed over the last 3.8 billion years. This, they add, is bound to cause trouble.

Also, saying Wi-Fi is safer than cell phones won't satisfy some folks either.

A recent authoritative Finnish study has found that people who have used mobiles for more than ten years are 40 per cent more likely to get a brain tumour on the same side of the head as they hold their handset; Swedish research suggests that the risk is almost four times as great. And further research from Sweden claims that the radiation kills off brain cells, which could lead to today's younger generation going senile in their forties and fifties.

I found it interesting that in researching this article I found numerous reports from Britain, Australia, and New Zealand on the subject, but virtually nothing from US sources.

The following "warning" comes from
Monsters and Critics.

Wi-Fi health concerns increase
By Stevie Smith

Over the past few weeks, concerns regarding the outlying health risks linked with the proliferation of Wi-Fi wireless networks – particularly in schools – has begun to take hold in the United Kingdom.

More pointedly, calls from the scientific community are also gathering that suggest further research should be carried out on the safety of Wi-Fi networks following reports of a teacher that suffered from heavy migraines, ill health, and a lack of concentration when a Wi-Fi network was installed at his school – only to recover fully when it was later removed.

Now Wi-Fi health issues are back in the media again, thanks to the arrival of a BBC Panorama documentary probing the possible health risks associated with the wireless phenomenon that’s currently spreading across the country through homes, classrooms, and businesses.

The UK government has already issued claims that Wi-Fi technology is perfectly safe and much less powerful, in terms of radiation emissions, than that of standard mobile phones. However, the aforementioned Panorama investigation has revealed that radio frequency radiation levels in certain schools is reaching as high as three times the level produced by the main beam of intensity on mobile phone masts – which, unlike Wi-Fi, have been subjected to literally thousands of health and safety evaluations.

The BBC highlights that since the beginning of 2006 approximately 2 million UK residents have started utilising the advantages of Wi-Fi technology, to the point where various cities throughout the country have received dedicated Wi-Fi hotspots for wireless network access to the Internet via laptops or other mobile devices.

Wi-Fi technology emits unavoidable radiation closely associated with that of mobile phone masts, and with Wi-Fi masts installed throughout 70 percent of the UK’s secondary schools and a further 50 percent of its primary schools, calls for better and more thorough scientific research into its health effects are gathering intensity.

The Panaroma documentary, which aired on Monday May 21, duly compared the level of radiation measured from a typical mobile phone mast against the level of Wi-Fi radiation found in a Norwich classroom equipped with Wi-Fi access. The readings revealed that the Wi-Fi signal strength was triple that of the mobile phone mast’s main beam of intensity.

Despite the differences in reading, it is worth noting that the recorded Wi-Fi levels were still as much as 600 times lower than the government’s issued safety limitations. However, the programme went on to claim that health risks connected to Wi-Fi and young children are still of particular concern as the skull thickness of a child is considerably thinner than that of an adult and therefore more susceptible to the effects of radiation.

Regardless of mounting safety concerns being voiced by various members of the global scientific community toward the possible health ramifications of Wi-Fi networks, the UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) states that Wi-Fi devices are of very minor power, considerably lower than the power emitted by mobile phones. The government also maintains that there is absolutely no risk to health through low level, long-term exposure to Wi-Fi radiation – a claim that’s reinforced by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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