Is My Wi-Fi Nuking Me Too???

September 14, 2010

This week I have done quite a bit of research about the harm that is caused by too much exposure to cell phone radiation. However, I did that research, and then wrote those posts (‘Is My Cell Phone Cooking My Brain?’, ‘Cell Phones – It’s Even Worse Than I Thought’), on my laptop, using wireless internet technology. Duuuuuh. It’s the same thing! I even read a few articles where people thought it was rather comical that some people are up in arms over the risks of cell phones, but then don’t think twice about using Wi-Fi. They both expose us to electromagnetic radiation. And clearly the frequency of Wi-Fi travels quite a distance, if I’m able to log on to say… my neighbor’s network.

Man. I’ll be perfectly honest – I am one of those people. I have often wondered about the possible harm caused by cell phones. I have heard for years that some believe they contribute to the development of brain tumors or cancer. And all these years later, I’m still weary of standing in front of the microwave when it’s in use, because of how my mom used to tell me back in the day that it would “cook my brain”. But radiation from Wi-Fi? Never crossed my mind. So I’ve done a little research on it, and was surprised by what I found.

Just as easily as I can find information on the web that says Wi-Fi is harmful, I can also find articles that say it is perfectly safe. Yet when dealing with an issue that could potentially adversely affect your health, many people feel it is best to err on the side of caution. Wireless technology is still new, relatively speaking. It has not been around long enough to truly know the health implications. My daughter’s generation is the first that will have grown up bathed in electromagnetic radiation, from both cell phones and wireless internet. Who knows what kind of effects we’ll see 20 years from now? Personally, I would rather we be safe, than sorry. Let’s be honest, there have been many times over the course of our history where we were told things were initially safe, only to realize later that they weren’t (asbestos, cigarettes, pesticides).

But in this case, there is evidence that it isn’t safe. In September 2006, the International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety (ICEMS) had a conference in Italy. 31 leading world scientists signed a resolution calling for a precautionary approach* to these technologies. The following is taken from the resolution: “More evidence has accumulated suggesting that there are adverse health effects from public exposure to electromagnetic fields, at current exposure levels.”[1] A year later, in August 2007, the BioInitiative Working Group – an international working group of scientists, researchers, and public health policy professionals – concluded that current safety standards are inadequate to protect public health.[2]

That being said, many countries around the world have started using the Precautionary Principle*, and are taking steps to protect their citizens. They aren’t waiting for the scientific community and the government to reach a consensus. For example:

  • Austria – The Austrian Medical Association has lobbied for a ban of Wi-Fi in schools.[6][7] 
  • In 2005, the Public Health Department of Salzburg advised schools not to use Wi-Fi.[5][6][7]
  • In 2005, the Vienna Chamber of Doctors warned about the dangers of high radiation exposure and Wi-Fi.[5]
  • Canada – In 2006, Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada limited its use of Wi-Fi based on the precautionary principle*, due to health concerns. It has an extensive fibre-optic network throughout the campus, 9000 plug-in sites, computer labs, & internet cafes. It only has Wi-Fi in areas where the fibre-optics links can’t reach. President Fred Gilbert said “While the jury’s out on this one, I’m not going to put in place what is potential chronic exposure for our students.”[3][4][7]
  • European Union – In 2007, the European Environmental Agency (EEA) called for immediate action in decreasing exposure to RF emissions from Wi-Fi.[6]
  • France – In 2008, the National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France) placed a moratorium on Wi-Fi & switched back to wired connectivity, after 40% of the librarians reported adverse health effects.[5][6]
  • In 2008, the Sainte Geneviève Library (Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève) also removed Wi-Fi after a librarian complained of physical side-effects.[7]
  • In 2009, the city of Hérouville-Saint-Clair removed Wi-Fi from primary schools & public buildings, and installed fibre-optic systems in its place.[6]
  • In 2009, at a meeting of its Health and Safety Committee, the Paris III Sorbonne University announced the suspension of Wi-Fi on its campus.[7]
  • Germany – In 2006, Frankfurt’s Local Education Authority banned the use of Wi-Fi in its schools.[5]
  • In 2007, the Bavarian Parliament recommended that no schools in the province use wireless networks.[5]
  • In 2007, the German Federal Government and Environment Ministry warned its citizens to avoid using Wi-Fi. They said people should opt for wired connections instead.[5][6][7]
  • Sweden – The government of Sweden believes electrosensitivity is an established medical condition. In their schools, if a child has a reaction, Wi-Fi is removed.[5]
  • United Kingdom – In 2006, two schools in the UK banned Wi-Fi from their premises to avoid health risks.[6]

Clearly there is enough concern about the safety of Wi-Fi, that organizations around the world have taken steps to reduce exposure. Unfortunately, there really is only one solution – remove Wi-Fi and go back to hard-wired internet. I’ll be honest, I’m a bit disappointed by the realization that the safest option as far as health is concerned, is to disregard technological advancements like cordless phones, cell phones, and wireless internet. Ugh. Why don’t I just go back to listening to 8-track tapes and writing telegrams while I’m at it?

 

*The Precautionary Principle/Approach states when there are indications of possible adverse effects to the public or environment, though they remain uncertain, the risks from doing nothing may be far greater than the risks of taking action to control these exposures. This principle shifts the burden of proof from those suspecting a risk, to those who discount it. This principle allows policy makers to make discretionary decisions in situations where extensive scientific knowledge on the matter is lacking. The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk.[8]

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References: [1] http://www.icems.eu/docs/BeneventoResolution.pdf [2] http://www.scribd.com/doc/13310171/International-Scientists-Find-Harmful-Effects-From-Wireless-Technologies-and-Urge-New-Safety-Rules [3] http://www.itbusiness.ca/it/client/en/home/News.asp?id=38093&PageMem=1 [4] http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/02/22/canada_uni_wifi_ban/ [5] http://www.wifiexposure.com/ [6] http://www.heartmdinstitute.com/wireless-safety/ban-wifi-schools [7] http://www.wifiinschools.org.uk/4.html [8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle

Image Source: http://dlight-comms.com/?p=202

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