From The Telegraph
Ian Douglas, a father of two, is sick and tired of people over-reacting to the mythical threat that Wi-Fi 'poses' to children. Here he serves up some much-needed facts
France is banning the use of Wi-Fi in nurseries. A lot of people are worried about the effect of radiation on our health and, especially, the health of our children. Many news publications, including the Telegraph, have run stories warning of the risks posed by the new(ish) technology. They are all misled, and here’s why.
Wifi as an increased cancer risk
No, it isn’t. It is true that International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the World Health Organisation) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, including radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from wireless phones as ‘2b’ in its monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans. But that’s by no means proof of danger. You see 2b is ‘possibly carcinogenic’ and as well as Wi-Fi, the category includes coffee, carpentry and pickled vegetables. Some evidence has to be present (except when insufficient evidence is accepted) but the case does not have to be proven.
The legislators themselves say that no link has been demonstrated (Le Monde reports them as having been unable to identify ‘a causal link between the biological effects described on cellular models, animals or humans and possible health effects that result.’) and there is only limited evidence (one study, unconfirmed by any others) to suggest risk even for intensive users of mobile phones.
What does this tell us about Wi-Fi? Wi-fi routers are weaker transmitters even than mobile phone masts, and users sit away from them. The level of energy produced by a Wi-Fi router is very low, far too low to be able to disrupt DNA, so there is no mechanism for it to be carcinogenic. It’s true that it’s the same frequency as microwave radiation, but it’s so low power that there isn’t even a noticeable heating effect, never mind breakdown of genetic material. The ‘hot ear’ effect that you notice after a long call comes from the battery warming up, not radiation. It’s just too weak to do anything, even if you’re sitting close to it.
It’s also true that a study in 2011 found a link between mobile phone use, especially when that use started young, and a type of brain cancer. But then a meta-analysis in 2008, combining several other studies to form a larger investigation, the gold standard of medical research, found no significant link between phone radiation and the disease.
Wi-Fi affects people who are hypersensitive to radiation
There is no doubt that some people suffer from headaches, nausea, fatigue, blurred vision and other symptoms. Some of those people have identified Wi-Fi and mobile phone signals after getting new equipment. There is no evidence that it was the signals though, and all of the symptoms can be set off by a huge number of different causes.
There is also the case of the small study in which supposedly electrosensitive people were unable to tell when a phone really was switched off. While it’s impossible to prove that these subjective feelings aren’t caused by waves given off by electronics, there’s no reason to think that they are.
It’s worth remembering that Wi-Fi occupies the same part of the spectrum as microwaves, which sounds terribly alarming. If it can boil water, surely it’s bad for us too? Well, no. Not at such low power. This is also the frequency of the cosmic background radiation, the echoes of the big bang that fill the sky. There is literally nowhere in the universe that does not have microwaves pinging around in it.
It’s better to play safe
Why not be cautious, though? Why take the risk of debilitating symptoms when you can just turn off your phone? Follow that line of thought and you’ll have to take everything in the 2b category out of your life. Are the French launching the league against cornichons, or marching across Paris with banners proclaiming Bricolage? Mais Non! Of course they’re not. But they are banning wireless communication in nursery schools, because that’s new and parents aren’t entirely sure about what makes it work. Parents are, quite rightly, very worried about how any new thing will affect their children.
Some things, like the effect of texting using proper grammar or how more screen time affects attention spans, are difficult to measure and we don’t really know how people will be when they grow up. But Wi-Fi as a cause of cancer or even headaches? We can test for that. We have tested for that. It’s fine.