Panorama Wi-Fi scare: Academic experts dismiss fears

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wifialliance.jpgThe debate on whether Wi-Fi is bad for your kids’ health is still thrumming in advance of tonight’s episode of Panorama investigating the issue. I’ve had my say on how worrying it is for consumers, and we’ve heard from Exradia’s Jim Lawler, who thinks the industry should be leading the way in addressing Wi-Fi fears.

Now here’s three academic experts, whose responses – disclosure alert – were sent to me by the Wi-Fi Alliance. That’s not to say they’re banging a drum for Wi-Fi though – my impression is that while they’re all saying the risks are non-existent or minimal, two of them stress the need for more research, while one re-iterates a warning about children using Wi-Fi laptops.

Click below to see what they have to say, and don’t forget to take our poll on the issue to give your views.

Dr James Rubin, Lecturer, Mobile Phones Research Unit, King’s College London

“People with electrosensitivity experience real, physical symptoms that can be severe and are sometimes disabling. There have now been 36 experiments which have tested whether such people can tell the difference between real and fake (placebo) electromagnetic fields under double-blind conditions.

Although people do experience symptoms in these studies, these tend to happen just as often in the fake conditions as in the real conditions. This suggests that it is probably not electromagnetic fields that are responsible for their symptoms, although there is still room for more work to be done in this area.”

Professor Malcolm Sperrin, Director Of Medical Physics And Clinical Engineering, Royal Berkshire Hospital

“Wi-Fi is a technique using very low intensity radio waves. Whilst similar in wavelength to domestic microwave radiation the intensity of Wi-Fi radiation is only a few 10s of mW as opposed to hundreds of Watts in the domestic case, which is up to 100 000 times less.

Furthermore, tissue can only be effectively heated by a wavelength that is closely matched to the absorption and there are strict guidelines for ensuring such absorption peaks are avoided. Some people suspect a non-thermal interaction but there is no evidence to suggest that this exists and indeed it is unlikely.

Radio waves 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. Research is still proceeding in this area at leading centres in many countries but evidence points to Wi -Fi transmissions being well below any likely threshold for human effects.”

Professor Lawrie Challis, Emeritus Professor Of Physics, Nottingham University and Chairman of the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MHTR) Programme Management Committee

“Wi fi exposures are usually very small and seem unlikely to pose any risk to health – the transmitters are low power and some distance from the body.

They can be near to the body however when a laptop is on one’s lap and my own view is that just as we encourage young children not to use mobile phones we should also encourage them to use their laptops on a table rather than their lap if they are going online for a long time”.

Stuart Dredge
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  • First I’d like to say “Garry, you are a moron!”
    You have made comments basing your entire knowledge on what you have heard in the press.
    I suffer from Electrosensitivity and it has been caused by 3 months continual exposure to wi-fi. I now get severe debilitating pains around wi-fi, and can determine when it is on, off, or even when supposedly disabled.

    Having been trained in electronics, worked in telecoms during the early part of my career, been a radio amateur since the mid’ 80’s, and having worked as a highly experienced IT technical professional for 20 years, I know the differences between the technologies. I agree the specs suggest that it should affect people less than mobiles, blah blah blah, but the effects that are now slowly presenting themselves on a growing number of people as they are more exposed to wi-fi is not something that should be just ignored out of hand (just because you have read something in the press!).

    It is exactly your kind of response that we went through with the smoking issue, the asbestos issue, the HRT issue, nuclear power plants, and I could go on.

    It is the myth perpetuated by those that have a direct interest in these things continuing that makes it so dangerous, and because it is believed by those that are easily led, and have no real clue about what is being discussed.

    The symptoms for E.S. are overpowering, and extremely severe for many people. It is your moral duty as a human being to to listen to those people that are affected, without prejudices of ignorance and without blindly believing those that have an direct interest in getting people to believe that the technology does not have any problems.

    Bear note, that after having approached several manufacturers’ support departments that produce wi-fi equipment, they all (and I mean ALL) say that when you ‘disable wi-fi’ it ‘turns it off’. This is complete rubbish, and after getting their designers to check 1 enlightened manufacturer has now admitted that this is the case. It is investigating how they can disable it in future models. (you would be very surprised if you knew who this is, but I am currently not saying who due to ongoing discussions with them!)

    What will make this worse is that companies like Broadcom are producing and selling in massive quantities combined Bluetooth and wi-fi chips where you cannot turn off just one of the technologies without turning off the other. Also we find that the bluetooth or wi-fi group are looking into putting bluetooth over wi-fi.

    There’s more problems. Just look at those manufacturers (like BT) that are selling wi-fi house phones without considering all the potential problems that it may have!

    Just remember, as much as some people say they ‘know’ it has no effect. Those that are currently affected have direct experience of the problems and know they exist.

  • This is so ridiculous! Panorama are just jumping on the latest bandwagon with those moronic parents who complain about wifi in schools while sending their kids there with mobile phones in their pockets! A basic calculation will show you that the filed strength from WIFI is so much massively lower than from mobile phones that it’s not worth sparing the slightest thought over. There are many serious issues in the world, and this is a total waste of time, just like the MMR and autism scare. Did you know that studies have shown watching TV has a greater link with autism? Do we get people campaigning against TV?? I wonder why not, perhaps because the people with that intelligence level are the same ones who are addicted to TV!


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