Wifi in Schools and the Dangers of non-ionizing radiation: crazed anti-science parents, or a Cold War failure of Normal Science?

The CBC has run stories on parents groups who are concerned about the possible health effects of WIFI in elementary schools. Individual reports of increased heart rate and headaches, from parents and from the children themselves, are are concerning – but intuitively one wishes to trust Health Canada who dismiss the complaints as subjective. The peer reviewed literature, according to Health Canada, overwhelmingly confirms that the thermal effects of WIFI are negligible, and that no causal relation has been found between those thermal effects and any health problems.

The fact that scientists remain opposed to a scientific consensus is not a reason to distrust the consensus – if this were true, the presence of a single reputable climate denier in the peer reviewed literature would be a reason to refrain from belief in global warming. However, there are two reasons why the wifi case is different from climate denial. First: the precautionary principle runs in the opposite direction – whereas a slight doubt that human Co2 output will threaten the survival of the species is not a good reason to take action to stop Co2 emissions, a significant doubt that wifi causes health problems in children is not a good reason to take cheap and easy action to limit children’s exposure to wifi. Second, there is a structural bias behind Health Canada’s appraisal of the research into the effects of small levels of microwave radiation. This surprising claim comes from a study by Leo P. Inglis, surveyed here by Magda Havas, surveying the literature on microwave radiation’s health effects:

In the U.S., the thermal effects are generally believed to be the only ones of significance; other contentions are usually dismissed as lacking a provable basis.  In the USSR, non-thermal effects are considered the most significant and are overwhelmingly the ones most studied.

This indicates a structural difference between scientific assumptions in US and USSR have swayed the directions of research, determined which studies got funding, what students took interest in, etc… This claim undercuts Health Canada’s statements which concern only the thermal effects of microwave radiation – if non thermal effects exist, Health Canada is not even looking for them.

Significant differences in the direction of scientific research between closed off communities are expected by constructivists like Kuhn, who believes that the basic assumptions of a scientific community are determined by the appearance of fruitfulness in future research rather than through normal scientific inquiry itself. In the past I have taken interest in Scientific research done under the Nazi regime, and research done in secrecy for the US military during the cold war. Such research programs demonstrate the power of dollars over freedom – how a research program, even when the researchers are cut off from their peers – can make tremendous strides if given a set of goals and unlimited resources. This gulf between Soviet and American research is an example of the opposite, and much less controversial hypothesis: that a lack of democracy is harmful for scientific research. The lack of proper collaboration between American and Soviet researchers into the effects of microwave radiation allowed Soviet research to ignore the importance of thermal effects, whereas the converse allowed US scientists and regulators to ignore the importance of non-thermal effects.

So, while the Bio-Initiative report is rejected by Health Canada as not being in conformity with the scientific consensus, it might not be rejected by Health Moscow. For example, whereas in 2008 and 2009 Health Canada continued to hold that there was no evidence that cell phone use could have any health effects, the Russian Naitonal Committee on non-ionizing ratiation protection made this statement about risks posed to children’s health by cell phone radiation (similar to WIFI, but much stronger)

Potential risk for the children’s health is very high:
─ the absorption of the electromagnetic energy in a child’s head is considerably higher than that in
the head of an adult (children’s brain has higher conductivity, smaller size, thin skull bones,
smaller distance from the antenna etc.);
─ children’s organism has more sensitivity to the EMF, than the adult’s;
─ children’s brain has higher sensitivity to the accumulation of the adverse effects under
conditions of chronic exposure to the EMF;
─ EMF affects the formation of the process of the higher nervous activity;
─ today’s children will spend essentially longer time using mobile phones, than today’s adults will.

Health Canada continues to hold that the risks from cell phone use do not include any of the risks advised by Russian, British, German, Belgian, Israeli, and Indian health agencies.

The basic question boils down to this: is it up to skeptics to prove that electronic devices are unsafe, or is it up to corporations trying to expand their markets by creating new needs to prove they are safe? If you ask Health Canada – the onus is on scientists to prove that a risk can be statistically proven, i.e. people must already have been hurt by the product. In other words – should the precautionary principle be applied to new electronic devices as it is to new medicine?


76 thoughts on “Wifi in Schools and the Dangers of non-ionizing radiation: crazed anti-science parents, or a Cold War failure of Normal Science?

  1. To me, the scare about cell phone / WiFi radiation looks like a combination of techno-phobia and financial opportunism (people suing cell phone companies and telecom companies). As far as I have seen, there is no credible evidence of danger, but there are a number of examples of people seeking to cash in regardless.

    That being said, it is at least logically possible that this radiation could be problematic. As such, studying it makes sense, so people can make informed decisions about risk.

    1. You say you have not seen any evidence. Look no further than the BioInitiative Report, ECOLOG studies and ICNIRPs own dossier of research tests. When You’ve finished reading the stacks of collected evidence, people’s own experience, you still do not have to believe. But understand that people who can feel the effects of this, and do have the Scientific back-up to support their experiences, have a Human Right not to be in pain and agony and have a Right not to suffer from this pain, verified by the above and their own EMF Scientific meters. You do not have the Right to condemn others to suffer the torture of these microwave pulses.

  2. Do you not find it troubling that non-thermal effects of low level microwave radiation have virtually not been studied at all by US scientists, whereas they have been concentrated on as a major potential danger by Soviet scientists? Do you not recognize that different focus of work, different concern, can produce not exactly “different results”, but results of differing accuracy in different regions. I.e. if you are not concerned at all with the non thermal effects of microwave radiation, you are likely to know little about it.

    But the wider question is – isn’t the lack of precautionary science surrounding new electronic devices itself an example of financial opportunism? Who stands to benefit from shutting down wifi in places where small children are present? Or, who stands to benefit from switching wifi over to a longer wavelength band? (Which, incidentally, I’ve heard no one but you ever call for – perhaps simply due to a low level of understanding of how these things work.)

    Did you know that in the early days of X-rays, you could go to a shoe shop and put your foot under a real time x-ray while wearing a new shoe to see if it “fit”? Guess what happened to the employees, and repeat customers?

  3. Or, who stands to benefit from switching wifi over to a longer wavelength band? (Which, incidentally, I’ve heard no one but you ever call for – perhaps simply due to a low level of understanding of how these things work.)

    People have been calling for this for ages. WiFi is in one of the worst parts of the radio spectrum, which is why it wasn’t allocated for something long ago. One of the big reasons for the push toward digital TV is to free up some more useful portions of the radio spectrum for digital networking purposes.

  4. I am aware of the x-ray example, but it seems that the effects of cell phones and WiFi must be far more subtle.

    Whole cellphone networks have been rapidly rolled out in developing countries. If there was epidemiological evidence that they caused medium-term harm, it would be very clear from the data.

  5. It would only be clear if someone were looking for it. If non-thermal effects are a priori determined irrelevant, then scientists won’t even see them.

  6. If there were any specific ailments that arose a set period after the introduction of cell phones or WiFi, I think epidemiologists would have noticed.

    In any case, it would be easy to check after the fact by going through records in various places. There would be tonnes of opportunities for comparison, given how both technologies have been progressively deployed worldwide.

  7. “I think epidemiologists would have noticed.”

    How could they see them if they were not looking? If there is no funding for studies of non-thermal effects, when are they even getting a chance to look? And would they even take up this chance if they are all directed by professors towards researching thermal effects?

  8. “The question is how to appropriately manage risk.”

    I agree – that’s why I asked in the original post:

    “[I]s it up to skeptics to prove that electronic devices are unsafe, or is it up to corporations trying to expand their markets by creating new needs to prove they are safe?”

    What is preferable? First to prove that a product is safe, which might delay the creation of new needs and the expansion of the economy – or to wait after a product is rolled out and the costs of recalling it are enormous before the question of its safety is settled? Investors will always prefer the first. Because, strangely, investors act as if they did not themselves have bodies, much less children.

  9. If you require that any new product be ‘proved’ safe (which is impossible) before it can be sold, you would effectively halt all technological innovation.

    You would have banned the creation of electric guitars, until whoever invented them had undertaken massive population studies to try to identify whether they have subtle, long-term harmful effects.

  10. Well, yes everything emitting RADIATION should be TESTED and PROVED to be safe. All electric devices work this way they are required to carry a British Standard kitmark BY LAW. That hasn’t halted technology. You are being ridiculous to suggest an electric guitar. This does not emit pulsed Microwave Radiation. But it’s interesting that you think the wheels of technology should surpass human life human health, children, wildlife and bees (who pollinate the crops) Have you read the Bioinitiative Report, ICNIRP or ECOLOG studies? Perhaps you work for the Industry??

  11. Everything in the universe emits radiation, electric guitars included. All objects emit electromagnetic radiation where most common frequency exists in relation to that object’s temperature in degrees Kelvin.

    As I asked in a different forum:

    “On the basis of limited internet research, it seems like nobody has even been able to prove that non-thermal effects of microwave radiation even exist, much less that they cause harm. Does it make sense to replace billions of dollars worth of equipment in response to a danger that might be completely imaginary? Also, if you are just switching to different frequences, what guarantee is there that those are safer?”

  12. Perhaps you work for the Industry??

    It’s true! I personally have a billion dollars worth of stock in cell phone manufacturers and telecom companies. If people ever discover that cell phones cause Instant Brain Cancer, I will be ruined!

  13. Would it be too much to ask for some legislation banning cell phone companies from trying to get scientists fired for studying the health effects of their phones?

    I’m really not trying to make a quick judgement on this – I’m trying to weigh the costs and benefits of both sides while taking into account the potentially problematic state of the normal science.

  14. How would such legislation work? A scientist somehow finds out that a company related to cell phones or WiFi is trying to get them fired, and thinks it is because of research into potential risks. The scientist then goes to a court and tries to get some sort of injunction against the company?

  15. On a somewhat related note, predictions that technologies will cause harm without anybody immediately noticing go back a long way:

    “The locomotive riled 19th-century Great Britain, which feared that engines would blight crops, terrify livestock, and asphyxiate passengers with their high speeds (greater than 20 miles per hour). The numbskullery continues. Gutenberg’s press was going to destroy the clergy and destroy the state. Television was rotting the public’s brain. Comic books were corrupting our youth. Similar predictions and warnings about the bicycle, the radio, the automobile, the airplane, the washing machine, and the microwave were sounded.”

  16. And some of those predictions were right – the locomotive, or industrialization more generally, is a major threat to the survival of the species (although perhaps not exactly for the reasons predicted).

    Voices advising caution in carbon emissions due to the effects of climate change have been around for at least 50 years – what has business’s role in the science been? And why should we expect cell phone companies to act any differently to possible threats on their existing infrastructure?

    “The scientist then goes to a court and tries to get some sort of injunction against the company?”

    Do you think a single scientist has the legal resources to sue a major corporation? Do you not see an imbalance of power here? How many lawyers do you think Motorola might have on staff or retainer?

  17. The principle is very simple: in a legitimately free market, single actors should not be allowed to become powerful enough to have significant political input. This is the condition Rawls describes on capitalism, and the condition which Ferguson’s “Investment Theory of Politics” demonstrates not just to be false – but to be the precise opposite of the truth.

  18. “Gutenberg’s press was going to destroy the clergy”

    Do you actually think this didn’t happen? The publication and distribution of Descartes’ discourse on method was probably the single most important event in the genesis of western science – and it was explicitly made possible by the printing press.

    Don’t you think the rise of science depends on the easy and quick distribution of the same exact information to many readers? Could science properly take place if everything was copied by hand?

    1. You are confusing technical innovations with greedy corporations who don’t care about health effects their products are emitting. All they care about is fattening their wallet. You are missing the PULSED MICROWAVE RADIATION in your summaries. Oh and one more Report to add to the list – Health Protection Agency. They found that police radio TETRA operated at 17.6 hz depletes the brain of calcium. Lancashire police refuse to carry these as they have been so ill. Sorry about your shares there will be a crash soon….

  19. ” Television was rotting the public’s brain. ”

    Wait – do you not think television rots the public brain?

    Then, how do you explain the levelling down of political discourse over the 20th century. Do you think politiciens today assume the same level of intelligence in those to which they speak than politiciens 20, 50, 100 years ago?

    I mean – look at Trudeau’s “Just watch me” candid interview. He’s actually having an argument with someone. It seems totally uncanny today – no public officials speak without everything being smoothed over and dumbed down by their public relations people. W. Bush even explicitly changed his speaking style from “competent” to “explicitly incompetent” over his political career – probably to appeal to the “public”.

    Do you think this “public” which would rather vote based on who they would rather have a beer with, rather than questions of policy and strategy, has nothing to do with the rise of television? Do you not think people are to some extent the products of the intellectual content they consume – and do you not think the intellectual content which TV (only for the most part) presents is stupidifying?

  20. Again, it seems relevant that nobody has been able to show that ‘non-thermal effects’ even exist. We could spend a great deal of money trying to protect ourselves from hypothetical problems, or we could wait for somebody to provide some credible evidence before we sacrifice the economic and opportunity costs associated with the protective change.

    People have always been wary of new technologies, and strict enforcement of the precautionary principle in the past would have choked off many of the innovations that make the modern world good.

  21. I agree that companies should not be able to manipulate the political system or the scientific establishment to sell dangerous products. That said, the evidence of cell phones and WiFi being dangerous seems to be extremely lacking, despite there being good reason to expect it to exist.

  22. Milan. You keep saying nobody has been able to prove non-thermal effects exist and I ask you again…Have you read ICNIRP Report? have you read BioInitiative Report, Have you read Ecolog Report. ICNIRP, HPA, do acknowledge non-thermal effects. The position held is that whilst e.g. Apoptosis is happening in the cells (pre-cursor to cancer), whilst 3600 genes were expressed differently, DNA breaks, there is no proof that it does us harm…..I mean come on it really doesn’t take an ounce of IQ to work out the answer.

  23. Those groups don’t strike me as very credible sources. Show me some peer reviewed scientific work or – even better – a systematic review of peer reviewed work.

  24. If you think ICNIRP the people who decide on the safety of your phone don’t use credible sources then you’ve answered your own argument. EMF Portal gives peer reviewed studies if you care to research. It is really lazy of you to put arguments forward against the research without reading the reports. What are your qualifications for being the judge and jury of Scientific Reports? let alone the experiences and observations of 1.6 million Electrosensitives in UK (figures from Radiation Research Trust). Who ARE you?

  25. Milan,

    “Those groups don’t strike me as very credible sources. ”

    Health Canada recognizes the Bioinitiative report as not outside the scientific community.

    Frankly, what “strikes you” as a credible source is irrelevant. The question is whether they are credible sources, and you have done, as far as I can see, no research at all to discern that. You repeat simple maxims like “peer reviewed research” – but decades of soviet research on non-thermal effects is “peer reviewed”.

    You haven’t built yourself a leg to stand on here. And that scares me, because I really hope you are standing in the right position.

  26. Health Canada recognises the BioInitiative report as inside the Scientific community (your double negatives – is this what you mean?) French Courts have recognised this and taken Masts down with BioInitive Research
    I have quoted you research from ICNIRP, obviously you haven’t done your research. You are the one who has said ICNIRP is not credible you have made no comment since then about this admission. You are repeating back to me in scrambled words – YOU are the one that wanted peer reviewed research and I have given it to you. – perhaps the WIFI has got to you. You still argue without any point and without reading the research. I’m wasting my time here You’re using catchphrases instead of normal language and isn’t funny or even topical – about legs what relevance is this?I’ve got more important people to reach.

  27. US frees unused airwaves for ‘super wi-fi’ technology

    The US broadcasting regulator has announced it will make unused television airwaves available for new “super wi-fi” technology.

    In a statement, the Federal Communications Commission described the spectrum between television channels as “prime real estate” for mobile devices.

    It hopes the move will turn swathes of the country into giant wi-fi hot spots.

    Officials also said it would encourage innovation and job growth and make the US more competitive globally.

    “It will enhance our economy and strengthen our global competitiveness, lead to billions of dollars in private investment and to valuable new products and services – some we can imagine, and many we can’t,” Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement after the commission’s unanimous vote.

  28. The BioInitiative Report was self-published online, without peer review, on August 31, 2007, by a group “of 14 scientists, researchers, and public health policy professionals”, on the relationship between the electromagnetic fields (EMF) associated with powerlines and wireless devices and health. The BioInitiative Report states it is an examination of the controversial health risks of electromagnetic fields and radiofrequency radiation. The BioInitiative is now an ongoing process and some updated BioInitiative material was published in a journal in an issue guest-edited by one of the members of the group. It has been heavily criticized by independent and governmental research groups for its lack of balance.

    1. “It has been heavily criticized by independent and governmental research groups for its lack of balance”
      That piece of re-gurgitated material is the mantra of parties that promote wireless.
      The BioInitiative Report provides balance to the biased literature paid for by industry and government entities with a stake in wireless.

  29. From the World Health Organization:

    “Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.”

    “[Electromagnetic hypersensitivity] EHS is characterized by a variety of non-specific symptoms that differ from individual to individual. The symptoms are certainly real and can vary widely in their severity. Whatever its cause, EHS can be a disabling problem for the affected individual. EHS has no clear diagnostic criteria and there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF exposure. Further, EHS is not a medical diagnosis, nor is it clear that it represents a single medical problem.”

    They are, however, doing more research:

    “In response to public and governmental concern, WHO established the International Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Project in 1996 to assess the scientific evidence of possible adverse health effects from electromagnetic fields. WHO will conduct a formal health risk assessment of radiofrequency fields exposure by 2012. Meanwhile, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a WHO specialized agency, is expected to review the carcinogenic potential of mobile phones in 2011.”

    1. WHO has added cell phone use’s radiofrequency emissions to potential carcinogens.
      As for this:
      “[Electromagnetic hypersensitivity] EHS is characterized by a variety of non-specific symptoms that differ from individual to individual. The symptoms are certainly real and can vary widely in their severity.”
      Why expect one symptom, one disease here? Use some logic!
      The results of exposure depend upon many variables, including individual genetics, state of health, age, etc., ALONG WITH which frequencies, duration of exposure, pulsed or not pulsed, and mixed with other emissions into a microwave soup – such as people are exposed to today, or not.

  30. “who are concerned about the possible health effects” —
    there is no mere “concern”, there is obvious deleterious effect, about as obvious as a hand burn while touching a hot stove element

    “are concerning – but intuitively one wishes to trust Health Canada” —
    it should arouse, again, far more than mere “concern”, and that “intuition” is dispelled quickly with just a little digging into how your fed. govt. has ever been a plaything for such interests (see eg ex-HC-sci.-guy Shiv Chopra’s recent Corrupt to the Core on his ex-employer)

    “the presence of a single reputable climate denier” — this is not put well, the presence of a single study contradicting a reigning theory should get the most significant attention, it is the singular observation that counts, a scientist looking where no one has looked before; except that that is completely not what is occurring re pulsed microwaves, where there has been a gigantic corpus of damning material for ages, the industry & its abettors have been coached to look the other way or to corral outliers for their murderous pet theory so there is a ludicrous averaging out among uninteresting results; further the domain of climate volatility study differs greatly from examination of discreet bio-entities for radiation effects

    your casting of the precautionary situation is strange indeed; the extent of CO2 emissions should rather be seen as an index of bad behaviour that needs no precautionary analysis to be curtailed, whereas “concern” for biological beings right in front of you, as say with cars whizzing by, does properly invoke precautionary behaviour about not crossing the street
    (unless your sense has been misunderstood by poor syntax)

    “surprising claim” — see Steneck’s 1985 The Microwave Debate, 1977 Brodeur’s The Zapping of America

    “Health Canada is not even looking for them.” — exactly, a bureaucrat deals with uncomfortable papers by shifting them to the bottom of the pile, in a version of that corralling tactic, and to maintain their jobs & status at their Department, they must grasp its tenor, where industry-abettor health culturally perversely precedes direct human health; E. Euro. took seriously occupational complaints of how workers felt, and while we cannot easily know how well they adhered to their own guidelines drastically better than ours, and these have been eroded after the insinuation of American influence post-Soviet, the cultural gap could not have been clearer between East & West — and do you know about the telling Moscow American Embassy incident and aftermath?

    “can make tremendous strides if given a set of goals and unlimited resources” — what is rather needed is a non-stigmatized universal basic minimum income, so that personally motivated independent creative work not be discouraged for deep economic insecurity; this kind of basic stipend thing has been recommended by beleaguered leading researcher Olle Johansson at Karolinska; there is great perversity in current funding schemes

    “that a lack of democracy is harmful for scientific research” — an odd way to put it, since “democracy” is a term usually reserved for the American way over the old Soviet

    “Soviet research to ignore the importance of thermal effects” — this is surely false

    “Health Moscow” — funny, a commenter on a recent ridiculous topical skeptokook Sci. Am. article mentioned, “Scientific Russian”; to this day the Russian academy justly mocks our methods

    “the onus” — except, again, that damning evidence is in abundance for ages already; this is a cover-up, why I call the Department of Health, Death Canada, and its microwave licensing counterpart, Industry Canada, Injury Canada

  31. Long Island Town Enacts Tough Cell Tower Limits

    “They’re getting tougher on towers on Long Island. The town of Hempstead, NY has imposed some of the toughest cell phone tower restrictions in the country. The ordinance prohibits wireless equipment within 1,500 feet of homes, schools, day care centers, and houses of worship, unless the company can prove absolute need. A spokesman for Verizon says, ‘It’s not unheard of for towns to have issues, but this is extreme,’ and says this makes 95 percent of the town off limits to future antenna construction.” With internet access by 3G, 4G and WiMax getting ever more common, I suspect that not everyone in the town will appreciate blocking out the companies that provide it.

  32. What’s Better Than Wi-Fi?
    Super Wi-Fi!
    How the FCC paved the way for the next generation of wireless innovations.
    By Farhad Manjoo
    Posted Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010, at 7:08 PM ET

    In a little-noticed meeting on May 9, 1985, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a rule that changed the tech world forever. Until that point, the FCC’s main role had been to define specific uses for the public radio waves. If you picture all of the country’s available radio spectrum as a pie, the FCC was the waiter who sliced it up and handed it out to the nation’s most well-connected institutions: the radio and TV networks, telecom companies, and the military. The 1985 rule changed that. At the prodding of Michael Marcus, an engineer who joined the FCC under the Carter administration and stayed on during the Reagan era, the agency set aside a few distinct radio bands for “unlicensed” use. The rule allowed tech companies and customers to run devices on these bands for free, for any purpose, and without seeking government permission. In other words, the FCC was reserving a slice of the pie for the rest of us.

  33. “It wasn’t a very pretty slice. The frequencies that the FCC gave away—the 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands—were known as “garbage bands,” because they were generally considered too prone to interference to be of much use (microwave ovens, for instance, emit radiation on the 2.4 GHz band). But as a result of a clever broadcasting technique known as “spread spectrum”—in which a device can communicate along a range of radio frequencies, making it less susceptible to interference—tech companies managed to make good use of the garbage bands. Thanks to the 1985 rule, the public has enjoyed a bonanza of wireless technologies—today, nearly every wireless device you use, from your cordless home phone to your Wi-Fi router to your Bluetooth headset, operates on the unlicensed band. None of these technologies would have been possible under any other regulatory regime.

    Still, there is a downside to the unlicensed radio spectrum. Because the frequencies reserved for public use were never envisioned for widespread communication, they’re prone to failure—they don’t easily penetrate through walls or cover vast distances. That’s why your Wi-Fi router doesn’t reach your basement, and why your Internet connection conks out every time you microwave a burrito. “

  34. The Bioinitiative report is self-published, not peer reviewed.

    That said, thank you for linking the paper on cell phone radiation and sperm. It is certainly notable that they found an effect. It is also useful insofar as it at least hints at a mechanism: “the perturbation of charged molecules and the disruption of electron flow.”

  35. St. Vincent Euphrasia elementary school in Meaford, Ont. is the latest Canadian school to decide to save its students from the harmful effects of Wi-Fi by banning it. Schools from universities on down have a history of banning Wi-Fi in Ontario. As usual, health officials and know-it-all scientists have called the move ridiculous. Health Canada has released a statement saying, “Wi-Fi is the second most prevalent form of wireless technology next to cell phones. It is widely used across Canada in schools, offices, coffee shops, personal dwellings, as well as countless other locations. Health Canada continues to reassure Canadians that the radiofrequency energy emitted from Wi-Fi equipment is extremely low and is not associated with any health problems.”

  36. Spending 50 minutes with a cellphone plastered to your ear is enough to change brain-cell activity in the part of the brain closest to the antenna. But whether that causes any harm is not clear, scientists at the National Institutes of Health said Tuesday, adding that the study will likely not settle recurring concerns of a link between cellphones and brain cancer.

    “What we showed is glucose metabolism (a sign of brain activity) increases in the brain in people who were exposed to a cellphone in the area closest to the antenna,” said Dr. Nora Volkow of the NIH, whose study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    The study was meant to examine how the brain reacts to electromagnetic fields caused by wireless phone signals.

    Volkow said she was surprised that the weak electromagnetic radiation from cellphones could affect brain activity, but she said the findings do not shed any light on whether cellphones cause cancer.

    “This study does not in any way indicate that. What the study does is to show the human brain is sensitive to electromagnetic radiation from cellphone exposures.”

    Use of the devices has increased dramatically since they were introduced in the early-to mid-1980s, with about five billion mobile phones now in use worldwide.

  37. Ha ha! Mr Lord of the Wireless Industry said “I’m gonna carry on using my mobile” so don’t ya’all worry (think of the money). You carry on using it.
    Do people really need to wait until a bunch of Corrupt speakers/Authority Panel says – oh by the way that device is going to kill you – don’t use it. Think for yourself – microwave radiation cooks meat.

  38. Difference engine
    Worrying about wireless

    Technology and society: Concerns about the danger posed to human health by radio waves are misplaced—and increasingly irrelevant. The use of phones while driving is far more likely to cause harm

    ALTHOUGH the myth that mobile phones cause cancer has been laid to rest, an implacable minority remains convinced of the connection. Their fears have been aggravated of late by bureaucratic bickering at the World Health Organisation (WHO). Let it be said, once and for all, that no matter how powerful a radio transmitter—whether an over-the-horizon radar station or a microwave tower—radio waves simply cannot produce ionising radiation. The only possible effect they can have on human tissue is to raise its temperature slightly.

    In the real world, the only sources of ionising radiation are gamma rays, X-rays and extreme ultra-violet waves, at the far (ie, high-frequency) end of the electromagnetic spectrum—along with fission fragments and other particles from within an atom, plus cosmic rays from outer space. These are the sole sources energetic enough to knock electrons out of atoms—breaking chemical bonds and producing dangerous free radicals in the process. It is highly reactive free radicals that can damage a person’s DNA and cause mutation, radiation sickness, cancer and even death.

    By contrast, at their much lower frequencies, radio waves do not pack anywhere near enough energy to produce free radicals. The “quanta” of energy (ie, photons) carried by radio waves in, say, the UHF band used by television, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cordless phones, mobile phones, microwave ovens, garage remotes and many other household devices have energy levels of a few millionths of an electron-volt. That is less than a millionth of the energy needed to cause ionisation.

  39. My views on this subject are very cut and dried.
    If Wifi is safe why are more and more schools removing WiFi from the classroom like the one in Pretty River Academy in Collingwood, Ontario, see http://thecanadiancharger.com/page.php?id=5&a=1034.
    If you are wondering just how dangerous WiFi is, then according to tests carried out at Calais school it gives off 3 times as much radiation as a Cell Tower, see http://electricsense.com/2726/wifi-in-schools-gives-off-3-times-as-much-radiation-as-cell-towers/

  40. The obvious, an quite possibly true, answer is that people at the schools are scared because of media reports that have no basis in fact, and that try are needlessly rejecting a useful technology.

    The fact that some random school administrators believe something hardly proves it to be true.

  41. To be fair, Emf made two arguments for his view. The first is the “more and more schools removing” argument, and the second is the “3 times as much radiation as a Cell Tower”.

    As a philosophy/social science researcher, I feel fairly qualified to dismiss the “more and more schools removing” argument for the reasons you’ve pointed out. But, it would be helpful if someone more scientifically minded could interpret the data in the 2nd link – what kind of radiation are they measuring? It seems to be measured in millivolts – but minivolts are not a unit of power. I could put a million volts through your heart, but if the amperage is tiny enough, it would be insignificant.

  42. There is also the inverse square law to consider. The strength of signals radiating in three dimensions falls off with the square of the distance. A WiFi router right beside you may produce far stronger radio signals than a cell tower far away.

    The big question here seems to be whether there are any harmful non-thermal effects from radio sources. If there were, I think we would have found decisive evidence by now.

  43. I think I made an argument in the above post which relates to that issue – it’s hard to find effects that no one is looking for. Also, to be fair to the wifi-scare people, wifi everywhere is a pretty new thing – I don’t think we can use the “we’d know by now” argument.

    I’m not personally afraid of wifi radiation. But, we owe it to the skeptics to give serious responses which take into account the science, and the social economic conditions under which the science is done.

  44. Cell phones use very similar radio signals to WiFi and they have been steadily proliferating for decades. There are also lots of test cases where cellular networks were quite abruptly installed, such as in some places in Africa.

    If radio signals caused significant health problems, I think there would be epidemiological evidence by now.

    1. A Wi-Fi signal occupies five channels in the 2.4 GHz band. Cell phone signals are more spread out. Some are around 900 MHz. Most 3G networks in Europe operate in the 2100 MHz (2.1 GHz) frequency band.

      Both WiFi and cell phones transmit digital information using radio transceivers on similar frequencies. How much more similarity do you want?

  45. From Wikipedia:

    “The radio waves emitted by a GSM handset can have a peak power of 2 watts, and a US analogue phone had a maximum transmit power of 3.6 watts.”

    This isn’t the most reputable source, but it says this:

    “Routers radiate approximately 1 watt.

    When you pass a full power AM broadcast station you are being exposed to 50,000 watts.

    Many amateur radio hobbyist radiate 1000 watts.

    Shipboard environments exceed 1,000,000 pulsed watts.”

    We can probably find some better figures somewhere.

  46. Interesting. See – those are in watts, a unit of power, or more precisely energy over time. The post above cited measurements, but in millivolts, which is not a unit of power.

  47. It seems sensible to say that the amount of harm a radiation source can do is proportional to how many watts of electricity it consumes.

    If I had one 2.1 GHz transmitter consuming 5 watts and another consuming 1 watt, both transmitting the same data, it seems plausible that any danger from the former would be greater than any danger from the latter. Further, it seems plausible that the level of risk associated with two sources of comparable power on similar frequencies would be similar.

    As such, I suspect the spread of cell phones would have produced cancer or whatever other negative health effect is posited for WiFi in a detectable way as cell phone usage spread through the world.

    As such, I am not especially worried about health effects from radio waves from cell phones, WiFi, etc.

  48. Well, cell phones have only been common for ten years. And, I think exposure to wifi is more constant than phones (and even if it isn’t, if the dosage is cumulative, the fact that we are now exposed to more cell phones AND more wifi would be a relevant change).

    Look – I don’t think these things are dangerous. But, I think it’s good to keep an open mind and recognize that there are many people who’s financial well being relies on me and everyone else believing that. That doesn’t mean they are lying, but it might mean they’d lie if they had to.

  49. Many people mistakenly think that “these things” are not dangerous. But when you look what independent scientists and researchers like Magda Havas, Devra Davies and Martin Blank are saying about this, the message is clear. “These things” are dangerous. Its just that the danger is long term and the telecommunications industry is exploiting this fact, just the same as the tobacco industry did previously. Here is a resume of some of the most important studies http://electricsense.com/2597/cell-phone-radiation-studies%E2%80%93-is-this-as-much-truth-as-you-can-fit-on-one-page/
    WiFi uses pulsed radio frequency radiation just like cell phones…..

  50. 1) There is no such thing as an independent scientist. If you understand how research funding works, you understand that every piece of scientific research has partisan interests behind it.

    2) The mere fact that dissident researchers exist on this topic proves no more than the fact there are scientists who dispute the consensus on climate change.

  51. People are doing epidemiological studies:

    Mobile phone brain cancer link rejected

    Further research has been published suggesting there is no link between mobile phones and brain cancer.

    The risk mobiles present has been much debated over the past 20 years as use of the phones has soared.

    The latest study led by the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Denmark looked at more than 350,000 people with mobile phones over an 18-year period.


    The Danish study, which built on previous research that has already been published by carrying out a longer follow-up, found there was no significant difference in rates of brain or central nervous system cancers among those who had mobiles and those that did not.

    Of the 358,403 mobile phone owners looked at, 356 gliomas (a type of brain cancer) and 846 cancers of the central nervous system were seen – both in line with incidence rates among those who did not own a mobile.

    Even among those who had had mobiles the longest – 13 years or more – the risk was no higher, the researchers concluded.

  52. It isn’t certain the study is certain, but it is encouraging that people are looking into the question and not immediately finding evidence of a phone-cancer link.

  53. I am a scientist and engineer in the field of communications and wireless is one of my fortes. I should pipe up about the wireless technology. The parents do have a legitimate gripe and worry about their kids health. It’s not technophobia in the least. Radiation of any kind is cumulative and takes time for it to develop symptoms in everyone that is exposed to it. This can be radio or electromagnetic waves (man made or natural), radioactive nuclear particles, and many other areas.

    It is well known by the engineers in the IEEE 802.11 working group that wireless fidelity or wi-fi does have it’s inherent health risks. Failure to report this to the public should be punishable by prison time, as it can adversely affect your health.

    Now, headaches are just one of the problems you can encounter, heat problems, etc. If you think you are safe with wi-fi equipment, consider an experiment for which you and you alone will conduct in a special location so that nobody else is affected but yourself.

    Get a wireless router where you can adjust the transmit levels in mV (millivolts) and put high gain antennas on there, as well as your client connection on your computer or other wireless device, do the same there. Crank the power up to 71 mV or up to a recommend 130 ~ 150 mV as some people want you to do to get a better signal quality.

    Do all your work from that computer, do not take breaks, sleep around this computer as if it was in your room, do it for 3 months, then come back to tell me you will have no health problems. By the way, do not allow your router and wi-fi to go into power savings mode and do not shut your computer down (that would be cheating).

    Be aware that every frequency spectrum has different affects on the body, some can be felt in your head, some in the heart, some will be nervous stomach, etc. The effects of radio emissions are well known for radio engineers and television repair techs, they can only take so much radiation before they have to retire. Same with technicians and engineers working in the cellular trade on the towers. Most won’t tell you this because either they have a pension they are relying on and if they talk they get it cut or they don’t want to lose their jobs. This is the very reason why you don’t hear more about this.

    I have personally recommended tighter restrictions and regulations for the wireless industry to follow, an amendment of the current FCC rules, however, it has not been met without controversy because at the basis of the argument. Is wireless safe? The answer is a resounding, “No”, however you pick your poison on how you want to lead your life and what you do in it that can help or destroy yourself and others around you. The group that will always win the battle are the ones with the money, that is the very large companies seeking to grab more of the market share.

    Personally, I recommend that if you have to use communications or want to as the case may be, use fiber optic related technologies. Yes, even those give off electromagnetic signals that can interfere with your body but not nearly as much as wireless does.

    If you are interested in doing that experiment don’t go with the lousy 3 dBi ~ 7 dBi antennas go with the 10 ~ 15 dBi because that is what many schools use and broadcast at max levels, they also tend to have repeater routers (access points as repeaters for the main one) doing the same configuration and power output and same antenna. You’ll get the idea.

  54. When I mention problems with heat, I am referring to unregulated body temperature as in people suddenly go way up in their body temperature which can also have implications to heart trouble and vomiting and many other problems can arise due to this event.

    I can attest to these symptoms because I have actually experimented with the power levels and high gain antennas, at one time I was a person that would have brushed aside any complaints as pure unadulterated .B.S. but it’s not what happened to me.

    I got all the symptoms that these kids were complaining about, it started to affect my thought processes, etc. In short, I had to shut my router and computer down to get some rest for about a month, then came back to unscrew those high gain antennas and return the routers down to their default power levels.

    If by conducting this experiment and you feel your heart is going wildly out of control, shut down the router and computer immediately, this is a sign your body has had quite enough abuse from your wireless experiment. If you have a pace maker, DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT conduct this experiment, it may kill you instantaneously.

    In fact, if you have a pace maker, your doctor should warn you not to use wireless technologies at all, as it can interfere with the pace maker itself.

  55. I have to wonder whether the person leaving comments above was just experiencing what they expected to experience. You need double-blind experiments to eliminate such psychological factors.

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