Wireless Networks and Health & Safety

From time to time, journalists publish stories in the papers regarding health and safety around wireless (or WiFi) networks. For example a recent article in the Independent published on 22 April 2007 entitled “Wi-Fi: Children at risk from 'electronic smog'” led to a ripple effect of other such press releases and media coverage including the recent but controversial BBC Panorama programme.

The health and safety of our children is of absolute importance. This project would not go ahead if we had even the slightest doubt that there may be any risk to health and we also have to adhere to the stringent rules laid down by the local authority safeguarding this. Unfortunately journalists also realise that children’s health is a very emotive subject and this can sell papers. The conclusion from our research is that the Independent’s recent report was largely based upon misquote.

Below is a quote from the Health Protections Agency’s website in response to the misquoting of Sir William Stewart in the Independent:
“The statements attributed to Sir William Stewart, Chairman of the Health Protection Agency (HPA), in The Independent on Sunday are not his. Sir William is being pressed by lobbyists to condemn Wi-Fi and is unprepared to do so.”
(Health Protection Agency statement – Wi-Fi 22 April 2007 http://www.hpa.org.uk/radiation/default.htm)//

A further riposte from the BBC on the Independent’s article can be found here
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6583815.stm and comments on the BBC's own Panorama programme here

Further information and links can be found from Ben Goldacre, a respected scientist and columnist of Bad Science for the Guardian. The article shows how the engineer on the Panorama was by no way impartial, and that the school involved in the experiment was far from happy with the way it was conducted and the way the results were portrayed. A further article by George Cole in The Guardian on 19th June, 2007.

It is easy to be scared of something we don’t know and we urge you look at the evidence and information available and to draw your own conclusions. We recommend studying the World Health Organisation website http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs304/en/index.html and information on the Health Protection Agency’s website www.hpa.org.uk

Below are some quotes from the World Health Organisation website:

  • “The levels of RF exposure from base stations and wireless networks are so low that the temperature increases are insignificant and do not affect human health.”
  • "Recent surveys have indicated that RF exposures from base stations and wireless technologies in publicly accessible areas (including schools and hospitals) are normally thousands of times below international standards.”
  • “From all evidence accumulated so far, no adverse short- or long-term health effects have been shown to occur from the RF signals produced by base stations. Since wireless networks produce generally lower RF signals than base stations, no adverse health effects are expected from exposure to them.”
  • “Some people perceive risks from RF exposure as likely and even possibly severe. Several reasons for public fear include media announcements of new and unconfirmed scientific studies, leading to a feeling of uncertainty and a perception that there may be unknown or undiscovered hazards.”

Recent statement from BECTA on wireless and schools

We have conducted a great deal of research into this matter including impartial advice from bodies such as the World Health Organisation and the Health Protection Agency as well as internal advice from Dr Mackie, The City of Edinburgh Council’s Scientific Adviser. Further to this, all wireless networks and devices involved in Learning Hubs will be monitored by the head of Analytical and Scientific Services in Edinburgh and we will also continue to monitor national guidelines on the use of this technology.

What are electromagnetic fields?

The best source to understand more on this topic can be found at the World Health Organisations website at
http://www.who.int/peh-emf/about/WhatisEMF/en/ We have provided several quotes below for your convenience.

“Electromagnetic fields are present everywhere in our environment but are invisible to the human eye. Electric fields are produced by the local build-up of electric charges in the atmosphere associated with thunderstorms. The earth's magnetic field causes a compass needle to orient in a North-South direction and is used by birds and fish for navigation.
One of the main characteristics which defines an electromagnetic field (EMF) is its frequency or its corresponding wavelength. Fields of different frequencies interact with the body in different ways.” [
Extracts from the World Health Organisation's website//]

High frequencies (or shorter wavelengths) carry more energy than lower frequency (higher wavelengths). High frequencies such as those given off by radioactive material and X-rays carry enough energy to be able to break bonds between molecules and thereby damage health. Low frequency man-made fields such as electricity and radio frequencies have relatively low frequency and are unable to break molecular bonds. Radio frequency exposures from wireless technologies are thousands of times below international standards.

Research on Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity by James Rubin et al.