6 Wi-fi facts

A wi-fi enabled laptop can connect to the internet and/or to other computers by communicating through an antenna in the laptop itself with another antenna or node nearby. (The alternative is to connect through a cable). The classroom wi-fi antennae and the laptop wi-fi antennae all emit microwave radiation. In the school, antennae are located in or near every classroom and operate continuously. The antenna in the laptop operates very close to the child using it.

Both wi-fi and mobile phone systems work through the emission of microwaves, and they do so at a similar frequency and modulation. In other words, they share the same basic principle of operation. It is the microwave emissions that are the cause of concern. Little research has been done into their health effects with wi-fi. However, there is a wealth of research into the health effects of microwave emission from mobile phone technology. Because of the common mode of operation, that research applies directly to wi-fi.

Children are likely to be more vulnerable than adults to the effects of microwave radiation. Their skulls are thinner and their bodies, in particular their brains, nervous systems and reproductive organs, are still developing. 15 It is for this reason that the authors of the Stewart Report (see below) advise that children under 16 years old should not use mobile phones. 16 In France, it is now illegal for health reasons for students to use mobile phones in school, and the Minster of Health can forbid the distribution of radio-enabled equipment for children under six years old. 17 , 18

Additionally, some people appear to be genetically sensitive to electromagnetic radiation, including wi-fi, and are made physically ill by it. 19 Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) is recognized by the World Health Organisation. 20 Figures given for its incidence vary. According to studies quoted by the government’s Health Protection Agency, they range from 1.5% to 18.8% of those studied. 21 These figures, applied to [name of school], would mean that between 7 and 88 children could suffer illness as a result of wi-fi. 22

The government’s position is that wi-fi is safe if emissions come within international guidelines. However, the international guidelines are widely thought to be inadequate. 23

The international body that lays down the guidelines for microwave emission levels is ICNIRP, the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection. Britain’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) follows ICNIRP guidelines.
ICNIRP’s guidelines are based only on the heating (thermal) and induced current or electric shock effects of microwaves. 24 It has no guidelines for microwave emissions relating to non-thermal effects; for example, effects of a cellular, genetic or a functional kind.

ICNIRP ignores such effects for guideline purposes because scientific understanding of the effects cannot yet meet the criteria ICNIRP has set for showing that they are caused by microwave radiation. 25 However, its criteria are so stringent that, had they been applied to smoking, asbestos, thalidomide, lead in petrol, etc., the health risks associated with them would not have been identified. 26

It is the non-thermal effects of microwave radiation that are the cause of concern. Researchers have repeatedly seen such effects in animals which, if replicated in humans, would be dangerous (see section 11 below).

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15 See for example Wiart, J. et al (2008), Analysis of RF exposure in the head tissues of children and adults, Phys Med Biol, 2008 Jul 7;53 (13):3681-95. Epub 2008 Jun 19LINK :
De Salles, A.A., et al (2006), Electromagnetic absorption in the head of adults and children due to mobile phone operation close to the head, Electromagn Biol Med 2006; 25(4):349-60LINK :
Gandhi, OP, Kang, G (2002), Some present problems and a proposed experimental phantom for SAR compliance testing of cellular telephones at 835 and 1900 MHz, Phys Med Biol, 2002 May 7;47(9):1501-18LINK
16 ‘Clarification of Issues Discussed in the Report’,
LINK
17 “Dans les écoles maternelles, les écoles élémentaires et les collèges, l’utilisation durant toute activité d’enseignement et dans les lieux prévus par le règlement intérieur, par un élève, d’un téléphone mobile est interdite”. Article L511-5, créé par LOI no. 2010-788 du 12 juillet 2010 – art. 183 (V)LINK
18 “La distribution à titre onéreux ou gratuit d’objets contenant un équipement radioélectrique dont l’usage est spécifiquement dédié aux enfants de moins de six ans peut être interdite par arrêté du ministre chargé de la santé, afin de limiter l’exposition excessive des enfants.” Article L5231-4 créé par LOI no. 2010-788 du 12 juillet 2010 – art.183 (V)LINK
19 Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (2000), Mobile Phones and Health (The Stewart Report), paragraph 1.19. The text is available HERE
20 World Health Organisation
LINK
21 Health Protection Agency (2005), Definition, Epidemiology and Management of Electrical Sensitivity: Report for the Radiation Protection Division of the Health Protection Agency (The Irvine Report), p. 25. I have included only figures given for general sensitivity, not for VDU usersLINK
22 This estimate assumes there are 470 pupils in the school.
23 See for example ‘Updated Memorandum on WiFi Research’, 10.12.07 LINK
24 Statement by the National Radiological Protection Board. Advice on Limiting Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (0-300 GHz) [The National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) is now part of the Health Protection Agency]LINK
25 See Appendix B
26 For a discussion of ICNIRP’s approach to microwave radiation, see the report on a conference held in September 2008 entitled “EMF & Health—a Global Issue ... Exploring appropriate precautionary approaches” at LINK
See also Appendix B below.