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Is Wi-Fi bad for your health?

AvantiKumar | Sept. 29, 2008
We continue to embrace each new device and advancement without question.

A British newspaper recently warned about possible health risks from Wi-Fi radiation. Apparently, the EU (European Union) environmental agency has called for immediate action to reduce exposure to radiation from Wi-Fi, mobile phones and their masts.

Back in the 90s, I remembered that when I was with Virgin Atlantic Airways, my boss, Richard Branson, expressed concern about health hazards from mobile phone RF (Radio Frequency) and possible links to cancer. He made available a phone considered more safe at the time (made by Alcatel, when they still used to make mobile phones) at generous discount to his staff.

However, most employers and consumers ignored such fears. We continue to embrace each new device and advancement without question.

Over the years, different reports have given different recommendations. The EU agency said a recent international scientific review concluded that the safety limits set for radio devices are "thousands of times too lenient", and yet another official British report said it could not rule out the risk of cancer from heavy usage of mobile phones.

Electronic smog

Apparently, electromagnetic (EMF) and other associated radiations create "smogs.

The human brain is sometimes regarded as a miniature bio-electronic computer, said one scientist, that still outstrips all the computing power on the planet. Many aspects of it are still not fully understood. "Changing environments, altering light, sound and radio frequencies does affect the brain - and human behaviour - in certain ways," he said.

Hmmm...Whom do we believe?

Wi-Fi over Penang Island

The German government has stated advising its citizens to used wired, rather than wireless, internet connections. However, the Penang state government has considered this issue and decided there is insufficient evidence regarding possible health risks due to RF.

Soon the whole of the island is going to have always-on Wi-Fi access. While this is exciting, and promises the increase of all sorts of opportunities, would it not also add a blanket of "RF-smog" to the Pearl of the Orient?

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for increasing accessibility to everyone on the planet, eventually. However, sentiments expressed by the ancient teachers in India, China and Greece come top of mind: about how as we acquire more knowledge, we begin to realise how little we truly know about anything.

AvantiKumar is the Malaysia correspondent for Fairfax tech brands and deputy editor of Computerworld Malaysia. 


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