Health Fears Over Wi-Fi Networks

THE SUNDAY TIMES, OCTOBER 14, 2007 (Irish Edition)

[by] Daniel Foggo

A man who admits that mobile phone usage may have caused a tumour in one of his ears is helping to introduce wi-fi networks emitting the same kind of radiation to hospitals and colleges.

Eight years ago Peter Lyons was left without the use of half of his face after an operation to remove an acoustic neuroma in his phone-using ear.

Now he is network development manager for the Open Learning Partnership, a charity that provides people with access to the internet.

Recent research has linked acoustic neuromas with mobile phone usage. Lyons said that, despite his concerns about being overexposed to electromagnetic radiation, the use of the wireless networks, or wi-fi, is justified because they are not operated close to the body like mobiles.

The ambiguous position in which Lyons finds himself comes amid concern over the potential long-term impact of wireless radiation on health. Last week the Health Protection Agency, the government watchdog, announced research into the impact of wi-fi on people's wellbeing. About half of primary schools and most secondaries have wi-fi networks.

Lyons, 63, began using an Orange mobile phone 10 years ago. Two years later he experienced deafness in his left ear and an examination revealed a tumour. In removing it, surgeons severed a vital nerve, leaving him with a lopsided face.

About four years after his operation Lyons, who had been involved in the information technology industry, began working for the Open Learning Partnership, which has the motto "anywhere, anytime".

He is now involed in putting wi-fi into hospitals, and his charity is dealing with five NHS trusts ranging from London to Cheshire. Although Lyons dismissed the suggestion that wireless networks are dangerous, he admitted he had some concern about the overall level of electromagnetic radiation to which people were being subjected.

He continue to use a mobile but tries to restrict calls to a minute in length. "Your body can handle a certain amount and it is the duration of the exposure that counts," he said.

Lyons said that until recently he had not considered the possibility that mobile phone usage might have led to his tumour. But, after installing wi-fi for a client, "I found there has been a lot of research in the past year into electromagnetic frequencies. A Swedish study linked acoustic neuromas to mobile phone usage, although the increase in incidence was very small".

That research found long-term users of mobiles were 2 and a half times more likely to get the tumours, although Lyons noted that it had still not established a direct link.

He remains concerned that there is not enough independent research: "You've got the mobile phone industry, which has a vested interest in downplaying the safety aspects, and a government which makes a huge amount of money selling spectrum [of microwave frequencies]. And then you've got a research community which is funded by the government and industry."

However, he believes any risk from wi-fi is minimal. "People get confused between wi-fi and mobile phones but one gives out just a fraction of the radiation of the other if you look at how they are used. I have a wi-fi device in my pocket, but I don't hold it to my head. Holding it away from your body reduces by a quarter the amount of radiation you get."

He added: "Wifi gives out a far less powerful output than any mobile phone mast. The radiation is less than you would get from a microwave oven. So unless we are going to do away with mobile phones there is no logic in doing away with wifi."

Mobile phone firms and manufacturers of wi-fi networks say there is no proven link between the radiation and ill health.

Informant: Imelda O'Connor


Wi-Fi radiation exposure sparks fears

Europe’s top environmental watchdog, the European Environment Agency (EEA), is calling for immediate action to reduce exposure to radiation from Wi-Fi, mobile phones and their masts, which could lead to a health crisis similar to that caused by asbestos, smoking and lead in petrol.

The warning follows an international scientific review which concluded that safety limits set for the radiation are “thousands of times too lenient.” The scientific review, produced by the international BioInitiative Working Group of leading scientists and public health and policy experts, says the “explosion of new sources has created unprecedented levels of artificial electromagnetic fields that now cover all but remote areas of the habitable space on Earth,” causing “long-term and cumulative exposure” to “massively increased” radiation that “has no precedent in human history.”

EEA’s Executive Director, Professor Jacqueline McGlade, said, “It would be prudent for health authorities to recommend actions to reduce exposures, especially to vulnerable groups, such as children.”

This spring, Britain’s top health protection watchdog, Sir William Stewart, called for an official review of the use of Wi-Fi technology in schools, which has been installed in nearly half of all primary schools and 70 per cent of secondary schools in the country.

Carmarthenshire County Council is drawing up a code of practice for using the technology that it plans to enforce on local schools. It says that the code is “absolutely necessary” as the safety of children should be “paramount”. The move, which was welcomed by the Professional Association of Teachers, is the first of its kind taken by a local authority.

However, the all-Labour cabinet of Haringey Council threw out recommendations for controls on Wi-Fi in schools. Councillor Martin Newton accused the cabinet of “playing Russian roulette with the future of our children.”

The EEA’s initiative will increase pressure on governments and public health bodies to take precautionary action over the electromagnetic radiation from rapidly expanding new technologies. The German Government is already advising its citizens to use wired internet connections instead of Wi-Fi and landlines instead of mobile phones.

In response to the EEA’s recommendations, Vodafone has reiterated its health policy, stressing that they follow very stringent international exposure guidelines as supported by the World Health Organisation and set by the International Commission on Non-ionising Radiation Protection.




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Oktober 2007

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