Experts raise health concerns over WiFi

Evidence suggests certain people are hypersensitive to the emissions from wireless access points James Mortleman, Computing 28 Apr 2006 ADVERTISEMENT

WiFi networks could cause headaches, fatigue, irritability and lack of concentration in some people, experts believe.

There is an increasing body of evidence to suggest certain people are hypersensitive to the emissions from wireless access points and other electromagnetic devices.

'There seems to be a small proportion of people who react badly to wireless networks,' said Alasdair Philips, chairman of independent watchdog Powerwatch and a member of the Government's Stakeholder Advisory Group on extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (Sage).

'For example, I’ve seen several doctors and dentists who have put wireless LANs into their surgeries and then had complaints from staff who can feel something in their head or can’t concentrate properly.But when they’ve taken out WiFi and put cable in, the problem has disappeared.'

Although Philips says there is a need for more rigorous, peer-reviewed studies of the problem, he believes electrosensitivity affects significant numbers.

‘A lot of people are reporting the problem and awareness of it is growing. Some studies estimate only one in 10,000 people is electrosensitive; others suggest it's as high as 30 in 100. In our opinion, it affects about two and three per cent of the population to some degree,' he said.

In March, the Government’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) set up a group to help develop precautionary advice for the general public regarding exposure to electromagnetic fields, but Philips says we are at least five years away from more formal regulations being introduced.

While Philips believes emissions from mobile phone base stations are a far greater problem, he cautions against the use of WiFi networks where not absolutely necessary.

‘My advice would be not to put a wireless network into your offices. If you’ve already got one, be aware of the symptoms some of your staff may be suffering – things like headaches, fatigue, irritability and lack of concentration,' he said.

'If you see increasing numbers of those symptoms in particular staff, it might be worth putting those staff in a different part of the building with a wired network.’

He added emissions were concentrated near the network nodes.

‘Try to locate access points away from where people sit,’ he said.

What do you think? Email us at feedback@computing.co.uk

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