The radiation bogeyman

Every now and then, Swindon, for all its negative connotations does something that makes it interesting. We had the Mondex (electronic cash) trial here. Swindon proudly decided to get rid of speed cameras, to cheers from Top Gear. And now Swindon has announced that there will soon be public WiFi available throughout the borough (thanks to Paul Tuck for bringing this to my attention).

I'm going in to Radio Wiltshire this morning to discuss this - because there has been some talk (I was told by an organization called Powerwatch, though I haven't seen it) of Swindon's action putting us at risk. Because of the 'radiation' from the WiFi transmitters.

This is what I describe in Ecologic as a bogeyman, where fear of something nasty that doesn't really exist gets people in a panic. And one of the classic ways of inciting a bogeyman is to use terms like 'radiation' - which sounds scary. Technically WiFi is radiation - electromagnetic radiation - just as is the light from the Sun, or a TV broadcast. A much more neutral term for WiFi is radio waves - but 'radiation' is used to scare us.

The fact is that there have been over 30 controlled trials of the impact of WiFi and phone masts, none of which has come up with positive results that should make us worry. There are a few trials that do claim to show that such transmissions cause headaches and other unpleasant feelings - but they are mostly subjective questionnaires, and don't have any kind of double blind control to ensure that the trial is producing actual data, rather than what people believe.

Let's face it, statistically people are going to have headaches around WiFi. I often have a headache in the kitchen - does this mean kitchens are bad for you?

Even if there is some small risk attached to WiFi - and there is no evidence there is - we need to get it in proportion. For example, if we were talking about a technology that killed over a million people a year, then, yes, I would be worried. Such a technology does exist - and you probably use it - but it's not WiFi. It's the car (or, at least, road transport).

So I, for one, am cheering this move by Swindon Council. Good on you, guys.


  1. Hi
    If you are interested in science, you will find plenty of scientific research evidence for the adverse effects of pulsed microwave radiation from wifi, phone masts, etc
    A large body of evidence is posted on various web site run by concerned citizens and scientists actually doing the research in this area of biophysics.
    TO read the evidence is the only way that you can see the evidence is being ignored by the industry and governments.
    This review of over 220 peer-reviewed and published papers found strong indications for the cancer-initiating and cancer-promoting effects of high frequency electromagnetic fields used by mobile telephone technology.
    German Government warns against WLAN-use

    Berlin (pte/01.08.2007/13:05) - The German Government [Bundesregierung] recommends that the use of WLAN in the workplace or at home should be avoided, if possible. In order to reduce personal radiation exposure, it is better to remain with conventional cable-connected networks

    In the microwave spectrum the radiation levels are now trillions of times higher than the natural background levels. They carry a 'pulse' or data at low frequency which interferes with our heart and brain rhythms and cell communication system

    Please take time to read the evidence

  2. I don't like comments with so many links, but in the interest of fair discussion, I will won't delete this one.

    I'm afraid most of this doesn't hold up. All the real evidence is that there is no cause for concern. But I accept that many people are worried, as this comment makes clear.


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