Mar 21

Dale Dougherty

Dale Dougherty

Hazards of Wifi

Our town, Sebastopol, had passed a resolution in November to permit a local Internet provider to provide public wireless access. This week, fourteen people showed up at a City Council meeting to make the claim that wireless caused health problems in general and to them specifically. These emotional pleas made the Council rescind its previous resolution.

So, a few people in this town strongly believe a wide variety of problems are caused by low frequency electromagnetic radiation (EMF). Some label the problem as "electromagnetic hypersensitivity" or EHS. Here's the Wikipedia entry on "Electrical Sensitivity." It reports that the World Health Organization found that "there is no scientific basis for the belief that EHS is caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields."

An online petition collected 235 "signatures" opposed to public Wifi in Sebastopol. The resolution reads: "The convenience of this technology does not warrant the increase in radiation and the potential risks to the health of our community."

Here's a typical comment from someone signing the petition:

I have had health challenges, and my body cannot handle gives me headaches and makes me very sick. I would be unable to go to the store, shop. I have enough problems being limited in my travels, it is outrageous that a place so environmentally conscious would create this in our/my hometown. In Europe they are much more advanced than us, and there wifi is not allowed in cities in the European commonwealth.

The person organizing the petition believes that people don't understand the harm that electromagnetic radiation and basic electricity is doing to them. On a local bulletin board, the opponents cite
One person writes:

We are urged us to switch from regular incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs, to save energy. However, there is a very good reason NOT to use CFL bulbs. They create electromagnetic frequencies proven to be extremely detrimental to human health.

Others write about living without electricity, except for the brief period they are using their computer to write messages in support of the petition.

One can see the fear spreading. Science should be a way to dispel such fears but it is clear with this group of people that science cannot be trusted. They put forth the idea that science should be able to prove that there is no harm and therefore eliminate any risk, and without such proof, we should not move forward. They use this logic to recommend a "precautionary" approach, which is their keyword for a "know-nothing, do-nothing" approach.

Yet another person writes:

Research is increasingly showing a correlation between adverse health symptoms and emf radiation exposure. Local and national governmental bodies in other western countries are paying attention and are beginning to legislate limits to exposure to wi-fi radiation by prohibiting it in certain locations. The trend towards increasing international concern is clear. Why are we so sanguine in this country?

Of course, the research is not specified. I can't find much about governments banning wifi except a college in Ontario and a European directive on radiation that threatens to eliminate MRI scans. The article "Wifi Woo" in is interesting.

The effect of the resolution would have been to add a few wireless access points downtown. There are already several hundred in private homes and businesses in town. The same people who oppose public wifi still walk along streets and into buildings where they are invisibly bathing in wifi. Will this small group of people now demand that we outlaw wireless in public areas, just to accommodate their fears?

Now, I don't know that wireless (or electricity) is without harm. I can read the research that does exist and learn more -- if I have the time and reason to do so. However, I do not like the smell of fear, and when people justify actions based on their own fears, I become suspicious that the concern is unwarranted. If it wasn't wifi, it would be flouride. Something is needed to affix to their anxiety. I can only be glad that they weren't alive when the city decided on electrification a century ago.

I plan to write an editorial for our local paper. I'd appreciate hearing from you on this issue if it has come up in your community.

tags:   | comments: 84   | Sphere It

Previous  |  Next

0 TrackBacks

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments: 84

  Gerard Van der Leun [03.21.08 10:30 PM]

If this comes up in my community, I plan to join a group of people volunteering to kick this endless line of whacko whiners in the butt.

  Jesse Robbins [03.21.08 10:33 PM]


I'm visiting my parents in Pescadero (coastal town west of Palo Alto), and was happy to discover that someone started a wifi co-op (through which I'm writing this ;-). I suspect this has actually reduced the EMF as there are now fewer satellite internet connections which operate at higher power.


  Cyndy Aleo-Carreira [03.21.08 10:52 PM]

I hope someone pointed out to these people that they'd better stay in their houses, and those houses had better be outside the range of a typical home WiFi. Considering that sitting in my own suburban home, I can see at least six additional WiFi networks (and a few intermittent), it must be dangerous for these folks to live ANYWHERE. I hope they also don't have cordless phones in their houses, or drive past any Starbucks or other WiFi-enabled restaurant or cafe. Many McDonalds and most Panera Breads have WiFi.

I'm wondering if they wouldn't have been better off spending their time stockpiling tin foil.

  Alex Martelli [03.21.08 11:05 PM]

"It" (radio-frequency damage to health) came up in "my community" (Italy) about 20 years ago, when my dad was a famous physician specializing in what we call "legal medicine" (insurance, accidents, &c); he was charged by a select committee of the Italian Parliament to look in depth into the matter, and, as I'm an EE, he retained me for consulting on the electromagnetic aspects of the issues (not very convenient to me, as at the time I was both working at a startup AND teaching numerical computing in a college, but I was always glad to help dad out!).

His report, after months of study, basically concluded that there was absolutely ZERO evidence of radio-frequency radiation inflicting ANY health damage; it's basically impossible to prove a negative, but claiming that radio-frequency radiation damages your health is akin to making similar claims for "looking at roses" -- I recall this vivid simile of his quite precisely. I believe the issue never resurfaced in the Italian Parliament after his report, but he did reuse our joint research in several cases in which he was asked by unions (checking if it made any sense to negotiate for the avoidance of exposure to such radiations for workers) and insurance companies (checking if it made sense to include or exlude such risks wrt the policies they offered), so he kept current with research in the issue (though I personally didn't) and once or twice asked me to turn some EE-jargon-laden passage (as found in some research article) into plain Italian;-).

Of all unfounded urban myths, this is the one I feel most strongly about, given all of that research I performed side by side with my lamented physician father. Not sure where one can find our official report (which only he signed, of course), but if you have access to the Acts of the Italian Parliament (I don't know if they're online as far back as 20 years ago, though) and can read Italian it may be worth a search (if I can help translating it into English, I'll gladly volunteer to do that!).


  Sue Thomas [03.21.08 11:25 PM]

I too find these opinions ill-informed but worrying since communities love nothing more than a nice juicy moral panic.
1. I am writing from the UK and can assure you there is no such thing as a 'European Commonwealth'!
2. I know of no evidence that wireless is 'not allowed' in European cities. Indeed, several cities in the UK are going wireless. I found this for you . If you want to explore further, I believe the city of Norwich, England, went wireless last year.
3. I applaud those living without electricity and wonder how they do it, since our own bodies use electricity. Are they the undead?
4. I agree that we don't yet understand the effects of wifi, and there certainly should be more research, but why assume the effects are negative? Personally I prefer to believe that bathing in wifi is making me a more intelligent and creative human being :)


  Luke Skywalker [03.21.08 11:52 PM]

This is ridiculous. We're being bombarded by signals which are many times more powerful, though perhaps not as localized, almost every second of the day.
Wifi is transmitted via microwaves, like cellular and cordless phones, microwaves - even street lamps.

The claims are unfounded and bias, these are the same nuts who hear the Taos Hum, and feel disturbances in the force.

  Dori Smith [03.22.08 12:45 AM]

Glenn Fleishman has been writing about this for years over at Wi-Fi Networking News. If you want an overview of the issues for your letter, check out the Health category; it's got just what you need.

  pdp [03.22.08 12:48 AM]

and apart from this WiFi is heavily insecure. No matter how much security mechanisms you apply. The more WiFi, the easier it will get to access the cloud but the higher the chance to get hacked. So, I am not sure if this is really a trade-off, but anyway, without spamming you with comments which you may not find that interesting, here is an article which summarizes some very basic strategies which led to WiFi 0wnage:


  Joseph [03.22.08 12:50 AM]

I have high hopes for technlogy easing our lives (though not solving our problems). So I'd like to be clear where I stand on technogy before I go any further.
I very well remember article stating the fact that Bees have been known tobecome instinct near GSM towers. Einstein says the days bees start to die, the life Cycle targets us next.

We barely have 40 years of such frequences roaming our skies. We don't know the long term effects. We simply don't.
The 700 Mhz spectrum didn't even get the necessary mount for safety funding to see the damages of such frequency.

Never the less, I write this on my iPhone using WiFi.

  Bernie Goldbach [03.22.08 02:01 AM]

I live in Ireland and have never heard the anti-mast brigade (people opposed to 3G cellular telephone masts) use the "wifi is harmful" evidence. In fact, as an avid reader of mainstream European press, I do not know any European municipality that has banned wifi from its streets. I know many jurisdictions trying to ban mobile phones from the hands of people who are driving--not because of the radiation hazard to brains but because two hands on the wheel is normally better than one hand waving to a caller while the other is holding the phone.

Good luck in educating your friends and neighbours.

  Steve Cisler [03.22.08 04:04 AM]

In 2003 I described a Berkeley city meeting about the RFID implementation that had already held hearings, got a budget, and had been implemented.

What I found interesting in the opposition (some similar to the Sebastapool contingent) was a mix of worries about health, surveillance, cost, job shifting for the library rank and file. EFF was there to talk about problems with RFID. On the library board was a Lawrence Berkeley scientist who had a strong command of studies, critiques of studies regarding RFID, and the rather conservative 'precautionary principal' applied to new technologies. The board was very supportive of the project. Each side was able to use the Internet to bring up citations supporting their theories or facts, even if the other side did not believe it.

A lot of the audience were older women (I am 65) with a mix of worries about health (community and personal) and about Big Brother. It's part of the Berkeley world view.

I work in Santa Clara where the library uses RFID (early adopter) and we have a free ad-supported public wifi that gets very little use, and in the 90's I was a big believer in community networking and helped influence the FCC to ensure that the public spectrum would be available for projects such a open wifi networks and muni systems.

  Simon Cast [03.22.08 06:15 AM]

This is an interesting study that look at EHS

and didn't really find anything statistically significant. Unfortunately, many of those involved in the debate are those selling "cures" which clouds the debate.

  Charles Meigh [03.22.08 06:15 AM]

"In Europe they are much more advanced than us, and there wifi is not allowed in cities in the European commonwealth."

People like this need to be called out, and labelled the liars that they are. It may seem impolite, but when hypochondriacs are dictating governmental policy at any level, even local, that needs to be stopped. They can then get the mental health support they need.

  Glenn Fleishman [03.22.08 07:02 AM]

I've been following this issue for years, and like many causes, the Internet has bound together people with suppositions into groups that assert truth in the face of detailed refutation. On my Wi-Fi Networking News site, whenever I write about issues of health and EMF, I get many comments posted from people (some of which I don't moderate through to the site) that typically cite non-peer-reviewed or non-existent studies, mention Russian tests from the 1950s, or simply assert anecdotal proof.

Dr Ben Goldacre, who writes Bad Science for the Guardian, has written extensively about EMF research. He pointed out after the BBC ran an extremely science-poor episode of Panorama (including using a "researcher" who sells tin-foil-hat equipment without identifying him as such) that of nearly 3 dozen studies of electrosensitivity (which he provides references to), mostly peer-reviewed, only a few showed any correlation. The vast majority did not. The studies that showed correlation haven't been reproduced while the others have.

A very well-designed project in the UK that finished up last year found something very interesting, though. It was a cross-disciplinary study with very tight controls on signals and monitoring people's health. (You can follow the last year of these studies at my health category on Wi-Fi Networking News.)

What they discovered is that people did exhibit real symptoms during studies, but those symptoms didn't correlate in any fashion to the presence or absence of signals of any type.

The symptoms were measurable, and thus that rules out delusional psychosomatosis or Munchhausen's Syndrome. People can make themselves sick, but the way in which symptoms appeared during the study made that hard to figure, too.

So what we have is a likelihood that there may be a widespread, undiagnosed set of conditions that result from something other than EMF, but which people have, through groupthink online and through those selling tinfoil hat protection, convinced themselves comes from Wi-Fi and other sources. As other commenters have noted, there's so much EMF of the same type as Wi-Fi, and at higher power levels (think cell data at 1700 to 2100 MHz but with legally much higher signal strengths) that if electrosensitivity existed, folks with it couldn't live in cities or walk down the street at all.

So there's a real health concern here, that's being masqueraded by a lack of ability to connect that concern to the cause. The UK study's conclusion stresses this notion, and I expect we'll see research that starts to look into this. (I believe some combination of newer pesticides and pharmaceuticals in water supplies could have something to do with this -- these are widespread, ingested/breathed forms of toxins and manipulators. See recent study on US drinking water, for instance.)

The Independent newspaper in the UK has been pushing extremely poor science and fearmongering as one of their flags to wave to sell newspapers. They've written a series of specious articles that those who believe they are sensitive to EMF now point to as "proof" that there are problems. If it's in print, it must be true.

Joseph, earlier, writes: "I very well remember article stating the fact that Bees have been known tobecome instinct near GSM towers." That is incorrect. Colony Collapse Disorder isn't yet fully understood, but it appears to have a lot to do with the monoculturing of bees, the parasites that pray on them, and a variety of diseases. Honey bees are under a lot of stress, and it looks like a tipping point was hit The GSM tower theory was debunked. Read this Der Spiegel article.

  Dale Dougherty [03.22.08 08:38 AM]

Simon is right that some of the people involved are in business selling services or products aimed at the people they can scare into action. Look at

  Martin Kelley [03.22.08 08:52 AM]

Well with the internet, anyone can set up a website and compile dubious claims into something that seems scientific.

But part of the reason these things gain traction is a legitimate mistrust of scientific orthodoxy. A few weeks ago one of my children was diagnosed with autism so I'm reading through everything I can find. The most mainstream therapy model had an important study in the 1970s but it's since come out that it was rigged; attempts to reproduce the results haven't been successful. Another major therapy model is only beginning studies now. As parents, my wife and I will have to decide on therapy based not on data but which philosophy we believe in.

We had similar experiences during an earlier pregnancy. Official "due dates" are still calculated according to 18th century German folklore--ten twenty-eight day moon cycles or 280 days--even though there are actual modern studies that show average gestation periods are a week or two off. Try having arguments with a doctor over the implications of a twenty-year old Irish study while in between contractions.

We'll surely find out someday that some commonly accepted part of our environment is actually quite dangerous--think second-hand smoke, or the new studies about idling diesel motors. I've lived most of my adult live in lefty sub-cultures; I've seen more than my share of faddish health scares and I'm betting WiFi will join them.

But here's something to ponder: the internet has allowed me to become remarkably knowledgeable about my child's condition in just two weeks. I am a much more informed parent than I would have been even ten years ago but I also now know how subjective some of the official knowledge is. I'll be much more ready to dismiss professional advice if I think it's coming from flawed studies or untested assumptions. Fringe groups (aka "wackos") are pointing out some very real gaps in the medical establishment's knowledge; perhaps they'll force doctors to take a closer look at their assumptions and will help get funding for studies that will make us all more informed.

  John Watkins [03.22.08 09:09 AM]

It's not the fact that people are concerned about the possible ill-effects of WiFi that worries me. Everything should be tested and investigated for its effects on the environment. I am a skeptic to the core and believe that no money making business is in any way concerned about my, or anyone else's welfare.
No, it is the trend in the last 20-30 years toward an abandonment of reason, and the reliance on religion, superstition, fad, or fancy over logic and the scientific method that concerns me.
How can we think our society has not failed when the latest meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science hosts a packed study session with the title: "Communicating Science in a Religious America." In it seven speakers discussed how scientific information is delivered to and perceived by a public that interprets that information through the prism of their personal beliefs, religious and otherwise. see here:
Most of this insanity is due to scientific ignorance combined with fear and superstition. It is past time to reclaim our society from the wack-o's!

  Tim O'Reilly [03.22.08 09:11 AM]

Frank Herbert once described this pervasive fear mongering in our society with the prayer: "Give us this day our daily devil." He argued that as a culture, we've developed an addiction to adrenaline and other "fight or flight" brain chemistry, and are always finding something to stimulate it.

That may be junk science too, but it seems like an interesting lens with which to view many aspects of America.

  ds [03.22.08 09:37 AM]

I'm a leftover hippy who maintains an organic garden and who gets most of my electric via solar. Politically I'm probably to the left of Dennis Kucinich. In short, I fit in perfectly into my adopted hometown of Sebastopol, which prides itself upon the fact that it's one of only two cities in the US that has a Green Party majority on its city council.

I also happen to run a WiFi hotspot in Sebastopol, and think the protesters are silly. It gives me the giggles to think of how many of these people who supposedly get ill from WiFi probably pass through my hotspot daily without knowing it's there.

Don't think I lack compassion: I have no doubt that people who believe they have "EMF sensitivity" feel ill when they know they are near a hotspot. I merely think that simple controlled studies would establish the fact that it's the belief that an EMF emitter is nearby is causing the person to feel sick, the actual presence or absence of such an emitter being quite irrelevant. The mind is indeed a very powerful thing.

Finally, just as an aside, some time ago Sebastopol voted itself a nuclear-free city. This to me implies that both protons and neutrons are banned, although oddly enough this law doesn't seem to be enforced. Outlaw electrons too, and what's going to be left? :-)

  Sam Burton [03.22.08 10:00 AM]

Is anyone surprised? I mean, hello, its Sebastopol.

All the residents either work for O'Reilly or own their own (recyclable) tin-foil hat.

  Contractor [03.22.08 10:17 AM]

More than likely people in the town Sebastopol have been on bad diets for years causing health and mental problems which shows they are not thinking clearly. A good correlation to health problems is to see how bad the drivers are in that town. If there are lot's of bad drivers we can assume they are all on bad diets but how does their bad health and judgement come to play with WIFI. WIFI has become a convenient excuse for bad health. Next it'll be street lights causing headaches. I'm sure!

  Dale Dougherty [03.22.08 10:45 AM]

Martin raises a subtle and difficult challenge that in the public debate on issues like health, science as an institution should be treated with skepticism as well. There's good science and junk science. Greed and arrogance can discolor scientific judgement, just as fear can. However, science as a way of thinking should be trusted. It is a means of exposing one's logic and data for peer review to uncover bias or misunderstanding. It provides us with a way to share and exchange ideas.

  Mark Blair [03.22.08 01:06 PM]

I'm a few miles down the road in Cotati and have found Sonoma County to be a little schizophrenic when it comes to technology.

Here we go with unfounded fears about WiFi when much of the same crowd is trying to outlaw incandescent light bulbs and replace them with CFLs.

The funny thing here, is that there actually is mounting evidence that these do affect some peoples well-being, cause headaches, etc if they are sensitive to light output of them....

What's next -- are they going to come for the cordless phones and the CB radios?

  Shelley [03.22.08 01:17 PM]

I'm curious, what were the arguments put forth by those who attended the same meeting, and who are in favor of community WiFi? I would think you'd want to include those opinions in your editorial.

  Nat [03.22.08 02:07 PM]

I think the problem is when certain opinions about health, diet, etc. go beyond healthy skepticism and become quasi-religious, or, at least, very closely tied to people's world-view. Having sold books in Sebastopol I became sensitive to how closely attached some were to these beliefs and knew to avoid conversation on the topic in the same way one skirts hot-button religious or political topics in mixed company.

On practical note, there already are wifi hotspots throughout Sebastopol, in neighborhoods and downtown, they're just private. So the question is simply whether there will be a few public ones.

Movie recommendation with "environmental illness" theme: Todd Haynes' "Safe". Starts out in Southern California but still related.

  Thomas Lord [03.22.08 02:31 PM]

If some business model had the effect that, all around us, they were setting up speakers that continuously broadcast a faintly perceptible continuous tone, people's environmental complaints would be perfectly justified and would prevail.

What we have in Wifi is a similar perturbation of the environment by the injection of continuous, small energy, highly coherent signals -- just a very different spectrum and one that isn't (obviously, at least) perceptible.

Is the only reason the continuous tone is bad that we can hear it? Or does it also just seem unwise? On basic principles. Prudence, precaution, call it what you will.


  Thomas Lord [03.22.08 02:38 PM]

Another way to say it is: in the face of doubt, when do you decide anyway that participation in the longitudinal study is mandatory as a matter of social policy?


  Thomas Lord [03.22.08 02:41 PM]

Finally, You should be sure to note in your opinion piece for the paper, Dale, that the spread of Wifi if of indirect but significant benefit to your employer and your career.


  Jakob Nielsen [03.22.08 02:54 PM]

Also remember that even if there is *no* correlation between two phenomena, a small percentage of studies will show one anyway, simply due to random effects.

It's customary to perform a statistical test to find out if a study's results are "significant", but that simply means that the outcome is unlikely to be due to pure chance. However, if one performs 100 experiments, then 5 will probably end up with a "significant" finding, even if there is no underlying cause.

Imaging the 95 scientists who write papers saying, "we studied this thing once again, and just like everybody else we found no effect." How much press coverage are they going to get?

Compare with the 5 studies that (due to random fluctuations) do find an effect. They will get much more attention.

Leaving this emotionally charged example behind, we have seen the same in Web usability. Virtually all usability studies ever conducted show that fast response times are better, but a few found that it doesn't matter how fast users get their pages. Much attention resulted for these bogus results.

I wrote an article called "Risks of Quantitative Studies" four years ago with more about this matter:

  Jack Verbeek [03.22.08 03:56 PM]

There are precious few studies around on health effetcs from wifi. There are many more on mobile phones which use a similar frequency to wifi. The science on mobile phones is disturbing. People also need to understand that WHO is industry friendly. Many of the studies that they base their guidelines on are industry funded. According to Loyd Morgan (read his comments on Powerwatch) the current Interphone Studies have been poorly constructed to show a lesser health impact.
Concern is justified, particularly for those with young children. The latency period for serious diseases (ie cancer)is somewhere from 10 to 30 years. This latency period is beginning to show in 10year+ mobile phone users who have an increased risk of brain cancer.

  Jack Verbeek [03.22.08 04:05 PM]

Just a couple more things:
The research I have referred to in concluding that mobile technology may likely be a serious concern has all been peer reviewed and independently funded. I suggest that you also do as I have done: ignore studies that are industry funded. Anke Hus etal found industry funded studies 9 times more likely to find no effect.
Also it was the European Environment Agency that last year issued a warning to reduce exposure to mobile phone masts, phones etc, warning of a possible health crisis. The German government issued a similar warning last year. I'm not aware of any country banning wifi.
Happy Easter!

  Kevin Arthur [03.22.08 04:50 PM]

Dale, while I agree with you that there's probably nothing to worry about from wifi, I think your representation of the critics is unfair. It's worth remembering that scientists have been wrong in the past in similar situations (we were told there's nothing to fear from pesticides, radiation exposure from nuclear tests and accidents, etc). Scientists have to earn our trust. While it's wrong to distrust them purely out of fear, it's also wrong to trust them purely out of faith, as you seem inclined to do. Either position (for or against wifi) must be supported by evidence.

A precautionary approach doesn't mean waiting for perfect proof of zero harm, but it does mean gathering some evidence beforehand if it's practical. Like you, I haven't read the science on this, but I get the impression there is not yet an established body of research saying there is no significant risk. In such a situation it's reasonable to be cautious and listen to both sides rather than dismiss them simply as fearful kooks.

  gregory [03.22.08 05:29 PM]

industrial radiographers can feel radiation, can tell when the pill is out.... science says that should not be possible

my usb modem freaks my tv when i go online, wonder what it does to my brainwaves.....

just because most people are not sensitive, doesn't mean everybody is

people used to think aluminum cookware was great too

  Cyndy Aleo-Carreira [03.22.08 06:10 PM]

For those who still hold onto that shred of doubt... WiFi networks broadcast in milliwatts. The default on a WiFi router is 42 milliwatts. You can bump it up as high as 250 milliwatts (that's 1/4 of one watt for those of us who never did learn that pesky metric system), but that tends to burn them out.

In contrast, your local radio station is broadcasting on the order of 10s to 100s of thousands of watts.

But by all means, fear them thar newfangled WiFi thingamabobs.

  Marc [03.22.08 08:33 PM]

Only in California??!! Really, these folks should stay away from ever visiting Minneapolis as our city is now laced with sickening municipal WIFI - although no widespread contagions have been reported - yet. Of course, maybe living in a cold, harsh climate builds up immunity from EMF ...

  Thomas Lord [03.22.08 09:19 PM]

cyndy, frequencies are not fungible that way and, also, two wrongs don't make a right.


  Artur Bergman [03.22.08 11:40 PM]

Of course, banning MRI because radiation makes no sense, since compared to CT or x-ray, it emits none.

  David Gonzales [03.23.08 05:29 AM]

I can't believe these people. They could be the same ones who would've cheered for the burning of alleged witches centuries ago. They should learn to grow up.

  mike [03.23.08 09:46 AM]

reminds me of the woman in front of me at the Whole Foods holding up the line because she wouldn't allow her purchases to be scanned by the bar code scanner. Didn't want her food "irradiated". She then promptly received more radiation walking to her car in the California sunshine.

  Bob [03.23.08 12:51 PM]


  Michael Saunby [03.23.08 01:25 PM]

Although it's the lazy thing to do, and might backfire, I think I'd be tempted to simply declare I believe all 14 to be witches and members of the same coven. Sit back and leave the authorities to investigate...

  Dane Jasper [03.23.08 01:30 PM] is the ISP who's street light pole usage contract was voided by the Sebastopol city council this week. I've published a brief article here:

  Fotios Siafarikas [03.23.08 02:34 PM]

I feel happy that such health aware people exist and do not wait for researches and studies to prove that something is unhealthy but rely on their body and minds.
By the way fluoride is harmful and scientifically proven by Dr. Russell Blaylock.

  Stanley [03.23.08 04:04 PM]

I am all for community WiFi, but I would like thourough testing. The number of cases of Autism in recent years and the death of many Bee colonies makes me wonder?

  Martin Owen [03.24.08 02:15 AM]

Everything above said about Europe is correct. However there is one gov document which urges some caution - known as the Stewart Report - (Stewart is chair of the radiological protection board).

The dangers allude directly to mobile phone usage. The caution is expressed that no govt agency or the telcos should encourage the use of mobile telephony for under 16s. This is not based on any evidence- it is a precautionary measure only.

The advice was made a) phones were the size of bricks b) the assumption that the phone would be used next to the ear.

The horse has bolted. The UK phone ownership for this (11-16) demographic is about 95%. Although effects -if any- would be long term - there is no noticeable medical effect.

What it does mean however is that neither gov bodies (eg Education ministry)not the telcos can support or fund any new learning practices for this age range using mobile telephony - a massive opportunity lost.

If people really believe in precautionary measures to avoid damaging health/increasing mortality you would ban the building of any schools near a public highway and start dismantling those that already exist. The correlation between traffic density and the death of young people through road traffic accidents is very very significant- if you want to save lives and health - ban the motor car.

Unlikely huh?

  Bill Thompson [03.24.08 07:28 AM]

I wrote a piece about this for the BBC News website last year when it was a live issue - around the time of the Panorama TV programme Sue mentions. You can find it at

You won't be surprised to hear that I got a rather large response from people who believe that there is a real effect, but in all the reading I've done about it I've yet to see either evidence or a plausible mechanism suggested. It's a shame that a useful local initiative can be stopped in this way - I hope that the town council reconsiders and decides that they quite like being in the modern age!

  Occam [03.24.08 11:12 AM]

From a scientific perspective, it's clear to me that using a cell phone gives you a much stronger dose of radio energy than any other consumer product. A cell phone has to produce enough power to send a signal to a cell tower that may be miles away, whereas wifi only has to send a signal to a gateway a few hundred feet or less away. Because of the logarithmic nature of radio frequency energy this means that holding a transmitting cell phone inches from your body is going to be many orders of magnitude stronger than any signal from any other radio energy.

So if people want to worry about radio energy, they shouldn't distract themselves with wifi... they should focus on staying away from people using cell phones.

I have a friend in Sebastopol who is very much into this fear based thinking. She won't use aluminum, teflon, plastic cookware, microwave ovens, or non-organic food.

What I have noticed is that these decisons are made mostly for social reasons. They are a form of body worship fashion, flaunting how much you care for yourself and your "temple". A perfect example is how people consume water... she has always been way ahead of the trends, moving from PTFE plastic water bottles, Nalgene bottles, stainless steel bottles, and now perhaps the most impractical of all: Glass canning jars. In her circle, people who don't care enough to risk cutting themselves to shreds with broken glass are not worthy of attention.

She eschews sunscreen and sunglasses, prefering the "naturalness" of solar radiation. I used to try convincing her that might not be so good for her long term health, but I realized that even though she said she was doing it for her health, really what she was after was the even tan that indicated to her circle that she was healthy and radiant.

So analytical arguments don't work on these people.

  Glenn Fleishman [03.24.08 11:59 AM]

Jack Verbeek: "According to Loyd Morgan (read his comments on Powerwatch) the current Interphone Studies have been poorly constructed to show a lesser health impact."

Please note that Powerwatch is run by the same fellow who sells equipment through a for-profit arm.

Martin Owen: "However there is one gov document which urges some caution - known as the Stewart Report - (Stewart is chair of the radiological protection board)."

Stewart has rejected the considerable clinical and statistical findings that fail to back up his opinions.

Thomas Lord: "cyndy, frequencies are not fungible that way and, also, two wrongs don't make a right."

If you're trying to say that radio stations, by broadcasting at very high wattages far from our heads, can't be interchanged with Wi-Fi broadcasting locally, sure. But that's not what electrosensitives claim. The groups and individuals who site this distress claim to be aware when Wi-Fi is in use when hundreds of feet away from them. They make similar claims about directionality and use of cell towers. This has been disproven in dozens of studies (nearly three dozen now out of which a handful showed some correlation, never replicated in subsequent studies, many of which had better controls).

Stanley: "I am all for community WiFi, but I would like thourough testing. The number of cases of Autism in recent years and the death of many Bee colonies makes me wonder?"

The bee colony connection has been disproved (op cit), and was specious to begin with. Multiple environmental stresses on non-native bees appears to be the cause. (What, exposing tiny creatures to pesticidies, smog, and pollens that aren't native to their original habitat should leave them feeling great?)

Autism has been studied now around the globe longitudinally for long enough to see the rate of increase appears unrelated to any of the causes that have so far been speculated. The rate in Europe was unchanged after thimerosol was removed. Ditto, in the U.S., as mercury is removed, no changes here, either.

I'm of the theory that pesticide and pharmaceuticals in our food and water are much more likely the smoking gun for a variety of ailments, because the explanation is simpler (Occam's Razor gives that explanation the edge), and even in extremely small amounts, some pesticides cause horrible effects in humans.

With microwaves used in Wi-Fi and wireless, extremely high levels -- hundreds to thousands of times higher than we're exposed to -- are known to be harmful. And that's why levels that high are highly restricted.

  Jack Verbeek [03.24.08 12:17 PM]

Glen Fleishman: Please note that telcos also have a much larger interest in proving wifi to be safe. Should we discount all theor (funded) studies and comments? The answer, by the way is yes.
There is also more than one govt document uging caution IE: Germany. Do you want more?
Which arm of the industry do you work for?

  DB [03.24.08 12:48 PM]

You mean the German version of our FCC, which actually did not warn against wifi but said their experiments showed that radiation exposure from them was between one and two orders of magnitude below the regulatory limit, that even when the device was in contact with the skin, a breach of this was very unlikely, that public hotspots made up only a minimal exposure to the public, that there were no specific precautions recommended by the government, but in general it might be better to use a wired solution where possible, and that the question of whether to use WLAN or wired Ethernet in schools was an individual decision, and the government had no opinion on it?

  Jason [03.24.08 12:59 PM]

Welcome to West County: No cause too small, no petition too ridiculous to sign. You could probably get most of those people and another 250 to sign a petition to revive the plan if you stand outside Whole Foods for an afternoon.

  Cory [03.24.08 01:21 PM]

For their own good, you need to tell them about all those other wifi hotspots around town. Tell them about every last encrypted or open access one of them. Post big skull-and-crossbones signs (with little radio waves coming out) to warn them of the dangers. Wallpaper the interiors of buildings with the warnings.

Then, just in case, do the same to all the places in town where there MIGHT be wifi. The risk of a false negative to cause them invisible harm is too great to leave these places out just because you have no idea whether they use wifi in the grocery store!

Soon, unable to leave their houses or enter anywhere that food is served or sold, these people will be forced to start eating one another to survive. When they have winnowed their own population down, you point out all the signatures on the petition that are no longer legally valid, and present your case to the city council again.

Problem solved.

  John Calmeyer [03.24.08 02:20 PM]

As a fellow resident of Sebastopol, I am embarassed and dismayed at the reactionary and ignorant vocal minority in this town that seem to control our woefully politically correct town council. These are the same people that swore that allowing O'Reilly to build their headquarters in Sebastopol would lead to enormous traffic problems etc etc. On behalf of the MANY in this town that LOVE what you do, thank you for your patience and good humor! Happy to lend support should there be a counter petition!

  Wai Yip Tung [03.24.08 03:09 PM]

Don't forget the 2.4GHz wireless phone many people have at home, that's the same frequency as Wifi. The naysayers should feel very very vulnerable.

  Jack Verbeek [03.24.08 03:28 PM]

DB: no, not the German version of our FCC, but the German Government. The European Environment Agency also issued a similar warning last year saying that these pulsed microwaves could be a serious health threat for the developed world. I think a major issue is that our media, for whatever reason, refuses to cover anything that places the safety of mobile technolgy in doubt. Which is why it's not surprising that when the few who have information are attacked by those who have only heard the industry spin.
Also interesting is that every telco, while claiming that their products are in no way harmful, feel the need to work closely with ICNIRP & WHO. Why not spend the money elsewhere?

  DB [03.24.08 04:13 PM]

If The Media wasn't covering it, we wouldn't be talking about it.

Jack, we both know very well how rhetoric works in this debate. A logical extension of your argument is that we should fear *anything* and *everything* for which there is no evidence of a threat to health. Isn't that what I'm supposed to say next?

I've honestly got no horse in this race; I consider free Wifi to be worth every penny paid for it and my only direct employment with the telco was as a 411 operator for US West when I was in college. But still, I have a hard time taking any of this seriously as the main proponents seem to be the same groups who also promote anti-vaccination and homeschooling while ranting on the Internet about the dangers of chemtrails and aspartame.

I do not believe in any way, shape or form that research regarding the matter is being suppressed or bought off. The researcher that proves the first definite link between wifi and health dangers will reap more financial and professional rewards than any telco bribery could hope to cover.

  vsync [03.24.08 05:08 PM]

However, there is a very good reason NOT to use CFL bulbs. They create electromagnetic frequencies proven to be extremely detrimental to human health.

This is common knowledge, but the electromagnetic frequencies are in the visible spectrum. Also CFLs contain vile mercury.

  Jack Verbeek [03.24.08 07:48 PM]

DB: I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. But I must point out there there is plenty of peer reviewed evidence (although not proof) that rf-emr may be harmful. Media does, to a large degree, ignore most of it. Anke huss etal: Industry funded research is 9 times more likely to find no health effect. This says 2 things: industry is influencing the research and there other studies out there showing effect.
Yous also said: "The researcher that proves the first definite link between wifi and health dangers will reap more financial and professional rewards than any telco bribery could hope to cover". Dr George Carlo was effectively sacked when he found health issues caused by mobile phones. The scientist that proves a link between wifi & health effects (If indeed it happens) will be ridiculed and ostrecized (I know what it means but don't know how to spell it)

  JRR [03.25.08 04:35 AM]

Aluminum cookware still is great. The linkage to Alzheimer's has been pretty thoroughly debunked.

Teflon is fine too if you don't burn it; it only turns into mildly toxic (unless you're a bird) chemicals when really toasted, something like > 450*F. And even then, it just causes mild flu symtoms, temporarily, in some people.

Please try to keep up with the latest baseless scares.

  Paul Ak [03.25.08 08:57 AM]

The comment says: "In Europe they are much more advanced than us, and there wifi is not allowed in cities in the European commonwealth".

Though I’m not a native English speaker, I would have added a comma after “and there,”


One of the projects in Paris is to become a wifi city; you can have information on the official web site:

And you have access to a plan with all the location of existing accesses. Here is an example of wired public places:

Sorry, this information is in French, this might be why it is not considered European commonwealth!

Or, maybe this is why we are not as advanced as those other Europeans that don't allow wifi in their cities. Of course, the ones of the European commonwealth!

In case the person who wrote this comment doesn’t understand the sarcasm; please don't let him come to Paris.


Sue, you are welcome in Paris if the European Commonwealth are not giving you access to public wifi ;-) We are preparing a big outside pool of wifi radiations so you can bathe and be even more intelligent!


And just to be on the safe side for those who believe they will live forever, they should stop breathing! Breathing oxide your blood and deteriorate the cells and make you age. Stop breathing and you will live forever.

Oh! Please don’t hold your breath! I don’t want to be sued because you believed me!

  Sue Thomas [03.25.08 09:53 AM]

Paul, I think you're wrong about the comma, but I'll accept your offer of a bath in free wifi anyway. :)

  Ross Williams [03.25.08 10:53 AM]

I must point out there there is plenty of peer reviewed evidence (although not proof) that rf-emr may be harmful.

The wi-fi scare is just the normal resistance to anything new. But the reality is that there is evidence for negative health effects from exposure to electro-magnetic radiation. Anyone who dismisses it out of hand is a whacked out nutcase (or maybe just your typical person who uses common sense to form their opinions instead of informing themselves about issues.)

  Bob Vaughan [03.25.08 02:22 PM]

WiFi antennas can hurt you.. It will definitely hurt when I take this 3.5' long fiberglass vertical antenna, and beat some sense into these morons :-)

RF wise, I can think of ways that WiFi might cause harm, but it involves very high gain antennas in extremely close proximity (inches), amplifiers well in excess of legal limits, a table, straps, and quite a bit of time. It's a lot easier, and faster to put your head in a microwave..

  Doug Loranger [03.25.08 02:56 PM]

Fleishman Wields Occam’s Razor

Readers through this discussion should take a look at the following entry from Glenn Fleishman’s WiFi Network News website:

November 18, 2003
Health Effects of Cell Phone Use
By Glenn Fleishman

Finally, a well-balanced, non-alarmist article surveying what scientists know about the effects of cellular phone microwave radiation on human health: The answer is, not enough, but what we know is enough to be troubling. The studies don’t show the clear-cut results in identical circumstances as routine cell phone use and aren’t entirely conclusive. But taken in aggregate, there’s enough smoke to worry about the fire, especially given the 10 to 20 years it takes for a brain tumor to grow large enough to become a problem.

Here’s where the science gets fuzzy, though, when proponents of childrens’ health point to these studies as a way to restrict Wi-Fi use. Wi-Fi is regulated at a much lower signal strength and is rarely directly next to someone’s head. Because of this, Wi-Fi is substantially less powerful, and any studies that wind up proving or disproving cell signals’ effects on health should similarly be able to show the threshold below which problems don’t occur, which will in turn be applicable to Wi-Fi signal levels.

After reading this article and some recent studies, I don’t think I’ll ever spend much time with a cell phone next to my head again.

The hook on the article, by the way, isn’t to frighten folks but to note that the federal government will spend $10 million to conduct research in this area. It’s a large array of agencies: The methodology and direction will be set by the U.S. National Toxicology Program, a division of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health. The program will also get some guidance from the FDA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

[Aside to readers: Do you want to know where this program stands almost 5 years later? You’ll have to go to, a website not prominently featured or discussed on Fleishman’s blog, to find that answer.]

This is a significant entry from Fleishman for a number of reasons: (1) It acknowledges there is credible scientific evidence that microwave radiation from cell phones may pose a health hazard; (2) Fleishman himself suggests that this evidence, while not conclusive, is enough for him to take the precaution of minimizing the amount of time he will place his cell phone next to his head; and (3) it assumes that the only factor involved in producing these troubling but still inconclusive results is the signal strength of the radiation involved.

Let me suggest to those self-avowed keepers of the scientific flame on this blog that it is not much of a jump (no, don’t start typing yet; I won’t call it a leap of faith) to apply the same logic Fleishman uses in (1) and (2) to cell phone use to WiFi.


Because (3) is premised, if not on a false assumption, then on an incomplete one: While signal strength is certainly one plausible factor in explaining the potential dangers of low-intensity microwave radiation, it is not the only one.

As physicist Gerard Hyland hypothesized in a November 2000 discussion in The Lancet of the science on the biological effects of low-intensity microwave radiation (, the signal characteristics of pulsed modulated microwave radiation may themselves have an oscillatory similitude to human physiologic processes that may mimic or interfere with those processes in subtle but perhaps significant ways. In other words, in addition to the amplitude (signal strength) of microwave radiation, the frequencies used may also be biologically active in ways science is only beginning to understand. Just as visible light flashing at certain frequencies can trigger epileptic seizures in certain individuals, the Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) pulsed modulations produced by relatively new digital wireless technologies like the GSM standard prevalent at the time Hyland wrote his article – and, it should be added, WiFi – may be having less obvious but perhaps nevertheless similarly harmful effects.

Fleishman’s standard riposte to citing a scientist like Hyland is to dismiss him as one of the ‘usual subjects,’ one of only ‘a handful of scientists worldwide’ suggesting there may be a problem with the ever-increasing amounts of RF radiation humans are introducing into their environment. And while this may pass muster as a rhetorical device used on a blog where many of Fleishman’s readers presumably share his enthusiasm for All Things Wireless (as long as that cell phone has a headset), is it going too far to consider that at one time Priestly, Pasteur and Einstein were also in a distinct minority among their scientific brethren? Does this automatically enroll them in the ranks of credulous religious fundamentalists? Or are they rather examples of how the history of science plays itself out over time?

It should be noted that while Fleishman is quick to lump together and dismiss remarkably diverse and in many instances brilliant and accomplished individual scientists who are raising legitimate public health questions about the rush to embrace wireless technologies of every stripe, he himself has a tendency to take as an authority on these manners individuals like Ben Goldacre, whose contributions to scientific discourse in the U.K. are roughly commensurate with Sean Hannity’s to political discourse in the U.S.

When the BBC Panorama series featured a program on the potential dangers of WiFi back in May 2007, Fleishman prominently featured Goldacre’s debunking of the program and one of the individuals, Alisdair Philips, founder of the U.K. group Powerwatch, who appeared in it, but did not provide a link to Philips’ own detailed, point-by-point rebuttal of Goldacre. (Here it is: Note that Philips writes: “I do not campaign against the use of WiFi, per se, but do believe that wireless technology should not be used, when standard ethernet cables could easily be used which would also provide a better access speed, more stable connectivity, easier security and would not be more expensive to implement.” Sounds like some kind of religious nut, doesn’t he?)

In situations such as these, Fleishman is quick to point out that, among other things, Powerwatch sells a variety of equipment to assist those concerned with the potential health effects of electromagnetic radiation. I agree with Fleishman that this is important information to be aware of, as we navigate the at times murky and treacherous waters of bias in these matters, whether from the Scylla of the wireless industry itself or the Charybdis of its critics.

Where I disagree with Fleishman is his implication that the mere fact that Powerwatch has some economic interests in the wireless issue obviates the need to actually engage what Philips and others at Powerwatch have to say. Powerwatch columnist Lloyd Morgan, for example, is a Bay Area retired engineer and brain tumor survivor who is scrupulously scientific in his approach to wireless health issues. Since Fleishman clearly makes some kind of a living extolling the benefits of WiFi, the same logic could be applied to his writings as an excuse not to pay them any attention.

When an organization I co-founded in 2000 – San Francisco Neighborhood Antenna-Free Union (SNAFU – – made the headlines last year regarding our efforts to compel the City and County of San Francisco to conduct an environmental review of its plans to install at least 2,200 WiFi antennas on light and utility poles throughout the city as part of Earthlink’s ultimately abortive attempt to provide citywide WiFi, Fleishman read through our website, presumably with the care and thoroughness supposedly lacking in the scientific studies assembled there, and declared us ‘intellectually bankrupt.’

If, like Huck Finn adrift on his raft sans Jim but cum iPhone, one occupies the no man’s land between established journalism and the unciv’lized regions of blogosphere, there are no professional or ethical requirements that one contact the subject of one’s writings before one publicly lambastes them. Had Fleishman elected to contact our organization, he might have learned some information that might have provided an important perspective on who we are and what it is we want.

For example, among our original members we counted a theoretical physicist whose ‘official’ career ended at Columbia University in the 1960s when as a matter of principle he refused to reveal an algorithm he had discovered that would have been of direct use to the U.S. ICBM program; a former large-scale numerical modeler of electromagnetic fields at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who went on to design Apple Computer’s first worldwide communications and control center in the early 1980s; a documentary filmmaker of more than 30 years whose awards include an Emmy for a film on the nuclear industry; and an atmospheric scientist from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Intellectual bankruptcy? Most communities would be fortunate to have one such person among their ranks when faced with the uncertainties posed by the late-20th Century/early 21st Century embrace of wireless technologies.

Here is Fleishman quoting from the SNAFU website homepage back in May 2007: “‘The San Francisco Neighborhood Antenna-Free Union (SNAFU) is a grass-roots, city-wide coalition of individual residents and neighborhood organizations that works to prevent the placement of wireless antennas on or near residences, schools, health care centers, day care centers, senior centers, playgrounds, places of worship, and other inappropriate locations in the City and County of San Francisco.’ That is, everywhere in the city.”

Well, actually, no, Glenn, that’s not what it says. Just like it may be prudent, if you chose to use a cell phone, to keep it away from your head, if – and I fully concede that this remains an unanswered question – exposure to the chronic, 24/7, low-intensity microwave radiation from wireless base stations is having effects on individuals and the environment, might it not be prudent to keep them away from those populations who are most vulnerable to these effects?

The problem is that, thanks to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TCA), it is illegal in the United States for any local government to take into consideration precautionary health measures in deciding where and where not to permit the placement of wireless facilities as long as these facilities meet FCC radiation exposure guidelines. Since these guidelines are designed to protect human beings from intensity levels high enough to cause heating effects, as in microwave ovens, and do not take into consideration the possibility of other, so-called ‘non-thermal’ effects from this radiation, the wireless industry-authored section of the TCA preempting consideration of health effectively eliminates it from being one legitimate, legal variable among other considerations in the siting of wireless facilities across the United States. (Since in Sebastopol’s case the City Council was considering a contract with a WiFi provider, and not acting in its regulatory capacity, it was a rare case where it did have the legal authority to say no.)

With respect to WiFi in Sebastopol, Fleishman concedes that self-identified electrosensitive individuals are suffering actual symptoms. Fleishman is to be commended for acknowledging the real suffering these people experience, rather than disparaging and vilifying them as many contributors to this blog have done. Wielding Occam’s Razor, he hypothesizes that these symptoms result from ‘some combination of newer pesticides and pharmaceuticals in water supplies’ and not from electromagnetic sources.

Fleishman, like Gerard Hyland, is entitled to his hypotheses. Perhaps one day careful experimentation and further study will prove him correct. That’s the way science is supposed to work. But I am concerned about another possible outcome, where a different razor in different hands produced different results. Lest we all end up in the Rue Morgue chez Edgar Allan Poe, perhaps it’s time to apply a little more of that logic that earlier compelled Fleishman to think holding a cell phone next to his head might not be such a great idea, only this time, include WiFi in the equation.

  lawrephord8 [03.29.08 05:07 PM]

Consider lightning and storms 100,000,000 volts
nonstop all your life ? Consider cosmic radiation
the last 1,000,000,000,000 years ? You come from
high voltage radiation !

  Sandy Tate [03.29.08 07:50 PM]

I can’t believe the nasty, sarcastic comments that are being levelled at those of us who believe what scientists all over the globe are saying and documenting about the health effects of WiFi and cell phone use. In the name of free Internet service and cell phone use people have become mean and downright vicious.

They say that scientists are using scare tactics to dissuade us from WiFi and cell phone use. What possible motive could these scientists have? We know that telecommunications industry scientists are determined, and paid, to declare the industry perfectly safe, so their motives are transparent.

How can you ignore the same tactics used by the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries? They still declare their products are safe. I don’t think these naysayers are reading or listening to the facts. Try listening to the following:

  Jack Verbeek [03.29.08 07:59 PM]

Sandy & Doug (above), thank you for providing some balance.
Here is a link that anyone who wishes to look past the telco/govt propaganda can cut & paste into their browser.
From the news article you can link to the full report from this neurosergon.

  Kathryn [04.01.08 04:21 PM]

Being a teenage survivor of an environmetal cancer, I am certainly not thrilled in the least that we are bathing in WiFi. When I was diagnosed the first question I was asked by my doctor was "do you stand in front of your microwave when your using it?"

The reality is that we just don't know what the cumulative effect of the waves of the recent wireless electronics boom will have on humans in the future. WiFi hasn't been around long enough to have a full adequate environmental health effects study completed on it as of yet. We're the guinea pigs.

  Marco Moraglia [04.05.08 06:22 AM]

I would like to offer my insights on symptoms that can derive from overexposure to WIFI signals.
I have been using WIFI 802.11b/g for over 3 years without any discomforts, but recently I have started transferring large files using WIFI from my macbook pro 2.16 Ghz to an Apple Airport Express 802.11b/g then connected to a NAS.
Whenever I start the transfers I get a tingling sensation in my ears, feel a raise in the temperature of my head and start feeling agitated. At first I though it was just my mind playing tricks, then I sat my girlfriend in front of my macbook pro and started a transfer.
I then asked her if she felt any different and she described the same symptoms.

I also use a logitech vx revolution wireless mouse that uses the 2.4 Ghz band for it's receiver. And whenever I transfer files it starts behaving erratically.

There might be no studies that support the claim of hazards during normal usage, but I have been experiencing firsthand symptoms.

Here is the setting in case someone might be interested.
Apple Airport Express 802.11b/g
Multicast rate 2Mbps
Signal power 50%
Use interface robustness
Channel 10

Thank you for this opportunity to share my experiences.

  Tim [04.10.08 01:54 PM]

The person you quoted about the RF from a CFL should be more worried about the mercury in the CFL.

What to do when compact fluorescents crack

February 26, 2008

Compact fluorescent lamps contain small amounts of toxic mercury that can vaporize when the bulbs break, creating a potential health risk for infants, young children, and pregnant women. If a lamp does break, follow these cleanup procedures:

# Keep people and pets away. Open windows, and leave the area for 15 minutes before beginning the cleanup.

# Do not use a vacuum cleaner, even on a carpet. This will spread the mercury vapor and dust and potentially contaminate the vacuum.

# Wear rubber gloves.

# Carefully remove the larger pieces and place them in a secure closed container, preferably a glass jar with a metal screw top lid and seal like a canning jar.

# Next, scoop up the smaller pieces and dust using two stiff pieces of paper such as index cards or playing cards.

# Pick up fine particles with duct tape, packing tape, or masking tape, and then use a wet wipe or damp paper towel.

# Put all waste into the glass container, including all material used in the cleanup. Remove the container from your home and call your local solid waste district or municipality for disposal instructions.

# Continue ventilating the room for several hours.

# Wash your hands and face.

# As a precaution, consider discarding throw rugs or the area of carpet where the breakage occurred, particularly if the rug is in an area frequented by infants, small children or pregnant women. Otherwise, open windows during the next several times you vacuum the carpet to provide good ventilation.

SOURCES: Maine Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management; Mercury Policy Project

  Vimala [04.11.08 01:40 AM]

There will always be two sets of people - one set that believes in anything fed to them, and another who will dare to try whatever the risk. Of course, there will be people in between as well. We can only control what we want to believe, and hope that those who believe unfounded stuff start seeing sense soon. As many have pointed out, Wi-fi has such tremendous benefits it is good if people could give any of their fears a bit more thought before jumping to conclusions.

That said, It will be fascinating to watch the latest happenings in the wireless Internet domain as it is likely to have significant impact on the way we live and work.

See our Wireless & Mobile @ our Electronics & Communications section of Future of Engineering Blog -

  Jack Verbeek [04.11.08 12:58 PM]

Vimala you're absolutely right. It is unfounded to believe this technology is safe. The Weisman Institute in Isreal last year showed how these microwaves affect human cells. Science has proven that they are a threat to human health. The only question that remains is how long the latency period before serious illnesses develop. There has been alot said in these comments about people fearing mobile technology. If it's meant in the same way as people fearing smoking or excesive alcohol then I guess that's right. It must be understood that the "fear" is far from irrational. And thank you for letting us know who butters your bread!

  Dale Dougherty [04.11.08 05:36 PM]

Hey Jack,

When you begin a sentence "Science has proven...",
you tell me everything I need to know about your position.

  Jack Verbeek [04.11.08 06:35 PM]

Thanks Dale. I would have thought though that my position was clear without that sentence. In your earlier comments you said that science as a way of thinking should be trusted. That's correct. The issue with the telco industry is they have have infiltrated the science required to prove the safeness or otherwise of thier products. This infiltration occurs right through the chain from setting agends for the studies, to financing (many) studies, to the reporting of findings, to government perspectives on health/mobile technology issues.
For an industry that resolutey states that their product is so safe they sure spend alot of time, energy and their shareholders money on proving it (well above any levies required).
Why not stand back and allow "non corporate" science to prove it safe? Invest the money instead in developing other ways to utilise pulsed microwaves?

  Jason Larkin [04.23.08 07:43 PM]

I am one of these "whacko's" who claims sensitivity to WiFi. I will also tell you that I am sensitive to Radar, Florescent Lights, Power Lines, Cell Phones, Microwaves, and anything which puts out electro magnetic radiation. I haven't always been this way. I probably would have thought these people with sensitivity were just imagining it too. But then a year ago I was emloyed in the film industry and worked around all of these things on a daily basis. But in May of 2007 I received an electric shock from a piece of equipment which was improperly wired. After that things began to change for me. At first I just felt tired all of the time, then I began to have odd aches and pains. I started to have difficulty making decisions, reading instructions or maps. I had no patience for my computer. I couldn't stand to be around florescent lights. It felt like I was going crazy. I went to my doctor and had every possible test done. She said that I was fit as a fiddle. So began my quest to understand what was really happening in my body. It has been a wild ride and knowing what I know now, I would not try to deprive anyone of their right to learn from experience what is clear to many of us already. If you can feel EMR and it harms you, you need some help. If you can feel it and it doesn't harm you, you are fortunate. If you can feel it and use it to do some good, you are blessed. If you can't feel it, you are numb. The human body is a sensitive instrument. It runs on electricity. Hmmmm. At the same time, I look forward to the few minutes I spend every day playing with all of my toys.

  Sue [04.27.08 04:02 PM]

Please take time to read these web pages if you wish to be informed.
If you wish to carry on using wifi and would rather not know then don't look.

The German government warned its citizens to avoid WiFi last summer because of protests fro German doctors and scientific evidence.
The Salzburg government have banned wifi in schools as have the city of Frankfurt and the Dept of Bavaria in Germany.
The European Environment Agency has warned that radiation levels should immediately be reduced to protect children.
The Paris Mayor this Christmas had WiFi pulled out of Paris libraries after 40% of staff complained of the same symptoms, headaches, dizziness, etc
The list goes on.

There is more scientific evidence for harm from this technology than there is from smoking or asbestos.

There is a powerful industry that does not want you to know this

The other powerful force is that people like this technology and do not want to know that it could be less than safe.

  David [05.29.08 01:07 PM]

If people are worried about this crap they need to move to the middle of nowhere, and "live off the land". No, electricity, no cars, no motors, nothing that runs off of electricity. EVERYTHING that runs off some form of electricity, from AC, to your 9v battery emitt some form of RF. If places are going to make wifi illegal, then they should make microwaves illegal; hell they emitt MORE rf than your wifi router does!!

Easy fix for those people who want to cry about RF causing health issues, ship them off to BFE and let them live like they were back in the stone age. Oh, wait that won't work either. I forgot to mention that the sun, ionosphere, also emitt RF!! Hell come to think of it there is nowhere they can live!!

  Liz [05.30.08 12:03 PM]


Comparing microwave ovens with a wifi router shows you ignorance. You are a typical American who is so enamoured with the technology that you seem to not have the temperment to educate yourself about what the world community knows about the adverse health implications of exposure to electromagnetic fields and electromagnetic radiation. For those with an open mind I suggest going to to read Bioinitiative Report 2007 issued by an international group of scientists, researchers, public helath and public policy experts.

Remember that other industries (tobacco, asbestos, chemical, etc.) got us hooked on their products while claiming they were safe. The telecom industry is doing the same and also going after any hints that appear in the media indicating legitimate health concerns to confuse the public. The world community has enough evidence right now about the adverse biological effects of exposure to EMR/EMF to adopt precautionary public health policy. Will we learn from our past mistakes with tobacco et al by enacting governmental policies to protect the public from EMR/EMF or will we again not heed the early warning signs of harm?

Americans are living under an illusion of safety protection? The FCC safety standard for exposure to wireless technology is based on a telecom industry (ANSI, IEEE, ICRP)determined standard (wolf guarding the chichen coop), is based on science almost 25 years old, and based on the premise that no human harm can occur unless your tissue (skin) is heated to a certain degree (SAR)? But the scientific studies the last 25 years have indicated otherwise: that their are biological effects from exposure (DNA breaks, etc.), not just "thermal" effects. The standards setting committees are essentially made up of physicists. I don't go to a physicist when I get sick. The physical science professionals (and the miltiary) have highjacked control of the safety standards where the biological science professionals should be in control. The wireless revolution has been built on a house of sand...the industry will eventually be forced to deal with what it has wrought.

Go to for information about the French INTERPHONE study regarding cell phone usage, if you have any concerns about cell phone usage.


  Harrison [06.13.08 07:18 AM]

Liz, thank you for educating David and other
"Davids". We are in trouble here, and real information, like you've given is the first step.
I'm trying to wake up my school board as to the
hazzards of Wi-Fi and the absolute insanity of
putting it in a school. Thank you for your
accuracy and clarity.

  Christopher Johns [06.13.08 07:47 AM]

I haven't noticed any mention of the inverse square law, which applies to most radiation from a source of limited extent. I am more concerned about my right hand being little more, if not less, than 1 cm from the aerial in my (Logitek) wireless mouse, for hours at a time, every day, than I am about any megawatt radio station over a mile away. Should I be concerned about this? And should I buy an Orchid household radio phone, which only radiates during a conversation, rather than the conventional GAP-compatible DECT devices which radiate all night long in my bedroom and all day long in my study?

  Christopher Johns [06.15.08 03:22 AM]

I live in Esher, Surrey, England, UK. Just in case anyone else reading this does too, the official instructions I obtained from my Local Authority (Elmbridge) (with responsibility for the effective and safe disposal of waste in this area) upon my requesting their instructions on how to dispose of an old fluorescent tube were
"Throw it in your waste bin".
This is a kerb-side, (currently) weekly, collection service.

They have NO protocol for the safe disposal of fluorescent tubes. Nor for 'high efficiency' light bulbs. I wonder if any UK local Authorities do have any protocol less unspecific than this. I would be interested to receive quantitative information on the hazards these pollutants expose us to, and to learn what procedures the bodies bearing this responsibility in other parts of the world have.

  fred [06.27.08 06:28 AM]

An excellent set of posts here, the one thing that sticks out, is when ill informed people make quick descisions without listening to both sides of the argument, and evidence.

some people here are like screaming children shouting ' no dont take away my toys !'

they like it, so it must be good right ??

  Sue [04.10.09 05:25 PM]

I find it amazing that you all put forward your opinions but none of you have read the research evidence!
I assume none of you are interested because you have the 'belief' that this technology is safe. Based upon what? the industry assurances, the fact you like it, because 'everyone else uses it therefore it can't be harmful'?
There are literally 1000's of studies out there and a lot point to adverse health effects.
It takes time to read the research and get to grips with it. This can only be done if one has an open mind and wants to understand the science.
Try reading
and many more
Since when did industry and govermment tell the truth???

  Real [04.18.09 07:42 PM]

I have a challenge for all of you who do not believe that EM sensitivity is real.

Take your laptop, setup a continuous data transfer both to and from the laptop using the wifi connection, and then place the laptop under your pillow and go to sleep for the night.

When you wake up, you will most likely feel the way I do every time I visit an urban area bathed in signal

Post A Comment:

 (please be patient, comments may take awhile to post)

Type the characters you see in the picture above.