Next to cell phones, Wi-Fi is the most common form of wireless technology today. Across the world, it is widely used in schools, offices, coffee shops, houses and public spaces, and its use is spreading.
This wireless technology relies on an extensive network of fixed antennas, or base stations, relaying information with radiofrequency (RF) signals.
Health and consumer protection groups are concerned that Wi-Fi RF signals could interfere with the electrical signals used routinely by brains and nervous system.
Right next to the router or computer transmitter, the maximum signal strength is far below—0.1 watts—and the power level falls off very rapidly past a few centimeters from the transmission points.
But the RF in classroom containing 20 laptops and two routers could combine and be equivalent to that of a mobile phone.
“Based on studies reporting effects experienced by people living near mobile phone masts, I would predict chronic fatigue, memory and concentration problems, irritability and behavior problems –exactly what we are seeing increasingly in our school pupils, said Alasdair Philips, the director of the consumer group Powerwatch.
In May 2007, BBC program Panorama found that radiation levels from Wi-Fi in one school in the U.K. was up to three times the level of mobile phone mast radiation.
The readings were 600 times below the government’s safety limits, but the story triggered a public debate in the U.K. over the safety of long-term Wi-Fi use.
This prompted the HPA to announce in October 2007 that it would carry out a systematic program of research into WLANs and their use that includes measuring the exposures to Wi-Fi networks in schools.
Since 2000, UK’s health regulator has advised parents to limit the mobile phones use of their children. That early, Sir William recommended in a report that children under 15 should keep mobile phone use to a minimum and should be encouraged to text rather than call.
In Austria, a ban on Wi-Fi in schools is in the works, advocated by the Austrian Medical Association. Dr. Gerd Oberfeld, Salzburg’s head of environmental health has been quoted by BBC as saying that Wi-Fi was “dangerous” to sensitive people.
According to Professor Olle Johansson of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, there had been recorded cases of chromosome damage from low-level radiation.
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WiFi Health Risks on Children originally published on 9 December 2011. Updated 03 October 2016.