[Geeks are Sexy] technology news

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Health issues surrounding the use of wireless networks: Are RF signals safe?

Linksys WRT54GThe explosive growth of wireless technologies in recent years has brought the IT world to a new, cableless era, where people can walk around their office and from one business location to another, without loosing connectivity to their network. The same goes for home users: they can now roam around their house with their laptop and surf the web in all liberty. The increasing popularity of wireless APs is rapidly saturating the air with RF signals, and this brings a new question to life: Should we be concerned about the effect of RFs on our health? Up to now, the safe limit of exposition to radio frequencies for human beings remains pretty much unknown. The studies have shown that there is no evidence that these signals present a hazard to people.

"Research on the possible health effects of exposure to radiofrequency (RF) energy dates back more than 60 years and will continue for the foreseeable future. As research adds to the extensive scientific knowledge in this important area, we believe it will further strengthen the basis for public confidence in the safety of current and future wireless communications technologies."

One thing that I know for sure is that these signals gives awful headaches when you work in a wireless lab where three or four access points are broadcasting at the same time on different channels. I've also heard many stories about people who had their desk located directly under a broadcasting antenna and whom had terrible migraines at the end each day.

Here are a few recommendations to follow if you want remain on the safe side:

  • Don't stand in close proximity to any antenna that is transmitting. Those that are only made to receive signals are perfectly safe. If an antenna is a directional one, it is safe for you to stay in the back or on the side of it.
  • Don't move a device that is transmitting.
  • Don't touch any powered antenna.
  • To comply with FCC RF exposure limits, dipole antennas (rubber ducky ones, like on most home wireless routers) should always be located at least 8 inches from any person.
  • When using a laptop with a PCMCIA or integrated wireless NIC, the adaptor's integrated antenna should always be at more then 2 inches from the body of the operator.

If you want to learn more about this interesting subject, I would strongly suggest that you visit the radio frequency safety section of the FCC website.

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  • The idea that the studies into this area have shown that the wireless networks are safe is incorrect. This is rubbish put out by the wireless industry. Henry Lai, one of the few independent scientists who has done work on this issue in the USA, has shown that over half of Wireless studies have shown health problems for humans. To quote from the article linked to below:

    "Since 1990, Dr. Lai has maintained a database of research on the effects of RFR on humans, lab animals, and cell cultures. He has amassed over 300 studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. To avoid bias, he excludes his own research from the database. Of these studies, 56% show a biological or health effect from exposure to RFR. These effects include the following:

    • cancer;
    • genetic effects, such as to DNA;
    • cellular and molecular effects, such as reduction in enzymes critical to the central nervous system;
    • changes in electrophysiology, such as reduced activity between nerve cells; and
    • physiological and behavioral changes, such as impairment of peripheral vision.

    The question is not whether there is a controversy, the question is this:

    how do we evaluate the safety of wireless technologies, and decide what level of risk we are willing to take(and expose others to, as well, through second hand radiation from home and business networks, etc)-

    • use it unless there's good evidence that it's harmful,
    • or don't use it until there's good evidence that it's safe.

    There is no good evidence that it is safe, when seen in the context of the overall study history.

    An even more alarming voice on this issue comes from the Chief Scientist chosen by the cell phone industry in the 1990's to do research and hopefully find that wirelss/cellular phone technology was safe, and found the opposite. His name is George Carlo. His video s on youtube are very interesting indeed. They may motivate you to get rid of your home wifi FAST.

    May we all have a safe relationship with this new tech!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:42 AM  

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