Dark mutterings on killer Wi-Fi in schools help no one
An Open Letter to Sir William Stewart
Column Dear Sir William,
Please: either shit, or get off the pot.
When it comes to Wi-Fi radiation, there's one comment from the anti-radiation lobby that I agree with: "We need another official inquiry - as authoritative as the Stewart reports on mobile phones."
What we don't need is vague waffle of the sort which says that "Sir William is said to be 'very keen' that pupils are monitored for potential health problems", or gossip that "Sir William Stewart, the man who has issued the most authoritative British warnings about the hazards of mobiles, is becoming worried about the spread of Wi-Fi.
"The chairman of the Health Protection Agency - and a former chief scientific adviser to the Government - is privately pressing for an official investigation of the risks it may pose."
Without some authoritative comment, we are going to have to listen to stuff like this, from Alasdair Philips of campaign group Powerwatch.
Philips "believes the radiation from wireless networks is partly to blame for the rise of behavioural problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD".
Philips was quoted as saying: "The problems that many teachers are reporting, such as poor concentration and the four-fold increase in ADHD in the last 10 years are exactly the problems we would predict."
If that's what he said, he's talking nonsense. Wi-Fi has been around for what, four years? And before yesterday's switch-on in central London, in trivial amounts. But ADHD has gone up fourfold in the last 10 years. Therefore, we would predict that if Wi-Fi appeared sporadically from 2002, ADHD would start to quadruple from 1997? Only if we're daft.
He said: "I believe that rolling out wireless networks in schools should be a criminal offence without close monitoring of pupils' health."
Is he basing this on anything that was uncovered by Sir William's investigation?
Last weekend, my cornflakes were spoiled by an apparently fact-based claim in one of the UK's daily papers, that the Stewart report had exposed real dangers from mobile phones, and this had been ignored by the Government.
This doesn't square with what I found out when Sir William Stewart's original report was published. Someone is, in a word, lying.
First, the report I read was not written by Sir William. He was the chairman of the Health Protection Agency which appointed the report committee; and when the report came out, it said absolutely nothing about real dangers. You can read the report yourself here.
What did happen, however, was that at a press conference after the report was unveiled, Sir William was asked what he, personally, thought about some aspects of mobile phone radiation. And he said - personally - that he'd favour conservative approaches.
I'm a sceptic, but I'm glad I listened to the panic
I'm currently installing a network at a nursery. I said to them a few weeks ago when we were ordering the kit that we should get Ethernet over power as there have been various small panics about wireless networking. Boy am I glad I did that as shortly after the kit arrived it all went mainstream with the article in the Independent.
Not that I have switched off our wireless network at home or currently believe the panic stories and ADHD linked claims for one minute.
They could try a 6 month shutdown of school WiFi...
But please give me fair warning so I can get down to the bookies and lay down fifty quid on it making eff all difference.
I keep the WiFi disabled on my router when not needed, but that is for security reasons, not health.
Yet more worry making!
Yet another attempt by the worried masses to find something to get hept up about. I work in an institution which has the pleasure of having probably the most dense coverage of any wireless network in an academic institution. I can only name one room where I can't get access now, but that's a very obscure room in itself.
I also happen to have worked in microwave communications for many years and have had the pleasure of being exposed to the maximum prescribed dosage of non-ionising radiation for a non-certified worker. Of course I can say "never did me any harm" because that was three years ago and with the nature of non-ionising radiation I would have to be dead by now or nothing.
I've also spent a substantial sum of money to organise a training course on the subject with the Health Protection Agency. I admit without a PhD in biophysics I am slightly disadvantaged, but it was all clearly explained to me and I understand the science of non-ionising radiation. I also was able to meet with a Greek scientist who studied the effects of close contact with Gaussian RF energy in mice, who after many years determined that he could find no threat only that there was a difference in collagen in female mice with high exposure.
I've measured my mobile with very expensive apparatus and accordingly in a poor reception area I would need 6 hours of continuous usage to reach the maximum safe limits. WiFi power is very small compared to the power that those of us who have worked in the RF industry are exposed to and I think that we would have noticed if there had been any correlation.
I have also met a short Hungarian man who once helped test radar systems by holding a florescent bulb up in a field to see if it lit. He said non-ionising radiation burns hurt in a very painful and unusual way, but he's in his 50s now and is healthy.
After all, a specialist workforce, working for more than the past 30 years has been variously exposed and no one has noticed anything with them.
Societies ills cannot be blamed on technology so easily:
"Guns don't kill people, people kill people, and monkeys do too (if they have a gun)." - Eddie Izzard