Dark mutterings on killer Wi-Fi in schools help no one
An Open Letter to Sir William Stewart
Now, that's not a stupid thing to say, and I'm not going to pretend it is. What is stupid, is to pretend that he was basing that opinion on anything in the report.
After his personal comments appeared in publications, I went and stuck my nose as far in as I could, because - on the face of it - if his comments were based on hard research, he'd found data which was unique in this field. Many scientists have spent time and money trying to establish what damage, if any, mobile phones could cause: and each time the result has been the same. They can't find any evidence of danger.
Now, "I can't find evidence of danger" is not the same as "they are harmless." And so, since mobiles are only a decade old in mass production, it remains conceivable that there is some as-yet undetected long-term, cumulative damage to human tissue, and that after the next 40 years of heavy mobile use, we'll start detecting patterns.
Sir William was asked if his report gave a clean bill of health to mobile phones and he, correctly, said no. Then - much to the astonishment of the team who worked with him on the report - he went further, and spoke of his own belief that until we did have a clean bill of health it might be wise to restrict exposure to children.
I have asked the department which commissioned this report why Sir William said this. I said: "Is there something you haven't published, which Sir William knows about?" and they said, in so many words: "We don't know, he won't say."
So I asked for an interview with Sir William. He hasn't responded.
Now, we read that "he is privately airing new concerns about the rapid spread of Wi-Fi technology, particularly in schools". This report, by an anonymous leader writer in The Independent On Sunday, is based on an article (same paper) by Geoffrey Lean.
It's quite an article. For example: "Professor Lawrie Challis, who heads the government's official mobile safety research, this year said that the mobile could turn out to be 'the cigarette of the 21st century'." And "a recent authoritative Finnish study has found that people who have used mobiles for more than ten years are 40 per cent more likely to get a brain tumour on the same side of the head as they hold their handset".
Oh, how I'd love to be the journalist who breaks this story. Frankly, I want to believe it. I'm the original sceptic when it comes to the benefits of civilisation and technology. I was with the anti-smoking lobby in the days when GPs still recommended that you took up cigarettes if you wanted to lose weight; I was a sandal-wearing beardy proclaiming the virtues of "naturally fertilised" wholefoods against refined white flour grown in synthetic superphosphate fertiliser, before the term "organic" was even used for this; I was a devoted follower of the gang who proclaimed the greenhouse effects of carbon-dioxide in the days of "Limitations To Growth" - in short, if there's a problem with electromagnetic radiation, I'd just love to be able to prove it.