Panorama to ‘investigate’ wifi

Tonight’s Panorama on BBC1 here in the UK has the fair and balanced title ‘ Wi-Fi: a warning signal’ and is introduced on the BBC website as follows:

Britain is in the grip of a Wi-Fi revolution with offices, homes and classrooms going wireless – but there is concern the technology could carry health risks.

The Government insists Wi-Fi is safe, but a Panorama investigation shows that radio frequency radiation levels in some schools are up to three times the level found in the main beam of intensity from mobile phone masts.

It’s depressing to see this sort of scaremongering, especially as I’ve just heard Radio 4′s Today say that wifi networks ‘can give out more radiation than mobile phone masts’ with no context. As I’ve already pointed out, there’s no evidence of problems, there’s no mechanism that would lead us to think there are going to be problems, and apart from claims from people who say that they are magically sensitive to wifi – and yet seem not to notice TV or radio signals coursing through their bodies – there is no reason to limit the use of wifi.

But of course it’s a new technology that can’t be proven to be safe, largely because nothing can be proven to be safe, and appeals to the sort of scientifically illiterate campaigners and journalists who like attention and ratings. As The Guardian points out, the programme’s methodology is scientifically unsound and misleading.

Why don’t they turn their attention to something that has really killed people, like dihydrogen monoxide:

Research conducted by award-winning U.S. scientist Nathan Zohner concluded that roughly 86 percent of the population supports a ban on dihydrogen monoxide. Although his results are preliminary, Zohner believes people need to pay closer attention to the information presented to them regarding Dihydrogen Monoxide. He adds that if more people knew the truth about DHMO then studies like the one he conducted would not be necessary.

Yet we don’t see Panorama investigations into this potentially lethal chemical.

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7 Responses to Panorama to ‘investigate’ wifi

  1. Dave says:

    Bill this type of story is potentially a hot topic in various cities. In Toronto we’ve recently had a wifi network installed that covers the whole downtown core of Toronto. These types of stories will be referenced by anti-wifi types and it’ll be taken out of context (ie. I saw it on the BBC that wifi is bad).

  2. Steven says:

    I am a normal healthy college student, I am not one of these people who seem to be allergic to everything including air, but I can not go into a room with wi-fi in without feeling extremely ill. It feels like a hundred needles sticking into my eyes and face. My local pub has just installed it and I cant even go out drinking with my mates anymore. The only thing worse than having to avoid an ever increasing amount of places is silly little men like you who either dont understand what this technology does or has a reason to be so in favour of it.

  3. I’ll declare my hand from the off. I believe that some people are affected by wireless technology, be it phone masts or wi-fi. It’s not everyone, but those it does affect suffer a considerably diminished quality of life and there’s little they can do to improve it.

    I know dozens of people who work with wi-fi systems every day and suffer no ill effects whatsoever. I also know two people who started experiencing headaches and nausea within days of a wi-fi system being introduced in their homes. In one case I suggested their symptoms could be down to wi-fi, and the other was related to me after the event. In both cases when the wi-fi systems were removed their previous good health was restored. I don’t think this was a coincidence.

    The problem I have with your column is that these people are dismissed as fantasists. Where’s the hard science backing that up?

    No, nothing can be guaranteed 100% safe, but it would be nice were even the slightest attempt made. We permit the spread of technology on the basis quoted by you, that there are no mechanisms to lead us to think there will be problems, and when problems occur they’re dismissed because science cannot link them to technology, not because they don’t exist. Would you take medicines introduced for public consumption under similar lax standards?

  4. David Hamilton says:

    Lock up your kids!

    I was disappointed by this programme. When I first turned on the TV, I assumed I’d accidentally turned on ‘Tonight with Trevor McDonald’. I couldn’t believe it was the beeb! Hardly balanced journalism.

    Now… where did I leave my radiation detector?

  5. Chorna says:

    Firstly, I unfortunately missed the Panorama show and shan’t comment on it.

    Secondly, whilst I personally haven’t felt any physical discomfort within wi-fi networks, I can’t stand to be near cat alarms (designed to stop cats venturing into the garden and digging…) as my ears are very sensitive(!) and it physically hurts me.

    I should imagine there is the possibility that there are other people out there like me. If I decided to start campaigning, eventually I might be able to draw enough attention and strike a nerve provided I put my case forward in a portentous way.

    I think, as with all things, it’s only a matter of time before enough research and a combined social rationality either plays this out as another distraction, or makes this a legitimate (large enough) issue to be dealt with through legislation.

  6. Andrew says:

    What a load of scaremongering nonsense!

    Steven, whilst I do not doubt you may be suffering these symptoms, I put it to you that it’s an allergy of some description? I fail to see how low power microwave radioation from wi-fi could result in your nerve endings triggering a pins and needles sensation, it makes no biological of physical sense. Unless of course your body cells are unlike every other person and interact strongly with 2.4 GHz electromagnetic waves.

    It irks me people who do not have a basic grasp of physics are happy to pontificate at length about this. (Your poster above, “Chrona” even starts posting about sound waves!)

  7. Steven says:

    Thank you Andrew for recognising that I am unique, I am flattered. However on this issue I am afraid I am not. We are all effected by this technology in a negative way, it just seems to be (at present) only some of us that are physically aware of it. I guess in some strange way I am lucky because at least I can feel the damage being done and make some kind of effort to get away from it.
    It annoys me also when people who don’t understand physics (and the mechanics of this technology and what it does to living cells) comment on it, especially when some of them take so much time and effort to dismiss the evidence However on the whole, the people who care passionately enough to comment on this subject are either sufferers or industry members.
    And yes, Andrew, it is an allergy, my body is allergic to microwaves, as is yours. I am fortunate to share my father’s doctor who is not as dismissive as most and it is interesting the things you can learn if you listen and study well.
    Sufferers are getting younger, it is a sign of things to come. I hope you continue to feel well, and I will raise a drink to that too if I can find a pub without wi-fi to carry on with my biology homework.

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