Modern Mythology: WiFi Worry?
As WiFi is becoming an increasingly popular way of connecting to the web, I thought that it was time that Teen Skepchick examined the controversy that exists around its safety. Does it really cause brain tumours? Perhaps not- but read on to find the full verdict.
It’s now 2012. By this time, it’s almost certain that if you’re reading this you’ll be using- or will at least have heard of- wireless internet. I have it in my house, and in my school, and in my local Costa; frankly, it’s everywhere. If it’s everywhere, then it’s probably a good idea to address the controversy surrounding the use of WiFi, right? I would agree with that- whenever you embrace new technology, it’s always a good idea to weigh up the pros and cons. Pros? The main advantage is the huge benefit that not having to be connected to a router brings. You can connect on your laptop, your smartphone, or your home computer, with no need for dedicated work stations or extensive wiring. Plus, several people in the same household or area can connect at once. On top of all this, it can even be cheaper than conventional broadband- the initial setup costs are lower as there’s less wiring to be done.
What’s not to love? Basically since the inception of wireless internet, there have been a lot of people who are fiercely opposed to it. This is largely for reasons of health, with some studies seeming to suggest that WiFi could cause multiple health problems. There are countless groups campaigning against its use- particularly in schools- with some fearing that it could be a major health risk to their children. Anti-wireless organisation “Mast Sanity” suggest on their website that exposure to WiFi can cause abnormal brain development and conditions such as ADHD and autism. They state that some people may experience nausea or dizziness if they are exposed, and if this occurs then they should be “treated with sympathy” and the connection turned off. This organisation is just one of many expressing the same fears over internet usage- but just because many people think that it’s unsafe, that doesn’t make it so. You just have to look at the anti-vaccination movement to see that people are easily swept up when they think that their health or the health of their children is at stake.
Now to what I’m sure you all want to know- is it safe, or isn’t it? The WHO have classified radiofrequency signals (encompassing WiFi usage) as a Group 2B carcinogen. That sure as heck sounds scary, but is it really? Only if you’re scared by your coffee, or of nickel, or talcum powder- they’re also all Group 2B carcinogens. According to the WHO, this classification is based on a possible risk, and wireless internet is “possibly carcinogenic to humans”, as opposed to Group 2A “probably carcinogenic” and Group 1 “known to be carcinogenic”. They said that there is “no risk from low level, long-term exposure to wi-fi networks”- which also means that you should be able to keep having that morning coffee without fear of dying. Using a device connected to wireless internet exposes you to around a 20 millionth of the international guideline levels for exposure to radiation- even using a mobile phone exposes you to up to 50%. A recent study of 725 people found no evidence for the claims of “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” that the subjects believed that they suffered from.
So WiFi is safe, from a health point of view. Don’t take my word for it- check any reliable source on the net and they’ll tell you the same thing. If you have any doubts at all about going wireless, they should probably concern overloaded providers or the security of your information- but not your health. Thankfully, you should be able to use the internet on your phone or PC with no fear, but if you have any concerns at all, here’s all that the WHO has to say on the topic.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons