Tuesday, April 24, 2007

wireless internet causes cancer and attention disorder scare:-)

Someone had left a copy of yesterday's Daily Mail on the train open to an article by their "Science
Correspondent", Fiona Macrae, about the "possible health risk for pupils" of WiFi in the class room.

The article quoted several pressure groups, and some unnamed "scientists", and asserted that sitting in a room
with a WiFi station could be like being in the direct beam of a GSM Cellular tower at 300meters. This, it was
claimed, could lead to ADHD, Cancer and premature senility.

Firstly, the guilt by association simply by being "radio" annoyed me - WiFi uses the ISM (Medical and
Scienticic Instrument band) around 2.4GHz, not the GSM Cellular bands which means even the vaguest idea that it
might resonate with certain common energy levels in certain molecular links common in biological systems (one of the
pet theories about how GSM might be a problem) is wrong, because its a completely different
frequency/waevlenth. Secondly, its a completely different power level that the user is exposed to:
you don't hold the laptop to your head, and the laptop's WiFi card and the WiFi Access Point (AP)
are roughly symmetric in power terms, whereas a GSM cell tower is much more powerful than a handset.
Thirdly, there are on the order of 100M such systems in the
world, and if there was a significant problem it would have shown up (the article points to increasing levels
of ADHD - this predates WiFi in any case, and is strongly associated with people using computers whether they
have wireless nets or not, and is far more likely to be a symptom of the type of kids that use computers too much,
not of the idea that the computer (or the network) directly cause attention deficit disorders.

I get very annoyed by this sort of article, particularly
because the author has failed to seek any balancing view from an actual, named scientist
which simply smacks of lazy journalism, especially when a few seconds with Google and Wikipedia would find
plenty of information rather than hearsay and supersititon, and might elicit a quote from a neutral person who
has a clue.

By all means, have a further investigation (although there have, contrary to the article's assertion, been
checks on the problems with 802.11/ISM band health risks)....but unsupported allegations are not really
"science" journalism.

Sometimes, I get the impression that people who write these columns in those types of newspapers are
like the PE teachers who used to (in the bad old days) end up being landed with taking the geography O-level class.


fvramos said...

This reminds me those "NIMBY people" that were against GSM towers near their home, due to "health reasons". At the same time, these same people were sticking their cell phones almost in their brains in their long mobile chats... :)

Fernando (yes, it's your Portuguese student! :) - unfortunately my blogs are all in Portuguese, but I will now be a close viewer of yours!)

Charles said...

You're making a category error thinking that something in the Mail about Wi-Fi will be "journalism".

Balancing view? Knowledgeable scientist? But that would mean the reporter going to the newsdesk saying "turns out it's rubbish". Think of the scariest chewing-out you've had: then add 50%. Like that.

Because you'll recall all the balanced articles that the Mail ran about MMR, after all.

Bill said...

It isn't only the Mail - the Independent on Sunday had a front-page piece of yellow journalism on the same topic, which prompted my BBC column on the subject.

Anonymous said...

When you hear broadband providers or your colleagues and friends talking about "wireless" they could actually be talking about two separate things:Wireless Networking, having a wire free computer in the house connected to a broadband connection.Wireless Broadband, this is a special kind of broadband package where you can use it at home, but also in certain places when you are away from home. All you need is your phone number or pastcode to see if either of these broadband connections are available and you can check it at broadband.co.uk.

bestgers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bestgers said...

It seems that Wi-Fi technology may also cause cancers to human life. Just read this

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