WiFi health concerns mount

You knew this would come: French beauty group Clarins will launch in January what must be the world's first spray protecting skin from the electromagnetic radiation created by mobile phones and electronic devices such as laptops. The company says that "The spray contains molecules derived from microorganisms living near undersea volcanoes and from plants which survive in extreme conditions such as alongside motorways and in Siberia." Wow. The RF blocker spray will sell for 39 euros a bottle. 

Siberia and undersea volcanoes notwithstanding, we will have to see whether or not this product can deliver on its claims. There is no need to wait, however, to recognize that there is a growing wave (well, perhaps it is still but a ripple) of unease with the health side effects of exposure to WiFi. Over the last few weeks we have covered a Canadian college prohibiting WiFi on campus for health reasons and parents in the U.K. pushing to bar WiFi from the schools their kids attend for the same concerns. Now there are more and more stories in the British press about individuals saying that their health has been affected by exposure to home WiFi.

Those who suffer from the effects of RF radiation say the electromagnetic waves emitted by WLANs leave them feeling exhausted, nauseated and sleepless. For example, Kate Figes, a 49-year old author, found that the WLAN she installed in her Stoke Newington home made her so ill, she had to scrap it. "Imagine being prodded all over your body by 1,000 fingers," she claims, describing the sensation of entering a room with a WiFi router. As befitting the age, there is now an organization--ElectroSensitivityUK--which calls itself "the association for the electrically hypersensitive (EHS)." The organization is acting on behalf of people like Figes claiming that companies have yet to prove WiFi safe.

The pro-WiFi forces return fire. Chris Guy, head of Reading University's School of Systems Engineering, argues: "The amount of power emitted by WiFi devices is about a tenth of that given out by mobile phones. It is very, very unlikely that it is harmful because the power levels are so low. I just do not believe WiFi is damaging people's health."  Technology maven Glenn Fleishman summarizes: "Am I saying there's no chance that there's any potential risk of any sort from being close to networks that use WiFi for communication? No. But I am pointing to both Occam's Razor and the Law of Very Large Numbers. If you have enough people exposed to the same technology, you should have large numbers of similar outcomes with no other reasonable explanation, including cancer clusters, sick days and so forth. Sure, some health effects can take decades to appear. But the particular sort of problems cited, such as shortness of breath, rashes, and dizziness are rather obvious."

For more on WiFi and health:
- see This Is London's report
- the ElectroSensitivityUK website
- Glenn Fleishman's discussion

Also: Read more about parents' fears about WiFi and kids' health in this London Times report, CIO report and Techdirt report