Is WI-FI harmful?

 

For the last few months in Victoria, there has been a fair bit of talk about the fact that BC Hydro is switching from older analog meters to smart meters. These are the meters that monitor electricity usage in our homes, and your electricity bill is based on the information they record. The new meters will not require a meter reader to physically take a reading at every house in Victoria; instead, the smart meters will transmit information to BC Hydro via wifi.

 

Unfortunately, many of those opposed to the smart meters have confused speculation with facts, and have presented these speculations as fact. We will try to deal with some of these speculations over the next few posts.

 

One of the first points raised by those opposed to smart meters is that the World Health Organization (WHO) recently reclassified radiofrequency signals as a Class 2B carcinogen. What does this mean?

This reclassification was announced via WHO press release No 208, dated May 31, 2011 ‘IARC Classifies Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields as Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans.’ (The IARC is the International Agency for Research on Cancer). The press release can be found at <http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2011/pdfs/pr208_E.pdf>

It would appear that many people, including many in the media, reported this story without reading the press release, never mind the research methodology that led to the announcement. In the first paragraph, the press release states clearly that the the “classification of Radio Frequency (RF) Magnetic Fields is based on an increased risk for..a type of brain cancer associated with wireless phone use.”

Not wifi. Cell phone use.

Furthermore, the classification is based on a possible risk, not an actual risk. That’s what a Class 2B agent means.

The IARC has 5 classes of agents that may or may not be carcinogenic. This list can be found at http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Classification/index.php. The Group that is classified as ‘Carcinogenic to humans’ contains 107 agents. Group 2A, ‘Probably carcinogenic to humans’ contains 59 items. Group 2b, into which cell phone use falls, contains 267 agents. These include the following:

  • Bracken fern
  • Coffee
  • Gasoline
  • Nickel
  • Lead
  • Safrole (sassafras oil)
  • E-glass fibres
  • Talcum powder

Radiofequency electromagnetic fields (includes radiofrequncy electromagnetic fields from wireless phones).

Along with these items are a host of other chemicals that sound very intimidating, like Titanium dioxide and Sterigmatocystin. There are even scarier-sounding compounds classified into Group 3, ‘Not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans’ and Group 4 ‘Probably not carcinogenic to humans’. For most people who are not chemists, it’s pretty challenging to evaluate these agents.

However, the purpose of the lists maintained by the IARC is to let the public know whether their expert review of the evidence shows that there is, in fact, a proven, causative link between cancer and certain agents. Unless that link is proven, it should not be assumed. Wifi and smart meters are not on the list.

Perhaps there is a possibility that cell phones cause an increased chance of getting glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, but at the moment that is unknown, and there is no evidence at all that smart meters cause any kind of cancer. In fact, there is no evidence of harm whatsoever, but more on that later.

I recommend everyone who is interested or concerned about this issue, to read the press release, and also be sure to read the footnotes.

Many people cite the research conducted by Dr. Magda Havas of Trent University. Her research, which purports to link wifi to a variety of maladies, is unsupported by other scientists. Prof. Havas is not a cancer specialist, nor is she an expert in human health. Her PhD is from the Department of Botany at U of T. For a more thorough debunking of her work, see the following article by Brian Dunning at Skeptoid.com. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4273> .

It has appears that the concerns about the smart meters have been from an uninformed and kneejerk reaction. Many of the concerns posed are on the BC Hydro website. In my experience, representatives of BC Hydro have been open to comments and queries.

Here are some other links that you may find of interest:

BC Center of Disease Control (BCCDC) FAQs Do cell phones cause cancer? Statement from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall

As well, the folks at ScientificVictoria.org have also been addressing the issue of concerns about wifi in local area schools.

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16 responses to “Is WI-FI harmful?”

  1. Antis Martmeter says :

    I don’t see one study that proves 100% that Wi Fi is safe.. There is no such study for long term health affects on this new technology. Smart Meters being forced in peoples homes , Makes us the long term study of adverse health affects. You also failed to mention websites like powerwatch.org. With thousands of scientist world wide f findings from there studies. There not saying any of this technology is safe.

    • Nick says :

      Can you explain what your criteria is for 100% proof that Wi-Fi is safe?

    • Mark Robinson says :

      Powerwatch.org is apparently for sale, so that’s not exactly enthralling.

      Modern society does accept the notion of 0%/100% as a useful standard. Asking for 100% certainty is like asking for beyond reasonable doubt. It is flat out useless.

      So here’s the challenge. Do you have any specific evidence that Wifi is not safe beyond a reasonable doubt?

    • Dave McCormick says :

      It’s certain that there will NEVER be a study showing ANYTHING to be 100% safe. Such a study would be quite impossible. The real point, and the one that IS testable, is that there aren’t any reputable studies linking smart meters with anything. Many have looked, none have found anything. So, what do I conclude from this, at this point? Smart meters are safe. Could that position change? Certainly. Find a reputable study with some real evidence. Put it out there to be tested and examined and see what happens. Otherwise, this is just a belief in voodoo.

  2. deever says :

    This blogger is the one who fails at research. RF includes wifi, and their judgement was based on a wide variety of evidence, including numerous suggestions of mechanism of harm.

    Your dwelling on 2B omits that there was significant dissent at IARC in favour of 2A, and a leading MD treating electrosensitives in France predicts the evidentiary trend to class 1.

    Don’t depend merely on the press release or the Lancet Oncology piece they put out, the full monograph will be what counts & might not appear for many months yet. The mild 2A was momentous, given the constraints.

    • Nick says :

      What is the proposed mechanism of harm for non-ionizing radiation?

      Also, you mention an MD who treats electrosensitives, but there is no evidence that electrosensitivity is anything other than a psychosomatic disorder. In double-blind experiments, self-described electrosensitives are unable to tell whether or not they are being exposed to an electromagnetic field.

      • deever says :

        Mechanism suggestions aplenty. Near field pressing a device to one’s head is unlike suffering “low level” bombardment from cell infrastructure, for example, so there can be expected to be many pathways of harm. There is now a textbook chapter replete with equations written on the irregular gating of ion channels due to these exposures, probably responsive to the modulation pattern (Panagopoulos). This has been known for a very long time, but kept buried under the “weight of evidence” created by industry- & abettor- connected study $. Lots of good reading on the disgusting history. Try Motorola whistleblower Kane’s Cellular Telephone Russian Roulette (’01, online even), or on regulatory malfeasance Maisch’s (’10 also online) The Procrustean Approach, or go way back to 1977 & Brodeur’s masterwork, The Zapping of America (re radar etc).There is truly a ton more. Maisch’s book has a good section on the infection of public health “science” by risk analysis, as one commenter here is excited about.

    • cdnfish says :

      How is the research flawed? Flawed how? I don’t see that. It’s quite reasonable. In fact there have been articles criticizing the WHO for its methodology because it shouldn’t have even been classified as a possible carcinogen. As you can see in the article.. I did provide citation.. you have not. We welcome different point of views, and discussion.. But please back your claims with citation.. and not you tube videos, as others have done.

      • Mike says :

        Great post! As for one of the comments above… being buried under the “weight of evidence” sounds a lot like scientific consensus to me.

  3. Ken says :

    I would love to know whether or not members of the anti-smartmeter crowd even think twice before taking part in any of the following high-risk* activities:

    Smoking – kills 37,000 Canadians per year

    Going to the hospital when sick or injured – medical errors kill 24,000 Canadians per year

    Breathing – smog kills 21,000 Canadians per year

    Travelling by car – kills 3000+ Canadians per year

    Riding a bicycle – kills 100+ Canadians per year

    *just about everything is high-risk when compared to harmless radio signals.

  4. Riaz. says :

    If you quote WHO on the harm of EMF and wifi and their recent classification of these as possible carcinogens…and try to link smart meter technology to it, at least be thorough in your readings. If nothing else, read their conclusions and get the whole picture. Please don’t panic based on out of context “scary words”, and for gosh sake, don’t misrepresent the WHO and spread unfounded fear.

    “Possibly carcinogenic to humans” is a classification used to denote an agent for which there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and less than sufficient evidence for carcinogenicity in experimental animals.”
    http://www.who.int/peh-emf/publications/en/emf_final_300dpi_Chpt1.pdf

    That actually doesn’t sound scary to me. Furthermore, I have even less fear reading the items below from their site.

    +++ from the WHO 2006 factsheet
    “Conclusions
    Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.”
    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs304/en/index.html

    +++ from the WHO 2011 factsheet
    “A number of studies have investigated the effects of radiofrequency fields on brain electrical activity, cognitive function, sleep, heart rate and blood pressure in volunteers. To date, research does not suggest any consistent evidence of adverse health effects from exposure to radiofrequency fields at levels below those that cause tissue heating. Further, research has not been able to provide support for a causal relationship between exposure to electromagnetic fields and self-reported symptoms, or “electromagnetic hypersensitivity”.
    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs193/en/

    +++ from the WHO 2011 factsheet
    “The researchers concluded that biases and errors limit the strength of these conclusions and prevent a causal interpretation. Based largely on these data, IARC has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), a category used when a causal association is considered credible, but when chance, bias or confounding cannot be ruled out with reasonable confidence.”
    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs193/en/

    and from the same paper:

    “Are there any health effects?
    A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.”
    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs193/en/

  5. Johnson Lee says :

    Thank you for this blog post – it has been very difficult convincing people there is no harm from radio waves at the level used by electric devices. People out there are making claims that Health Canada Safety Code 6, which protects from thermal effect, is insufficient. There is no sufficient evidence to raise doubt that there is non-thermal harmful effect. However, if we go down the thought path that there may be a small risk, which the Green Party seems to believe. Their call for the German ICNIRP levels does not make any different either. At the 900MHz transmission frequency, Health Canada Safety Code 6 is rated at 6 W/m2 while the German level (ICNIRP) is 4.5W/m2. BC Hydro’s smart meter is 0.02 W/m2 or 0.3% of Health Canada levels or 0.4% of ICNIRP levels. Does that make any difference? People are just so entrenched in their views that don’t believe in any real science nor benchmarks. If I took someone down this argument on the they just get upset and start to make speculative claims or cite Dave Carpenter, BioInitiative Report, Dr. Lai, Hagda Havas… or worse yet, Olle Johanssen, the guy who believed that FM broadcast radio contributed to lung cancer and mad cow disease is caused by cell phones (how?? strap a cell phone to cow’s head?). I’m glad to see there are people like you out there debunking misinformation!

    • cdnfish says :

      Thank you for your input Johnson. We have spent a lot of time conducting research and ensuring that the information we provide is accurate. We appreciate it when our work is recognized.

    • deever says :

      Johnson Lee clearly has not considered the studies nor the history himself. Relying on filters to assess the situation and screen out inconvenient material is wholly inappropriate in this situation affecting us all. Totalistic technocratic seizure of process is what it amounts to.The Green Party (ie Eliz. May) we expect will introduce the issue in the Commons, but not with useless reference to German standards,more like BioInitiative. FM antennae affect on sleep was decisive in eg both Swiss & Toronto (unenforced) max. allowable, 100x less than Danger Code 6, although still unprotective — get this, it is not all about power levels! A curse can be shouted at you daily, and you can deal with it in one way or another; but non-stop whispering of a curse can be devastating. Info has always been available on the dangers of human abuse of the spectrum, now that the assault is so pervasive and suffering so evident from esp. cell telephony & infrastructure, despite ongoing efforts to keep this out of mainstream consideration, the accumulating sci evidence & corroborative personal stories are too great to keep from view. It is only a matter of time before major reform is widely recognized as needed, and to get to that point, posts like Johnson Lee’s contribute nothing. Since the mid 19th century when the EM abuse began, suffering was attributed to psychosis, and serious & obvious sufferers too few to be understood widely for what it was. What do you know about, say, Favre’s microwave study on bee CCD, Panagopoulos’ sudies on fruit fly decimation…the latter even has textbook chapter on the obvious dangers of wireless as it is, and this enormous disconnect with the general public goes on as evidenced here….until those in ultimate charge make their getaway. Why abet that by ignorance and blindness? Do you know about these two recent studies showing devastating results from longterm living by cell masts — from Eger & Jahn from Selbitz, Bavaria & Dode et al Belo Horizonte, Brazil? Stop the cluelessness.

      • cdnfish says :

        deever, you continue to make claims without any citation to back your claims. Can you do that without youtube videos?
        While we enjoy conversation and discussion, as we have said before please back up your claims. Perhaps Johnson has considered the evidence. Perhaps like many, he is going to stick with the scientific consensus as opposed to emotional arguments that do not have the evidence to support them.

        If you are not going to provide citation and are going to continue to try and bait people then you are not adding to the discussion and you will not be welcome to post here.

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