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|Warning on wi-fi health risk to children|
|United Kingdom||Created: 29 Apr 2007|
Children should not place computers on their laps while they are using wireless internet connections because of potential health risks, according to a leading Government adviser.
Professor Lawrie Challis, who heads the committee on mobile phone safety research, called yesterday for pupils to be monitored amid mounting public concern over emissions from wi-fi networks.
He is concerned that few studies have been carried out into the level of exposure in classrooms and believes that if health problems do emerge they are likely to be more serious in children.
Prof Challis, is chairman of the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme, an £8.4 million investigation, funded by the Government and the industry, into the potential health risks of mobile phones.
He said that until more research had been carried out, children who used wi-fi enabled laptops should only do so if they kept a safe distance from their embedded antennas.
Prof Challis said: "With a desktop computer, the transmitter will be in the tower.
"This might be perhaps 20cms from your leg and the exposure would then be around one per cent of that from a mobile phone.
"However if you put a laptop straight on your lap and are using wi-fi, you could be around 2cms from the transmitter, and receiving comparable exposure to that from a mobile phone.
"Children are much more sensitive than adults to a number of other dangers, such as pollutants like lead and UV radiation, so if there should be a problem with mobiles, then it may be a bigger problem for children.
"Since we advise that children should be discouraged from using mobile phones, we should also discourage children from placing their laptop on their lap when they are using wi-fi.
"In view of public concern, I should like to see some measurements of intensities arising from wi-fi made in schools."
Last week it was revealed that Sir William Stewart, the chairman of the Health Protection Agency, told colleagues that he would like to see monitoring of children exposed to wireless technology in schools.
In the past 18 months approximately 1.6 million wi-fi connections have been set up in British homes and offices, and about one in five adults owns a wireless-enabled laptop.
According to estimates, half of all primary schools and four fifths of all secondary schools are using wireless networks.
Wi-fi works through the transmission of radio waves between a router, which is connected to a telephone line, and a small transmitter in a computer.
Under international guidelines the amount of energy absorbed into the body from such radio waves cannot exceed two watts per kilogram when averaged over any 10 grams of tissue.
The maximum signal strength next to the router or computer transmitter is 0.1 watts and the power level falls off very rapidly beyond a few cms from the transmission points.
However it is believed that a classroom containing 20 laptops and two routers could combine and be equivalent to the emission from a mobile phone.
Jeff Hand, professor of imaging physics at Imperial College London, said: "If we are talking about health issues linked to localised heating of tissue then these will be insignificant at the power levels we are talking about here."
But while most scientists only recognise potential health effects from mobile phones linked to heating, others believe there could be "non-thermal" effects.
Alasdair Philips, the director of Powerwatch, the consumer group, said: "We are not talking about problems caused by heating. Our brains and nervous systems work by using electrical signals. I believe these signals are being interfered with by exposure to this wi-fi radiation.
"Based on studies reporting effects experienced by people living near mobile phone masts, I would predict chronic fatigue, memory and concentration problems, irritability and behaviour problems - exactly what we are seeing increasingly in our school pupils. "
Prof Challis has backed Sir William's recommendations in his 2000 report that children under 15 keep mobile phone use to a minimum and be encouraged to text rather than call.
The Health Protection Agency also advises children to limit their use of mobiles.
The Austrian Medical Association is pressing for a ban on wi-fi in schools. Dr Gerd Oberfeld, Salzburg's head of environmental health and medicine, has described wi-fi as "dangerous" to sensitive people.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "Wi-fi devices are of very low power, much lower than mobile phones. The only firm precautionary advice issued by the Health Protection Agency is about children's use of mobile phones."
ĽA report into the possible link between high-voltage cables and cancer has urged the Government to consider restricting homes and schools within 200 feet.
But the study, commissioned by the Department of Health, stopped short of recommending a specific ban.
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|Source: By Nic Fleming, Medical Correspondent The Telegraph.|
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