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Call to review Wi-fi use
Malaysia Created: 3 Oct 2008
Consumers' Association of Penang would like to register its disappointment over Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s recent statement that the state government "has found no evidence that the open Wi-fi transmission network planned for the state would pose a health hazard to inhabitants, and will go ahead with the project" (Sept 25).

The state government’s condescending stand and open rejection of public objections to the project is injudicious and ironic, coming from a government that promises equality and justice for all.

Wi-fi, like mobile phones, is an untested technology. It operates similar to mobile phones – which itself, is not a safe technology. At a September testimony before a subcommittee of the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, scientists warned that the potential link between mobile phones and brain cancer could be similar to the link between lung cancer and smoking – something tobacco companies took 50 years to recognise.

David Carpenter, director of the Institute of Health and Environment at the University of Albany, one of the scientists who testified, said: "Precaution is warranted even in absence of absolutely final evidence concerning the magnitude of the risk." Society "must not repeat the situation we had with the relationship between smoking and lung cancer where we waited until every ‘i’ was dotted and ‘t’ was crossed before warnings were issued."

Wi-fi could be just as unsafe as mobile phones (both emit microwave radiation) but proof could be a long time in coming.

The CM's assurance that "the Wi-fi band frequency was lower than that for mobile phones" is not reassuring.

The Swiss government issued a health alert on electrosmog in 2005. Germany, Austria and Belgium have all advised schools against installing Wi-fi networks. In France, five public libraries shut down their Wi-fi over health concerns. Last year, the German government warned its citizens to avoid using Wi-fi.

The above actions were all on the basis that a possible risk has not been ruled out, rather than because an actual threat has not been determined.

The CM's statement that: "Unless they show evidence that it (Wi-fi) is indeed a danger, we will work to ensure Penang has opportunities to compete for investments at national and international levels" thus flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

In view of all of the above, CAP calls on the state government to review its Wi-fi plans.

Wi-fi use should be viewed with caution, not reckless abandon. The technology poses "threats of serious or irreversible damage", a condition which, under the Precautionary Principle that several countries adopt, is a valid basis for the state government to abandon the project, or at the very least, review it.
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Source: Sun2Surf, SM Mohamed Idris, 03 Oct 2008

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