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Is electro smog causing your headache?
United Kingdom Created: 25 Nov 2009
Swindon is to become Britain's first Wi-Fi town, but at what cost to its inhabitants' health?Swindon, that quintessentially Middle England town, hardly seems like a radical place. Yet it is at the forefront of a technological revolution that looks set to sweep the country.
For the local council has announced plans to give all its 186,000 residents free wireless (Wi-Fi) access to the internet.
About 1,400 access points will be installed on lampposts across the town, creating an electronic mesh which will allow internet connections to be made anywhere within Swindon's boundaries - even in the street, the pub or a park.
In effect, Swindon will become Britain's first Wi-Fi town.

Council leader Rod Bluh proudly boasts: 'This is the future of England.' And, sadly, he is probably right.
No doubt many other towns will follow. Indeed, London mayor Boris Already, there are an estimated 10,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across the country, while 80 per cent of secondary schools and 50 per cent of primaries are thought to have Wi-Fi installed in the classroom.
But before we all rush to embrace this new wireless technology, a loud note of caution should be sounded.
Amid all the excitable rhetoric about our electronic future, there has been precious little recognition of the downside.

For the reality is that these sprawling new grids of pulsing signals will add immeasurably to the amount of electromagnetic radiation in the air - with potentially disastrous consequences for the nation's health.

Already, there are an estimated 10,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across the country, while 80 per cent of secondary schools and 50 per cent of primaries are thought to have Wi-Fi installed in the classroom.
But before we all rush to embrace this new wireless technology, a loud note of caution should be sounded.
Amid all the excitable rhetoric about our electronic future, there has been precious little recognition of the downside.
This phenomenon has been described as 'electro smog', so all-pervasive are the pulsing microwave signals that surround us on a daily basis.
Of course, we cannot see all this electronic activity, but if we could, the sight would be dramatic.

Stepping from somewhere free of modern electronic gadgetry into a Wi-Fi active zone would be the equivalent of walking from a peaceful country lane onto the hard shoulder of Spaghetti Junction.
And it is absurdly complacent to pretend that these electromagnetic fields are not going to have any impact on our health.
Far from doing no harm, some studies suggest that as much as five per cent of the population may already be suffering from headaches, concentration difficulties, chronic fatigue, irritability and behavioural problems because of this electro smog.
The computer industry airily dismisses any concerns, claiming that Wi-Fi uses only a few watts of energy - 'less than a lightbulb'.

But this ignores the fact that light and microwaves are different kinds of electromagnetic radiation, so the analogy with the lightbulb is meaningless.
The truth is that there have not yet been any major, comprehensive studies into the impact of Wi-Fi radiation on our health, so such reassurances are unjustified.

No one can state with any confidence that Wi-Fi is safe.
The industry also likes to point to mobile phones, pretending- - wrongly - that this technology has been given the all-clear by recent scientific assessments.
But the truth is that mobiles have been widely used only since the early 1990s, so it is far too early to say with any confidence what the long-term impact of them is - particularly because some cancers take more than a decade to develop.
Nevertheless, some studies are already indicating that those who have used their mobiles for ten years are twice as likely to get rare but incurable brain cancers on the same side of the head as they hold their phones.
David Carpenter, the director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany in New York, has warned: 'Based on the existing science, many public health experts believe it is possible we will face an epidemic of cancers in the future resulting from the uncontrolled use of mobile phones and increased population exposure to Wi-Fi and other wireless devices.'
It is perhaps no coincidence that since the advance of Wi-Fi in schools in Britain (from 1997), the number of cases of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has increased four-fold.
One study, by a group of German doctors in Bavaria, into the medical complaints of 356 people who have had long-term radiation exposure in their homes, revealed that the pulsed, high-frequency signals led to symptoms such as sleep disturbance, giddiness, nose bleeds, tissue pain, hearing loss, depressive moods, forgetfulness and nausea.
It is no coincidence that Germany, despite its prowess in electrical engineering, has been much more circumspect about allowing the spread of Wi-Fi.
There, the country's health protection agency has recommended the removal of cordless phones, the installation of Wi-Fi away from public areas and the use of cabling rather than wireless for internet access.
Similarly, the authorities in Frankfurt and the Bavarian Parliament have both recommended against the installation of Wi-Fi in schools.
Meanwhile, the French National Library last year imposed a moratorium on installing Wi-Fi in libraries, and the education authorities in the Sorbonne in Paris have done the same after university staff complained of nausea, dizziness and problems with memory.
In the Normandy town of Herouville Saint-Clair, Wi-Fi networks are being removed from schools to 'protect people's health'.
What we need is not more Wi-Fi installation, but a proper study of the real effect of this technology. Until that is done, we should proceed with caution.

For the reality is that these sprawling new grids of pulsing signals will add immeasurably to the amount of electromagnetic radiation in the air - with potentially disastrous consequences for the nation's health.
By Alasdair Philips
Alasdair Philips is the director of Powerwatch, an independent organisation researching electromagnetic fields and health.
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Source: Agnes Ingvarsdottir

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