5G, Smart meters and the 'Internet of Things'

clivehorridge

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After watching that rather disturbing and thought-provoking video, I googled “is there published evidence that wi-fi is harmless?”

Questionable direct relevance aside, this came up, from the Guardian newspaper...

“If it is possible for a microwave oven to interfere with Wi-Fi signals because they operate at the same frequency, is Wi-Fi then not dangerous to your health? Would having Wi-Fi in your home not be like leaving your microwave door open?”


This is a question that comes up from time to time, and the short answer is no. In fact, we could rephrase your question and pretend that you'd asked about baby alarms, radio-controlled cars, cordless (DECT) phones, Bluetooth headsets, security alarms and loads of other things that operate in the same unlicensed radio frequency band without causing concern. Is having a baby alarm in your home not like leaving your microwave door open?

The longer answer is that the intensity of a Wi-Fi signal is around is 100,000 times less than a microwave oven. The oven is a targeted device that operates at very high voltages and short distances. Wi-Fi routers operate at very low voltages, broadcast in all directions, and are used at relatively long distances.

Since radio waves follow the inverse square law – like light, sound and gravity – then each time you double the distance, you get only a quarter of the energy. In other words, the signal strength falls off very rapidly. At normal operating distances, Wi-Fi's intensity is generally so low that it's not worth worrying about: it's just part of the "smog" that is generated by radio and TV signals, AC mains wiring, the motors in home appliances, and the universe in general. (As my colleague Charles Arthur once pointed out here, the wavelength of Wi-Fi signals is the same as the cosmic background radiation: 12cm. If you're worried, don't go outside.)

As Guardian readers know, the electromagnetic spectrum stretches all the way from very long wave radio frequencies to very short wave gamma rays, with visible light somewhere in between. We know that types of ionising radiation with wavelengths shorter than light tend to be dangerous. Examples include ultraviolet (UV) rays, X-rays and gamma rays. (The ultraviolet part of sunlight is certainly dangerous. Wear sunscreen.)

However, the non-ionising wavelengths that are longer than light tend not to be dangerous. These include infra-red rays, microwaves and radio waves. At 2.45GHz, Wi-Fi comes in the microwave band along with baby monitors and mobile phones. After that come the radio frequency bands used for TV broadcasting and AM/FM radio, and further along, long wave radio (famous only for Test Match Special and Economy 7 heating signals).

Now, it's certainly possible to do dangerous things with radiation, even if it's just focusing the sun's rays with paraboloid mirrors to set Roman fleets on fire (not that there's much call for that). It's also possible to use a high-pressure water jet to cut through steel, but that doesn't mean you'll die from taking a bath or standing under a fountain.

There have been hundreds of attempts to find out whether Wi-Fi routers or, more importantly, mobile phones represent a health risk. All we can say is that there is no known risk from Wi-Fi. After that, there's the problem of trying to prove a negative.

Of course, it does make sense to minimise risk, as long as you concentrate on the biggest risks, not the trivial ones. If you want to do that, the mobile phone must be the first thing to go. In use, the phone is held close to the brain, while the Wi-Fi router may well be in another room (inverse square law). It has been estimated that you get a bigger dose of microwaves from one 20-minute phone call than from a year's Wi-Fi.

Twenty laptops and two routers is roughly equivalent to one mobile phone.

Your microwave oven should be safe enough because designs are tested to make sure they are properly shielded. However, you could check that your oven isn't leaking radiation, or stay well away from it while it's running. (In this case, "well away" is about 1m.) There should be no risk from leaving the door open as the magnetron should cut out when you open the door. However, if the oven is faulty and if it does keep working, don't put any part of your body inside.

If you are extremely fussy about Wi-Fi, then make sure you sit 1m (or more) away from the router, and don't use your laptop on your lap. Put it on a table or tray instead. I don't think there is a risk, but you may feel safer if you remove a non-existent risk.

Alternatively, you could connect your computers and other devices together using Cat5e cable. This will eliminate your Wi-Fi while also improving the speed and reliability of your internet. Of course, you will still be receiving mobile phone and Wi-Fi signals from neighbours, local mobile phone masts, and distant radio and TV stations. To eliminate some if not all of these, you would need to construct a Faraday cage, which is basically an inside-out microwave oven (it keeps microwaves out instead of keeping them in).

Aluminium foil works as a simple Faraday cage, and you can test this by wrapping a mobile phone in foil and then dialling it from another phone. If you get "unobtainable", it worked. I expect a few people have taken this further and wallpapered whole rooms with aluminium foil, though the so-called "tinfoil hat"is a more economical alternative. This also protects you from telepaths.

Finally, you could move house. Last year, PC Pro magazine (What's killing your Wi-Fi? Wrapping your house in tin foil) reported that some builders were wrapping houses in sheets of Protect TF200 Thermo insulating material. This helps keep water out and heat in. Since it includes "a durable bright high purity permeable aluminium layer bonded to the substrate", it may work as a Faraday cage as well. Other insulation products such as Celotex could have a similar effect. People who have signal problems might want to see if their insulation is to blame.

The World Health Organisation, which has examined the topic in depth, says: "In the area of biological effects and medical applications of non-ionizing radiation approximately 25,000 articles have been published over the past 30 years. Despite the feeling of some people that more research needs to be done, scientific knowledge in this area is now more extensive than for most chemicals. Based on a recent in-depth review of the scientific literature, the WHO concluded that current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields. However, some gaps in knowledge about biological effects exist and need further research."

The main gap appears to be the potential impact on children using mobile phones for more than 10 years. (Children are more susceptible to radiation than adults, and problems may take decades to appear.)

My own feeling is that there are more important things to worry about than Wi-Fi. Last year, for example, more than 25,000 people were either killed or seriously injured on Britain's roads, and in 2010, there were 8,790 alcohol-related deaths. You are far more likely to die by falling off a ladder (roughly one death a week, in England and Wales) than by Wi-Fi.

It wasn’t clear who’s opinion this was or on what authority he/she had to say it, but who are we to believe?
 

MarkW

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I always wonder why those who preach about the dangers of the internet use the internet to broadcast their opinion.................
 
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clivehorridge

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Great post Clive. I've wanted to post something similar in this thread but simply didn't have the words to say it.
Well let me clarify that what I posted is not my opinion, but I do think hearing only one side of a discussion tends to promote an unhealthy hysteria...

I too (and I’ve posted this) am concerned as to the hidden dangers of what we now have taken for granted to be harmless, without any proper or easily accessible (and understandable to the masses) evidence either way.

Smoking at one time was considered to be harmless, and look where that has got us.
 
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Towpack

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So where is this guy's proof? I'll reiterate what I've said in an earlier post. Power level is the most important factor. The ERP of a WiFi router is very small, plus it's omnidirectional so I won't be losing any sleep over it.
 
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Towpack

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My own feeling is that there are more important things to worry about than Wi-Fi. Last year, for example, more than 25,000 people were either killed or seriously injured on Britain's roads, and in 2010, there were 8,790 alcohol-related deaths. You are far more likely to die by falling off a ladder (roughly one death a week, in England and Wales) than by Wi-Fi.
This is a very realistic way of looking at the supposed WiFi 'problem' IMO.

I ride motorcycles fairly regularly and just had a month off work after (another) spill. I've cycled to work for years and had 3 months off work in 2004 with a broken hip after coming off on black ice one morning. I even suffered a trapped nerve in my neck while shovelling snow 3 years ago! When I get to work I climb ladders and regularly work at height. Worry over Wifi is way down the list. Come to think of it, it's not even on it!
 

StarCruiser

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Well if nothing else this has got people thinking about something that's taken for granted. On pretty much every electromagnetic wave emitting device, you will find a warning about exposure and to keep the item at a minimum stated distance. As has already been said, distance and time of exposure are the major factors as is the power of the emitter. People have been killed walking in front of the microwave cell phone tower link dishes, or radar dishes, but then you would expect this being very close to such a high power source.

I think the thing is that time is going to either prove or disprove that EMR has a detrimental effect on the human body. If Barry Trower is right, then there's a serious problem brewing for humanity in general. If he's proved wrong, and I'm certain he will be the first to be pleased about this, then we won't really know for perhaps 30 -40 years. Plenty of things have been touted as safe that have proved otherwise, smoking, asbestos, PCBs, to name but a few, but at what point does something require withdrawal due to numbers of deaths? Smoking, they say, kills, but it's still legal and anyone can do it. I dont advise it of course. Driving kills people every day. Drinking does cause deaths, both of which aren't stopped. The point is, I think, we can each make a conscious decision, I won't smoke, I won't drink, I won't drive, but with things like asbestos and PCBs, the danger is not so apparent. Who could recognise asbestos or products containing it? Some who've had training of course. But radio waves, they are all around us, we cannot see them, we cannot feel them (ok apart from the poor soul who walked in front of the microwave link) but they are there. Who's to know whether there are any particular frequencies or combinations of frequencies that can have a harmful effect?

It can be very easy to say something is dangerous. One could say that about anything. But it is impossible to truly say that something is completely safe.

You can drown in water.
Too much oxygen will kill you.
Apple pips contain cyanide which builds up in the body if they are eaten.

Add to this the power of big business to ensure their particular money making machine doesn't get killed off and the whole picture gets ever more blurred. How do we know who to believe, how do we know what is right and what is wrong?

Only time will tell. Until such time, we are all just big lab rats. Guinea pigs if you like. Is it even worth worrying about? Probably not, we will all die of something, and that something will no doubt be determined by somebody with an agenda to work to, just to keep things simple and add to the accepted story.

Lung disorder…smoking
Liver disorder…must have been drink related,
Whole body swelling…diabetes complications.
RTA…speed

Some are probably correct or close to, but statistics get manipulated very easily to give the answers that are required.

I retain an open but questioning mind.
 

GeekOKent

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I'm interested to know what makes you say not to believe him KB. What is considered 'quackery'.

Isn't cosmic radiation infinitesimally low in power and transmitted from far away? Rather than the pretty low power from a wifi device that is often held at chest level just inches away from the body.

A quick Google reveals much attributed to him, including this article from Canada. http://www.emfandhealth.com/Barrie WiFi2.html . I've looked at this and tried to find any substance behind the rather obvious bias against Barry Trower and can only do far find an article claiming he's not a university teacher or scientist (neither of which he claims to be) and that they couldn't find anything on his claimed military background. Which doesn't really surprise me as the military don't go publicising these things. He does seem to have quite a few papers attributed to him and is now touring the world giving talks and lectures about the dangers of wifi and other EMR, for which, it is claimed, he doesn't charge. So why would he do that?
I cant find anything specific from him. Just random dribbling content. I would like to see what experiments were conducted, how they might be reproduced, what instrumentation was used and how were the records put up. Then I would like to see some peer reviews of those findings.

Most of what he is saying is generic enough that it means nothing.

Wifi is pretty low intensity btw.
 

clivehorridge

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If you are sitting next to a wifi router, wht not turn off the wifi and just plug in ?
Well this is a good point if there is a danger there, but I’ve been using wi-fi for I don’t know how long, and this is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone suggest it’s any threat whatsoever to health.

Phone microwaves, yes, that has been talked about, but not wi-fi so why would I have any incentive to plug a cable in?

I do accept that I’m a blind-faith sort of person, I never read the bumf that comes in the packet, so I’ve probably only got myself to blame.

And I smoke...
 

StarCruiser

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If you are sitting next to a wifi router, wht not turn off the wifi and just plug in ?
No socket on an iPhone or my newish laptop (ok I could get a docking station) but the point is that I need to look at the possible effects and modify my behaviour accordingly and see if anything improves, if that's even possible.
 
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frank rabbets

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Richard you had me interested about apple pips. I've been eating 1 apple a day for the last 50 years and have several chronic minor illnesses. I've always chewed the core and pips up. However the Environmental Protection Agency state that cyanide leaves the body within 24 hours. The amount in a pip is very small and of no consequence so unfortunately I can't cure any of my problems by stopping chewing.
 

StarCruiser

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That's fortunate, my recent reading was for dogs so I had assumed it was the same for us. It seems that is not so from what you say. Sorry to disappoint. :)
 
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