Wi-Fi: A Warning Signal (2007)
Britain is in the grip of a Wi-Fi revolution with offices, homes and classrooms going wireless - but there is concern the technology could carry health risks. The Government insists Wi-Fi is safe, but a Panorama investigation shows that radio frequency radiation levels in some schools are up to three times the level found in the main beam of intensity from mobile phone masts. There have been no studies on the health effects of Wi-Fi equipment, but thousands on mobile phones and masts. The radiation Wi-Fi emits is similar to that from mobile phone masts. It is an unavoidable by-product of going wireless. In the last 18 months another two million of us in the UK have begun using Wi-Fi. Entire cities have become what are known as wireless hotspots.
In 2000, Sir William Stewart, now chairman of the Health Protection Agency, headed the government's inquiry into the safety of mobile phone masts and health. He felt the scientific research was sufficient to apply a precautionary approach when siting masts near schools. During that same year, the government sold off the 3G licences for £22.5bn. Sir William recalls: "We recommended, because we were sensitive about children... that masts should not necessarily impact directly on areas where children were exposed, like playgrounds and that." But what about Wi-Fi? The technology is similar to mobile phone masts and in use in 70 per cent of secondary schools and 50 per cent of primary schools. Panorama visited a school in Norwich, with more than 1,000 pupils, to compare the level of radiation from a typical mobile phone mast with that of Wi-Fi in the classroom. Readings taken for the programme showed the height of signal strength to be three times higher in the school classroom using Wi-Fi than the main beam of radiation intensity from a mobile phone mast.
The findings are particularly significant because children's skulls are thinner and still forming and tests have shown they absorb more radiation than adults.