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Safety Issues with Wifi Radiation and with Monitors

I’ve just banished (almost) wifi from my work environment. Bluetooth hangs on – I need it to be able to send SMS – I also occasionally use it for a wireless headset to use Skype on my PowerBook G4. And I’m very happy to have done so.

Recently the president of Lakehead University banned wifi from the campus network. I am glad to see that I am not the only one concerned about computer and wifi health issues.

I found an interesting weblog called Interface largely devoted to issues of computer safety and health. On wifi radiation:

While people claim wireless radiation is safe because of the low power levels that they use, they seem to forget that there are two ways to cook an egg on a gas stove, for illustration’s sake.

The first method is to use a high flame (high power), which does the obvious fast cooking.

The second method is to use a low flame (low power), which takes longer, but still cooks the egg.

Perhaps his most important point is the precautionary principle – while the negative health consequences of wifi have yet to be conclusively proved, why (pay to) make a guinea pig of oneself. Manufacturers and whole industries will lie and mislead in the quest for profits.

It seems that people have not learnt enough from the nicotine-addiction industry that has been denying health consequences from its lung-rotting sticks for decades.

It is interesting to note that cell phones are linked to an increased incidence of eye cancer. Think of your eyes like a pair of egg. The more radiation you apply to it, the better it “cooks.” Radiation is energy like heat

The author’s point about CRT Monitors refresh rates is mirrored perfectly in my own experience.

Many people are still using CRT monitors set at 60 Hz or 85 Hz around the world.

What they don’t realise is that these refresh levels have side-effects of inducing tiredness, yawning, short-sightedness and the most destructive of which is tooth grinding at night. Unstable images on a CRT can induce tooth grinding subsconciously at night, since an unstable flashing image is disturbing to the brain’s nervous system.

He misses the radiation issue with CRT monitors – there is a tremendous amount of magnetic and electric radiation from a computer – just like a television but you are much closer to the object. If you are still using a CRT monitor and you value your long-term health, an LCD monitor will be the best money you will ever spend. It is an investment against health issues and a general feeling of illness.

I’ve found that sitting an entire day in front of an LCD much less stressful to the organism. But one’s eyes can get very tired. To the point of making one’s existing prescription worse. Reading books doesn’t seem to do the same thing – at least not as quickly.

Apparently there is a good reason:LCDs and Eye Damage

LCDs actually create another problem. LCDs usually have a fluorescent backlight. Fluorescent lights both emit UV rays and HEV (high energy violet) rays…..HEV, which is also known as “blue light,” there is technology now used for sunglasses that is called melanin…..There is a convincing body of research that shows that blue light does damage the eyes and nowadays we are exposing ourselves to very high amounts of blue light, which significantly accounts for the increase in macular denegeration.

The author does go out on a limb trying to damn Blue LED’s. Personally I don’t spend a lot of time staring at the LED’s of either my computers or my electronic devices. I think he is on firmer ground with the Wifi issues and monitor display issues.

He could write a bit more about silent computing. The white noise of many computers is really not good for you. It is best combatted by buying a very quiet computer and using that most of the time. For my own work that means a very quiet primary computer (G4 laptop) with an additional high powered desktop for graphics and video work.

The Interface author’s weblog is hosted on blog.com which looks to be quite an interesting competitor to Typepad where my own weblog is hosted.

6 Comments

  1. Roberto Roberto

    I’ve been using wi-fi inside my room for over 3 years. The AP is pretty close to me all the time, during most part of the day. I started to have severe headaches and strange sensations LIKE BURNING at my head’s back since one year ago. I tried all kind of medications, went to doctors, made brain exams, took off caffeine and nothing made it stop UNTIL the day I turned off the wi-fi AP and started using cables again.

    After that day, my severe headaches stopped immediatelly. Everytime I turn on the Wi-Fi for a long time, the headaches gets back immediately.

  2. Thanks Roberto for sharing your personal experience. In my current office I have four WiFi devices including routers and things have been okay so far. But the WiFi is at the far removed from living quarters – there isn’t a computer anywhere else in the place.

    I do have to admit if I keep the laptop with WiFi running on my desk for any extended period of time I start to feel not as well. This is something I began doing only recently. I was thinking it was psychosomatic but after your comment I make a point of keeping the laptop closed when I am at my desk and I feel much better.

    I might try recabling the whole place and killing all the WiFi. The Airport Express are serving as network print server so it’s a bit of a pity. The WiFi can be turned way down within the Airport Express and the Airport Express can be plugged into a router.

    I do have to buy an eight outlet D-Link router and some more cables but it’s probably worth it. Performance is better anyway – no matter what anyone says there is a detectable latency on WiFi connections.

  3. "Roberto" "Roberto"

    Hi Alec,

    please, see this:
    http://www.geek.com/news/geeknews/2003Oct/bpd20031015022194.htm
    http://www.geek.com/news/geeknews/2003Oct/bpd20031015022194.htm

    By the way, my name is Ricardo (I don’t like using me real name and addresses in public forums), but seems like yours is quiet enough for me to do it. Sorry for that.

    You can read my other posts at those blogs. I Think it is a serious topic to be debated.
    If you want to contact me to share “wi-fi sickness” experience, please feel free: rsamenezes@gmail.com

    Thanks and take care.(I’m taking!)

  4. Thanks Ricardo for the additional info and links.

    I think the guy who wrote that it’s like cigarettes or abestos in the fifties is on to something. We prefer to ignore the dangers. With the desktop the wifi is a good distance from me now, but I really should buy the 8 port DLink router and the long cables sometime soon and put everything back onto cable. My CTO has pointed out that there are four other WiFi networks over and below our heads that we don’t control!

    Imagine if those neighbourhing networks were all using those super powered transmitters included in your thread.

    A quick check with Macstumbler, reveals, happily enough, that their signals are all below 30 (out of 100).

  5. chris chris

    WHAT RESEARCH IS BEING DONE ON RF BIOLOGICAL EFFECTS?

    For many years research into possible biological effects of RF energy has been carried out in laboratories around the world, and such research is continuing. Past research has resulted in a large number of scientific publications on this topic. For many years the U.S. Government has sponsored research into the biological effects of RF energy. The majority of this work has been funded by the Department of Defense, due, in part, to the extensive military interest in using RF equipment such as radar and other relatively high-powered radio transmitters for routine military operations. In addition, some U.S. civilian federal agencies responsible for health and safety, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have sponsored and conducted research in this area in the past (although relatively little civilian-sector RF research is currently being funded by the U.S. Government). At the present time, most of the non-military research on biological effects of RF energy in the U.S. is being funded by industry organizations such as Motorola, Inc. Relatively more research is being carried out overseas, particularly in Europe.

    In 1996, the World Health Organization (WHO) established a program called the International EMF Project that is designed to review the scientific literature concerning biological effects of electromagnetic fields, identify gaps in knowledge about such effects, recommend research needs, and work towards international resolution of health concerns over the use of RF technology. The WHO maintains a Web site that provides extensive information on this project and about RF biological effects and research ( http://www.who.ch/peh-emf).

    The FDA, the EPA and other federal agencies responsible for public health and safety have worked together and in connection with the WHO to monitor developments and identify research needs related to RF biological effects. Most recently, the FDA has entered into an agreement with the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) to conduct a research program into the potential health effects of mobile phones. More information about this can be obtained at the FDA Web site: http://www.fda.gov. (Back to Index)

    WHAT LEVELS ARE SAFE FOR EXPOSURE TO RF ENERGY?

    Exposure standards for radiofrequency energy have been developed by various organizations and countries. These standards recommend safe levels of exposure for both the general public and for workers. In the United States, the FCC has adopted and used recognized safety guidelines for evaluating RF environmental exposure since 1985. Federal health and safety agencies, such as the EPA, FDA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have also been involved in monitoring and investigating issues related to RF exposure.

    The FCC guidelines for human exposure to RF electromagnetic fields were derived from the recommendations of two expert organizations, the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Both the NCRP exposure criteria and the IEEE standard were developed by expert scientists and engineers after extensive reviews of the scientific literature related to RF biological effects. The exposure guidelines are based on thresholds for known adverse effects, and they incorporate appropriate margins of safety. In adopting the most recent RF exposure guidelines, the FCC consulted with the EPA, FDA, OSHA and NIOSH, and obtained their support for the guidelines that the FCC is now using.

    Many countries in Europe and elsewhere use exposure guidelines developed by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). The ICNIRP safety limits are generally similar to those of the NCRP and IEEE, with a few exceptions. For example, ICNIRP recommends somewhat different exposure levels in the lower and upper frequency ranges and for localized exposure due to such devices as hand-held cellular telephones. One of the goals of the WHO EMF Project (see above) is to provide a framework for international harmonization of RF safety standards.

    The NCRP, IEEE and ICNIRP exposure guidelines identify the same threshold level at which harmful biological effects may occur, and the values for Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) recommended for electric and magnetic field strength and power density in both documents are based on this threshold level. The threshold level is a Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) value for the whole body of 4 watts per kilogram (4 W/kg). In addition, the NCRP, IEEE and ICNIRP guidelines are different for different transmitting frequencies. This is due to the findings (discussed above) that whole-body human absorption of RF energy varies with the frequency of the RF signal. The most restrictive limits on whole-body exposure are in the frequency range of 30-300 MHz where the human body absorbs RF energy most efficiently when the whole body is exposed. For devices that only expose part of the body, such as mobile phones, different exposure limits are specified (see below).

    The exposure limits used by the FCC are expressed in terms of SAR, electric and magnetic field strength and power density for transmitters operating at frequencies from 300 kHz to 100 GHz. The actual values can be found in either of two informational bulletins available at this Web site (OET Bulletin 56 or OET Bulletin 65), see listing for “OET Safety Bulletins.” (Back to Index)

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