Is Wi-Fi Dangerous?

An Ontario school has become the first in Canada to take its Wi-Fi routers out over health concerns. St. Vincent Euphrasia Elementary took a step back in time opting to return to dial-up after some students complained of headaches and nausea occuring since the Wi-Fi had been installed.

While Health Canada along with the World Health Organization say that the amounts of radiation given off by Wi-Fi are negligible, some in the medical community are speaking out. They say that especially children are at risk of exposure because they are weaker, are still developing, and have thinner skulls.

Radiation from electromagnetic fields emanating from various electrical and electronic devices, is all around us. And some people are claiming a sensitivity. Just like individuals may have peculiar allergies, 'electromagnetic sensitivity' has become an ailment for many.

Radiation is all around us all the time, man made and natural, but what doses are safe?
Radiation is all around us all the time, man made and natural, but what doses are safe?

The German government in 2007, while not outright banning Wi-Fi, decided to discourage its use. They coined a new term for the problem: 'Electrosmog.' Humans are already bombarded by low levels of radiation from TVs, microwaves, generators, fluorescent lights, and electric blankets-just to name a few. As technology advances, it will only ad to this new kind of invisible pollution.

Will you give up Wi-Fi, your cell phone, MP3 player (and microwave, TV, electric blanket...) if you knew that they were all ganging up to kill you?

  • Yes! I'm going Amish. Get me a horse and a black hat.
  • No way! How else can I watch the news, listen to Led Zepplin, and make Chicken Kiev in the back of a taxi?
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Comments 9 comments

KenWu profile image

KenWu 6 years ago from Malaysia

There always two sides of technology, good and bad.


Marius 5 years ago

I'm a electronic engineer uin communications and I would like to share my opinion on this. In general microwave frequencies are electromagnetic waves with frequencies in the range of 300 MHz to 300 GHz. In this range is the 2.4GHz is used in microwave ovens to heat food where water, sugar and fats absorb this radiation. This method is called dielectric heating. This is what is harmful to humans and what cooks the food in a microwave oven.

I have heard many rumors of concerned parents claiming cell phone towers at schools are harmful to their children.

A cellular beacon or tower, known as a cell-site, actually controls and limits it's RF output power for the sake of interference in reusable RF channels. This means they specially limit the output power so that the output does not range to far and interfere with other "cells". The best way to bring insight to this phenomena which is very hard to quantify for non-technical individuals who seems to makeup the largest part of the concerned community, is to use relative measures which can be better understood.

In this article we will use mW per square meter as a measure of microwave (harmful) radiation.

The ground-level power densities near typical cellular towers are on the order of 10 mW per sq meter or less while the sun radiates about 250 000 mW per sq meter average per 24 hour day which means, that during the day it's even much more. The radiation from the sun on the earth is about 25 000 times more than the radiation under a cell-site(cell phone tower) per sq meter.

The microwave oven in the kitchen have a magnetron (source of microwave radiation) that can produce in the order of 800W or 800 000mW microwave power, the shielding in the microwave oven will ensure a leakage at 5cm distance of radiation less than 10 000mW per sq meter. The total power output of a Wi-Fi is about 100mW. if it would have been in the frequency range of visible light it would be equal to 0.0117 lux, that about the amount of electromagnetic energy a quarter moon at night would produce. you wouldn't need suntan lotion for that.

So lets compare electromagnetic radiation parameters.

Sun average radiation on the earth 250 000mW per sq meter

Microwave oven leakage (5cm distance) 10 000mW per sq meter

Directly under cell site 10mW per sq meter

Wi-Fi at max power with 1dBi ant on (1m distance) 8mW per sq meter

The amount of radiation may vary according to position and distance, like cell-sites are not isotropic radiators, this means that they are directional. The power they produce in front of them in the direction they are focused is much more than the power behind or below them. The antennas are often mounted three on tower to from hexagon cell and to produce a near omni-directional coverage

I see in general, people's biggest issue is to understanding radiation and how to quantify it relative to health and other things natural to life on earth. probably because we can only see and feel a very small spectrum of it.

One thing I would like to make clear is that, electromagnetic waves are transverse waves that exist of an electric field perpendicular to a magnetic field. It is not nuclear radiation or nuclear particles.

Well, harmful electromagnetic radiation does exist. It will depend on frequency and intensity. For a wave to be harmful it needs to cross a threshold of destructive intensity for that frequency. The EU set the SAR for microwave to 2Watt per kg body tissue. To the non-technical person it means nothing leaving people vulnerable to absorb any information whether it is true, false or speculation, most people cannot quantify or make sense of such measures.

Just a fun fact for people who think all electromagnetic radiation is harmful and bad, visible light is electromagnetic radiation but in the visible frequency range which your eyes are very sensitive for. all heat above -273°C radiates electromagnetic waves. So for anyone who want to avoid all form electromagnetic radiation should stay out of any form of light and temperatures above -273°C as well.

Candles, fire, light bulbs, lightning, LED light everything that use electricity or that produce light, heat, radio waves, radiates electromagnetic radiation in some form, it does not mean that it will cause harm only because it is electromagnetic.

Luminance (light intensity) is measured in lux. There are about 683.002 lux per W/m2. If you are exposed 50 000 lux (73 W/m2 ) of white light (direct sun), it can damage your eyes, so we can say it is harmful electromagnetic radiation, but 300 lux (0.43 W/m2 ) of light in a typical office will in your entire life not harm your eyes at all. Still it is the same radiation (visible light) but seen as harmless electromagnetic radiation since it's below the intensity that it can do harm.

Small amounts of UV (electromagnetic radiation) produces vitamin-D in the human body which some studies claim to help prevent cancer, too much UV causes cancer or sunburn.

People fear that their mains electricity supply with a frequency 50/60Hz or overhead power lines will produce dangerous electromagnetic radiation and can cause cancer.

But then there is the natural phenomina called the Schumann resonances (SR) caused by lightning naturally and even exist on some other planets. It is an electromagnetic wave that travels in a waveguide (electronic communications term) created between the earth's ionosphere and its surface. There are at anytime 2000 thunder storms on earth producing about 50 lightning strikes per second on the earth causing this electromagnetic frequency between 3 and 69Hz. It is also believed that the Q-bursts in this frequency could cause transient luminous events that can be seen. More than one of my sources confirm that NASA linked space sickness in astronaut to the absents of this frequency and since then build oscillators simulating it into manned space craft. In other words, NASA gave them "that" many people fear to prevent space sickness.

Analogously, 180dB of sound pressure can damage your ears in a very short period of time, so sound is harmful acoustic radiation at that intensity. But you can be exposed to 60dB of sound pressure (that is equal to a normal conversation) and these potentially harmful waves which can damage your ears at high intensity will be harmless even if you are exposed to it for your entire life time. 0dB sound environment can drive a person crazy due to the absence from any form of sound.

A 900km/h wind of a hurricane can destroy a city in moments, a 30km/h wind can blow for hundreds of years and cause no damage.

The magic word for anything that seems harmful in all these examples including electromagnetic radiation is "threshold" or "yield point" the point where destruction or damage occur.

If you put your head in front of an 800watt magnetron, like in you microwave oven. It will heat up in seconds, due to dielectric heating and will cause death in moments. If you stand under a cell phone tower (cell site) that also produce microwave, which radiation many people fear, it will do absolutely nothing. The same as what sound of 20db (whisper) will do nothing to your hearing, the same as candle light or starlight do nothing to your eyes and A 10km/h wind will not destroy your city.

There is probably no appliance that produce such a wide spectrum of electromagnetic radiation and nuclear radiation as our own sun, from the lowest of magnetic fields on earth, low frequency RF to Microwave, Infrared, visible light, UV, x-ray, gamma ray, beta radiation, alpha particles. The sun throws it all at us for our entire lives at relatively high but also safe intensities.

The suns total radiation on the surface of the earth is 250Watt per square meter, the microwave when standing directly under a cell phone tower measures at most 0.01Watt per square meter, the EU allowable safe exposure to electromagnetic radiation termed as SAR (Specific absorption rate) is 2Watt per kg body tissue for cell phones. Worrying about "cell phone tower's" radiation is like sitt


Mercredi profile image

Mercredi 5 years ago Author

Thanks for the enlightening info, Marius. There are people who claim to have an extra sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation and this condition has been recognized by some governments like Sweden. http://www.feb.se/index_int.htm


Marius 5 years ago

I would really like to know, how they manage to get sensitivities towards the electromagnetic fields from electronic equipment and not natural electromagnetic fields. What’s the difference? For example:

How do they deal with the suns 250W/m2 full spectrum electromagnetic radiation while being sensitive to Wi-Fi's 0.008W/m2 that seems to be 31000 times less electromagnetic radiation?

How do they deal with electromagnetic radiation in the visible spectrum (visible light) that is part of the electromagnetic spectrum typically 1W/m2 or the infrared which is electromagnetic radiation from the 298°K standard room temperature which is much higher intensity than Wi-Fi’s 0.008W/m2 ?

How do they deal with the Schumann resonances that typically is ~1uT electromagnetic wave around the earth and not able to deal with overhead power lines that is less than ~0.4uT in the same frequency range?

Politicians don’t carry science degrees, they have communities and public sentiment to satisfy, that’s their job, my job is to apply the figures.

I design radio communication systems, and I would really like to know if there is any risk involved in what I'm doing? I have a 100mW transceiver designed similar to Wi-Fi that must go for approval soon, but nowhere could I ever find anything that makes scientifically sense to argue the engineering academia standards and methods. It's like how can you lay the entire day in the sun and then later say my LED light on my remote control is damaging you eyes? It’s literally the same thing because light is electromagnetic radiation and my example is about in the same ratio of magnitudes.


Mercredi profile image

Mercredi 5 years ago Author

Shakespeare wrote: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Why some people apparently suffer from electromagnetic sensitivity is unknown. It's often been said that every office has that funny individual whose bad luck when it comes to computers: http://ask-leo.com/my_computers_keep_dying_is_it_m... You can chalk it up to bad luck, though.


Marius 5 years ago

What makes more sense to me is just my opinion that it is the human factor. For example the placebo effect. You can give a sick person an empty capsule (placebo) making them believe it’s the real thing and it can make them feel better. All medication must be tested with a placebo before it can be approved in trials. The opposite is also true, let a person believe that an electronic device will make them sick, then let them use it. The chances are good they will generate physical symptoms purely from believing it is harmful.

I believe the reports are true, the experiences are real. But I don’t believe that it has a direct relationship to the physical radiation. One may find that their events will collate with their perception of dangerous devices and not to the actual radiation level. For example, they might show symptoms from a Wi-Fi but not from a microwave oven or the sun. Because they believe in the danger with the Wi-Fi but not with the microwave oven or the sun which radiate much more.

I do not believe that the amount of dielectric heating from 8mW/m2 is enough to cause any real physical damage or symptoms since it doesn’t come close to other natural radian levels like the 250 000mW/m2 the sun radiates on us. I mean you walk outside in the sun you literally feel the rays heating you up, you see your body burn and tan.

Other things are eyes, people sit in offices and their eyes get tired or heart from all the staring at the screen and then experience headache or symptoms they may try to relate to radiation devices such as cell phones or Wi-Fi’s

For computers dying on us, I think lack of handling skill, poor plugs with arcing contacts causing power surges TVS on power supplies, people who are more static who work with computer boards can cause reoccurring failure events. some carpets or types of clothing generate more static, some areas with dry air or air-conditioning systems can cause more static, also though ESD (electro static discharges) should not be a big risk for computes which are connected to power, since they are well shielded. USB ports are known to be a static sensitive vulnerability in some cases. Most modern microchip manufacturers also report improved ESD immunity on chips reducing that risk. There should be no connection between sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation and having bad luck with PC’s. do they have the same bad luck with their cell phones, and plasma TVs, DVD players since they all use much the same sensitivity of technology. They all use memory, CPUs, solid-state power supplies ext.

Watch-out insurance companies might start banning these people from shopping malls, and airports might ban them from getting onto airplanes. Just joking!! No, microchips don’t pop when they don’t like your face, they pop for good reason and its not bad genes or any form of aura or human sensitivities. Some people just have bad luck or do something wrong. That’s my thought on it.


Sion Jones. 4 years ago

Hi, I am researching this for my physics homework, and I would just like to say it is very useful, but it can be dangerous to some. My mother has unfortunately got a disease called lupus, and is sensitive to the energy emitted by Wi Fi, and the sun.


Geri 4 years ago

Just to say that after Marius' very intelligent posting, I am not nearly as concerned about being around wifi and towers as previously. I still will not hold my cell phone to my ears for long periods of time though...especially because if I have a slight headache, it many times becomes much, much worse. But thank you, Marcus, for your comments.


4 years ago

No way. The power and wavelengths we are talking about is not harmful.

Besides, in blind and double blind studies there are no indications that this is anything but the nocebo effect in play.

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