From Cindy Sage on the Lakehead University Wi-Fi decision:
Letter to the Editor
February 24, 2006
Globe and Mail
Fred Gilbert, President of Lakehead University made a sound judgment call in deferring deployment of WI-FI wireless technology on campus. Although he can anticipate industry flack for it, his decision is supported by a growing body of scientific evidence that should make other schools and universities take notice, and follow suit.
Bioeffects that are reported to result from low-intensity radiofrequency (RF) exposure include changes in cell membrane function, metabolism, cellular signal communication, activation of proto-oncogenes and heat-shock protein at 0.1 ÂµW/cm2 and higher. Fatigue, depressive tendency, sleeping disorders, difficulty in concentration and cardiovascular problems were reported by Oberfeld (2004) with exposure to GSM 900/1800 MHz cell phone frequency at exposures characteristic of low-intensity base station levels (0.0006 ”“ 0.00128 microwatts/cm2). Resulting effects which are reported in the scientific literature include DNA breaks and chromosome aberrations, cell death including death of brain cells (neurons), increased free radical production, cell stress and premature aging, changes in brain function including memory loss, retarded learning, slower promotion in school and slower motor function and other performance impairment in children, headaches and fatigue, sleep disorders, neurodegenerative conditions, reduction in melatonin secretion, and cancer. Disruption of sleep is reported to occur at levels as low as 0.0001 to 0.1 microwatt/centimeter squared (ÂµW/cm2).
Low-intensity bioeffects have been reported to occur as low as 0.0006 to 100 ÂµW/cm2 range (power density) or 0.0001 to 1 W/Kg for whole body exposure (SAR). This is commonly the level of RF exposure within the first few hundred to a thousand feet of a typical cell tower or antenna farm with multiple transmitting cell phone or PCS wireless communication antennas. WI-FI levels are expected to be lower than for cell towers in most instances, but this is not an indication that there is greater safety from more numerous, but dispersed WI-FI antennas. WI-FI exposures are variable depending on the distance to each transmitting antenna, and different wireless routers can be set at different power outputs. Thus, variability in exposure levels can be expected.
There is evidence that children have greater neurological sensitivity to the effects of many toxic environmental exposures including RF (WHO Report on Children and Health, 2000). FCC standards are based today on adults, so that chronic, low-intensity RF exposures for children may need to be lower taking into account their greater susceptibility during growth and development.
Compliance with ICNIRP and FCC public exposure limits is not necessarily a measure or guarantee of safety. Existing exposure limits protect only against thermal damage (microwave heating). There ARE no exposure limits for non-thermal (low-intensity) RF exposures, even though there is substantial scientific evidence that such effects exist, and should be regulated. Debate among experts about the adequacy of current ICNIRP and FCC limits for humans is seen in countries around the world. Finally, the 802.11b exclusion means that WI-FI technology is exempted from public exposure limits anyway.
Since there is no post-sales surveillance program in effect in any country of the world at this time, health effects we suspect today cannot be proven until many tomorrows pass. It may become just another footnote in the history of carcinogens which we ignored.
Cindy Sage, MA
Sage Associates Environmental Consultants
1396 Danielson Road
Santa Barbara, CA 93108