Wireless electronic devices and health

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has researched electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and their alleged effects on health, concluding that such exposures within recommended limits do not produce any known adverse health effect. [1] [2]

World Health Organization Specialised agency of the United Nations

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health. It was established on 7 April 1948, and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO is a member of the United Nations Development Group. Its predecessor, the Health Organisation, was an agency of the League of Nations.

Electromagnetic field physical field produced by electrically charged objects

An electromagnetic field is a physical field produced by electrically charged objects. It affects the behavior of charged objects in the vicinity of the field. The electromagnetic field extends indefinitely throughout space and describes the electromagnetic interaction. It is one of the four fundamental forces of nature.


In response to public concern, the WHO established the International EMF Project in 1996 to assess the scientific evidence of possible health effects of EMF in the frequency range from 0 to 300 GHz. They have stated that although extensive research has been conducted into possible health effects of exposure to many parts of the frequency spectrum, all reviews conducted so far have indicated that, as long as exposures are below the limits recommended in the ICNIRP (1998) EMF guidelines, which cover the full frequency range from 0–300 GHz, such exposures do not produce any known adverse health effect. [2] Stronger or more frequent exposures to EMF can be unhealthy, and in fact serve as the basis for electromagnetic weaponry.

International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) is an international commission specialized in non-ionizing radiation protection. The organization's activities include determining exposure limits for electromagnetic fields used by devices such as cellular phones.

A directed-energy weapon (DEW) is a ranged weapon that damages its target with highly focused energy, including laser, microwaves and particle beams. Potential applications of this technology include weapons that target personnel, missiles, vehicles, and optical devices.

International guidelines on exposure levels to microwave frequency EMFs such as ICNIRP limit the power levels of wireless devices and it is uncommon for wireless devices to exceed the guidelines. These guidelines only take into account thermal effects, as nonthermal effects have not been conclusively demonstrated. [3] The official stance of the British Health Protection Agency (HPA) is that “[T]here is no consistent evidence to date that WiFi and WLANs adversely affect the health of the general population”, but also that “...it is a sensible precautionary approach...to keep the situation under ongoing review...”. [4]

Microwave form of electromagnetic radiation

Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths ranging from about one meter to one millimeter; with frequencies between 300 MHz (1 m) and 300 GHz (1 mm). Different sources define different frequency ranges as microwaves; the above broad definition includes both UHF and EHF bands. A more common definition in radio engineering is the range between 1 and 100 GHz. In all cases, microwaves include the entire SHF band at minimum. Frequencies in the microwave range are often referred to by their IEEE radar band designations: S, C, X, Ku, K, or Ka band, or by similar NATO or EU designations.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) was a non-departmental public body in the United Kingdom. It was an organisation that was set up by the UK government in 2003 to protect the public in England from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards. It did this by providing advice and information to the general public, to health professionals such as doctors and nurses, and to national and local government. There were four HPA centres – at Porton Down in Salisbury, Chilton in Didcot, South Mimms in Hertfordshire, and Colindale in NW London. In addition, the HPA had regional laboratories across England and administrative headquarters in Central London. On 1 April 2013, the HPA minus the South Mimms site became part of Public Health England, a new executive agency of the Department of Health (DoH). The National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) located in South Mimms was merged with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

In 2011, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the World Health Organization, classified wireless radiation as Group 2B  – possibly carcinogenic. That means that there "could be some risk" of carcinogenicity, so additional research into the long-term, heavy use of wireless devices needs to be conducted. [5]

International Agency for Research on Cancer Organization

The International Agency for Research on Cancer is an intergovernmental agency forming part of the World Health Organization of the United Nations.

Exposure difference to mobile phones

Users of wireless devices are typically exposed for much longer periods than for mobile phones and the strength of wireless devices is not significantly less. Whereas a Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) mobile phone can range from 21 dBm (125 mW) for Power Class 4 to 33 dBm (2W) for Power class 1, a wireless router can range from a typical 15 dBm (30 mW) strength to 27 dBm (500 mW) on the high end.

Mobile phone portable device to make telephone calls using a radio link

A mobile phone, cell phone, cellphone, or hand phone, sometimes shortened to simply mobile, cell or just phone, is a portable telephone that can make and receive calls over a radio frequency link while the user is moving within a telephone service area. The radio frequency link establishes a connection to the switching systems of a mobile phone operator, which provides access to the public switched telephone network (PSTN). Modern mobile telephone services use a cellular network architecture, and, therefore, mobile telephones are called cellular telephones or cell phones, in North America. In addition to telephony, 2000s-era mobile phones support a variety of other services, such as text messaging, MMS, email, Internet access, short-range wireless communications, business applications, video games, and digital photography. Mobile phones offering only those capabilities are known as feature phones; mobile phones which offer greatly advanced computing capabilities are referred to as smartphones.

The Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) is a third generation mobile cellular system for networks based on the GSM standard. Developed and maintained by the 3GPP, UMTS is a component of the International Telecommunications Union IMT-2000 standard set and compares with the CDMA2000 standard set for networks based on the competing cdmaOne technology. UMTS uses wideband code division multiple access (W-CDMA) radio access technology to offer greater spectral efficiency and bandwidth to mobile network operators.

dBm is unit of level used to indicate that a power ratio is expressed in decibels (dB) with reference to one milliwatt (mW). It is used in radio, microwave and fiber-optical communication networks as a convenient measure of absolute power because of its capability to express both very large and very small values in a short form compared to dBW, which is referenced to one watt (1,000 mW).

However, wireless routers are typically located significantly farther away from users' heads than a mobile phone the user is handling, resulting in far less exposure overall. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) says that if a person spends one year in a location with a Wi-Fi hotspot, they will receive the same dose of radio waves as if they had made a 20-minute call on a mobile phone. [6]

The HPA also says that due to the mobile phone's adaptive power ability, a DECT cordless phone's radiation could actually exceed the radiation of a mobile phone. The HPA explains that while the DECT cordless phone's radiation has an average output power of 10 mW, it is actually in the form of 100 bursts per second of 250 mW, a strength comparable to some mobile phones. [7]

Wireless networking

Most wireless LAN equipment is designed to work within predefined standards. Wireless access points are also often close to people, but the drop off in power over distance is fast, following the inverse-square law. [8] However, wireless laptops are typically used close to people. WiFi had been anecdotally linked to electromagnetic hypersensitivity [9] but research into electromagnetic hypersensitivity has found no systematic evidence supporting claims made by sufferers. [10] [11]

The HPA's position is that “...radio frequency (RF) exposures from WiFi are likely to be lower than those from mobile phones.” It also saw “...no reason why schools and others should not use WiFi equipment.” [4] In October 2007, the HPA launched a new “systematic” study into the effects of WiFi networks on behalf of the UK government, in order to calm fears that had appeared in the media in a recent period up to that time". [12] Dr Michael Clark, of the HPA, says published research on mobile phones and masts does not add up to an indictment of WiFi. [13] [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications

Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications , usually known by the acronym DECT, is a standard primarily used for creating cordless telephone systems. It originated in Europe, where it is the universal standard, replacing earlier cordless phone standards, such as 900 MHz CT1 and CT2.

The industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) radio bands are radio bands reserved internationally for the use of radio frequency (RF) energy for industrial, scientific and medical purposes other than telecommunications. Examples of applications in these bands include radio-frequency process heating, microwave ovens, and medical diathermy machines. The powerful emissions of these devices can create electromagnetic interference and disrupt radio communication using the same frequency, so these devices were limited to certain bands of frequencies. In general, communications equipment operating in these bands must tolerate any interference generated by ISM applications, and users have no regulatory protection from ISM device operation.

Wireless network any network at least partly not connected by physical cables of any kind

A wireless network is a computer network that uses wireless data connections between network nodes.

At sufficiently high flux levels, various bands of electromagnetic radiation have been found to cause deleterious health effects in people. Electromagnetic radiation can be classified into two types: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation, based on the capability of a single photon with more than 10 eV energy to ionize oxygen or break chemical bonds. Extreme ultraviolet and higher frequencies, such as X-rays or gamma rays are ionizing, and these pose their own special hazards: see radiation and radiation poisoning. The last quarter of the twentieth century saw a dramatic increase in the number of devices emitting non-ionizing radiation in all segments of society, which resulted in an elevation of health concerns by researchers and clinicians, and an associated interest in government regulation for safety purposes. In the United States, this has resulted in legislation such as the Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act of 1968 and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. By far the most common health hazard of radiation is sunburn, which causes over one million new skin cancers annually in United States.

Wi-Fi wireless local area network based on IEEEs 802.11 standards

Wi-Fi is technology for radio wireless local area networking of devices based on the IEEE 802.11 standards. Wi‑Fi is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance, which restricts the use of the term Wi-Fi Certified to products that successfully complete interoperability certification testing.

Wireless kind of telecommunication that does not require the use of physical wires; the transfer of information or power between two or more points that are not connected by an electrical conductor

Wireless communication, or sometimes simply wireless, is the transfer of information or power between two or more points that are not connected by an electrical conductor. The most common wireless technologies use radio waves. With radio waves distances can be short, such as a few meters for Bluetooth or as far as millions of kilometers for deep-space radio communications. It encompasses various types of fixed, mobile, and portable applications, including two-way radios, cellular telephones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and wireless networking. Other examples of applications of radio wireless technology include GPS units, garage door openers, wireless computer mice, keyboards and headsets, headphones, radio receivers, satellite television, broadcast television and cordless telephones. Somewhat less common methods of achieving wireless communications include the use of other electromagnetic wireless technologies, such as light, magnetic, or electric fields or the use of sound.

Base station

Base station is – according to the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) Radio Regulations (RR) – a "land station in the land mobile service."

Cell site cellular telephone site where antennae and electronic communications equipment are placed — typically on a radio mast, tower, or other raised structure — to create a cell (or adjacent cells) in a cellular network

A cell site, cell tower, or cellular base station is a cellular-enabled mobile device site where antennae and electronic communications equipment are placed — typically on a radio mast, tower, or other raised structure — to create a cell in a cellular network. The raised structure typically supports antennae and one or more sets of transmitter/receivers transceivers, digital signal processors, control electronics, a GPS receiver for timing, primary and backup electrical power sources, and sheltering.

Specific absorption rate (SAR) is a measure of the rate at which energy is absorbed by the human body when exposed to a radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic field. It can also refer to absorption of other forms of energy by tissue, including ultrasound. It is defined as the power absorbed per mass of tissue and has units of watts per kilogram (W/kg).

Mobile phone radiation and health

The effect of mobile phone radiation on human health is a subject of interest and study worldwide, as a result of the enormous increase in mobile phone usage throughout the world. As of 2015, there were 7.4 billion subscriptions worldwide, though the actual number of users is lower as many users own more than one mobile phone. Mobile phones use electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range. Other digital wireless systems, such as data communication networks, produce similar radiation.

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) is a claimed sensitivity to electromagnetic fields, to which negative symptoms are attributed. EHS has no scientific basis and is not a recognised medical diagnosis. Claims are characterized by a "variety of non-specific symptoms, which afflicted individuals attribute to exposure to electromagnetic fields".

Mobile VoIP or simply mVoIP is an extension of mobility to a Voice over IP network. Two types of communication are generally supported: cordless/DECT/PCS protocols for short range or campus communications where all base stations are linked into the same LAN, and wider area communications using 3G/4G protocols.

Arthur Robert Firstenberg is an American author and activist on the subject of electromagnetic radiation and health. He is the founder of the independent campaign group the Cellular Phone Task Force. His 1997 book Microwaving Our Planet: The Environmental Impact of the Wireless Revolution was published by the group. He is the author of The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life.

Dual mode mobiles refer to mobile phones that are compatible with more than one form of data transmission or network.

Headset (audio) combination of headphone and microphone

A headset combines a headphone with a microphone. Headsets are made with either a single-earpiece (mono) or a double-earpiece. Headsets provide the equivalent functionality of a telephone handset but with handsfree operation. They have many uses including in call centers and other telephone-intensive jobs and for anybody wishing to have both hands free during a telephone conversation.

The BioInitiative Report is a report on the relationship between the electromagnetic fields (EMF) associated with powerlines and wireless devices and health. It was self-published online, without peer review, on 31 August 2007, by a group "of 14 scientists, researchers, and public health policy professionals". The BioInitiative Report states that it is an examination of the controversial health risks of electromagnetic fields and radiofrequency radiation. Some updated BioInitiative material was published in a journal in an issue guest-edited by one of the members of the group, and a 2012 version of the report was released on 7 January 2013. It has been heavily criticized by independent and governmental research groups for its lack of balance.

COSMOS cohort study

COSMOS is a cohort study of mobile phone use and health. The study will investigate the possible health effects of long-term use of mobile phones and other wireless technologies. It is an international study being conducted in five European countries – UK, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and France. In the UK Imperial College London is carrying out this research.

Non-ionizing radiation electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy per quantum to ionize atoms or molecules

Non-ionizingradiation refers to any type of electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy per quantum to ionize atoms or molecules—that is, to completely remove an electron from an atom or molecule. Instead of producing charged ions when passing through matter, non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation has sufficient energy only for excitation, the movement of an electron to a higher energy state. Ionizing radiation which has a higher frequency and shorter wavelength than nonionizing radiation, has many uses but can be a health hazard; exposure to it can cause burns, radiation sickness, cancer, and genetic damage. Using ionizing radiation requires elaborate radiological protection measures which in general are not required with nonionizing radiation.

Fluorescent lamps and health

Fluorescent lamps have been suggested to affect human health in various ways.


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