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WiFi Health Risks

Dan Jones

2:30 PM -- Some days its seems people just aren't happy until they have something totally inconsquential to be scared silly about.

Consider the latest WiFi health scares now being hyped up by media around the globe. Some schools in the U.K. have shut down WiFi networks citing "health concerns." (See WiFi-Phobic.)

Examined from even a short distance, these health concerns are (to put it delicately) pointless scaremongering bullshit. I'm surprised parents and teachers don't have more important things to be worried about.

I looked into this issue when I first started at Unstrung and concluded that there is some minuscule risk if -- and only if -- a user has bolted a high-power antenna on the front of their access point. Even then, cellphones and microwave ovens likely pose more of a health risk. To say nothing of the free-flowing soda and greasy, fatty foods prevalent in educational establishments the world over.

As my original article pointed out, WiFi products are already low-emission devices and tightly controlled by global regulatory bodies. (see Does WLAN Pose a Health Risk?) David Sifry, then CTO of open-source WiFi company Sputnik Inc. had this to say at the time:

    Current FCC regulations limit power output to 1 Watt EIRP (Effective Isotropic Radiated Power) for 802.11b (2.4GHz) devices. Most cards are 30 milliwatt, and there are a few 100mW and 200mW cards out there. Compare this with microwave ovens, which can emit 500 to 700 Watts to heat up your dinner. Of course, microwave ovens are shielded, but even a small amount of leakage would emit more radiation than these 802.11 devices.
If schools can ban WiFi, can I please get ban on crappy microwaved TV dinners? They taste revolting and the emissions can't be good for you.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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12/5/2012 | 3:33:51 AM
re: WiFi Health Risks
Nice to get your take on emissions, Dan. euww.
12/5/2012 | 3:33:51 AM
re: WiFi Health Risks
First off, the FCC EIRP limits are 4 Watts, not 1 Watt.

That aside, I have seen many Wi-Fi installations that had an EIRP of up to 80 Watts. Most microwaves that don't leak nearly that much power.

My point is that I agree with the article given the FCC limits. However, it is very easy to exceed the limits to the point where it is almost certainly unhealthy.

The real problem is a lack of education. With a one watt amplifier and a nice big antenna, an installer can exceed 100 Watts and look like a hero for only using one AP to cover a large area.

RF Math baby!
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