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University Bans wi-fi as Health Concern 693

Posted by samzenpus
from the microwaves-still-ok dept.
BaltikaTroika writes "A Canadian university has banned wi-fi, since the university President sees a possible link between electric and magnetic fields and brain tumors. According to the head of the university, "the jury's out on this one, I'm not going to put in place what is potential chronic exposure for our students." Is anybody outside of this university's administration concerned about this?"
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University Bans wi-fi as Health Concern

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  • Wardriving the area (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drewzhrodague (606182) <drew@nOsPaM.zhrodague.net> on Thursday February 23, 2006 @02:13AM (#14782649) Homepage Journal
    Has anyone wardriven that area? I betcha there would be far more signals from access-points and wireless cards than they could possibly keep all turned off. Policing that environment would not be a fun job: "Yes, I know it's cool and useful and makes, but we can't have that here."
  • Re:More tags (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Aqua OS X (458522) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @02:37AM (#14782748)
  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @02:41AM (#14782758)
    I believe not too long ago, Slashdot had an article concerning the cooking of an egg situated between two cell phones.

    That's a hoax [gelfmagazine.com], written six years ago, and Slashdot editors were suckered by it, as they have been many times before.

    Ivermee, a 60-year old archiver in a law firm in South Hampton, has written almost all of the pieces on the Wymsey site, including the egg article, which he wrote back in 2000. In the piece, he outlines eight ridiculous steps for hard boiling an egg using the transmissions of two cellphones pointed at each other with the egg in between.

    "I really underestimated how many people would take it seriously," he tells Gelf over email. "No other page on the site has grabbed people's attention and ire button as much as this one. What seems to be happening is that it 'travels' from blog to blog, forum to forum. It was big in Australia last year and seems to be big in the US right now."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2006 @02:46AM (#14782783)
    ... at which water molecules resonate. Microwave ovens use 2.4 GHz because that's where the FCC said they could go. It has absolutely nothing to do with water-molecule resonance or any other bogosity.

    Jeez, I wish people who have no earthly clue what they're talking about would refrain from posting.
  • by nursegirl (914509) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @02:49AM (#14782788) Journal
    I was feeling the same was as you, until I read the last line in the article:
    "Even the World Health Organization in its international review says it doesn't have a great deal of concern but it admits the information is not 100 per cent."
    What? If he's waiting for 100% certainty about any potential carcinogen, then he doesn't understand health research. I, personally, feel some reassurance when the WHO does an international review on something and say that there is not much concern.

    The sad thing is that he's a zoologist, so I would have expected better understanding from him.

  • by nidx (583973) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @02:53AM (#14782807)
    I actually GO to Lakeheadu University (5th year comp-sci) and from what I understand this decision is because of our University President. Our school paper did an article about this issue earlier this year and if I remember correctly his reasons for the ban were "the unknown effects on developing brains" which I belive was related to his field of study. IMO it's all ignorant BS.

    but I do love that this issue has reached slashdot!
  • by nmos (25822) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @02:57AM (#14782819)
    Anecdotally, I get a terrible headache that lasts for hours if I talk even 30 seconds on a cell phone. I'm probably not typical, but I'm certain cell phones aren't as harmless as most folks (and regulatory agencies) think.

    I wonder if it could be something about the audio compression that's bothering you rather than the RF. Some people have similar reactions to things like monitor flicker etc.
  • power difference (Score:3, Interesting)

    by j1m+5n0w (749199) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @03:16AM (#14782887) Homepage Journal
    Most wireless cards are about 35 milliwatts. Cell phones usually on a somewhat nearby frequency and, I believe, somewhere between 200-600 milliwatts (someone please correct me if that's wrong) and right next to your head. (As others have pointed out that radio follows the inverse square law, not inverse cube.) Also, the duty cycle is probably less for most wireless applications; if you're just surfing the net, the connection is idle most of the time, and is therefore the wireless card is not transmitting. Therefore, this is indeed silly to worry about if one is going to ignore cell phones.

    For the curious, the actual fcc guidelines on permissible RF exposure are here [fcc.gov]. They seem to be saying that at 2.4 Ghz it's OK to subject a random bystander to 1 milliwatt per square centimeter averaged over 30 minutes, or to subject yourself to 5mW/cm^2 averaged over 6 minutes.

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @03:46AM (#14782978) Homepage Journal
    Inverse square is for free space with no absorption, in which case you can derive it from conservation of energy and simple geometry.

    Wi-Fi and cellular signals get absorbed by the ground and by objects in the vicinity. As a result the power dropoff is faster than inverse square. An accurate mathematical model is complicated, but inverse cube is not absurd as an approximation.
  • by evolve2k (956662) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @06:34AM (#14783396)

    People in my office have raised concerns over Wifi and health and I was unable to find anything useful which explained the issues and where the 'generally safe watermark' is if there is such a thing, I would still like to see this issue advanced by someone clear on specifics of emmision levels and related health/scientific research.

    Wikipedia's page Wireless electronic devices and health [wikipedia.org] stated the following:

    "According to a study currently being carried out [who.int] by the World Health Organization.
    "Electromagnetic fields of all frequencies represent one of the most common and fastest growing environmental influences, about which anxiety and speculation are spreading. All populations are now exposed to varying degrees of EMF, and the levels will continue to increase as technology advances. As part of its charter to protect public health and in response to public concern, the World Health Organization (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."
    Wireless LAN
    Although it is generally agreed that EMF levels for wireless LAN devices are much lower than mobile phones, there seems to exist less public understanding of the safety or otherwise of wireless LAN devices than there is for mobile phones. Many wireless LAN manufactures seem to indicate that they are operating towards specific predefined standards which are totally safe. Wireless LANs work by setting up microwave communication in the ranges of 2.4 to 5.8 GHz, depending on the technique that is used (WiFi, WiMax, OFDM, etc). The system is comprised by a base station (called access point, or AP) which establishes point-to-multipoint communication with a number of subscriber units or SUs, to which client computers are connected. Both devices are bidirectional and have antennas that emit at a certain RF power. By definition, the SU stands very near to the computer operator, and the communication link is constant, i.e., not only when there is a call, such as in a mobile phone. In small work and home environments, the AP is also usually very near to human beings, sometimes a few centimeters away. Therefore, the situation, in terms of safety standards, such as ICNIRP, may be surpassed and a higher danger to health may be posed, in relation to other mobile wireless techniques."
    Anyone else want to quote some sources which may shed further light..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2006 @07:20AM (#14783481)
    in my campus the whole wireless network goes down betwen 12.00 and 13.00 becus the heavy usage of the microwave owens. it's funny how people get scared of everything new and dont bother with old stuff that radiate more
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2006 @08:04AM (#14783561)
    For every study that shows correlated effects, two more show none at all.

    Ever stop to check who pays the bills for those two studies that counter every study showing a problem?

    DNA damage from 2.4 GHz radiation at athermal levels would require a form of matter-energy interaction that is currently unknown to physics.

    Your model is naive. Subthermal levels of radiation can still affect the biological function of polar molecules, which can in turn can cause carcinogenic compounds to end up where they don't belong. Radiation does not have to cook an organism to harm it. It simply has to cause it to malfunction.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:25AM (#14783816)
    I know someone who could always feel when the Electro-stim machine was miscalibrated. In fact one of her co-workers could also feel it, and in fact every time they complained about it, they both complained on the same day, and it always was in fact miscalibrated.

    Now, this was years and years ago, when these were huge machines, and they took a lot of power. Some people are a lot more sensitive to these things, but sensitive enough to be bothered by a modern cellphone is doubtful.
  • by Pedrito (94783) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @12:41PM (#14785530) Homepage
    Speaking of people who aren't using critical thinking, there are MORE studies that show it does no damage. Furthermore, anyone with even an inkling of understanding of physics will understand why it's impossible.

    Cancer is caused by defects in DNA. Defects could come from two possibilities when dealing with EM radiation. #1 is ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation is produced in the following ways (the yes/no in parenthesis is whether or not a cell phone has this): Extreme heat (no), radioactive decay (no), nuclear fusion (no), nuclear fission (no), accelerated particles (no). That's it. So, there is NO POSSIBLE WAY, that ionizing radiation is the cause.

    That leaves only thermal radiation as a possibility for causing DNA defects. This is impossible as well because there's not enough heat produced from the EM emissions of these devices to raise A SINGLE CELL 1 degree centigrade.

    So unless you think cell phones and wireless ethernet devices produce some, as yet, undetected force of nature, that interacts with living cells, I think YOU'RE the one that needs to do some critical thinking and extract some wisdom from the real world.
  • by Art16 (956741) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @02:16PM (#14786410)
    So.... LESS IS WORSE! We already live in super high levels of EME compared with 1900, and the exposure levels keep getting higher. There is no such thing as "low level exposure" unless you inhabit a cave or salt mine. With the "less is worse" mythology, we should be seeing people getting healthier! Get out a spectrum analyzer and just see that in which you really live!
  • by jlseagull (106472) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @02:17PM (#14786421) Homepage
    The university is covering for something, this doesn't smell right. Watch for a sweetheart deal with a Wifi provider that has "hypoallergenic and safe" EM waves or something, and look for the uni to pay a premium for it, and banning all other wifi devices is for "health reasons" - not, of course, because the other company wants to charge a premium for their "safe" hardware.

    The students are going to get screwed one way or another, that's for sure.

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