Penang to continue study on health effects of WiFi


GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government will widen its consultations with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the public on possible health risks posed by free Internet wireless connections in the state.



Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wi-fi: Better safe than sorry

M Mohamed Idris | Sep 26, 08 5:03pm

We refer to the Malaysiakini article CAP is being unreasonable.

There is sound basis for our call, which we hope the Penang state government will heed, in the name of public health. CAP is an independent, non-profit and non-politically affiliated body that has only the interests of consumers in mind, so there is no hidden agenda for the above call as implied by the writer. The following facts are self-explanatory.

Wi-fi, like mobile phones, is an untested technology, meaning that it hasn’t yet been proven safe for use. Wi-fi operates in a way very similar to mobile phones – which should be of concern, as it is now believed that the universal use of mobile phones may be storing up medical catastrophes for the future.

Like mobile phones and their towers (or masts), wi-fi also emits microwave radiation. Though virtually no research has been carried out, public health advocates and some scientists expect them to have similar ill-effects. It is reported that we are all now living in a soup of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) one billion times stronger than the natural fields in which living cells have developed over the last 3.8 billion years.

At current exposure levels, microwave radiation is already questionable, prompting the German government to warn its people to avoid mobile phone and wi-fi use. The world’s top experts have also advised caution in recent years.

The latest scientific opinion on electromagnetic fields – a 610-page Bioinitiative Report written by 14 scientists, public health and public policy experts, and reviewed by a dozen others, which represents a strong comprehensive review of EMR science, perhaps the most precise done to date – has concluded that existing public safety standards for microwave radiation in nearly every country of the world are “thousands of times too lenient”.

In September 2006, more than 30 scientists from all over the world collectively stated in the Benevento Resolution (issued by the International Commission on Electromagnetic Safety) that: “There is evidence for adverse health effects, including cancer and electro-hypersensitivity, from microwave radiation at current exposure levels, and that a precautionary approach should be adopted”.

It is thus important to take a precautionary approach until more is understood about possible health impacts of wireless technology.

Absence of conclusive studies should not prevent reasonable efforts by the powers that be in our country to respond to the information at hand, as has been done overseas.

In Germany, the government in 2007, warned its citizens to avoid using wi-fi. The ruling was on the basis that a possible risk has not been ruled out, rather than because an actual threat has been determined. It recommends avoiding exposure to wi-fi “because it is a new technology and all the research into its health effects has not yet been carried out”.

The German action, the most damning made by any government on the fast-growing technology, is a stark contrast to the unhesitating promotion of the technology by the Penang state government.

The state government should be informing citizens of – and protecting them from – the wi-fi health risks, not arbitrarily imposing this hazardous technology on them. This new technology may be liberating, but it does not warrant the increase in radiation and the potential risks to the health of Penangites.

At a time when governments around the world are beginning to question the safety of wireless technology, Penang is hastily embracing it to the future detriment of her people. This is not only totally unacceptable, but also highly irresponsible on the state government’s part.

In the present EMF research climate, a move in the right direction is to have say, mobile phone-free zones for starters, followed by wi-fi free zones, if the state government is truly committed to protecting people’s health. Instead, Penangites are pushed into accepting a wi-fi dominated environment with the recent state decision.

Adoption of wi-fi technology may appear to be a positive global trend today, but from a public health standpoint, its use has now gone out of control worldwide. It is a grave mistake to see wi-fi technology as a craze worth emulating as the trend now is towards increasing international concern. It is also a social injustice to involuntarily expose all Penangites to its potentially serious health threats with its free implementation statewide.

In the light of present evidence, CAP also calls on the Malaysian authorities in general to be vigilant over the public’s exposure to electromagnetic radiation from rapidly expanding new technologies throughout the country and implement measures to reduce exposures, especially to vulnerable groups, such as children.

As for the Penang state government, it should place people’s health above other interests. In the interest of all, CAP calls on the state government to find alternatives that do not pose the same level of possible health risks as wi-fi, while there is still time to make changes.

The writer is president of the Consumers’ Association of Penang

Informant: Martin Weatherall


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