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  How Microwave EMF Radiation Affects Us Part 2

 

Microwave Radiation, Microwave Radiation Protection

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In response to the media outcry, and the public admissions by William Stewart, the HPA announced in October 2007 that it would launch a programme of research into the health effects of Wi-Fi. Initial optimism for the proposal quickly faded when campaigners discovered that the project would merely “measure exposures to radio signals from wireless computer networks”, and compare them to “international guidelines”.
“This research has already been done” says Graham Philips of PowerWatch. “To spend 300,000 of taxpayers’ money on measuring exposure to Wi-Fi and then comparing the data to 10-year-old ICNIRP guidelines is a complete and utter farce.”

If recent cases of research into the health risks of mobile phone transmitter masts are anything to go by, Philips is right to be angry. In July 2007, the results of a two-year research project joint-funded by the Government and the mobile phone industry were published. The study, run by researchers in a flagship facility at Essex University, had set out to investigate whether people who claimed they suffered health effects because of microwave radiation (known as “electrosensitives”) could tell if a hidden mobile mast was switched on or off at any given time. At a high-profile launch in London’s Science Media Centre – from which representatives of pressure groups and non-mainstream media were banned – the researchers told the press that no significant results had been found and that any electrosensitives who claimed they were affected by radiation should start to look for other, psychological, causes for their distress.

Faced with tight deadlines and information from a supposedly reliable Government research programme, the journalists repeated to their editors and readers exactly what they had been told at the launch. But the study, which has been cited worldwide to dismiss health concerns over microwave radiation, is now mired in controversy.
Basic errors in arithmetic have been found and admitted by the researchers. The scientists also confess that they failed to recruit enough participants, and as such the study’s statistical power (the ability of research to predict “real world” effects) falls below that considered acceptable in social science. In addition, because so few participants were found, the researchers were unable to “screen” them to see if their symptoms corresponded to the known attributes of electrosensitivity.

The researchers also began the experiment by spending three months using equipment designed to simulate a mobile phone mast, which was not sending out realistic signals. The laboratory equipment was missing a crucial frequency that exists in real-world mobile mast broadcasts and is thought to contribute to headaches and other neurophysiological effects. Alasdair Philips was invited in to correct the equipment, but data collected using the incorrect settings as still used in the final analysis.

When the Ecologist challenged one of the paper’s lead authors, Professor Elaine Fox, over why her team had chosen to tell the world’s media that electrosensitivity – a condition medically recognized by the Swedish government – was a myth, she told us: “It seems unreasonable to conclude that there is an effect, when almost 900 sensitive people have been tested under double-blind conditions (Rubin et al, meta analysis, 2005; Regel et al, EHP, 2006, and Eltiti et al, EHP, 2007). These studies are extremely expensive and it now seems more reasonable to start looking for other causes, given the growing evidence.”

A fair defense, until examined more closely. Rubin et al’s “meta-analysis”, which was published, notably, in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, is simply a review of 25 studies of varying quality, of which only seven exposed participants to mobile phone-type radiation; of these, three studies actually had found evidence of adverse health effects. Elaine Fox also fails to mention that the Regel et al study in fact concludes that some subjects were able consistently to tell whether a mobile mast was switched on or off, and that in its conclusion, the paper admits that an effect on brain function could not be discounted.

Moreover, the study run at Essex University had been specifically commissioned to make up for failings in earlier studies, so then to defend the study by citing earlier ones seems dubious at best.
Ultimately, however, the HPA’s new investigation into the risks of Wi-Fi will be of little importance. The reason for this lies not in the airwaves, but in the bundle of data cables that runs beneath your feet.

Internet capacity in the UK is at breaking point. Soaring demand for video services, internet radio, file swapping and web phone services has meant that an ageing system of copper wires originally installed only for telephone calls can no longer cope. In a report by the consultancy firm Deloitte, it was estimated that 2007 may in fact see the internet reach “peak capacity”.

No government, much less one that depends upon the success of a “knowledge economy” such as the UK’s, can afford to let this happen. To lose speed and capacity on your internet network translates into lost business, innovation and tax revenue.
Desperate to encourage ways around this bottleneck, the UK’s communications regulator, Ofcom, announced in summer 2007 that it was planning to auction off a slice of the microwave spectrum around the 2.5 GHz frequency.

The industry nearly fell over itself with excitement. Ofcom knew that this particular frequency band was perfect for a new type of wireless broadband service known as WiMAX. Described by the industry as “Wi-Fi on steroids”, WiMAX uses centrally placed masts (like mobile phone masts) to transmit high-speed internet across towns and rural areas, thereby bypassing capacity problems in using BT’s old-fashioned copper wires and the disruption from digging up roads and gardens to lay new cables.In order to achieve wider coverage, the WiMAX masts are allowed to operate at power levels significantly above those of conventional masts, and the receiver units, which Intel is preparing to build into laptops from 2008 onwards, have been authorized to emit microwaves at up to twice the power level of conventional Wi-Fi equipment.

By 2008, when the HPA will only be halfway through its “inquiry” into the health effects of conventional Wi-Fi, the chief executive of Intel, Paul Otellini, estimates that 150 million Americans alone will already be within range of a WiMAX transmitter, and many thousands of will be using a WiMAX-enabled laptop. Ofcom is already encouraging WiMAX systems in the UK, allowing telecoms companies to increase power levels on rural transmitters in what is described as an effort to “close the digital divide”. The technology is now moving far faster than it can be tested or regulated.

When the spectrum auction was first announced, an Ofcom spokesman told an industry reporter: “Our whole approach to spectrum management is that the market is better placed to decide how to use spectrum than the regulator”.

The German government is advising its citizens to limit their exposure to Wi-Fi systems wherever possible, and to use wired alternatives. The local government in Salzburg, Austria, has set legally binding limits for radiation from masts that is thousands of times below international standards. The Swedish government officially recognises electrosensitivity as a medical problem. The Australian government has rejected the ICNIRP guidelines on microwave exposure as inadequate.

In the UK, however, the final decision on which powerful new Wi-Fi technologies are allowed into our homes, schools, offices and towns will rest with a powerful coalition of IT developers, internet service providers and lame duck regulators.

How Microwave EMF Radiation Affects Us Part 1

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