Are there health risks in using Wifi technologies?

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With the rising popularity of wireless technology in our society, there is growing concern about the possible health risks of this convenient technology, especially in schools and in hospitals where use of these technologies are now very common.

Controversial articles have been published by health and nutrition groups warning us about the use of Wifi in our homes. Most of these warnings highlight the dangers of EMR (Electromagnetic Radiation), especially when linked to research which suggests a link between mobile phones and brain cancer.

The general assumption here is that indoor and outdoor Wifi technology works in very much the same way as GSM mobile phones and therefor similar health risks are involved. This is not the case.

About WAPA

WAPA is an industry body that represents member companies which offer both indoor and outdoor wireless services. Questions about the health risks of these services have been more and more frequent. This article aims to give the general public an understanding of the key issues related to the safety of these services.

Understanding they key differences between mobile phones and Wifi devices

Wireless technologies used in (GSM) mobile phones and Wifi are very different:

  • EMR rating are different, as displayed in the EMR bar graph graphic below
  • The maximum and average power output of Wifi devices are much lower
  • Wifi devices usually transmit in a “bursty” way and are not always in a broadcasting mode
  • Outdoor Wifi usually uses a directional antenna, which focuses the signal in the direction of the high-site
  • Radiation decreases the further one is away from the transmitter and obstructions such as buildings and trees will lower the total amount which can be absorbed by the body. Wifi devices are usually on the roof of your house or a good distance away from your body, not like mobile phones which are held next to your ear

Let’s look at a few other familiar wireless technologies and compare their power output figures:

Comparisons of Radio Wave Power (RF) Emissions

* FM Radio Transmitter: up to 10 Kilowatts
* Microwave Oven: 800Watt
* GSM Mobile phone base station: 40Watt
* Commercial 2-way radio: 30Watt
* GSM Mobile phone handset: up to 2Watt
* Bluetooth: up to 100milliwatt (in 2.4 GHz)
* Wifi: up to 100milliwatt (in 2.4GHz)

In short, your mobile phone can emit a signal up to 20 times more powerful than a Wifi device at maximum power output. Or if you want a more practical general usage figure, let’s compare 60mW Wifi and 1W mobile phone emissions. The Wifi device emits only 6% of the mobile phone’s 1W.

This gives you a good idea of how low the power output of indoor Wifi devices are.

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Indoor Wifi devices usually transmit their signal in all directions, 360 degrees. Antenna design is another key area to look at when investigating wireless technologies.

Outdoor Wireless Services

Outdoor Wifi applications usually use directional antennas with a 20 degree beam width. Outdoor fixed Wifi links require a line of sight connection to high-sites and are therefor usually on the roof of a house or office building.

Since these links require a line of sight view of the high-site you can deduce that the signal is not strong enough to pass through walls and trees effectively. If you are inside a house or building with an outdoor fixed Wifi device installed, you are shielded from the signal by the roof and walls and the transmission power is focused away from the building. There will be very little or almost no signal strength measurable inside the building.

Wifi Standards Bodies

All wireless equipment is manufactured in compliance with the guidelines found in radio frequency safety standards and recommendations and are thus considered safe for use by consumers. These standards are developed by expert committees such as the IEEE Standards Coordinating Committee and are constantly being reviewed and updated with new scientific research.

Wifi technologies and broadband wireless has been used in the first world for over ten years without any evidence to suggest that Wifi technologies are harmful. We feel there is no cause for concern. Wireless is here to stay and it cannot be disputed that in todays world the advantages of this amazing technology far outweigh any negative speculation.

Read more about Wifi and your health.