Elizabeth May and Wi-Fi

Originally posted on July 28, 2011.
Last updated February 14, 2012.

September 12 2011 update: Pretty River Academy, a private kindergarten/grade 12 school located  in Collingwood, Ontario, has banned Wi-Fi from their premises, basing their decision on the same flawed research data used by Elizabeth May. The school will instead use wired networking technology to provide Internet access to their students, increasing the chances that someone will be injured tripping over a loose network cable.

February 14 2012 update: the Ontario Catholic Teachers Association is also proposing a ban on Wi-Fi in Ontario Catholic schools. Ignorance truly has no borders.

 “Interesting and informative session on electromagnetic frequencies and Smart Meters. So glad I don’t have Wifi at home.”

“It is very disturbing how quickly Wifi has moved into schools as it is children who are the most vulnerable.”

— Tweets posted on Twitter by Elizabeth May on July 27, 2011.

The moment I read those tweets by Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, I was furious. Once again, a politician learns a bit of “scientific information” from undisclosed and questionable sources, and suddenly becomes opposed to technology that has existed in various forms since 1887. Her beliefs on the alleged effects of Wi-Fi radio signals on the human body are so wrong, she has discredited both herself and her party.

Be advised however that radio waves can be dangerous if you do something silly such as lean against a commercial radio or TV transmitter, which are powerful enough to cook you in the same way a microwave oven cooks your food. But move just a few meters away from the antenna, and these same radio waves quickly lose their ability to heat you up.

Transmission devices and power output

  • Commercial radio and television: up to 500,000 Watts
  • Low power radio and television: up to 15,000 Watts
  • Microwave oven: 500 to 2,000 Watts
  • CB radio: 4-12 Watts
  • Analog cellular phone: up to 3.6 Watts
  • Digital cellular phone: between 0.125 and 2 Watts
  • Bluetooth device: up to 0.1 Watts
  • Wi-Fi router: 0.03 Watts (typical)

Source: Wikipedia

Unlike radio and television transmitters however, the radio waves generated by cell phones, Bluetooth headsets and Wi-Fi routers are so weak that, even with the antenna resting against your body, any heat generated by these devices is immediately dissipated by your body’s internal cooling system.

But what exactly are radio waves? Here’s a simple primer.

Radio waves are a form of radiation whose frequency range is located below the visible light spectrum. Radiation in this area of the frequency spectrum is known as “non-ionizing radiation.” The only injuries this radiation can inflict on you are burns, and only at extremely high power levels close to the transmission source.

Ionizing radiation however begins at the frequency of ultraviolet light, and at high levels will definitely play a bad game of ping-pong with your body. This form of radiation will alter the bonds between your atoms, modifying your body’s molecular and DNA structure, and potentially create nasty forms of cancer that can kill you. Even ultraviolet light, the lowest form of ionizing radiation in the frequency spectrum, is powerful enough to give you a sunburn and potentially skin cancer.

The type of radiation that worries Elizabeth May the most is non-ionizing radiation generated by Wi-Fi devices whose power levels are so weak that, based on existing research data, are completely ineffective at damaging you in any way.

Following the public backlash over her tweets, Elizabeth May posted on her party’s blog a list of studies on the effects of non-ionizing radiation from cell phones on the human body. However, the conclusions reached in her cherry-picked list of studies were already being disputed by other researchers. Despite this, May (and the World Health Organization) have interpreted these incomplete and unconfirmed conclusions as meaning “we haven’t found the smoking gun yet, but we’ll assume the worst and act accordingly.”

Radio technology has existed for well over a century, and has helped transform our world in ways no one could have ever imagined. Information that once took months if not years to be disseminated is now being distributed at the speed of light. Information on how to improve our health and our lives is now readily available, and has dramatically increased our life expectancy in under a century.

Unfortunately, radio technology has also made it possible to disseminate false and misleading information about these very same technologies. For example, Elizabeth May posted her anti-Wi-Fi tweets from her BlackBerry.

Knowing that there’s still no conclusive and replicable evidence to demonstrate how cell phones can have any adverse long term effects on the human body, how can a Wi-Fi radio operating at one-tenth the power level of a cell phone have any noticeable effect on you and your family?

Whenever someone in a position of authority and influence manipulates scientific research for their own personal gain, it harms us all. The dissemination of false and misleading information not only instills unnecessary fear in the population, it can also have serious and potentially fatal consequences. And with many people now realizing that Elizabeth May’s views on the dangers of Wi-Fi radio signals are completely wrong, will they now believe that her views on Global Warming might also be wrong?

Some politicians really need to think before they tweet.

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5 Responses to Elizabeth May and Wi-Fi

  1. Ian says:

    Aaaandd…. homeopathy.

    From FC: So I’ve been told. Sheesh!

  2. Daryl Vernon says:

    Mr. Caron, in his obvious ignorance of the science, falls for the simplistic linearity of power levels as being all-important, and worse, for the nonsense about detectable heat being all that counts. The dangers have indeed existed ever since the amazing technology has been with us. It is just that, finally, with mass cell telephony — esp. its infrastructure — obviously connected suffering & worse has become so prominent, even mainstream media can’t bury it any longer.

    Once you wake up to the fact of your own bio-electromagnetics, which are exquisitely responsive to informational perturbation at diminishingly low power levels, you should begin to get that while the wonders of radio have been so much part of modernist development, their dangers have nonetheless to be faced and eliminated or sharply minimized.

    Consider just this: why assume that the atmospheric non-opacity, in the frequency ranges exploited, is not relied on for freedom from interference, to assure biological flourishing?

    From FC: Do you have any scientific evidence to support your statements? And what were you trying to say in that last paragraph? It’s totally incomprehensible.

    • Daryl Vernon says:

      Have a look at eg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Atmospheric_electromagnetic_opacity.svg .
      Why should we assume that our interference in that “Radio waves observable from Earth” zone is harmless? Why not see it as possibly needing to be clear for all species’ flourishing?

      Scientific evidence? Only a mountain. Eliz. May should acquire greater familiarity herself with the subject before going further, which we hope she does this fall. But already back in ’07 she knew well enough to endorse the Bioinitiative Report, a reference compendium & summary of a great deal of dissenting science on topic. That is a good place to explore what is very wrong with our regulatory regime. May I suggest for starters, section 14, via http://www.bioinitiative.org/freeaccess/report/index.htm ?

      And politically sensible: at her blog, she properly referred for support to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, as august a political advisory body as there is, and their adoption of their May 6 Enviro. etc committee report on the dangers of wireless. See http://assembly.coe.int/Documents/WorkingDocs/Doc11/EDOC12608.pdf .

      Greens lead in Europe on this topic, and they lag here. It’s time Eliz. May catch up. There is a ton of sci. study & history of wrongdoing I can refer you to if you are truly interested. She certainly thought & consulted before she tweeted.

      Here’s the latest on the dangers of wireless, clearly showing, corroborating past studies, that the nearer one lives to a cell base station, the likelier to die of certain cancers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969711005754 . But to focus on cancer is too late, of course. Best recent study on a broad symptomology related to base station proximity, see
      http://www.scribd.com/doc/38565331/Specific-Health-Symptoms-and-Cell-Phone-Radiation-in-Selbitz-Bavaria-Germany-—-Evidence-of-a-Dose-Response-Relationship .

      Tell if you would like more leads, there are so many, and the issue is so serious. I and many others disagree with Elizabeth May — human abuse of the EM spectrum is a more pressing health & enviro. problem than addressing climate disruption. What use a world populated with addled brains and cancer-ridden?

      From FC:

      • Your electromagnetic opacity chart is for air, not human flesh.
      • The bioinitiative report is self-published, with no peer review, and already plenty of criticism against it. It is a scientifically worthless document.
      • The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is a political body, not a scientific body, cherry-picking various scientific reports to make their point. They have no scientific credentials whatsoever.
      • The complete ScienceDirect article isn’t available unless I pay $40, and the University of Essex already conducted research on base stations, with the conclusion that the test subjects couldn’t tell if they were being exposed to radio frequency waves or not.

      And where the heck did you find the expression “species flourishing?” It sounds like it comes from an environmental activism campaign!

    • Daniel says:

      Wow Daryl. Do you have any idea what you are talking about? “Your own bio-electromagnetics” doesn’t make any sense. Bioelectromagnetics is the study of the interaction of electromagnetic fields with biological systems, first of all, and doesn’t refer to how your body works. The way your body’s information pathways work is through potential differences across neuron membranes created by ion concentration differences. It’s not electromagnetic. Electromagnetic fields do not interfere with this potential – its not created by electromagnetic interactions – it’s created by sodium and potassium pumps on the cell surface that set up this gradient. It is analogous to electrical wiring only in metaphor.

      And your last paragraph makes no sense whatsoever.

  3. Daryl Vernon says:

    – The chart: i offer it to jar assumptions — what makes anyone think creatures are adapted or adaptable to messing with that part of the spectrum? As for flesh, the absurd model to test human absorption of RF, has been undifferentiated saline-filled sacks. If eg you can read Motorola whistleblower Kane’s (now online, ’01) book, http://www.scribd.com/doc/21783803/Cellular-Telephone-Russian-Roulette , and still hold that cell telephony “safety” is on a sound basis…

    – Bioinitiative: parts have in fact since been subject to peer-review, to dispense with that silly charge, I believe via the journal Pathophysiology in ’09; you consulted the enormous bibliography of sci. lit. throughout the report that should lead to condemnation of wireless mania; & do you know who the scholars involved were, to call it scientifically worthless”? See eg Martin Blank, some of his comments from last year’s Parl. hearings on topic: see eg after minute 1135 at http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=4738168&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=3 , and just before minute 1200 — comments on the wrongfully maligned report, and talk about exquisite RF effects within human flesh!

    — COE: the pt. of bringing up the political body was to demonstrate the political backing for Eliz. May’s foray into the field; further, they do not “cherry-pick”, the heard & read what was submitted, and followed up on prior recommendations by the EU Parl itself; the issue regards public policy and regulatory misdeeds in its dependence on industry-connected research — you see nothing wrong with this picture, when even insurance companies pulled out of backing the industry long ago, fearing catastrophic claims, far surpassing prior fiascos like re asbestos, a precedent amnong very mnany others in hiding science revealing harm? How about the ratio of industry-connected vs disinterested independents’ research, shown by two separate studies to be drastically skewed, 3/4-plus industry-connected showing “no harm”, the reverse for the fewer systematically underfunded others — you prefer going to judges who have connections to the accused??

    — Dode’s study: the abstract should tell you much in any case; if you have academic access, it should be available as “article in press” if not already published; it shows by 100m gradations for 1000s of cancer deaths for 4 cancers, the closer one lives to antennae, the greater the death rate, in the best study of its kind to date

    Daniel — your remark indicates complete obliviousness to research in the field: read Panagopoulos, who has now written a biophyics textbook chapter no less on the irregular gating of ion channels, replete with equations if that is what you prefer, as the best described “mechanism” (among what must be various pathways) of harm from radiation modulated in these ways, see his testimony to the same committee in a more important meeting in April last yr, just after minute 0925 the summary of a decade of research, http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=4478290&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=3

    Wake up, fellows — you have been lied to big time about “safety”.

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