Is Wi-Fi "harmful"? No idea, but please discuss it in the right way
An paper published this year argues that Wi-Fi is harmful, in spite of previous studies claiming the contrary. Even if it is wrong, there is ONE sentence in that paper that EVERYBODY, scientist or not, should read and remember.
The self-declared hightlights of “Wi-Fi is an important threat to human health”, which was published (if I understand correctly) in January 2018, are:
- 7 effects have each been repeatedly reported following Wi-Fi & other EMF exposures.
- Established Wi-Fi effects, include apoptosis, oxidat. stress; testis/sperm dysfunct; Neuropsych; DNA impact; hormone change; Ca2+ rise.
- Wi-Fi is thought to act via voltage-gated calcium channel activation.
- One claim of no Wi-Fi effects was found to be deeply flawed.
I have no qualifications to make a full judgment of the correctness of that paper. Maybe Wi-Fi is harmful, maybe not. Maybe that paper is fundamental, maybe is totally worthless. Do not ask me. The only thing that, in my humble opinion, everybody, or at least journalists, should remember from that paper is this single sentence:
“Wi-Fi exposures [are] becoming more and more common and… many of our exposures [are] without our consent”
Remembering that sentence helps to not repeat the communication and discourse error already made with cellphones. We have already gone once through years of ridiculous warnings, debates and suggestions around how your device may hurt you. I am talking of REAL “advice” like:
- “do not sleep with your phone in the bed or on a nearby nightstand”
- “to protect your brain, use a headset, keep your cellphone in your pants pocket while you call” (hidden meaning: “please fry your genitals with your phone, so the REAL problem we have here will not afflict future generations”)
See the problem here? It is the “your” word. It is framing the whole issue only about “you”, meaning “the allegedly responsible adult, who is the owner and direct user of the device”.
Framed that way, the question is only how much you can be allowed to hurt yourself, and how much information and your advice you should be given to take that decision. Which is great for marketing (“buy the new smartphone, it fries you less than the one you have”), but not much more.
But once the exposure to something becomes “more and more common” and “without consent”, the way to study, discuss and regulate it (or not) is the same that we learned with smoking: spend a few seconds to show you that smoking causes cancer, then worry much about second hand, involuntary smoking that could affect everybody else. Especially those who, for whatever reason, cannot figure out what is happening, or walk away.
Yes, of course we should have sound science and hard data to figure out whether keeping one’s phone on the nightstand increases one’s likelyhood to get brain cancer, and make sure that everybody knows the results of such research.
But it is way more important to research, regulate, communicate… whether living from conception to death, non-stop, under cellular base stations is harmful or not. In my opinion, we did not get this approach and prioriy right with cellphones. We should at least not repeat the same error with Wi-fi, and its exposures “more and more common and…[many times] without our consent”. We should focus on the “non-consensual exposures”.
IMPORTANT: let me repeat that I do not say or think that living under wi-fi fields is harmful. I do not know, and so far I also have no reason to argue against science that concludes that Wi-Fi is harmless. I am only, only saying that the research question that should have by far the highest priority, both among scientists (and who funds them) in popularization, is not:
does my Wi-Fi router hurt me?
does permanently living next door to somebody else’s Wi-Fi router hurt people?