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Scientists Demand Inquiry Over Wi-Fi
The Independent
Journalist: Jonathan Owen
April 29, 2007

The health risks posed by Wi-Fi technology should be investigated by eminent scientists to ensure that a generation will not be damaged by growing levels of "electronic smog".

"The research hasn't been done. Therefore we cannot assume that there are no effects," said Dennis Henshaw, professor of human radiation at Bristol University. "I would be in favour of an inquiry into the dangers of Wi-Fi. This technology is being wheeled out without any checks and balances."

His concerns were echoed by Alan Preece, professor of medical physics at Bristol University, a pioneer of the research into the effects of mobile phones on the brain. "No one is really aware of what we are dealing with," he said. "The Department for Trade and Industry needs to take the lead and do some investigation."

The developments came after a week in which a row has flared between scientists around the world. The exchanges were prompted by reports in last week's Independent on Sunday that teaching unions and scientists have been pressing for an official investigation into the potential risks of Wi-Fi.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA), chaired by Sir William Stewart, has yet to announce publicly its intentions, but senior sources have admitted to this newspaper that proper research needs to be done to ensure that Wi-Fi does not present a danger to children, acknowledging there are ethical issues and public health concerns.

It emerged yesterday that Professor Lawrie Challis, the head of the Government's committee on mobile phone safety, is also urging caution. "Since we advise that children should be discouraged from using mobile phones, we should also discourage children from placing their laptop on their lap when they are using Wi-Fi," he said.

And Dr George Carlo, chair of the Science and Public Policy Institute in the US, is setting up a global registry of people suffering from symptoms relating to the technology. Commenting on Sir William's stance, he said: "I know he is under enormous pressure from the mobile telecommunications industry, and the official stance being taken by HPA is one that is different to his personal views. That is the reality. The HPA has dropped the ball in not requiring testing before Wi-Fi goes into schools."

The concern is not confined to scientists. Last week saw the Professional Association of Teachers call for a formal investigation into the health risks.

The explosion in Wi-Fi shows no sign in slowing. One in five adults own a wireless laptop and half of primary schools and four-fifths of secondary schools now use wireless networks.

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