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Sleeping Children Wi-Fi Radiation Warning
Western Mail
Journalist: Rhodri Clark
May 21, 2007

A Welsh radiation expert has warned of the dangers posed by wireless internet technology to sleeping children.

The fears come amid claims that so-called “wi-fi” internet connections in schools could damage children.

An episode of BBC’s Panorama will tonight investigate claims that wi-fi networks in schools can give off greater levels of signal radiation than a typical mobile phone mast.

Government advice recommends masts are not sited near schools without consultation as children are thought to be more vulnerable to radio frequency radiation emissions than adults, the series states.

But with more and more homes installing wi-fi (wireless fidelity) as phone companies offer the necessary equipment free to new subscribers, fresh concerns have been raised about its suitability in the home.

Biologist Roger Coghill, of Pontypool-based Coghill Research Laboratories, has warned parents not to use wi-fi until the science is proven.

“It’s a precautionary principle I’m advocating,” he said.

“The risk is probably greater in the home than in schools because people don’t sleep at school. Sleep is the principal time when we repair our cells.”

Wi-fi allows laptop and other computers to access the internet from anywhere in the house, and often from the garden.

Games consoles can already use wi-fi for online gaming, and other devices are likely to require wi-fi in the future.

Scientific evidence about the health impact of wi-fi has yet to be generated because the technology is only now being taken up widely after hotels, airport lounges and other public areas led the way.

Mr Coghill said wi-fi in the home would add to the electromagnetic fields there – on top of those from sources such as mobile-phone masts.

Mr Coghilll, a member of the Government’s advisory committee on electromagnetic fields, will attend a conference in Japan next month to hear about the latest research on wi-fi’s possible health effects.

He said, “What we can say, based on the laws of physics, is that all electric fields are super-positive, so that if you have a base level of radiation in your environment and you bring out a new source, it does actually add to it. As it builds up, that impact increases. It’s worse for children than adults because they are still growing,” added Mr Coghill.

Electromagnetic radiation disturb the body’s own electrical fields, for example ones controlling heart beat or cell development.

Wi-fi kits feature a box with an antenna which creates a field in which computers can communicate wirelessly with the internet.

Mike Reddy, an expert in future technology at the University of Wales, Newport, said some antennae had a range of 350ft butthe ones given away free to domestic consumers would normally have a range of 35-70ft in all directions.

He said consumers should ask themselves whether they needed to use the free wi-fi kit they got from their phone company, or whether wired connections – faster than wi-fi – were practical.

“People will say, ‘I’ve got this thing anyway, so I’ll use it.’ Or they’ll think, ‘Now I can have internet access in every room.’ But do you really need it in every room?” said Dr Reddy.

“The strength of the signal can be turned up and down. If you feel you have to use wi-fi, set it so that the signal you have just works – rather than putting it on to full strength.

“If you want to be cautious, keep your children away from your wi-fi.”

He said users should turn off their wi-fi boxes whenever they weren’t connecting wirelessly, to prevent people outside the house using the connection as well as guarding against possible health impact.

Mr Coghill, whose lab has been researching electromagnetic fields for 25 years, said electronic technology should be subjected to similar rules as medicines, with trials to prove the safety of new products before they went on sale.

Parental warnings
The advice about avoiding home wi-fi if possible is the latest worry for parents to contend with. Others include:

Too much TV
Psychologist Aric Sigman recently told MPs that children under three should watch no TV at all, to reduce the chances of them becoming couch potatoes.

The dangerous outdoors
Worries about road accidents and stranger danger mean children spend less time playing with friends in the streets than a generation or two ago.

Too little exercise
Parents should feel guilty if their children aren’t taking enough exercise. Even if the kids aren’t overweight now, they could develop lifestyles that could harm their health later.

Internet entrapment
Paedophiles can pose as teenagers in internet chat rooms and set up clandestine meetings with inexperienced young people.

Mobile-phone radiation
The effects on children of radiation from mobile-phone masts, and the use of mobile phones by youngsters, are still being debated.

Salt, fat and sugar
Parents are constantly told that children’s bad diet is threatening to overwhelm the NHS with future ailments including diabetes.

DrugsMind-altering substances – not to mention alcohol, tobacco and classified drugs – are widely available, even in rural areas.

Car crashes
Teenagers are disproportionately likely to be killed or injured in road crashes. Even if you stop your son or daughter having a car, they could die as passengers of a friend who loves to show off at the wheel.

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