Wireless and Health: Examining the Evidence

Previously, we looked at what an electromagnetic is, and how we examine the evidence around it. 

I recently watched a video production entitled Take Back Your Power, which centered on the deployment of wireless “smart meters” now being deployed by a number of utilities around the globe. The film included a discussion of a number of political issues surrounding many of these deployments, including privacy, property rights, and related topics. I found all of this interesting, but when the film turned to the “health impacts” of exposure to the wireless signals from these smart meters, credibility here went south pretty fast.

I watched in amazement as aphids were described as dancing in synchrony with a rotating radar beam some number of miles away. An elderly woman claimed that the nosebleeds she was suffering were a direct result of sleeping near recently-installed smart meters; others reported headaches and insomnia and attributed these maladies again to the meters. A number of people who worked in a building not far from a cellular-phone tower died of cancer. A chiropractor using a technique called “dark field microscopy” described how human red blood cells immediately formed a “bottlecap” shape (technically, an echinocyte or “burr cell”) when exposed to emissions from smart meters. I even found a seemingly scholarly paper on this effect, this time using cell phones

Many more studies with similar conclusions can be found on the Web; I’ve personally reviewed well over 200 papers on this topic, and none were scientifically convincing. I’ve also had discussions with on the order of 100 different professionals – scientists, engineers, academics, and government regulators – with expertise in wireless and heath-and-safety-related issues. Not one expressed the opinion that exposure to consumer-grade electromagnetic radiation is harmful. Some even said such harm is literally impossible, as, again, only non-ionizing radiation in involved

The core problem for the proponents of wireless as harmful, however, is that no study has confirmed any negative health impact in humans or other living things. Those determined to find evidence of harm, however, have in many cases jumped to the conclusions they seek, even though much of the “evidence” is in the form of innuendo, unproven allegations, assumed correlations, and nonsense – but not a shred of evidence based on science.

Some proponents that I’ve spoken with even promote a conspiracy theory, claiming that the FCC and other governmental and related organizations are in the pockets of the industry, suppressing evidence. It would be hard to imagine such; in an industry this large, there would most certainly be an Edward Snowden out there somewhere.

The World Health Organization, part of the United Nations, has been diligently pursuing the truth here over the past two decades, and continues to do so via global, large-scale studies. To date, however, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use. Ditto for electrohypersensitivity (the nosebleed and headache cases above, and related claims).

And what about the biggest claim of all – malignant brain tumors caused by cell phone exposure or use? In 1990, about 70 Americans per 1 million population suffered from brain tumors. By 2008, that rate had… fallen to 65 per 1 million – this despite an increase in the amount of radiation from cell phones by 500X!. Again, where are all the dead people?

Perhaps the major concern here should be the fact that so many people simply ipso facto accept the nonsense I noted above as reality. We might want to beef up the science curriculum in the schools as a start, but I understand that this effort is already underway or at least in serious discussion at many secondary schools today. But no matter what we absolutely must consider real science before accepting any of the above as conclusive and especially as the basis for policy – indeed, imagine being deprived of the many benefits of consumer-grade wireless communications based on anything less than established scientific fact.

So, speaking of science – in the third and final installment of this series we’ll consider how a rigorous, disciplined, scientific approach to the quest for truth might indeed solve this problem, perhaps even to everyone’s satisfaction.

All Posts In This Series:

Reality Check: Your WLAN Is Already Supporting BYOD. Now What’s Your Strategy?
BYOD Doesn’t Have To Be A Challenge

1) Electromagnetic Fields: Are They Harmful?
2)Wireless and Health: Examining the “Evidence”
3)Wireless and Health: Getting to the Truth



Craig J. Mathias is a Principal with Farpoint Group, an advisory firm specializing in wireless networking and mobile IT. Founded in 1991, Farpoint Group works with technology developers, manufacturers, carriers and operators, enterprises, and the financial community. Craig is an internationally-recognized industry and technology analyst, consultant, conference and event speaker, and author. He currently writes columns for Boundless, Connected Futures, CIO.com, and various sites at TechTarget. Craig holds an Sc.B. degree in Computer Science from Brown University, and is a member of the Society of Sigma Xi and the IEEE.

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