Wireless computer networks face health probe

The Health Protection Agency is to investigate the safety of wireless local area networks (WLANs) and Wi-Fi.

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The Health Protection Agency is to investigate the safety of wireless local area networks (WLANs) and Wi-Fi.

Use of Wi-Fi is increasing rapidly in businesses, homes and public places, with recent research showing that London is the world’s top “hotspot city”. And last week, the McDonald's fast food chain announced that it would provide free Wi-Fi access in 1,200 UK locations.

Professor Pat Troop, the public health agency’s chief executive, said: “There is no scientific evidence to date that Wi-Fi and WLANs adversely affect the health of the general population.”

Signals were usually “very low power”, typically 0.1 watt in both the computer and the router, with exposures well within guidelines set by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, she said. “Given this, there is no particular reason why schools and others should not continue to use Wi-Fi or other wireless networks.”

But there has not yet been extensive research into what levels of exposure people actually experience, now that Wi-Fi technology is widely used, and the HPA believes new research is needed to fill this gap.

The agency argues that the diversity of available Wi-Fi equipment and the different ways in which it is used make assessing people’s exposure levels a complex task. The public health body is already in talks about the practicalities of carrying out research in schools, among other areas.

“We have good scientific reasons to expect the results to be re-assuring and we will publish our findings,” Troop said.

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