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Wireless Silicon Valley: BBC WiFi documentary creates huge stir

Original post made by WiFi Canary in a Cage, Downtown North, on May 30, 2007

Last week in the UK, the BBC aired a half-hour documentary on the controversy around the subtle health issues of wifi. There has been an astounding response to this program: thousands of customers are asking their service providers to turn off or disable the wifi capability of routers and other equipment.

Here is the BBC site and transcript:

Web Link
WiFi: a warning signal

Web Link
transcript with scientists' statements

What many people do not realize is that microwave radiation from cell phones and wifi emissions are making a certain percentage of the population actually physically ill. In the UK the estimate is 3 to 7 percent of those exposed.

Most conventional scientists will only acknowledge the "thermal heating effects" of the microwaves, and hence gage their recommendations for maximum exposure on that criteria. HOWEVER, a smaller group of dedicated researchers have discovered unmistakable links between cellular changes and exposure to low levels of microwave radiation. These negative effects at the cellular level occur at MUCH LOWER levels than the typical and "considered safe" exposures found in typical use of wifi or cellular phone equipment.

So in some sense, those "electrosensitive" individuals who are having headaches, stress, and other physical symptoms, are acting as "canaries in a cage", warning us of the potential of harm from long term, high level exposure to these emissions.

As the documentary points out, the UK had national regulations mandating that cell phone towers be kept a certain distance from schools to keep exposure of the children below a maximum level. HOWEVER, now with many of the UK schools being wired for wifi, the average exposure level from the wifi is THREE TIMES higher than the previous maximum mandated for cell tower emissions.

Many discussions are going on in the UK right now about how to proceed cautiously with this technology. Instead of installing it in a blanket fashion all over the place before we know the long term health impacts.

DO WE want to be exposing Palo Alto and neighboring cities to this kind of blanket radiation effect, without first determining what are safe and appropriate levels? As has been the case for many years, far sighted scientists in Sweden and other areas are leading the world in their concern for environmental safety.


The BBC program mentioned above may not be viewable outside the UK, however this link contains a realmedia file of the program:

Web Link

Half hour program, 51 megabytes. Best to right click or option click and "save as" on your desktop. It's in realplayer format, if you don't already have that, visit .

Web Link
Google news summary of backlash from the show


Although I have decades of experience in electronics and computer networking, and have worked for Stanford, Sun, SRI and other tech companies -- I'm not leaving my name here. Because scientists and technical people who question the oncoming push of technoloqy are frequently subject to harrassment and name calling. All I can say to skeptics and other doubters is -- do some research and web searching on the low level cellular effects of emf radiation. You will find plenty of peer reviews papers out there. Some of the scientists involved are mentioned in this documentary.

Listen to the EMF canaries...

Comments (9)

Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 30, 2007 at 5:43 pm

I just read the transcript; it's informative, and worth a read. I'm a big WiFi user, and proponent, but if further studies suggest that chiildren and others are at risk from WiFi radiation, then we must do something to insure that children and "electro-sensitive" persons are protected.

We're all living in a huge test tube. There are chemicals in the air and in our food that will impact some of us in negactive ways. the same goes for certain stree-laden environments; some thrive in those environments, others crash and burn.

We have to learn to be more sensitive to the deleterious effects of our fast changing culture, and realize that there is often a health expense associated with change. We need to factor that expense in as we progress, and charge for services accordingly.

Posted by More WiFi
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 31, 2007 at 8:40 am

Yes and years ago people said that electricity and running water were bad for us.

Posted by WiFiCanary
a resident of Downtown North
on May 31, 2007 at 9:37 am

Press release from the San Francisco Neighborhood Antenna-Free Union
Wed May 30, 2007 3:13 pm (PST)

2,500 Antennas and Counting...

The San Francisco Neighborhood Antenna-Free Union (SNAFU) is a grass-roots, city-wide coalition of individual residents and neighborhood organizations that works to prevent the placement of wireless antennas on or near residences, schools, health care centers, day care centers, senior centers, playgrounds, places of worship, and other inappropriate locations in the City and County of San Francisco.

SNAFU's work follows from the mounting evidence concerning the health and environmental effects of radiofrequency (RF) radiation used by cellular phones, cellular antennas and other wireless transmitters, as well as a commitment to responsive local government and community-based, democratic control over land use, zoning, and health & environmental issues.

PRESS RELEASE, May 29, 2007:

San Francisco Neighborhood Antenna Free Union
Doug Loranger - (415) 885-1981,
Nancy Evans - (415) 285-7267,

Mayor Gavin Newsom's proposal for a Google/Earthlink citywide WiFi network may soon hit a SNAFU - the San Francisco Neighborhood Antenna-Free Union. The grass-roots organization will file an appeal of the San Francisco Planning Department's categorical exemption of the WiFi project from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) following a Wednesday, May 30, 2007 12 noon - 1 p.m. rally and press conference on the Polk Street steps at City Hall. The City's Board of Supervisors will likely hear the appeal in mid-July.

Google/Earthlink plans to install 2,200 microwave transmitters on light and utility poles throughout the city to provide wireless Internet access.

SNAFU wants an environmental review to be conducted before the City grants approval based on the scientific evidence pointing to potentially adverse health and environmental effects from the microwave radiation utilized by WiFi networks like the Google/Earthlink proposal.

"The studies being done on the health effects of low-intensity radiation used by cellular phones and cellular antennas document a range of potential health problems, from headaches and dizziness to lowered immune response and cancer," said SNAFU spokesperson Doug Loranger. "WiFi utilizes the same kind of radiation and raises the same health and environmental issues."

San Francisco is already immersed in a sea of electromagnetic radiation from sources such as 138 transmitters on Sutro Tower, over 2,500 licensed cell phone antennas at 530 locations throughout the City, thousands of WiFi hotspots in cafes, shops and homes, and hundreds of thousands of cellular phones. No systematic attempt has been made to determine what current cumulative exposures to this radiation are and what the 2,200 proposed Google/Earthlink antennas would add.

SNAFU wants field measurements of existing background radiation levels to be conducted and the results considered in light of the accumulating scientific research on potential health effects before the City decides whether to approve the Google/Earthlink WiFi deal.

In 2003, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown signed the City's Precautionary Principle ordinance, which states in part that "the community has a right to know complete and accurate information on potential human health and environmental impacts associated with the selection of products, services, operations or plans. The burden to supply this information lies with the proponent, not with the general public."

"By stating that the Google/Earthlink project is categorically exempt from environmental review, the City appears to be ignoring its own precautionary policy," said Nancy Evans, a health science consultant with the Breast Cancer Fund. "In England, they have begun dismantling WiFi networks in schools over the potential health dangers. Here in San Francisco, we are moving in precisely the opposite direction. People should realize that their love affair with wireless gadgets may carry a high price in terms of their health."

For more information, visit SNAFU's website at

Posted by Daniel
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2007 at 6:24 pm

It's not surprising that this warning comes from England, the home of the Luddites.

Let 'er rip - we can sort out the consequences later. That is how humans progress.

Posted by David Lieberman
a resident of Professorville
on May 31, 2007 at 8:57 pm

I downloaded and watched the entire Panorama program. I am not impressed. It is about the same quality as a Fox News "documentary."

I was amused by the story of a woman who was able to tell when a transmitter was on 65 percent of the time. I could do that; it is called guessing.

It appears that the people at Karolinska institute in Sweden are at it again. 15 years ago they claimed to have proof that power lines caused cancer. That work has been thoroughly refuted. If at first you don't succeed...


Posted by David Bubenik
a resident of University South
on Jun 1, 2007 at 2:07 pm

It's all very simple. EMF effects are scary because science has been unable to find out what they might be. All anyone knows for sure is they are below the radar, which means they could be anything too insignificant to be detected, and that's terrifying.

By contrast, we all know that exposing our skin to sunlight (another kind of EMF) definitely causes sunburn and lasting skin problems including cancer, so we confidently go sunbathing at the beach.

A beach away from cell towers, that is. You never know...

Posted by Louise Rosen
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2007 at 12:49 pm

Looks like the only canaries flying around are the EMF canaries... first, the bees left, and as I haven't seen a bird in my yard for days, I surmise that the birds have gone the way of the bees... I wonder how long the EMF syndrome will take to work its way up the food chain?

Posted by WiFi Canary
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 17, 2007 at 3:53 pm

By Geoffrey Lean

Web Link

Posted by WiFi Canary
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 17, 2007 at 4:05 pm

Official EU site:
Web Link

BioInitiative Report: A Rationale for a Biologically-based Public Exposure Standard for Electromagnetic Fields (ELF and RF)

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