Is wireless changing our DNA?

* FCC doesn’t worry about Wi-Fi, but debate persists worldwide

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A number of readers have written during the past several months to voice concerns about the effect of wireless signals on human health. This topic continues to grow hotter as high-power 802.11n networks emerge and industry suppliers push the concept of the "all-wireless enterprise" - a phrase that conjures up visions of our bodies getting zapped with wireless signals all day long.

Many of us in the U.S. look to the Federal Communications Commission for guidelines about such topics, including what is a safe density of access points (AP) to deploy and what amount of RF a person can tolerate safely. However, the FCC doesn’t really take a strong stand on this issue.

The FCC does consider and test the wireless radios within portable devices, such as tablets, single-mode and dual-mode phones, which are used in very close contact with the human body. The commission as yet has no such detailed tests for APs and Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, because it considers the distances between the equipment and an end user to be comparatively high.

Note, though, that each country has its own guidelines and rules about product emissions, and the issue continues to be debated around the world. Perhaps the most extreme, in 2007, the German government issued a statement suggesting that its citizens avoid the use of Wi-Fi altogether. And some in the U.K. and Austria consider Wi-Fi to be potentially dangerous to the health of children, according to The Independent, a newspaper in the U.K., and are avoiding its use in schools.

However, according to a September 2008 article in The Provident, a Canadian newspaper, the World Health Organization has completed a 10-year study that concludes that “the amount of non-ionizing radiation absorbed by a person’s body from a Wi-Fi station is less than one-fifth that they receive from FM radio and TVs that surround them day and night.”

According to the report, the level of non-ionizing radiation — radiation such as light or microwaves that do not cause genetic damage — from the wireless computer routers are less than 2% of international safe-exposure guidelines.

For a World Health Organization fact sheet on electromagnetic fields and public health, click here.

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