Health fears raised over bid to create wi-fi town
6:00pm Friday 24th April 2009
Concerns have been voiced over plans to make Barnoldswick the North of England's first "wi-fi town".
Residents believe the proposed web portal to make the wi-fi wireless network possible could have health implications.
And they are backed by experts, who say those exposed to electromagnetic fields could experience symptoms including memory problems or nausea.
Last week, the West Craven Area Committee allocated £10,000 for the scheme, which is expected to cost a total of £30,000.
The scheme is the brainchild of Barnoldswick town councillor Martin Bell. It has yet to be approved by the town council, although a sub-committee has been set up to investigate it.
Coun Glenn Whittaker, who serves on both the town council and West Craven Committee, said: "I don't see how you can allocate £10,000 to a scheme that isn't clear-cut and has yet to be agreed by Barnoldswick Town Council.
"A sub-committee including Councillors Martin Bell, Allan Buck and Keith Bailey is supposed to report back to the full town council."
If the Wi-Fi scheme is implemented, residents within a 12-mile radius will be able to access the town's web portal via their laptop.
While locations in Chile, Italy, South Africa and the USA have set up Wi-Fi networks, Glastonbury is currently the only UK town to do so. However. following the end of a six-month trial in the Somerset town, residents have submitted a 400-name petition against the scheme.
Now people in Barnoldswick have raised concerns about the proposal.
Town councillor Jenny Purcell said: "Not enough long-term research has been done on it yet and there are worries it could cause cancer. I'm dead against it because I don't want to be putting people's lives at risk."
Resident Andy Blackburn, of Esp Lane, Barnoldswick, said he used to live near a mobile phone base station at Park Hill, but became "unnerved" by it and moved.
"In the absence of any proof either way, it's very frustrating that they're going on," he said. "Debates about new technologies often seem skewed in favour of providing a service."
According to experts, someone using a Wi-Fi enabled laptop will be exposed to around twice the level of radio frequency electromagnetic fields as someone living 60 to 70 metres away from a mobile phone base station.
Spokesman Graham Philips, from independent organisation Powerwatch, which plays a central role in the UK electromagnetic field and microwave radiation debate, said: "The exposure from Wi-Fi, unlike TV and non-digital radio transmitters, is very similar to base station exposure. Symptoms found in those living around base stations include concentration or memory problems, sleep disturbance, dizziness, nausea and other adverse neurological end points.
"Considering current evidence, the public should not be subjected to city-wide exposures without the health of the local population being carefully monitored before, during and after roll-out."
However, Barnoldswick town councillor Coun David Whipp said: "Wi-Fi systems are commonplace throughout the country. They work on a much weaker signal than mobile phones. Funding has now been put in place for this initiative. I think some people object to things just for the sake of objecting."
Here is the unedited version of the letter I sent to the Vancouver Courier a couple of weeks ago. It was edited very heavily - I find the points that are the most damning to the industry are usually the ones that get deleted. I know this is often for space - my frustration is that the public misses out on so much of the information they should have access to.
To the Editor:
Re: Free wireless Internet plan remains in limbo, April 10
I am astounded that our city councilors are still trying to find a way to roll out Wi-Fi in pubic buildings without considering the emerging body of science that is saying that Wi-Fi represents a considerable health risk.
I have heard those in favour of pubic Wi-Fi cite the World Health Organization (WHO) and Health Canada (who bases their radiation safety guidelines on the WHO's guidelines) and as two public bodies that say Wi-Fi is safe and falls within their safety guidelines. In reality, Wi-Fi does fall within these guidelines, however there are the following important points to consider:
Health Canada's Safety Code Six is based on thermal guidelines. It allows human tissue to increase in temperature by one degree Celsius
over a six minute period when exposed to microwave radiation. All the
deleterious health effects from microwave radiation that are documented in current peer reviewed research occur at levels thousands of times lower than Safety Code Six. Some of these health effects include headaches, dizziness, cognitive difficulties, sleep disturbances and unexplained anxiety. At a biological level, leakage in the blood-brain barrier, DNA breakage, and disruption in intracellular communication have all been documented.
If you watch the BBC Panorama episode "Wi-Fi: A Warning Signal" at
mastsanity.org, you will hear Sir William Stewart, U.K.'s top scientist and former science adviser to Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair saying the WHO is wrong about safe levels of non-ionizing radiation and that the whole basis of their safety limits are inadequate to protect the population, especially our children.
Ditto for the German government, who in 2007 warned all citizens not to use Wi-Fi. Then there are Doctors Gerd Oberfeld and Henry Lai, who
are world renowned for their research into electromagnetic radiation and biological effects - they both said they would pull their children out of any school that had Wi-Fi. Professor Olle Johansson of the world renowned Karolinska institute in Sweden, has found biological effects at radiation levels lower than those associated with Wi-Fi.
In 2002, following research on wireless radiation in the '90's, the global insurance industry pulled liability coverage for the health effects from wireless technology. Given that insurance companies quantify risks and then associate a dollar value on that risk, this represents a huge liability issue for cities, school boards and anyone who rolls out wireless technologies – they are virtually uninsured.
Last December, in an effort to improve traffic flow for buses by wirelessly controlling traffic signals, Translink rolled out a Wi-Fi network along Main Street from 57th Avenue all the way downtown, with no public consultation or transparency. This Wi-Fi network subjects all residents and businesses along Main street to radiation without their awareness or consent. Now there is serious talk of putting Wi-Fi into all community centres in Vancouver, which will expose our children, the employees and the general public - all the while schools all over Europe are pulling out Wi-Fi based on the aforementioned warnings. Lakehead university in Thunder Bay has held off on implementing campus-wide Wi-Fi for the same reasons.
City council and the city of Vancouver must take a step back and look
at independent the body of research that is clearly saying we may have a huge public health problem in the future. For the sake of our children and all our citizens, the City of Vancouver must apply the Precautionary Principle, and hold off on implementing this technology.
Anything less would be irresponsible.