Is RF exposure from Wi-Fi routers hazardous to your health?

Posted by Rik Fairlie @ 9:13 am

A few months ago, I offered to install a Wi-Fi router for a friend so she could use her laptop anywhere in her home. My friend is a self-employed writer, and a fidgety one at that, so I thought she’d snap up the offer immediately. Instead, she said all those radio waves terrified her; she was worried that they’d somehow eat her brain. I laughed, pointing out that her microwave oven and cordless phone should be considered equally hazardous, then forgot all about it.

Until the other day, when I ran across a discussion on a CNET forum about the potential health risks of Wi-Fi. A lot of people in this thread dismiss the risk of diseases like cancer, but a few advise that you not sleep within 9 feet of your router. This caught my attention, since my router is exactly 6 feet from my pillow. Worse, when I sit at my desk, it’s 2 feet from my head.

I did some research and discovered that groups in the United States and U.K. have sued school districts in bids to remove Wi-Fi from educational facilities, due to the alleged risks. Clearly, some people are taking the issue seriously.

So I contacted spokespeople for three U.S. companies that make wireless routers, but none were interested in discussing the matter. I also got in touch with the Wi-Fi Alliance, which sent me this link to research on the matter.

According to the World Health Organization, RF exposures from routers range from 0.002 percent to 2 percent of the levels of international exposure guidelines. The WHO says this is lower than RF exposures from radio or TVs, and adds that the body absorbs up to five times more the signal from FM radio and television. The organization also notes that radio and TV broadcast stations have been in operation for more than 50 years without adverse health consequences. And the WHO dismissed another common concern—that RF rays can increase body temperature—by noting that temperature increases are so insignificant that they cannot affect human health.

I’m not sure why wireless router makers were reluctant to discuss the matter, but it doesn’t seem that Wi-Fi router emissions are anything to worry about. What do you think?