The Daily Mail has once again disgraced itself by promoting the scientifically discredited view that wifi networks are harmful to health. On November 19 it published an article by Alasdair Philips that said some remarkable things about electromagnetic radiation.
Under the headline “Is electro smog causing your headache?” Philips claims that plans to wifi-enable towns such as Swindon could have “potentially disastrous consequences for the nation’s health.”
Far from doing no harm, some studies suggest that as much as five per cent of the population may already be suffering from headaches, concentration difficulties, chronic fatigue, irritability and behavioural problems because of this electro smog.
Philips has conveniently forgotten to cite the studies to which he is referring. This is a practice for which believers in the existence of electrosensitivity have a reputation. Not only that, the Daily Mail has forgotten to mention Alasdair Philips’ business, through which he sells advice and equipment that he claims will mitigate the effects of electrosensitivity. Perhaps the Mail thought drawing attention to this fact would leave them open to accusations of passing-off biased opinion as journalism.
So a partial commentator writes a scare story in a newspaper renowned for making money out of printing scare stories. Now you’re wondering why I’m bothering to mention such an everyday occurrance…
The phrase “wifi health risks” ranks highly in the search terms people use to find this blog because I’ve written about this subject in the past so I want to reassure people arriving here on the back of such a search, and who might be worried about the health implications of wifi, that the scientific community believes there are none. If you are one such person, please read Ben Goldacre’s excellent coverage of the topic in his Guardian newspaper column, or on his Bad Science blog.
The Internet is the most revolutionary human invention since the printing press. The roll-out of pervasive wireless networking in homes, schools, businesses and public places will be a great enabler. It will provide access to those on the wrong side of the digital divide, promote the development of innovative new services and businesses, and transform our lives in ways we cannot yet imagine.
We must not allow selfish interests to turn the promise of this bountiful commons into a fear-fuelled tragedy.