Wi-Fi, the invisible, wireless communications network, is everywhere these days. This omnipresence has led to certain individuals becoming concerned that it may be causing detrimental health problems in humans, as highlighted in a recent feature by ABC Catalyst. However, there is in fact no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Wi-Fi causes any sort of harm to anyone at any point during their lives.
Wi-Fi (standing for Wireless Fidelity) communicates between devices using radio waves, much like those that transmit television or radio show transmissions across the world. The frequencies of these radio waves are far higher – between 2.4 and 5 gigahertz – than FM radio transmission, which tend to be around 10 to 100 times lower. As frequency is directly related to the energy of the wave, higher frequency waves are also more energetic.
Human bodies contain systems that rely on electrical signals, like the heart and brain. Particularly energetic radiation could therefore potentially disrupt them, with drastic medical consequences. In addition, certain sources of radiation, such as X-rays, can damage DNA and potentially lead to cancer.
So is there any evidence to suggest that the radiation used in Wi-Fi networks – known as radiofrequency radiation – also causes these types of harm? At a recent gathering of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a panel decided that radiofrequency radiation could possibly be harmful, perhaps inducing cancer. It is classified as a Class 2B possible human carcinogen, but this is by no means evidence of actual danger.
Wi-Fi actually shares this category with coffee, carpentry, Styrofoam cups and pickled vegetables – all “possible” human carcinogens. Inclusion in this category means that the possibility that they cause cancer hasn’t been ruled out, but the link hasn’t been demonstrated.
Mobile phones use radiofrequency radiation that is similarly energetic to that used by Wi-Fi. There have been a plethora of studies investigating links between mobile phone usage and health problems, including brain tumors. Although some have suggested that the most frequent users are more likely to develop tumors, this could be explained by problems with the way the study was carried out.
In fact, the studies that seem to show a link between brain cancer and radiofrequency radiation exposure are often found to be poor or flawed studies. The evidence is, at the very least, massively inconsistent, and far larger studies that have analyzed the results of multiple smaller ones have concluded there is no such link between mobile phone or Wi-Fi exposure and the disease in adults, children and even animals.
It’s simply not energetic enough to be dangerous. A small number of medical researchers, such as those appearing in the ABC Catalyst feature, may be wary of this “sea of radiation” produced by mobile phone and Wi-Fi networks, but even they admit that there is literally no evidence to suggest that they are harmful.
Some people may claim to be hypersensitive to Wi-Fi, in that being exposed to these networks induces headaches, nausea, and fatigue. The WHO, as does every other major health collective around the world, concludes that this hypersensitivity isn’t a real phenomenon.
In summary, you are about as likely to get cancer from Wi-Fi as you are to get cancer from a carrot.