Why you shouldn't worry about radiation from your Wi-Fi router or iPhone

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 23
There's a lot of bad "science" floating around about radio frequency and electromagnetic field exposure from Wi-Fi routers and the wireless network that your iPhone accesses. AppleInsider delves into the subject, and the actual science behind it.

Wi-Fi router


First and foremost, RF radiation is not the same as ionizing radiation generated by decay of radioactive isotopes, and from the sun itself. This isn't Radiation Physics 101 in 1000 words, so in short, RF lacks the energy that ionizing radiation has to break chemical bonds, ionize atoms, and damage DNA.

Sufficiently high levels of RF radiation can heat tissue and could theoretically cause tissue damage. But, these levels aren't reachable by the public, assuming safety standards are maintained, and the only people that need to be worried about them are generally workers in extremely close proximity to a transmitter.

Without delving into a basic physics lesson about time, distance, shielding, and wavelengths, that microwave in your kitchen is probably 700W. It is focused on the area below the emitter, and shielded by the microwave's structure itself.

That Wi-Fi router that's in your house? It is probably a single watt, with that entire watt diffused over the entire broadcast area.

It's okay if you don't believe us, even though this writer has a background in practical exposure control. Read what the World Health Organization has to say about it, and if you don't want to do that either, here's the takeaway:
Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.

That iPhone in your pocket

And regarding your cell phone? That's really no different. The combination of the frequency, the fact that it's not broadcasting at full power constantly, and the low levels of emissions do not produce any noticeable heating effects at all. So, as a result there are no known adverse health effects.

The guy that took this picture was in no danger from RF
The guy that took this picture was in no danger from RF


The US Food and Drug Administration has been running studies for 15 years on the topic. The FDA points out that there have been some studies showing minor effects from the devices, but they aren't reproducible. Both the FDA and WHO note that given the profoundly low levels of energy involved, it is nearly impossible to eliminate other causes producing the biological effects in the studies that did find an effect.

"Electromagnetic hypersensitivity"

For some time a number of individuals have reported a variety of health problems that they relate to exposure to electromagnetic fields, or radio frequency radiation. While some individuals report mild symptoms and deal with it by with avoidance, others claim to be so severely affected that they alter their lives to deal with the problem.

This reputed sensitivity to EMF has been generally termed "electromagnetic hypersensitivity" or EHS. But, the scientific studies on the syndrome show that those afflicted have no greater detection of RF fields by symptoms than a user not complaining that they have the syndrome.

The WHO believes that prevalence is "a few individuals per million." Current scientific theories on it suggest that a strobing from CFL bulbs, poor air quality, or either pre-existing psychiatric conditions or new ones induced by stress cause the problem, rather than exposure to RF radiation.

Risk assessment

The radiation exposure industry has an acronym "ALARA" -- it stands for as low as reasonably achievable. Workers are trained to maximize the distance from a source, maximize the effect of any available shielding, and minimize the amount of time spent in an environment with exposure.

For RF, distance is covered as long as you don't have a 5G commercial broadcast transmitter or an Aegis radar assembly from a Navy cruiser on your bedroom wall pointed at you. Shielding is mostly a non-issue as the radiation isn't ionizing. And, the heating effect from normal consumer goods use is negligible, so time isn't even a factor as the 0.01C that your ear skin is increasing because of that long phone call to your grandmother doesn't do anything.

In the case of occupation exposure, limits for trained workers are generally set at 10 percent of whatever is considered a "safe" limit. Limits for the general public are normally 1 percent of that safe limit, or much less. In the case of RF, the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) limit depends on how the measurement is made, but is most restrictively 1.6 watts per kilogram. An iPhone X has a SAR of 1.19 in a worst-case measurement situation at maximum transmission power. If that phone is moved a quarter-inch from your head, then the SAR drops to about 0.6 W per KG.

A wireless router is worst case 0.02 watts per KG at about six inches away from the device, and drops dramatically with distance. Those 50 wi-fi networks you can see from your computer? You're probably looking at a total of 0.1 watts per KG from all the sources combined.

Are you in utterly and absolutely zero danger from RF or EMF? Scientifically, there is no way to exclude the possibility absolutely -- but you're in some form of danger every minute of every day from one thing or another.

To put things in perspective, you are in far, far more danger from a lifetime exposure to the ionizing radiation produced by the radon gas in your basement or from getting cancer from sun exposure, than you are from living in the same neighborhood as a cell tower, with twenty Wi-Fi routers surrounding your chair, and actively talking to somebody on 5G on your iPhone with it velcroed to your head for that whole life. And, the risk from the radon-laden basement is relatively low.

If you're still worried about it, don't sit on your router, and use your speaker function on your iPhone.

Studies continue, and will until the sun blacks out, because people are very bad at risk assessment even when given the data. But, science is true if you believe it or not. So, use that router, and get that mesh network going without fear. Break out the cell phones, and don't worry about using them.
kencbaconstanglolliver
«13456

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 117
    GETCARTERcaGETCARTERca Posts: 4unconfirmed, member
    You don't need to worry about it because you can't do anything about it. You can't walk anywhere without seeing a wifi signal.
  • Reply 2 of 117
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,094member
    I lost track of how many people discuss with me the dangers of phone radiation, yet when I then tell them to turn their phone off or don't use one altogether, they look at me like I'm asking them to sell their first-born.
    chiawozwozjony0lolliverAlex1N
  • Reply 3 of 117
    farmboyfarmboy Posts: 132member
    sflocal said:
    I lost track of how many people discuss with me the dangers of phone radiation, yet when I then tell them to turn their phone off or don't use one altogether, they look at me like I'm asking them to sell their first-born.
    Hmm. Sell or give away? I'm thinking, I'm thinking...

    Kidding, altho if it was a significantly above-market price...
  • Reply 4 of 117
    nhtnht Posts: 4,120member
    I was once told an old sea story how some folks used to warm themselves by being near the beam path of a DDG radar...
  • Reply 5 of 117
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 1,425member
    But but but you can cook eggs!  And popcorn! :)

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=l3ge9M54l7E
    edited May 21 wozwoz
  • Reply 6 of 117
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,663administrator
    nht said:
    I was once told an old sea story how some folks used to warm themselves by being near the beam path of a DDG radar...
    Not wrong. That said, assuming it's the AN/SPQ-9B, they're looking at about .5c - 1c whole body on that, which is still not enough to cause a problem. The SPY-1 is a little more intense.
    edited May 21 Sgt Storms(trooper)repressthislolliverAlex1N
  • Reply 7 of 117
    georgie01georgie01 Posts: 141member
    There are countless examples of people claiming science says some indisputable fact and then later science discovers it was wrong. This is as much a part of science as are the correct things it discovers. People so quickly forget this because they’re so desperate to believe in science, and completely forget ‘science’ is not fact but humanity’s attempt to study fact and therefore prone to continuous and unavoidable errors (some we may never discover).

    I have no idea whether wireless frequencies are unhealthy, but I do know the more we change our environment the more likely it will be unhealthy to us. Structured radio waves designed to carry human information are not natural and we should at least be cautious and not make claims about the science behind it as if that means anything concrete.

    edited May 21 wozwoz
  • Reply 8 of 117
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,663administrator
    georgie01 said:
    There are countless examples of people claiming science says some indisputable fact and then later science discovers it was wrong. This is as much a part of science as are the correct things it discovers. People so quickly forget this because they’re so desperate to believe in science, and completely forget ‘science’ is not fact but humanity’s attempt to study fact and therefore prone to continuous and unavoidable errors (some we may never discover).

    I have no idea whether wireless frequencies are unhealthy, but I do know the more we change our environment the more likely it will be unhealthy to us. Structured radio waves designed to carry human information are not natural and we should at least be cautious and not make claims about the science behind it as if that means anything concrete.

    Radio waves have been bombarding us for literally all eternity, and now man-made ones are. It doesn't matter what's "contained" in the frequency at all as far as data goes. There is no observable data that says that RF is doing any damage at all. What you're referring to is more that the mechanism of the end goal, which in this case is biological damage, alters. Again, in this case, the damage, or lack thereof, does not -- just the explanation of what's between point A and point Z is refined.

    When science changes its mind, so will I.
    chiaStrangeDayswlymjbdragonMacProjony0fastasleeplolliver
  • Reply 9 of 117
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 840member
    georgie01 said:
    There are countless examples of people claiming science says some indisputable fact and then later science discovers it was wrong. This is as much a part of science as are the correct things it discovers. People so quickly forget this because they’re so desperate to believe in science, and completely forget ‘science’ is not fact but humanity’s attempt to study fact and therefore prone to continuous and unavoidable errors (some we may never discover).

    I have no idea whether wireless frequencies are unhealthy, but I do know the more we change our environment the more likely it will be unhealthy to us. Structured radio waves designed to carry human information are not natural and we should at least be cautious and not make claims about the science behind it as if that means anything concrete.

    Which is why you then turn to Stats. They’ll tell you which way a problem is going. In this case the stats just don’t support there being a connection that hasn’t been found.
    bonobobchiawlymlolliver
  • Reply 10 of 117
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,350member
    ... RF lacks the energy that ionizing radiation has to break chemical bonds, ionize atoms, and damage DNA.
    This isn't what most people who are warning about it, are concerned with. You don't have to break chemical bonds or damage DNA to have an impact. DNA is much more like a computer (inputs, impacting outputs), which the science on this hasn't even begun to study.

    Or, to put it another way, there is really no substantial science on this, yet. And, the latest and greatest science says it will have some impact, we just don't know what.

    But, in terms of minimizing, it's all about distance. These signals are relatively low in power, so the main one you'd want to think about is the phone against your ear, the BT ear-bud (though that's even lower power), or sleeping with a WiFi router on your night-stand.

    And, I'd probably take the opposite stance of your conclusion, Mike. Until the science catches up and tells us something meaningful, I'd take a more cautious route of minimizing exposure.
    muthuk_vanalingambaconstang
  • Reply 11 of 117
    Not wrong. That said, assuming it's the AN/SPQ-9B, they're looking at about .5c - 1c whole body on that, which is still not enough to cause a problem. The SPY-1 is a little more intense. … “even though this writer has a background in practical exposure control."
    Radar operator/tech writes detailed article debunking literal tinfoil conspiracies using actual science. Why do I get the feeling that you wrote this article in a matter of minutes? Maybe it’s the feeling that you could throw down some DED-length (circa RoughlyDrafted era) articles on this with PHD-depth?
    fastasleep
  • Reply 12 of 117
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 4,734member
    Paging WozWoz...

    As for the “But science can be wrong!” crowd...ya just can’t have a rational discussion with people who are guided by fear. 
  • Reply 13 of 117
    dws-2dws-2 Posts: 173member
    I think this article misunderstands science, which is a way of investigating the world, rather than a producer of facts. Science tells us that wireless signals won't likely harm us from ionizing radiation. However, that's not the same thing as wireless signals being harmless. Science can only tell us about things that we've investigated. That's why it's so interesting — because we're always learning new things. That said, you have to pick what you're going to worry about, and wireless signals is pretty low on my list.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 14 of 117
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 840member
    cgWerks said:
    ... RF lacks the energy that ionizing radiation has to break chemical bonds, ionize atoms, and damage DNA.

    But, in terms of minimizing, it's all about distance. These signals are relatively low in power, so the main one you'd want to think about is the phone against your ear, the BT ear-bud (though that's even lower power), or sleeping with a WiFi router on your night-stand.
    Well yes Router in the bedroom is a really bad idea for the simple reason that it has lots of annoying blinking green lights.
    Why I do not know. Who has ever solved a router problem by looking at the lights blink?
    cgWerkswlymjbdragonelijahg
  • Reply 15 of 117
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 457member
    The WHO believes that prevalence is "a few individuals per million." Current scientific theories on it suggest that a strobing from CFL bulbs, poor air quality, or either pre-existing psychiatric conditions or new ones induced by stress cause the problem, rather than exposure to RF radiation.
    My wife has to avoid certain stores because the flicker of the lights gives her migraines. I attribute this not to radio frequency radiation, rather to visible frequency EMF, similar to how certain frequencies can cause seizures.

    georgie01 said:
    There are countless examples of people claiming science says some indisputable fact and then later science discovers it was wrong. This is as much a part of science as are the correct things it discovers. People so quickly forget this because they’re so desperate to believe in science, and completely forget ‘science’ is not fact but humanity’s attempt to study fact and therefore prone to continuous and unavoidable errors (some we may never discover).

    I have no idea whether wireless frequencies are unhealthy, but I do know the more we change our environment the more likely it will be unhealthy to us. Structured radio waves designed to carry human information are not natural and we should at least be cautious and not make claims about the science behind it as if that means anything concrete.

    The whole point of science is that you look at the evidence, develop a theory and test it. If the new evidence doesn't match the theory, you must either change the theory or explain the discrepancy. Science never claims to be infallible, just the best current explanation of our understanding of the world.

    You approach is more "a scientist was wrong once, so I don't believe in any science. Instead I'm going to come up with a random theory and stick with it and completely ignore any other evidence or theories." Taken to its extreme, your theory dictates that you should be living in a cave or a tree, as that is the most 'unchanged' environment and therefore the most healthy. Of course, the 100% natural ultraviolet radiation from the sun must be absolutely healthy and could never cause cancer, right?
    StrangeDayskenc
  • Reply 16 of 117
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,350member
    dws-2 said:
    I think this article misunderstands science, which is a way of investigating the world, rather than a producer of facts. Science tells us that wireless signals won't likely harm us from ionizing radiation. However, that's not the same thing as wireless signals being harmless. Science can only tell us about things that we've investigated.
    Bingo. A lot of people, even scientists, don't seem to get this. Of course, very few people have ever had a philosophy of science course, either (including scientists).
  • Reply 17 of 117
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,328member
    dws-2 said:
    I think this article misunderstands science, which is a way of investigating the world, rather than a producer of facts. Science tells us that wireless signals won't likely harm us from ionizing radiation. However, that's not the same thing as wireless signals being harmless. Science can only tell us about things that we've investigated. That's why it's so interesting — because we're always learning new things. That said, you have to pick what you're going to worry about, and wireless signals is pretty low on my list.

    Actually I think that you misunderstood the article and the science that it reports. Science doesn't tell us that "wireless signals won't likely harm us from ionizing radiation", it tells us that wireless signals are not ionizing radiation in the first place. As for whether wireless signals are harmful in some other way - it has been extensively investigated. The only significant interaction of GHz RF with organic material is direct excitation of rotational modes in polarized molecules - a mechanism of direct heating. Since we know the radiation characteristics of the antennas involved, the radiated output power, and the absorbance characteristics of relevant molecules, it is relatively trivial to bound the heating effect in nearby organic matter. 
    MacProkenclorin schultz
  • Reply 18 of 117
    digitoldigitol Posts: 97member
    I like Mike Wuerthele. Thanks for this. Thanks for bringing intelligent, level thinking, and well explained articles to us. We need more of this; experts writing on the subjects they know, not just hear about 2nd,3rd,4th, rate & so-on. Cheers mate.
    edited May 21 wlymmuthuk_vanalingamMacProStrangeDays
  • Reply 19 of 117
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,350member
    muppetry said:
    As for whether wireless signals are harmful in some other way - it has been extensively investigated. The only significant interaction of GHz RF with organic material is direct excitation of rotational modes in polarized molecules - a mechanism of direct heating. Since we know the radiation characteristics of the antennas involved, the radiated output power, and the absorbance characteristics of relevant molecules, it is relatively trivial to bound the heating effect in nearby organic matter. 
    What about interference with cellular communication or impact on gene expression?
    If you're not looking at the right stuff, it's pretty hard to say it isn't having an impact. Hopefully it isn't having a substantial negative impact. But the kind of impact this article addresses (and the studies I've ever seen) aren't taking into account the advances in our scientific understanding from the last decade or two.
  • Reply 20 of 117
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,663administrator
    cgWerks said:
    muppetry said:
    As for whether wireless signals are harmful in some other way - it has been extensively investigated. The only significant interaction of GHz RF with organic material is direct excitation of rotational modes in polarized molecules - a mechanism of direct heating. Since we know the radiation characteristics of the antennas involved, the radiated output power, and the absorbance characteristics of relevant molecules, it is relatively trivial to bound the heating effect in nearby organic matter. 
    What about interference with cellular communication or impact on gene expression?
    If you're not looking at the right stuff, it's pretty hard to say it isn't having an impact. Hopefully it isn't having a substantial negative impact. But the kind of impact this article addresses (and the studies I've ever seen) aren't taking into account the advances in our scientific understanding from the last decade or two.
    There isn't any. The study you're referring to has never been reproduced.
    jbdragonStrangeDaysfastasleep
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