Skip to main content

Wi-Fi: Health Hazards

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 9 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what estimate he has made of (a) the number of people suffering health problems as a result of Wi-Fi communications and (b) the causes of sensitivity to Wi-Fi technology; (154577)

(2) what assessment he has made of the health implications of Wi-Fi communications;

(3) what representations he has received about the potential health implications of Wi-Fi communications;

(4) if he will set up an inquiry into Wi-Fi communications and their environmental and health impact.

The Department is advised by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) on Wi-Fi or similar wireless (WLAN) technology and health issues.

Current advice from the HPA is that

“There is no consistent evidence to date that Wi-Fi and WLANs adversely affect the health of the general population. The signals are very low power, typically 0.1 watt (100 milliwatts) in both the computer and the router (access point) and the results so far show exposures are well within internationally accepted International Commission on Non-ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines. Based on current knowledge and experience, radio frequency exposures from Wi-Fi are likely to be lower than those from mobile phones. Also, the frequencies used in Wi-Fi are broadly the same as those from traditional radiofrequency applications.”.

On the basis of this advice the Department believes it is not feasible to conduct any further estimates of the numbers affected.

The HPA statement on Wi-Fi is available at:

www.hpa.org.uk/radiation/understand/radiation_topics/emf/wifi.htm.

In 2005 the HPA published a review of electrical sensitivity. This is a condition which some people attribute to exposure to electromagnetic fields associated with the electricity supply and electrical equipment. The review notes that although the symptoms are attributed to exposure to various types of electromagnetic fields, there is no proven scientific link between such exposures and symptoms. A number of studies have looked for diagnostic markers for electrical sensitivity but no consistent marker has been found. The HPA report entitled “Definition, Epidemiology and Management of Electrical Sensitivity” is available at:

www.hpa.org.uk/radiation/publications/hpa_rpd_reports/2005/hpa_rpd_010.htm.

From May to September this year the Department has replied to four parliamentary questions, four items of correspondence from organisations and twelve from members of the public that have cited Wi-Fi equipment as a cause of health problems including the disturbing symptoms referred to as electrical sensitivity.

The Department is not planning an inquiry into Wi-Fi but the HPA is announcing a programme of work on Wi-Fi and WLAN installations such as those used in schools and homes. Discussions are underway with partner agencies, especially those in the education sector. This project aims to systematically investigate the types of Wi-Fi equipment in use and produce information on exposures to radio signals from wireless computer networks.

An HPA fact sheet on Wi-Fi is available at:

www.hpa.org.uk/radiation/understand/radiation_topics/emf/wlans.htm.