Tuesday, February 21, 2006

No wi-fi for you! Four Years!

Add this to the tinfoil hat category (do they work? point, counterpoint). Fred Gilbert, the president of Lakehead University will not allow wi-fi on campus because of his concern that there may be health effects related to exposure to EM fields. He bases his decision on scientific evidence that says there is some potential for health effects, but here are his citations -
"Gilbert cited studies done by scientists for the California Public Utilities Commission, whose findings boil down to the fact that while there is no proven link between EMFs exposure and diseases such as leukemia and brain tumours, the possible risk warrants further investigation."
"“Even the World Health Organization in its international review says it doesn't have a great deal of concern but it admits the information is not 100 per cent."
So no proven link, but let's keep investigating anyway, and base our decisions on this lack of evidence. Are you ready to enroll yourself or send your children to this top notch school run by someone who does not make fact-based, science-supported decisions?

He draws a comparison to other effects that don't show up until 30 years after exposure, like those from asbestos or second hand smoke. While it is true that those effects often don't show until 30 years later that is the only conclusion you can draw. The comparison to wi-fi is specious, these other examples have nothing to do with the potential health effects of EM fields. Cancer is so scary it freezes everyone in their tracks.

The comments on Treehugger ask reasonably if university president Gilbert has also banned portable phones, and cellphones on the campus, which also transmit in the same frequency spectrum and are even more ubiquitous than wi-fi. Engadget has a running series on whether cell phones cause cancer or not, they are on chapter 8041 at last count. I think everyone is worried that they will be sued someday whether or not it is proven these fields cause cancer. Remember you don't need scientific proof to win a civil case.

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