So, with all this hot air blowing around about the inevitability of our imminent deaths due to mobiles and Wi-Fi, it is no surprise that Patrick Holford starts using his extensive physics knowledge to keep us safe from the evils of the ‘New Big Pharma’, the mobile-wifi-EMR conspiracy of ‘Vested Interests’. Patrick rids his home of Wi-Fi and in doing so starts a new experiment in the dangers of EMR – but that is to come.
Patrick has sent his latest missive from 100% Health e-news, entitled ‘Wi-Fi Health Warnings: Is Your Broadband Harming Your Health?‘. The short answer ought to be of course, ‘No’, but instead Patrick subjects his subscribers to his flaky knowledge of electromagnetic theory. Let’s pull his email apart…
At the heart of his email is the message that ‘most people don’t realise how easy it is to create an EMR free home.’ Obviously, EMR is a big evil that your family needs to avoid. Patrick begins his email,
The more research I read on the dangers of electromagnetic radiation (EMR), from mobile phones and especially from wireless networks (wLANs, otherwise known as Wi-Fi) installed at home, the more convinced I am of the importance of creating an electromagnetic free home environment.
Now that would be quite a feat in that electromagnetic radiation pervades the universe. There is no escape from it. But of course, let’s not be pedantic, Patrick is just concerned about removing from our houses the frequencies that have been implicated in mobile phone causing cancer, wi-fi worries and electrosensitivity induced by domestic appliances. Why this broad range of frequencies is dangerous to human health is of course at the heart of the controversy. Patrick has obviously seen enough evidence to convince him that something is afoot. Many of us are going to need a little more convincing.
In order to free of us of dangerous EMR, Patrick proposed we get rid of our wireless broadband networks and replace them with something allegedly less dangerous. However, in doing so, Patrick displays a remarkable lack of knowledge about the issues. He says,
The big problem with wLANs is that, unlike your mobile phone, they are on and broadcasting, 24 hours a day. The signal also has to be very strong, which is why you can often pick up a wireless network from two houses away, and it gives off radiation similar to emissions from mobile phones and phone masts.
Now, Wi-Fi is not a strong signal. It broadcasts at less less than 0.1W. Compare this with the EMR given out by a light bulb at 100W, or the million watts output by a TV transmitter. Wi-Fi does not need strong signals, it just needs to broadcast locally, usually within a building. A mobile on the other hand, needs to transmit many hundreds of metres. Even then it can do this on incredibly low power consumption. The battery in a mobile is tiny. This is made possible because modern electronics can be very sensitive. You just do not need strong signals to do the job. Take the transmitters in the Voyager spacecraft, now on the limits of the solar system. They broadcast back to Earth with much less than 300W of power – that is, enough power to light a living room. The fact that Wi-Fi barely gets next door, just shows how low-power the transmission is. These tiny radio power levels are one the main reasons scientist are so sceptical of the dangers of Wi-Fi and mobiles. But more on this later.
Patrick proposes the following:
Instead of wLAN you can use ‘dLAN’. This safe alternative is simply a box that plugs into any mains socket, with a lead that plugs straight into your computer. In effect it turns your household mains wiring into a hi-speed network.
These dLans, made by companies like Devolo, are rather quite neat. Many people use them because data rates can be much higher than Wi-Fi, they are much cheaper than installing dedicated wiring, and signals can get through thick walls easily.
dLans work by sending signals through your mains circuits and to specially adapted plugs. In slightly technical terms, the a/c current is modulated with a high frequency signal to carry the digital data. The frequencies are so high that your iron and Corby trouser press do not notice. However, and this is the important bit, electrical engineers have a technical name for long lengths of wire with modulated signals on them – aerials.
Yes, Patrick has turned the rings mains in his home into one mighty big aerial, spraying digital data EMR all over the place. It is an inevitable consequence of the physics of using a dLan. So, instead of ‘no invisible EMR zapping your family’, Patrick is adding a whole new frequency range of EMR into his house. He adds,
I’m now working on converting my neighbours, with their wireless networks, to convert to dLAN so we can create an EMR free street!
Uh no, Patrick. You are just adding to the EMR noise in your street. Hi Fi buffs are well aware of this problem and spend a small fortune ‘cleaning’ their mains to prevent interference problems. The mains is a high voltage, high power transmitter, and is very noisy. One of Patrick’s radiation detectors ought to tell him that.
Devolo actually discuss this problem on their web site as they have anticipated their more electrically aware customers might have questions about it. In fact, the problem is so severe that it is quite a security risk as a baddy in the street, with appropriate inexpensive receiving equipment, could pick up the EMR from the mains and snoop on your network. As a result, all network traffic on the mains should have a high level of encryption applied to prevent electronic evesdropping.
Devolo point out that the EMR from their network is somewhat lower than from a mobile phone, but is not too much different from a Wi-Fi network power. However, as Patrick points out, the network is going to be on all the time, and if Patrick is downloading dodgy bit-torrent files 24 hours a day, the total exposure could be ‘significant’. The frequencies associated with the dLan are closer to a mobile too.
Let’s use the electrosensitivy lobbies arguments here and see how they go. (Tongue firmly in cheek from now on, if you don’t pick up irony…)
First, do we trust the Devolo web site? They have a huge vested interest after all? Also, Devolo say the EMR power from their dLan is very low and no thermal effects can be expected. Trust them to say that. We all know that it is the non-thermal effects that we need to be worried about. Studies on stork nesting habits and sperm mobility prove it. The frequencies emitted by the dLan could well have subtle non-thermal effects on delicate cell structures, inter-cellular signalling, brain membranes and the immune system. Cancer is a possibility that cannot be ruled out.
It is also worth noting that Devolo can provide absolutely no evidence that their dLan is completely safe. There have been no long term studies on human health on exposure to the frequencies emitted by their networks. We at HolfordWatch call for more research to be done and the government should call a moratorium on rolling out such networks to schools.
If Patrick wants to use his family, and his neighbours, as a trial into the safety of such networks, then fine by us. But don’t impose this unknown and unproven technology and its EMR burden on the rest of us.