Followers of Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science blog (, will be aware of the recent panic in Britain over wi-fi radiation in schools.

The story began on 21 May when the documentary series Panorama screened a programme titled Warning Signal, in which it was claimed that an invisible “smog” of radiation was having as-yet unknown health effects, which had been totally ignored in the unseemly rush to install wi-fi systems in British classrooms. The show was largely driven by an anti-radiation campaigner who runs a shop selling screens and paints, and even mesh hats, with which you can protect yourself from this invisible menace.

This was followed 10 days later by an article in the Independent by Julia Stephenson, who had been told by her naturopath that her generalised symptoms were caused by her wi-fi system and cordless phone. She’s now gone back to a regular phone (“But at least I’m less radioactive”), and has bought a QLink pendant-eviscerated by Goldacre on May 19-for £69.99.

Stephenson took exception to Goldacre’s comments on her article, reminding her readers that “at one time scientists assured us the earth was flat and that mercury, asbestos, the atomic bomb and cigarettes were harmless.”

The story was taken up by the New Zealand Herald on 24 May. David Black, a senior lecturer at the Auckland University Medical School, said parents need not fret about the British study, which claimed radiation levels from wireless internet in classrooms were three times higher than those from a mobile phone mast.

Emission levels from wireless computer network technology were negligible, he said. Mobile phone towers were low-power transmitters, emitting only a few watts. “The fact that something that you’re a metre away from appears to be three times as high is really quite irrelevant.”

The frequencies emitted by wi-fi don’t go much past the skin, he said.

Meanwhile, Auckland administrative finance manager Sheri-Ann Atuahiva said she had been involved in screenings around the country of a documentary by Dr George Carlo, explaining how radio waves from mobile phones and other wireless devices interfered with how cells communicated. Carlo formerly headed a US$28.5 million research programme funded by the cellular phone industry. He initially found there were no significant health threats posed by such devices, but changed his mind about the time his funding ran out.

For more than two years Mrs Atuahiva experienced a “drilling pain” in her left shoulder blade, which was the side on which she was using her cellphone.

A friend introduced the mother of three to a cellphone chip meant to modify the electromagnetic radiation it emitted. Within two days, the pain was gone. She was now an independent consultant for the chip-maker.

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