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Author Topic: BBC Panorama Wi-Fi Shocker!  (Read 3233 times)
Topic: BBC Panorama Wi-Fi Shocker!  (Read 3233 times)
« May 18, 2007, 08:05:16 PM »



As reported on this site on April 22nd in an earlier post...(here)

Don't forget to set your recorders or Sky+ for BBC's Panorama exposé of the hazards of Wi-Fi this coming Monday evening at 20:30 BST (straight after EastEnders) with repeats on BBC News 24.

Billed as "WiFi - A Warning Signal" it promises to:

Quote

investigate if there a hidden cost in the communications revolution that's making Britain one of the most connected countries in Europe? With 12 cities now completely covered by wireless (WiFi) computer networks and 71% of secondary schools and 41% of primary schools using WiFi in the classroom, Panorama investigates claims that the electronic smog of modern living can cause long term health effects.

For those unfamiliar with Panorama it was once a respected investigative documentary series but shifted to a more tabloid version (hence the post-EastEnders scheduling) to compete with the likes of Trevor McDonalds Tonight series on ITV. Panorama made it's own tabloid splash across the red tops recently when one of their reporters went ape while interviewing Scientologists. Definitely a future candidate for Big Brother Wink

Panorama choose to edit this out of the final programme however the interviewee's, who were filming the BBC filming them, released the clip on YouTube, encouraging the producers to include the clip in the final broadcast.

See the YouTube clip here

Visit the BBC Panorama web site here

Prepare tin foil hat here

Read World Health Organisation report here.

Why the BBC is rubbish here

BBC Mobile site here

Don't sit too close to the TV

 Roll Eyes

update (03/06/07) see complete Panorama Wi-Fi documentary here.

see BBC Newswatch interview with Panorama programme makers here.

« Last Edit: July 08, 2007, 10:34:23 PM by Graham »
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« May 19, 2007, 12:10:40 PM »

An anti-WiFi/technology/power site called Powerwatch is also heralding the Panorama "event" in the manner of fluffy logic that seems to permeate the debate:

Quote

Well, WiFi is very similar in most ways to Mobile Phone Masts. They have very similar carrier frequencies and pulsed digital amplitude modulation. The signal strength in a classroom with 15 WiFi enabled laptops will be very similar to the signal strength you would receive from a mobile phone mast 80 to 150 metres away.

More...

They fail to mention the cordless phones (also on 2.4Ghz band) and baby monitors that are attached to the side of the head for lengthy periods of time or the free Sky broadband wireless router that comes with the Sky box used to watch BBC News 24.

I was going to suggest that you couldn't make this up if you tried but unfortunately they did. Let's hope that the BBC come up with something a tad more tangible.

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« May 20, 2007, 10:42:34 AM »

I write this carefully wearing my tin foil hat in my radition suit  Grin .....


Thanks for bringing this up Graham and for researching the various related links. New technology is always scarey as well as exciting and I think one of the problems for those of us involved with handheld devices is that for some segments of the poulation this heady mix is causing knee jerk reactions.

There seems to be a cultural perception, in the UK at least, that we go to school, maybe University and college and then our learning stops, sure we get some experience but we no longer get excited by something new, instead we fear it. I have several colleagues and friends who simply refuse to learn the capcity of the devices on their pockets, beyond a text message and the odd call. This is a shame because the students who surround them will over take them. Before you know it lecturers will be challenged by their students accessing online encyclopedias during their presentations Wink

New technology should always be investigated and tested before brought into wide spread educational use but we need to be balanced. We shouldn't embrace every innovation because it is simply novel.  Instead we should look to see if it is useful, safe and brings enhancement and connection with learners everywhere.
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« May 20, 2007, 11:26:10 AM »

New technology should always be investigated and tested before brought into wide spread educational use but we need to be balanced. We shouldn't embrace every innovation because it is simply novel.  Instead we should look to see if it is useful, safe and brings enhancement and connection with learners everywhere.

Couldn't agree more with your points Stu!

Of course, until we've seen what our friends at the Beeb have to say we can only put it in the context of the poor quality reporting that we've seen in much of the national press during the past months. From what I recall, none have balanced the "non-evidenced" fear of damage to health with the "evidenced" benefits for learning made possible using wireless technologies.

Without wishing to appear churlish I wonder how many studies, exposés, reports have been conducted into the proximity of schools to main roads with the impact of poor air quality and road traffic accidents?

Another report from the WHO (Youth and Road Safety) suggests that Road traffic accidents rather than disease and violence are the biggest cause of death and injury for young people aged between ten and 24 across the world. On this evidence one might sensibly conclude that the road systems should bypass schools and systems deployed that prevent young people from ever using a road.

Of course, this isn't the same thing and can't necessarily be regarded as a corollary to the widespread implementation of wireless technology around the UK and the rest of the planet, or can it? Don't we now rely on mobile and wireless technologies as much as we do the car or even more so?

If, and it is a big unsubstantiated IF, there proves to be a problem with 2.4Ghz and other wireless communication frequencies then they will need to be fixed over time in much the same way that, like it or not, the automobile industry (along with the pharma and plastics industries, not to forget demands of government revenue) needs to wean itself off oil. After all, for a few years now we've been aware that breathing in carbon monoxide isn't a good thing.

I am indebted to Andy Lewis' blog "The Quackometer" for pointing out other potential hazards within the learning environment that register on the plausible threat scale including:

• Chalk dust
• Meteor impact
• Choking on pen tops

 Shocked

« Last Edit: May 20, 2007, 12:22:44 PM by Graham »
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« May 20, 2007, 09:06:25 PM »

Strange. I'm someone who embraces wireless technology and makes a living out of it. But I can't really see any sense in your posts, Graham. In fact, I find them unnecessarily polemic and childish. Sensationalist the Panorama stuff may be, but there's no need to fall into the same trap and fire back with equally unsubstantiated rhetoric. There has NOT been enough research into some of the technologies you list. There ARE conflicting expert opinions - not just tabloid speculation. These are REAL concerns by people (parents) who aren't wireless geeks and gadgeteers like everybody on this forum (come one, admit it!)

Your line of argument that, since nobody seems to be doing anything about the fact that cars are dangerous and cost many lives, we should not worry about any possible health issues with wireless radiation, doesn't wash. Maybe we should look at both? Where's the logic in saying that because they don't include baby monitors, DECT phones and other sources of radiation, the whole reportage is flawed and somehow conspiratorial ("SKY box used to watch BBC News 24 on")? Does the fact that these radiation sources are probably worse than 2.4GHz Wi-Fi make the overall issue any better?

To dismiss concerns about this oh-so-ubiquitous technology outright as some clap-trap 'bad science' because it might be a threat to our business model or indeed technological lifestyle, is a bit irresponsible. People may well decide that they're happy to live with the risk that this stuff might pose, but we still need to know about it. And for my money, just because the WHO or other bodies publish that it's all OK I'm not going to be convinced. There have been plenty of examples of mistaken medical advice from the authorities over the centuries.

Regards,

Wolf.
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« May 21, 2007, 12:10:50 AM »

Hi Wolf

Thanks for your comments and glad to have some debate. Of course, that's one of my jobs around here - to poke, cajole and start discussions.

My partner read your posting and agreed that I was childish but said at least you don't have to live with me!  Grin

To an extent I also agree with "polemic" although it was intended with good humour but wouldn't you agree that the public (including parents) have been treated to a relentless spate of sensationalist headlines? And now we have Auntie Beeb throwing its not insignificant weight (and as you know, not trivial EMR emissions Wink ) into the ring with the aforementioned advertising and previews. Even the title is prejudicial. Not worth taking a pre-emptive jab at?

I don't believe that I am firing back unsubstantiated rhetoric.  There have been a number of peer reviewed studies into the effects of microwave and other wireless technologies, including the one from the World Health Organisation that doesn't convince you, that have yet to find any evidence of harm. Those reports that have thrown up anecdotal evidence appear to relate to people who suffer from what in Sweden is recognised as "Electrosensitivity". But who are these conflicting experts?

One of the key figures is Professor Olle Johansson who's name crops up in numerous articles. Although it appears that he may be speaking outside his area of expertise as reported by his fellow country men:

http://www.vof.se/visa-forvillare2004eng

Another figure that appears in the media is the 76 year old retired physicist Dr John Walker of Sutton Coldfield whose background was a 42 year career working for Dunlop studying sound waves. That doesn't make him wrong, of course, but I have to question how that stacks up against the WHO or, for example, a recent report in the peer-reviewed Journal of Cancer which recently reported:

Quote

Public concern has been expressed about the possible adverse health effects of mobile telephones, mainly related to intracranial tumors. We conducted a population-based case-control study to investigate the relationship between mobile phone use and risk of glioma among 1,522 glioma patients and 3,301 controls. We found no evidence of increased risk of glioma related to regular mobile phone use (odds ratio, OR = 0.78, 95% confidence interval, CI: 0.68, 0.91). No significant association was found across categories with duration of use, years since first use, cumulative number of calls or cumulative hours of use. When the linear trend was examined, the OR for cumulative hours of mobile phone use was 1.006 (1.002, 1.010) per 100 hr, but no such relationship was found for the years of use or the number of calls. We found no increased risks when analogue and digital phones were analyzed separately. For more than 10 years of mobile phone use reported on the side of the head where the tumor was located, an increased OR of borderline statistical significance (OR = 1.39, 95% CI 1.01, 1.92, p trend 0.04) was found, whereas similar use on the opposite side of the head resulted in an OR of 0.98 (95% CI 0.71, 1.37). Although our results overall do not indicate an increased risk of glioma in relation to mobile phone use, the possible risk in the most heavily exposed part of the brain with long-term use needs to be explored further before firm conclusions can be drawn.

Yes, more research required but again no evidence of danger.

Dr Walker found what he thought was evidence of a higher incidence of cancer around 7 mobile phone masts, however with over 47,000 masts in the country this narrows down to less than 0.015% On the basis of his research one might expect a more uniform spread.

Probably the most convincing expert suggesting caution is Professor Lawrence Challis of Nottingham University but you  might like to watch these illuminating interviews on the Norfolk Police website where he discusses the TETRA mobile system and the Stewart Inquiry:

http://www.norfolk.police.uk/tetra/video14.html

So that brings us to Sir William Stewart, Chairman of the Health Protection Agency, who, The Independent newspaper (!) reported, wants students to be monitored for ill-health and that he was "adding his weight" as having been a former chief scientific adviser to the government. What The Independent failed to mention was that the reported words were not his and that he was simply being pressured by lobbyists to condemn wireless. Something he wasn't prepared to do.

The Register has posted an open letter to Sir William Stewart here. Well worth reading.

I'm certainly not saying that research should not be carried out and I'm not in a position to argue whether some things should take priority over others but this like many things on the political landscape is being fought and shaped by ill-informed media whipping up a storm.

Yes, I'm afraid that it may have something to do with business models but those to do with circulation and viewing figures rather than providing universal access to learning. Now that's irresponsible.

 Smiley

« Last Edit: May 21, 2007, 01:06:20 AM by Graham »
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« May 21, 2007, 06:47:03 AM »

Scientists reject Panorama's claims on Wi-Fi radiation risks

In today's Guardian:

Quote

Paddy Regan, a physicist at the University of Surrey, criticised the experiment at the heart of Panorama's claims because the measurements of signal power had not been made at equal distances from the mobile phone mast and the Wi-Fi laptop. A spokesman for the programme told the Guardian that the "three times higher" comparison was based on measurements taken one metre away from the laptop and 100 metres away from the phone mast, although material sent to journalists promoting the programme did not make this clear. Dr Regan said: "It's a basic fundamental of science measurement, that if you are trying to compare things you have to take into account the so-called inverse square law." To make a fair comparison between two radiation sources the measurements should be taken at the same distance away. The levels measured by the Panorama investigation were 600 times lower than levels considered dangerous by the government. "It does sound like a scare story to me," said Dr Regan.

The programme's evidence was criticised as "grossly unscientific" by Malcolm Sperrin, director of medical physics and clinical engineering at Royal Berkshire hospital. "It's impossible to draw any sort of conclusion from the data as presented there."

More...

Compare with this mornings Daily Mail:

The classroom 'cancer risk' of wi-fi internet

Quote

Britain's top health watchdog has called for an inquiry into the use of wireless Internet networks in schools because of concerns they could be exposing children to the risk of cancer.

The demand came after it was revealed that classroom "wi-fi" networks give off three times as much radiation as a typical mobile phone mast.

Guidelines from the Health Protection Agency already state that masts should not be sited near schools because of a possible cancer link and other health risks.

Now its chairman, Sir William Stewart, is seeking a review of the health effects of wi-fi networks amid fears they could pose even greater dangers.

More...


 Smiley
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« May 21, 2007, 12:50:14 PM »

Now on the BBC News website.

Wi-fi health fears are 'unproven'
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6676129.stm

I wonder if they will change their Panorama programme now?
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« May 21, 2007, 01:45:41 PM »

Graham,

Thanks for your detailed, levelled and grown-up response  Wink I apologise for the somewhat terse post - it was a bit late in the day for well-balanced arguments. I read it again this morning and felt sufficiently childish myself.

We of course completely agree on sensationalist reporting and loo paper like the Mail. It's a disaster that people read that tripe. I have no doubt that the Panorama stuff isn't helpful either and I agree with you that circulation and ratings have a lot to answer for. But then you can just as easily argue that there is HUGE incentive for the wireless industry not to have any bad publicity, ie health effects from their products and services.

Anyway, the problem with a lot of this stuff is that neither you nor I nor many other people who are discussing this issue are scientists (haven't seen your CV, mind). I'm growing more and more suspicious about peer review because from my limited experience of the academic world it's a lot to do with big egos, self-publicising and personal opinions. For almost any published research paper you can find someone who disqualifies it and someone who thinks it's the bees knees. How are we lay people to know the difference?

Here's a good example:

You quote a 'meta-analysis' publication in the International Journal of Cancer. That article from January 2007 was based on a research paper from 2005, first published in the British Journal of Cancer.The summary of that one is almost identical with the later article, but says in the end:

Quote
The study suggests that there is no substantial risk of acoustic neuroma in the first decade after starting mobile phone use. However, an increase in risk after longer term use or after a longer lag period could not be ruled out.

This study has actually been used as 'evidence' both by the pro and anti-EMF camps, so that shows you how ambiguous and unclear the whole thing is.

This is another recently published swedish report (not affiliated with Johansson). This one used a rather low sample but over a full 10 years. Again, it sounds pretty significant to me but I'm sure some peer will discredit it soon.
http://oem.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/oem.2006.029751v1

Quote
Conclusions: Results from present studies on use of mobile phones for > 10 years give a consistent pattern of an increased risk for acoustic neuroma and glioma, most pronounced for high-grade glioma. The risk is highest for ipsilateral exposure.

As I said before, all this relates to mobile phone use, not WiFi. It seems clear that WiFi 'radiation' tapers down significantly with increasing distance from the source, ie after a few inches there's hardly any radiation worth noting. Nobody holds their laptop next to their head, but then people DO use them on their laps and that's pretty close to your organs (some rather important ones in particular).

All I'm saying is let's watch this stuff carefully before implanting a WiFi headset in every pupil's head. Children are more susceptible to the dangers of radiation than adults, so I reckon it's not a bad thing to be cautious in a learning context.

Wolf.
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« May 21, 2007, 01:54:32 PM »

Aah, all sorted now:

http://www.engadget.com/2007/05/20/isabodywear-underwear-fends-off-cellphone-radiation/
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« May 21, 2007, 04:40:57 PM »

We of course completely agree on sensationalist reporting and loo paper like the Mail. It's a disaster that people read that tripe. I have no doubt that the Panorama stuff isn't helpful either and I agree with you that circulation and ratings have a lot to answer for. But then you can just as easily argue that there is HUGE incentive for the wireless industry not to have any bad publicity, ie health effects from their products and services.

Cheers Wolf!

I've just arrived in Edinburgh and checked into a hotel that has a stack of Metro news(?)papers with the entire front cover devoted to the story under the heading (in quite possibly the largest typeface they could):

Schools in Wi-Fi Health Warning

Quote

Wireless computer networks in schools pose a greater health risk to pupils than mobile phone masts, an investigation has found.

More...

Metro, like it's sibling The Evening Standard, is owned by the Daily Mail group.

I wonder if they'll be printing a retraction of the story in equal size tomorrow morning?
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« May 21, 2007, 05:43:26 PM »

Innovative activity has fallen foul of the Stuart Report before.

It is one of the few cases where "precautionary measure" - which is based on the most tenuous of evidence - has been taken so seriously.

There is much better evidence that children die in automobile accidents - yet schools are still being built near roads. Parents even buy automobiles and sometimes carry their children ( something we know as "passive motoring") with them.

Even so-called responsible newspapers like the Daily Mail carry adverts for cars - without a health warning!!!!


The current situation is problematic:  It might be clearly proved that EMF is a danger to health -in which case we do not use EMF devices....
or,
We can not prove it but we have to be cautious.... in which case we do not use EMF devices.


However I do support the need for more research and I think the Benvento declaration worth noting : http://www.icems.eu/docs/Resolution_OCT19_06.pdf




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« May 22, 2007, 12:39:39 AM »

Wi-Fi Warning = Y2K Warning = lots of $$$ for consultants
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« May 24, 2007, 06:18:10 PM »

Worth a look:

http://www.badscience.net/?p=414

The Guardian's Ben Goldacre's take on the Panorama Wi-Fi episode on his badscience.net site

Also on the same site is a copy of a standard response letter from the BBC to be sent to any persons writing into complain:

http://www.badscience.net/?p=415

Quote

I’m sorry if you believe the programme lacked the hard evidence you wanted to see. Unfortunately, the truth is that as things stand, there is no hard evidence regarding the effects of long term exposure to Wi-Fi which is why we made the programme.

« Last Edit: May 24, 2007, 08:48:33 PM by Graham »
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« May 25, 2007, 10:26:31 AM »

Hi if anyone use Out-Law they may have already seen this.


http://www.out-law.com/page-8070

I dont' think it adds much new but it does show BT response.

I still think this issue is about cultural more than medical attitudes. We see this sort of thing happen with every piece of new technology as becomes part of everyday lives: Laptops make men sterile, VDUs give you cancer and so on. Some of these fears may be disovered to be true e.g RSI but the technology doesn't disappear we adapt and find ways to improve it as long the technology proves to be useful.
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