Monday, May 21, 2007

WiFi probably stains your teeth too

Still fuming after watching this evening's BBC-1 Panorama programme about the alleged dangers of WiFi, especially in schools (our kids!).

I remember when Panorama used to be a worthy, if rather dull programme on BBC-2. A kind of current-affairs variant of the old Horizon science programming, aimed at the Radio-4 audience of educated grown-ups.

Its current thirty minute incarnation as red-top tabloid journalism provides us with: whining commentary; pinched-faced commentators self-righteously crusading against government conspiracies and sinister industry lobbying; strange ‘sensitive’ women who live in houses covered with tin-foil (and who can detect Gigahertz radiation via induced headaches in tests two times out of three!); one-sided scaremongering; a few talking-head 'scientists' and science-administrators who seem sincere if not convincing - and no evidence worth a damn.

The 'precautionary principle' was much deployed: a high-sounding phrase for being too scared to do anything new in case something bad were to happen. How absolutely worthless it is as a guide to action: it would stop all innovation in its tracks if actually applied. I'm about to wash my hair with shampoo, but I honestly have no idea if it might cause cancer in thirty years time due to some unknown and unsuspected chemical side-effect. I guess I should give it a miss then, on the precautionary principle.

The only evidence which was alluded to (not described) was that Gigahertz radiation might cause non-thermal biological effects, specifically chromosomal damage. A quick Google search on "chromosome damage non-ionizing radiation" throws up quite a few hits, but it's all scare stories. Couldn't see anything resembling a proper scientific study identifying radiation dosages, methods, results and causative mechanisms. Gigahertz radiation has a wavelength of around 30 cm, which just doesn’t couple to biological molecules in non-thermal ways.

Oh well, don't get me started!