Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields have been labelled as a Group 2b possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization. This comes up a lot from anti-wifi advocates, usually accompanied by other cherry-picked and awfully scary sounding possible class 2b carcinogens like arsenic and lead. So, let’s cherry pick a couple of other items on the class 2b list, like coffee, pickled vegetables, coconut oil, talcum powder, and nickle. When you say WiFi is as dangerous as coffee or pickles, the comparison seems a lot less ominous.
So, should we be concerned? What does that group 2b possible carcinogen label mean?
Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer, Vancouver Island Health Authority notes that this classification has nothing to do with WiFi and was based on heavy, long term cell phone and a possible increase in a rare type of brain tumour. According to the BC Ministry of Health, the type 2b classification was based on studies of extremely heavy cell phone use; 1640 hours or more per year, which is equal to holding a cell phone to the side of your head for 4 hours a day every day of an entire year. Again this is cell phone use, not WiFi. As Dr. Stanwick points out, WiFi emits 1% of the levels of EMF radiation as cell phones do.
Using the group 2b classification of the entire spectrum of radiofrequencies as an indication that WiFi is harmful when the classification came about due to extremely heavy cell phone use and not WiFi misrepresents the intention of the classification.
What “possible carcinogen” means is also easy to misinterpret.
The Category 2B “possible carcinogen” classification does not mean that an agent is carcinogenic. As Ken Foster of the University of Pennsylvania pointed out to me. “Their conclusion is easy to misinterpret.” “Saying that something is a “possible carcinogen” is a bit like saying that someone is a “possible shoplifter” because he was in the store when the watch was stolen. The real question is what is the evidence that cell phones actually cause cancer, and the answer is — none that would persuade a health agency.”
This page was update on May 23, 2013 to add link to BC Ministry of Health site.