It’s Wifi Day!

While we’re hardly fans of numerology here at Skeptic North, 8-02-11 (aka Wifi Day) does come only once a century. And following Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May’s dubious pronouncements on its safety last week, we’d be remiss if we failed to take note.

Wifi has been a frequent topic in these pages, especially in the last year since Rodney Palmer first raised the alarm bells in Barrie.  So in honour of this auspicious day — and to serve as a handy reference for the next bout of unsubstantiated media paranoia — here’s a rundown of our extensive skeptical coverage of the issue over the last 12 months:

Aug 17, 2010 – Ontario’s Wi-Fi Phobia

Aug 26, 2010 – Further down the WiFi Rabbit Hole I Go!

Oct 29, 2010 – Rodney Palmer: When Pseudoscience and Narcissism Collide

Nov 8, 2010 – Putting the EMFasis Back on the Scientific Consenus

Nov 9, 2010 – Magda Havas’ New EHS Study Has Serious Flaws

Nov 16, 2010 – Levitt and Lai Peddling Discredited EMF Science

Dec 6, 2010 – Devra Davis: Disconnected from Science: Part I

Dec 8, 2010 – Devra Davis: Disconnected from Science: Part II

Feb 26, 2011 – New Study Shows EMF Effect On Brain – So What?

June 1, 2011 – Cell Phones and WiFi and Cancer, Oh My…

June 2, 2011 – Evaluating The Evidence for Cell Phones and WiFi

June 6, 2011 – Wireless Battles Radiate Across Canada

22 Responses to “It’s Wifi Day!”

  1. Thomas Doubts says:

    In spite of his inability to remain objective in the face of contradictory evidence, you’ve got to give Palmer props for his diligence…especially in the mountainous face of so much data that does not support his beliefs. I write a monthly skeptical column for a small newspaper in the far recesses of Northern Ontario (no not Barrie. Try seven hours or so north of there). When I criticized our MP in my column for her espousing of the wifi-is-the-devil hypothesis, wouldn’t you know it, but Palmer found the article and wrote me a long, rambling letter about how I was an idiot. If he can find my piddly little column in my piddly little newspaper, his dedication is admirable. Too bad his critical thinking skills aren’t. Good job Skeptic North for fighting the good fight!

  2. deever says:

    on & at your “dubious pronouncements” link:
    Yet another skepto who thinks she has a handle on how to “evaluate” “evidence”, and fails as spectacularly as the rest. Ms. Fulgham, did you have a good look at the evidence adduced by May?

    Two items stand out: one is the reference to the Swedish researcher, Hardell, whom she remembers well from her days of combatting the dangers of certain herbicides. Back then, were there a claque o’ skeptos, they’d surely have heaped scorn on the likes of Hardell, vs, say, our federal agency, “Health” Canada, who would hold, as usual under the perverse working assumption that industry & abettor health precedes that of the general public, “no evidence” o’ harm. When Hardell is widely credited now with the best studies on cell phones & cancer (influential at IARC no less, in important part behind their mild but momentous RF=2B classification, with dissenters saying, 2A, and one leading researcher saying evidentiary trend is clear to class 1 carcinogen), how does it not make sense to “evaluate” his “evidence” as particularly worthy? Note well, that May’s earliest political forays were in the ’80s fighting the dangerous misuse of such herbicides.

    And Ms Fulgham must have failed to evaluate properly the momentous document May linked to at her blog. This would buttress the political involvement, for as august a political advisory body as there is, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, adopted their Enviro. etc committee report of May 6 on the dangers of wireless. In sharp contrast to skeptos, who really should be rather termed, credulos, there is exceptionally strong language about the strange & corruptible international arrangement leading to widely adopted regulatory standards on RF (incl. Canada’s via the same federal Department — ever read, Corrupt to the Core, by a veteran of that dept., Chopra? We doubt it.).

    But skeptos don’t like to examine dirt, or complexity, we’ve noticed, which leads to some ridiculous positions defending the indefensible, and leading many people astray. To top off this evidence for the political morality of May’s budding public stance against the dangers of wireless, is the fact that Green-type parties lead in Europe on these issues – note well, the rapporteur of that COE doc, Huss, is a Green.

    It is to be hoped May will deepen her familiarity with this overarching and grave topic, and go much further in bringing publicity to the dangers. But will Fulgham retract, or dare to try to justify her remarks, beyond pointing to others of her apparent ilk?

  3. Composer99 says:

    Hyperlinks to sources are your friends.

    • deever says:

      If you are friendlessly referring to my post, why would I redundantly put up links that even linkers themselves failed to follow & examine? Do your own digging, and demonstrate that skeptos are not as superficial as I’ve seen so far. Fulgham and other wrongful online commenters have mentioned May’s blog, but typically not a one I’ve seen has followed up what she lays out right there. You think that deserves respect? Better you should remain friendless than I should pander.

      • Erik Davis says:

        Deever, in the last year we’ve spilled over 22,000 well-referenced words in the 12 articles we’ve written on this topic. You may decide none of that is persuasive to you and that you’d rather cherry pick data points that support your existing belief — that’s your prerogative. But I hardly think a charge of “superficial” is fair – we’ve covered this issue far more deeply than any mainstream media organization in Canada.

      • deever says:

        Dear Erik,
        “Superficial” regards the depth of your investigations, resting content — amazingly to someone who has a serious skeptical eye himself — mostly with reviews by mainstream filterers of info, such that you do not get to seriously examine the dissent. Instead, some who stick out their necks and are less adept, at e.g. quantificational matters, become your focus of attack. This after a whole century of well-documented malfeasance esp. re bioeffects research in the service of certain interests — you see how “skeptic” is not a term to really be applied to someone who refuses to really look? Who among you saw what the Council of Europe said? They all idiots? One stat alone should make you suspicious, but somehow fails to, from two separate studies, and matching similar looks into bioeffects research, that some 3/4-plus of EMF industry-connected study leads to showing of “no harm”, non-industry-connected showing harm by a like proportion. Skeptos just out to feel good, have a good time, or what?

      • Erik Davis says:

        What you call “mainstream filterers of info” I call consensus science. The reason I haven’t delved deeply into the research that sits outside of that consensus is because as a non-scientist, I’m not qualified to make judgments on its relevance — I leave that to those with the proper training. When they change the consensus, I’ll change my opinion. To do otherwise is just arrogant.

      • deever says:

        Well, you are of course making my point in a way. I recall at this site a short book review I posted a comment after, no responders. The review dealt approvingly with some authors’ account of sci. corruption, .
        This broad EMF matter is the greatest (ie worst) exemplar of manufactured doubt. Here’s something from what the reviewer said:
        “Having pointed out the dangers the doubt-mongers pose, Oreskes and Conway propose a remedy: an emphasis on scientific literacy, not in the sense of memorizing scientific facts, but in being able to assess which scientists to trust.”
        Exactly — but do skeptos get that this is fundamentally NOT a sci. issue, but one of lay public policy towards which established sci. opinion is but one voice? How is it that a skepto would not particularly value a dissenting voice, it is so strange! It is NOT hard to look at the sci. lit. oneself, I have had to do so, and what you find should shock you out of complacent acquiescence in the pronouncements of the powers that be, esp. in this matter, there being heaps of interests to uphold what would be jeopardized by fair airing of dissent. How could a skepto not think something is fishy when the insurance industry begs off covering for physical harm? That they don’t is so beyond being worthy of being called a ‘skeptic’, it really hurts. Read just the summary of the Bioinitiative Report, or section 14 to see the complexity quashed in the rush to push latter day wireless mania. To the extent that you do not heed the call to examine for yourself, you are effectively a mere mouthpiece for those you cite.

        In your reply to a Sandra at your “consensus” link, you worry about the expertise required to look at the issue yourself as I have done — that is a false worry, not the least of which is because it is not about electrical engineering, but about far more complex biology (no, that does not make your point). What biologists who have the patience with complexity find, is just what the engineers ignore in their dosimetry obsessions. They miss that (or conveniently ignore), e.g., power levels are not the whole of it, the biological (dis-)informational disruption from the xenobiotic modulation patterns count for much. It all amounts to, just because we can’t account for it in our terms, it is as if it does not exist, the deleterious bioeffect, that is — what a nonsensical attitude, reminiscent of wayward adolescence.

        I brought this up I think some time ago here, I think, that it is certainly not without precedent, a self-satisfied culture with its science apparently reigning supreme on so many august panels determining funding etc — cf the decades in run-up to WWI & the eventual demise of the British empire, financial problems at the heart…much the same is transpiring now, with a different anglosphere empire on top, for now. Physics taken for granted now was belittled or ignored then, and we’re headed for the same re RF bioeffects, esp. as it combines with brain research etc.

        Unless you are indeed all about enjoying the ride being cheerleaders for a destructive status quo, you can’t feel responsible because the leading lights say it’s all ok…what could you make of that book review, and how it relates to our issue?

      • Erik Davis says:

        The Tobacco Strategy was designed to cast doubt on the scientific consensus. In other words, it’s you & Magda Havas that seem to be deploying it here.

      • deever says:

        The obscuring of interesting science from public view and fair assessment, that is the goal of perpetrators, on advice no doubt from a similar batch of PR pros as advised perps on asbestos, lead, beryllium etc, etc etc. Tobacco stood accused of sitting on sci. condemning their actions, did they not? The cell phone monstrosity went out to co-opt the field — thus the disproportion in industry-connected study showing no harm. So when Geo. Carlo went honest to an extent about the dangers found, he had been retained for being amenable to industry intent in overseeing research (and is still condemnable by some in the field for all the research money wasted e.g.), he was dropped and intimidated. It has proven too easy to pass off on a public worshipful of ‘science’, the ludicrous proposition that number of studies amounts to weight of evidence, making for your consensus, plus for more ludicrous internal consumption among the self-satisfied, pointing to absence of satisfactory “mechanism” for harm. In public health, a single study can be decisive. In RF research, one should properly as an exercise discount the body of industry-connected sci., given the terrible history of co-optation & muscling out of dissent, well-documented — how dare you take that history lightly? Once you bracket the possibly compromised, as you should do with any judge, you are left with a body of sci. lit. that should lead to utter condemnation of the regulatory status quo.

        Did you fail to notice that even IARC, hard to convince of anything, has upped the assessment re cancer & RF to 2B, from purported no evidence (they took their time, didn’t they, to assess the lit., many years late), with dissenters saying 2A, and I know one leading researcher in France, in conventional medicine, who says the evidentiary trend is to full class 1 carcinogen.

        The most recent publication on topic, post-IARC in English, is out of Brazil, where it is clear as day how the closer you live to a cell tower, the likelier you are to die from certain cancers, corroborative of prior study. Where is the publicity in your favoured mainstream for such findings? Consensual override? See, “Mortality by neoplasia and cellular telephone base stations in the Belo Horizonte municipality, Minas Gerais state,Brazil” (Dode et al).

      • Erik Davis says:

        So how exactly do you determine which studies to trust and which not to, because from where I’m sitting it seems like you only trust the ones that agree with what you already believe. Or perhaps you agree with anything that bucks the establishment?

        Deever, if the consensus science changes, I’ll change my mind about wifi. I have no personal opinion, or stake, in the matter. What would it take to change your mind?

      • deever says:

        Why personalize it then? You are effectively admitting to not wanting to look at dirt. I accept that as a personality trait in a certain % of people; except that in a time of trouble, it’s not the people who are less disinclined to go digging in the dirt & the details who count, but those who normally are disinclined, it is your complacency that is taken full advantage of. A dirt-digger is not so much wanted when one wants to simply enjoy — fine. But when a general population needs to be alerted to serious danger and need of reform, a non-dirt-digger counts for very much. So what, apart from my jab about having fun riding the mainstream, keeps someone like you from taking a deeper look? When you acknowledge — do you? — the sorry history the past century of industry & abettors in suppressing or messing around with info about related dangers, how could you look away? How? All you have to do is look at the make-up of the bodies you’d cite, how isn’t it obvious that to be a part of such groups, you have to be a team player, not a boat rocker, how members of such groups depend for their livelihood & position on industry- & abettor-defined situations? Why wait until a history book is written after so many dead? Why not in advance read a history of how process has been corrupted (eg Donald Maisch, Robert C Kane, Shiv Chopra, Sheldon Krimsky, et al)?

        It is by examining the studies, the summaries, witnessing & hearing about so much suffering, learning about the corruption of process, that is how one comes to judgement that the status quo is woeful and dangerous. Look carefully at the wording of some “consensus” statements — how eg could lack of adequate description of mechanism bar public health precaution? It’s insane. How could industry-connected study be more or as interesting as independents’? Just how?
        Perhaps the subject is so arcane and specialized that only well-funded & thus industry-connected could be trusted to deal adequately with the issues? But that is false, always has been. I could show you a report from Canadian leading scientists in the early ’70s that attests to danger & warns about RF, completely ignored & overridden by the more aggressive influences on govt. When your experts are mostly silent about the dissent, that is very telling indeed. I think I quoted for you skeptos one assessment by a leading Russian expert (with whom I have had correspondence as well), laconically pointing out the strangeness of such omissions & oversights, for public health determination. See Binhi quote at .

      • Erik Davis says:

        You cite a lot of things as “obvious”, including the corruption of a wide and vast array of scientists and bureaucrats. But other than the fact that some scientists and people have been dishonest about some things in the past, you don’t provide any evidence of wrongdoing. I find the conspiracy embedded in your assumptions — and it would have to be a conspiracy to be so wide ranging — really troublesome.

        Also you didn’t answer any of my questions. You never do.

      • deever says:

        I’m sorry, Erik, but in lots of correspondence here readers have been directed to much material where they can find out for themselves. Why would you trust an unknown me, other than to get a sense that someone of some intelligence and seriousness is crying aloud that his fellow citizens take something seriously, and not shirk their responsibility, and then follow up for yourselves?

        What did I not answer? What could convince me that the process is less corrupt? I gave a suggestion about behaviour of your mainstream panels. Want another? Let there be a sufficient accounting for the persecution and withholding of funding of scientists who do not go along with the intimidating academic atmosphere. The majority just stay away. How is it that eg Dimitris Panagopoulos cannot find work now, a much-published researcher, whose work has been relied on in Greece to judicially dismantle cell masts? Find out why, maybe you’ll find a morally satisfying reason for his current persecution, for example: prestigious research institute accepted him but his transfer has been blocked, had a paper rejected by irregular process at a journal where he’d published regularly, had his office removed from him (concurrently with three other witnesses at your Parliament — I’ve brought this stuff before you all already).

        See how it stinks as much and more than tobacco, asbestos, etc — do you know anything of what went on there? Why accept that there was any bad stuff at all re tobacco & asbestos? I saw a recent short but revealing piece in the (newly renamed) mag, Canada’s History, about asbestos wrongdoing (which affected Quebec seriously; I can recommend a recent book in French if you like) — I just found it for you at . What makes you think this stuff does not go on wherever the stakes are very high, in protection of industry & other interests depending on it?

        If you can read the late Kane’s online book and still not suspect the industry is filthy at root (I do not impugn the vast majority of engineers etc who are merely doing what they enjoy doing, they are kept in the dark as you are, and have reasons not to look too deeply), , there is no reasonable hope of your coming to assess the situation beyond surface-skimming.

  4. Thomas Doubts says:

    Bang on, Erik, bang on.

    • deever says:


      • Cameron says:

        I’ve never written anything on this site because I prefer to see what others involved in a debate have to say before I chime in. In this case I have to change my method to address an important problem here. The problem is your insanity. Well, perhaps not true DSM insanity, but pretty “crazy” nonetheless. I’m not talking about your belief that wifi is dangerous, but because your arguments are utterly convoluted, awkward, intellectually insulting, and frankly, just plain crazy at times. I want to hear clear concise arguments that are relatively easy to understand. Instead, I’m faced with a barrage of babble poorly disguised as cogent argument. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE go “Troll” somewhere else, or at least have a rational person review and edit your comments prior to you posting. I’d like to hear what you have to say but I cannot due to the cacophony of gobbledygook.

  5. deever says:


    I’ve even tried posting here in concise point form in the past to cater to regulars’ sensibilities — it was as inefficacious as in more complex syntax.

    Go read the science & history yourself.

    Go complain about them.

    I am not the problem,
    and if I am an irritant,
    so be it,
    if it awakens some onlookers,
    like yourself,
    or participants who won’t publicly admit that
    there has been plenty compelling & cogent laid out before them,
    esp. for them to follow up.

    Own up to it privately.

    Tell those close to you there is great endangerment.

    Simple skeptoworld, adieu.

  6. Composer99 says:

    Simple skeptoworld, adieu.

    Like most of deever’s claims, this one strikes me as unbelievable.

  7. Kyle says:

    Within all the information I have read coming from both sides of this debate (not a ton, but some) I have yet to see any attempt at a risk/reward analysis regarding the use of WIFI. Easier said than done I am sure!

    It seems like even in the worst case scenarios any measured effects of WIFI exposure are quite small. Even in Hardell’s cell phone study the conclusion is an odds ratio of 2 (double your chances) for ipsilateral gliomas. I found a source from 2007 showing the rate of gliomas as roughly 5 cancers per 100,000 person-years. So after > 10 years of cell phone use there is an extra 5 cancers per 100,000 person-years. I won’t be losing any sleep over my exposure, that’s for sure.

    Granted, many of the concerned parents had other (somewhat more vague and less serious) health effects in mind.

    I know this isn’t very skeptical of me, but I would bet it is riskier to drive your kids to school everyday than it is to have WIFI in the library (or classroom).

    May also made a similar point near the beginning of her blog post, namely that there are many other far more important health risks than those posed by WIFI, as well as many greater opportunities for improving population health than reducing WIFI exposure.

    • Michael5MacKay says:

      You’re right. I have seen other people do the same sort of calculations. One has to consider not only whether there is any increased relative risk (for which the evidence is less than compelling, and within the margin of error) but what the absolute risk is. Which is, as your calculations demonstrate, negligible.

      Someone pointed out to the House of Commons committee last year that any increased risk of cancer from cellphones was orders of magnitude lower than the risk of dying in a car accident caused by a driver talking on a cellphone.


  1. [...] Elizabeth May apparently doesn’t understand what wifi is or how it works. Yes, old news now but I still wish to bring it up. For those few who didn’t hear, Elizabeth May, the leader of the Federal Green Party of Canada recently remarked on the wi-fi hysteria (the incorrect notion that wi-fi singles are dangerous) by tweeting this: [...]

  • Erik Davis

    Erik is a technology professional based in Toronto, focused on the intersection of the internet and the traditional media and telecommunications sectors. A reluctant blogger, he was inspired by the great work Skeptic North has done to combat misinformation and shoddy science reporting in the Canadian media, and in the public at large. Erik has a particular interest in critical reasoning, and in understanding why there’s so little of it in the public discourse. You can follow Erik's occasional 140 character musings @erikjdavis