An independent agency tasked with protecting public health in the UK has announced a systematic programme of research into the perceived health risks associated with Wi-Fi.

The Health Protection Agency will carry out a systematic programme of research into WLANs (wireless local area networks). This will include measurements of exposures from the Wi-Fi network and is part of the agency's ongoing programme of work in the area of electromagnetic fields.

Professor Pat Troop, chief executive of the Health Protection Agency stressed: "There is no scientific evidence to date that Wi-Fi and WLANs adversely affect the health of the general population. The signals are very low power, typically 0.1W (100 milliwatts) in both the computer and the router (access point) and the results so far show exposures are well within ICNIRP guidelines. Given this, there is no particular reason why schools and others should not continue to use WiFi or other wireless networks."

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The health chief warned that research into the health effects of the technology haven't yet been sufficiently extensive: "However there has not been extensive research into what people's exposures actually are to this new technology and that is why we are initiating this new programme of research and analyses. We have good scientific reasons to expect the results to be re-assuring and we will publish our findings."

The agency stressed that existing information reveals that levels of exposure to radio waves caused by Wi-Fi are considerably less than the guideline levels of the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation) and recommended by the Health Protection Agency for use in the UK. Nevertheless, the Agency considers that WiFi exposure assessment is an area that requires further work.

Following some preliminary work, the Agency now proposes to undertake a research project to measure exposures to radio signals from wireless computer networks.

The results will be compared with established international exposure guidelines and also with exposures from other commonly used sources of radio signals, including mobile phones. Discussions are underway with partner Agencies, especially those in the education sector, regarding the practicalities of carrying out the research.

The findings from the investigation will be published on the Health Protection Agency's website.

See also: German government says Wi-Fi is dangerous