Did An Australian University Just Say Wi-Fi Can Give You And Your Kids Cancer?

Despite the fact that both Australian nuclear advisory bodies and the World Health Organisation have downplayed the link between brain cancer and the radiation emitted by devices like Wi-Fi routers and mobile phones, Monash University yesterday issued a press release that might give parents second thoughts about having Wi-Fi and other wireless gadgets in the home. What gives?

The press release, titled "Policies on children’s tech exposure confusing" details a study conducted by Monash University's Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine. The study looked at 34 different countries and the advice they all gave parents surrounding a child's exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields, also known as RF-EMF.

The study is actually quite good: it found that there are loads of different guidelines for parents on how RF-EMF exposure should be handled in young children. Author of the review, Dr Mary Redmayne, wrote that these different guidelines can actually confuse parents rather than inform them. But Dr Redmayne didn't stop there.

What she implied in the release is that chronic exposure to RF-EMF from devices like Wi-Fi routers could be potentially harmful for young children over the long term.

The release didn't outright say that exposure to RF-EMF leads to cancer, but it did imply that exposure at a young age could lead to "a variety of health effects".

Dr Redmayne writes that parents should look to minimise their child's exposure to RF-EMF in the home due to "an increased risk of some brain tumours in heavy and long-term phone users" and "increased production of free radicals in the body". She adds that these are not in themselves "health effects", if the body could repair damage caused by exposure overnight while asleep:

"Where RF-EMF is responsible for this imbalance, then the chance to repair is most likely to come with periods of minimal RF-EMF exposure such as at night time, when WiFi can be turned off and devices can be put in flight mode or switched off. Such steps to minimise children’s exposure are recommended in many countries."

Dr Redmayne worries that the adoption of tablets and smartphones by the younger generation could lead to these "health effects" in the long term, saying that "increasingly younger children are using these devices, and we know they are more vulnerable to environmental harm than adults...however safety regulations and guidelines in most parts of the world only consider short-term heat and shock effects, and have not traditionally considered chronic or very low exposure."

She adds that the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency suggests minimising a child's exposure to RF-EMF, but a fact sheet on the safety agency's website says in big letters: "There is no established scientific evidence that the use of mobile phones causes any health effects. However, some studies have shown a weak association between heavy mobile phone use and brain cancer," while recommending a cautionary approach to exposure.

That's the advice from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a division of the World Health Organisation) too. The IARC and WHO published a release [PDF] back in 2011 saying that there's no substantial link between mobile phones and an increased risk of cancer,

At the time, the WHO classified the radiation emitted from devices such as mobile phones high enough to be placed in "Group 2B". Basically, that means it's potentially carcinogenic to humans. But don't panic: also included in that group is an acid commonly found in coffee, and chemical compounds found in bitumen. The WHO recommends caution, but raises no immediate alarm bells over exposure.

Caution is actually a good thing. You're always better being safe than sorry, which means that Dr Redmayne's recommendation that parents turn off their Wi-Fi routers at night and put devices into flight mode when charging them in the wee hours is fairly sound advice. However, it's certainly not going to be universally followed. Apartments and homes are flooded with signals coming from their neighbours' homes 24 hours a day.

There's nothing wrong with a cautionary approach to things like RF-EMF this, but we certainly need to be careful of implications that may potentially panic parents with kids who use tablets and phones over Wi-Fi at school and at home.

We've reached out to Monash for comment.

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    The obligatory "everything gives you cancer" comment.

      I have no idea if it might cause cancer, but I set the wifi to turn off at 10:30 at night anyway to stop the kids using the internet when they should be asleep.
      Wifi at night not give them Cancer, but if they try to turn it back on, ooh, you better believe that's a paddlin’.

      Last edited 10/07/15 12:02 pm

        I don't think it causes cancer. but I don't see why people would think electromagnetic fields have zero effect on the human brain.

    Monash University eh? Now I know you're making things up.

      In what way? Monash university is considered one of the better universities in Australia.


        Monash University has always been a government shill, conveniently and quietly publishing results that mesh with the ruling party's policy lines.

        I wouldn't trust anything Monash says until it ahs been properly peer reviewed.

          so you are saying the research was not properly peer reviewed?

            The Bioinitiative Initiative is filled with nearly 2000 peer-review articles in refereed journals documenting the bioeffects of nonionizing radiation. It does have bioeffects and not just heating but also nonthermal effects. The industry keeps financing studies showing it is totally safe to be exposed to constant streams of nonionizing radiation from cell phones, Wi-Fi, lap tops, baby monitors and cell towers. All safe---nothing to see here. Don't worry about eth 70 years of studies showing harm. We say it is o.k. and so magically it is o.k. And those people who are already sick from the massive exposures we are dealing with already--let's just say they are mental and have psychological problems. Yeah, that is what it is. That will keep us in the clear. Many who have no idea what hey are speaking of are trying to tell you it is safe and it doesn't hurt people. Plus the industry is also orchestrating that same message. How convenient!! Please--do your own homework. Remember tobacco--and their game plan of "doubt is our product". Hiring firms to create studies saying it is safe and o.k. Same gig--but more intense--different day. Wake up world. You are being duped into paying for your own destruction. It's the old "did your own grave " trick---and we are falling for it--even paying for it.

          Yeah, pretty much this. The Monash University Accident Research Centre regularly invents research to support government (and TAC) policy.

            What a crok. References? Or are you just being scurrilous? Lets peer review your rumour mongering.

          You shouldn't trust any scientific study until it's been properly peer reviewed, not just those from Monash.

          I feel I should point out that peer reviewing is just the first step to assessing reliability.

          To determine whether a paper is really worthwhile, you also have to wait and see how cited it is, and whether its results later get verified by other studies.

            more importantly, that the scientific research is repeatable and shows the same evidence no matter the tightly controlled laboratory conditions given.

              True, if it's a lab experiment.
              Natural experiments do also count as science.

    I give the headline a clickbait rating of 9/10. It's Buzzfeed worthy.

      I just noticed this, which is a hilarious statement given the headline.

      There’s nothing wrong with a cautionary approach to things like RF-EMF this, but we certainly need to be careful of implications that may potentially panic parents with kids who use tablets and phones over Wi-Fi at school and at home

    Isn't Monash the study for cash university our government loves?

    Kids be all bout dat science until it's inconvenient.

    The release didn’t outright say that exposure to RF-EMF leads to cancer, but it did imply that exposure at a young age could lead to “a variety of health effects”

    So, for the question "Did An Australian University Just Say Wi-Fi Can Give You And Your Kids Cancer?", the answer is: no, they didn't.

      Betteridge's law of headlines - "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."

      Also there is a difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Wi-Fi is non-ionizing.

      Understanding news headlines 101:
      If a headline poses a question, the answer is always no.
      If it was a fact they would have just stated it....

    "The study looked at 34 different countries and the advice they all gave parents surrounding a child’s exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields, also known as RF-EMF."

    No, that's NOT a good study to draw any conclusions from about health or risks AT ALL. It's just a review of crappy guidelines: guidelines that are often politically influenced or based on bad fringe studies where people try and emphasise a cancer risk link.

    That means there's a lot of shit in the mix so this is what you get as a result. Moronic to draw conclusions based on this.
    All you can learn from it in reality is that guidelines between different countries vary and are not all based on good science.

    Sounds like fear mongering interpretation of results.

      It absolutely is! The subject of the study has nothing to do with the ACTUAL health impact of RF, it's about the perception in varied sociological groups. This isn't a medical or physics paper, it's anthropological.

      The physics behind mobile RF emissions is pretty clear, the vast majority of it misses every atom in your body on its way through.

      The medical studies are also pretty clear; there is no attributable correlation between RF and the increase of any disease. Any study which shows a weak statistical correlation is still at the whim of other external influences, making the clear distinction of cause all but impossible.

      Our lifestyles have changed so much in the same timeframe as the rise of wireless data that it's unlikely that the cause of these diseases is the one thing which physically shouldn't be a problem. There's so much more out there to point a finger at first.

      Last edited 08/07/15 2:23 pm

    Can you not, please? This is utter bullshit, known to be bullshit, and you're just pandering to morons trying to make our lives worse.

    The RF energy density in the air around you from your local AM radio stations exceeds RF energy density from your average wireless router by a factor of 20. That's ignoring RF energy radiated by power lines, mobile phone towers, TV stations, FM radio stations, any random piece of electronics you have...

    We have enough to worry about without worrying about things that have been proven time and time again to be a complete and total waste of time to worry about.

    Caution is wise, yes, but are you worried about an alligator walking into your backyard and attacking your children? No, because we have objective evidence that there are no alligators native to Australia.

      Its not the alligators.... it s the drop bears that keep me lying awake at night!

      You are misinformed about the relative levels of RF from local AM stations and wireless routers. The RF from an AM or FM stations that is 10 km from you is very very low. The RF from a wireless router 4 m from you is very very high. I use a GigHertz HF59B RF meter (about $1,500) to measure these and I am confident. In descending order of RF levels impacting the average person at home are: wireless routers, wireless baby monitors, wireless computers and tablets, cellphone and smart phones, smart electric meters, cell phone towers (masts) and a way down at the bottom are the AM and FM transmitters if 10 km away. However, there are many documented studies that show a direct relationship of cancer and living close to Cell tower towers. (see example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kt0G23GXJzc)

      I agree with your sentiment, but the energy from the local AM radio station is way, way lower in your home than a router that is only a few metres from you.
      We have the wifi turn off every night anyway after 10:30pm, it saves a little power, is automatic and stops the kids using the internet when they shouldn't.

    Either way I think we should float this article around some parenting forums. Should free up some of the airwaves in my apartment building...

    The press release says:

    "The review also found some official bodies, including the European Parliament and the European Environment Agency, now recommend those aged under 18 to increase the distance of the head and body from devices including using a headset or speaker phone, use a wired landline, and sending text messages rather than calling."

    But it fails to tell the whole truth. In 2007 the European Environment Agency (EEA) – set up to provide independent advice on environment issues to the EU – promoted the Bioinitiative Report and called for an increased precautionary approach and immediate action to reduce public exposure to EMF.

    Widespread publicity of the EEA endorsement of the Bioinitiative Report resulted in some policy makers, the European Parliament and members of the public to call for the European Commission to revise its current recommendation on exposure limits and to introduce a ‘precautionary approach’.

    In response the commission published a report from the meeting which rejected the call for a precautionary approach, saying “the Council Recommendation already contains a certain level of precaution.” The Commission concluded a revision of the exposure limits was not justified.

    “The Precautionary Principle excludes a purely hypothetical approach to risk. Safety factors must be applied to established facts in a consistent way to avoid an open ended process. So far, there are no new elements that would justify applying additional safety factors to the Council Recommendation,” the Commission report said.

    “The differences in exposure limits between Member States are confusing for the public opinion. A common approach would be good for everybody, but this is in the hands of Member States.”

    Furthermore, the Commission report specifically addressed the EEA’s promotion and endorsement of the Bioinitiative Report.

    “It is very unfortunate to have the European Environmental Agency fuel a cacophony in this area,” the Commission report said.

    Just don't put the router under your toddler's cot (or on the other side of the wall) and all should be OK. lol.

    Using the Precautionary Principle and the inverse square law as it suits.

    Tripling the distance results in one-ninth (for Americans = nine tines less [oxymoron]) the exposure (radiation - non-ionising), lessening any potential thermal effects.

    NB Microwave radiation (WiFi/Mobile phone[esp.3G/"4G"]/microwave oven) is more (much) energetic than Lower frequency Radio and Powerline "EMR", therefore IF there is to be any biological effect(s), it will be at this end of the spectrum.

    Last edited 08/07/15 4:20 pm

    In May 2015, 200 scientists (including Australia's Dr Charlie Teo) asked the UN and WHO for precautionary action and public education on health risks from the use of wireless technologies in the International EMF Scientist Appeal - there were no headlines about that! http://www.emfscientist.org/index.php/emf-scientist-appeal


    Just to put medical history into perspective, tobacco was once promoted by doctors, radioactive uranium was added to toothpastes, prescribed for many health conditions and for overall better health (scroll down my feed to read that fun story), and drugs like Thalidomide and DES causes outrageous levels of cancer and birth defects in kids who's mothers used them, yet were promoted as beneficial for baby's when they were in vogue.
    We have to be careful with new technology and realise that just because we cant feel anything (like ionising radiation), or are immediately harmed by something (like tobacco) it does not mean it is completely safe.
    As an adult with a denser skull and mature blood brain barrier, using a phone now and then is one thing, allowing your 5 year old to live on his ipad is completely another.

    I am old enough to remember the studes done by the USA air force on Electro Magnetic Radiation(EMR), its dangers and its possible use as a weapon, I would make th point that Australia accept radiation levels that are unacceptable in Switzerland, Russia, China, Ukraine and even Lichstenstein.
    It is not unreasonable to suggest that low level EMR is potentially the asbestosis of the 21st Century. Like Asbestosis the worst of the effects with children will take many years ot become clear, There are no studies that show that it is safe. IThere are massive amonts of money involved in this area in this multi Billion dollar area.. How much is the value of the damage to the brain of a child., or the life of a senior citizen who has a pacemaker which is affected by radiation in these frequencies.

      There is a retired researcher at U of Alberta giving public presentations here in BC. One of the interesting points he brings up is that initial findings of the relations ship between Cancer and RF exposure seems to be similar to that of tobacco in the time between exposure and initial diagnosis of Cancer being about 20 years or so. Asbestos caused cancer has a similar time delay. If that is true then there will be a 'TSUNAMI' of coming that will overwhelm out health facilities and public finances. See his presentation - http://www.stopsmartmetersbc.com/em-electromagnetic-age-sleeping-giant-dr-paterson-version-2/

        Well ogopogogo if that's the case we are well over due for that Tsunami you've been waiting for as mobile phones and their related tech have been in public hands for at least 25yrs now not to mention Fm, Am (80yrs approx) and Television Signals which have been around quiet a bit longer. Just remember planet Earth is surrounded by natural radiation including the food we eat and the water we drink its part of living here and there's no escaping from it which is why I don't understand why you people single out RF like its the Bubonic Plague, absolutely ridicules.

          Have respect for yourself, son. 25yrs isn't long at all. You have no studies to cite, you don't have your vegetables, you got potty mouth. Sleep on your router and all us in 20 more years.

    Hey Vereonica,
    I'm appreciating your informed comments. What's you're background? I am director of Mobile Safety, a company that promotes RF radiation precautions and supplies anti-radiation phone accessories. Perhaps we can network.
    Kind regards,

      I'd like to network you with some grammar.

    About 40 kids under 14 die from brain cancer in Australia every year (it's the #1 child killing disease in Australia) that's tracking close to the road toll for the same group so far this year.

    But we still need to drive around and the most basic cost benefit analysis would show that kids are going to suffer setbacks without wifi, mobile devices, etc, just as certainly as if they never used a road - that's a near certainty.

    Oh god. I sleep with my phone near my head on the bedside table, charging! I'll have to stop that... but even after I do, my devices can all pickup wifi signals from damn near thirty access points in my building! MY NEIGHBOURS ARE TRYING TO KILL ME WITH THEIR DEATH RAYS.

    I must stop them. With force, if need be: I'll pelt them with my own phone's rays through their doors until they die before me.

    ("Babe, the neighbour left his phone outside our door again. Do you have any idea what that's about? Is it dropped or are you guys doing something weird?")

    It's not just WiFi and phone signals, you know. it's power lines.
    I am in a newer suburb, where all the power lines are underground. However, that leaves all the electric wiring in the walls of my house. Heck there's a power cable leading to the PC on my desk.

    So, if I follow the "turn off at night" advice to the next logical step, I should be switching off my mains power at the circuit breaker box every night. The electric blankets should also be tossed out, labelled as "cancer blankets".

    why would the Australian Government want to link wi-fi with brain cancer???

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