Our home, auto, school and work environments are now saturated with wireless emissions (Wi-Fi) in the radiofrequency (RF) range, from cell phones, routers, cell towers, and TV and radio stations. We can’t see, hear or feel this radiation, but maybe it is affecting us at subtle levels?
For example, I have noticed some subtle effects of Wi-Fi which may be attributable to this technology:
Learning: When the University first installed Wi-Fi routers on campus, I noticed how rapidly the faculty changed their style of teaching, and the students changed their way of learning. Without a word, my colleagues and I started giving the students frequent quizzes and group work to help them along, to keep them focused and on-track. The students, for their part, stopped reading and using textbooks – period, no more books! Powerpoint slides, with short tidbits of information on every slide, became essential. To study, students turned to quiz banks, online files with practice questions. Everyone’s attention span seemed to decrease.
Sleep: In the current radiofrequency (RF) environment with cell phones and Wi-Fi, I have a sense that my sleep quality has changed for the worse. I wake in the middle of the night, every night. And I have very few dreams now, mostly dream fragments, whereas I used to have frequent and very clear dreams.
Air travel: Wi-Fi is widely available on airplanes now. My sister, a flight attendant for over 30 years, has noticed how passengers go immediately to sleep now on planes. She frequently feels exhausted after flying. I have also noticed how quiet planes are. No one talks. The shades are pulled down, and people either sleep or are plugged into a movie.
These are subtle effects and not easy to prove. Has anyone else noticed these things? Is there any research to support this?
Research studies have examined the effects of microwave frequencies on human physiology, and Wi-Fi falls within the microwave band of radiation. Pall (2016) reviews this body of research for neuropsychiatric effects, noting increased sleep disturbance/insomnia, depression/depressive symptoms, fatigue/tiredness, concentration/attention dysfunction, restlessness/anxiety, and EEG changes with exposure to microwaves from base stations, cell phones and other sources. El Khoueiry et al. (2018) include a brief review of this area in their discussion, noting an effect of RF on human EEG (brain-waves).
The Bioinitiative Report has a nice chart of recent research on the health effects of weak RF (e.g., from cell phone towers and Wi-Fi). Several phrases that crop up in these research summaries include: “concentration difficulties”, “sleep disturbances” and “fatigue”.
The Physicians for Safe Technology website has a good article on Wi-Fi in Schools, noting that some schools are returning to wired connections and banning cell phones. A recent study (Meo et al., 2018) found that a mobile phone base station tower adjacent to a school, with higher RF exposure of the students, can negatively impact students’ cognitive health.
Parents report more sleep issues with children exposed to electronic devices during sleep. Studies have shown that bedtime use of Internet and mobile phone negatively impacts sleep (Bruni et al., 2015, Exelmans and Van del Bulck, 2016).
An interesting report, WiFi in the Sky, documents flights where either the crew or passengers lost consciousness and experienced other ill-effects. They note that Wi-Fi technology, “has been tested on the electrical systems and navigation systems but not on the flight crews”.
Airplanes, like autos, are metal enclosures and as such, act as “cavity resonators”, containing electromagnetic waves (microwaves and radio waves) reflecting back and forth between the cavity’s walls. So the exposure to Wi-Fi may be higher in both airplanes and cars.
So, yes, there is some evidence that the subtle effects of Wi-Fi might be real.
As a precaution, I use a cable to connect my desktop/laptop to the Wi-Fi router, and I turn off my Wi-Fi router at night, reducing my wireless exposure at home. While writing this blog, I started powering down my cell phone at night, and now I sleep much better! The Rees list recommends these actions, and contains a number of other EMF safety tips and insights, which may help with the subtle effects of Wi-Fi.