Wi-Fi is the second most prevalent form of wireless technology in Canada next to cell phones. The technology allows devices such as computers, smart phones, and video game consoles to communicate data wirelessly. Some people are concerned that radiation from Wi-Fi equipment could cause health problems and that children may be at particular risk in school environments.
On this page:
- Wi-Fi equipment
- Health risks of Wi-Fi
- Minimizing your exposure
- The Government of Canada's role
- More information
Wi-Fi is a technology that allows devices such as computers, smart phones, and video game consoles to communicate data wirelessly. It is often used to link home computers and tablets to the internet. Like other commonly used household products (cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, and remote controls for garage door openers), Wi-Fi equipment emits radiofrequency fields.
The RF energy given off by Wi-Fi is a type of non-ionizing radiation. Unlike ionizing radiation (as emitted by X-ray machines), RF energy from Wi-Fi equipment and other wireless devices cannot break chemical bonds. While some of the RF energy emitted by Wi-Fi is absorbed in your body, the amount largely depends on how close your body is to a Wi-Fi enabled device and the strength of the signal. Unlike cellular phones where the transmitter is in close proximity to the head and much of the RF energy that is absorbed is deposited in a highly localized area, RF energy from Wi-Fi devices is typically transmitted at a much greater distance from the human body. This results in very low average RF energy absorption levels in all parts of the body, much like exposure to AM/FM radio signals.
Health risks of Wi-Fi
As long as RF energy levels remain below Health Canada's RF safety guidelines, current scientific evidence supports the assertion that RF energy emissions from Wi-Fi devices are not harmful. Health Canada's conclusions are consistent with the findings of other international bodies and regulators, including the World Health Organization, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the U.K. Health Protection Agency.
RF energy exposure from Wi-Fi equipment in all areas accessible to the general public are required to meet Health Canada's safety guidelines. The limits specified in the guidelines are far below the threshold for adverse health effects and are based on an ongoing review of thousands of published scientific studies on the health impacts of RF energy. The public exposure limits apply to everyone, including children, and allow for continuous, 24/7 exposure.
Minimizing your exposure
Health Canada's position is that no precautionary measures are needed, since RF energy exposure levels from Wi-Fi are typically well below Canadian and international safety limits. As with any product, Wi-Fi devices should be operated in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.
The Government of Canada's role
Health Canada's role is to protect the health of Canadians, so it is the Department's responsibility to research and investigate any possible health effects associated with exposure to RF energy, such as that coming from Wi-Fi equipment. Health Canada has developed guidelines for safe human exposure to RF energy (Safety Code 6). It is one of a series of codes that specify the requirements for the safe use of radiation-emitting devices operating in the frequency range from 3 kilohertz (kHz) to 300 gigahertz (GHz). Wi-Fi operates in the 2.4 and 5.8 GHz frequency range.
Wireless devices such as Wi-Fi equipment are regulated by Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED). This department also oversees the licensing and placement of cell phone towers, considers the effects on the environment and local land use before towers are installed, and ensures that these towers comply with regulatory requirements. ISED has adopted part of Health Canada's RF exposure guidelines to protect the general public by ensuring that exposure from cell phones and cell phone towers do not exceed the specified limits.
- Radio Standards Specification 102
- Radiofrequency energy and safety
- Case Study: Measurements of Radio Frequency Exposure from Wi-Fi Devices (2012)
- Electromagnetic fields and public health - base stations and wireless technologies
- Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans news release
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