Panorama on Wi-fi

Written ‘live’, so not particularly coherent:

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Is anyone else watching Panorama? They’re scaremongering over wifi radiation. The notorious Powerwatch just got a plug, and various permutations of ‘electromagnetic smog’ are turning up every couple of minutes, along with calling routers ‘mini-masts’. It’s pretty strong stuff – some guy just claimed it could cause chromosome damage, cancer etc. – but it’s pretty appalling journalism, imho.

They’re talking to many ‘world-renowned experts’ who are for some reason only available via the internet. They keep throwing out phrases like ‘its safety is not yet proven’. Now they’re talking to electrohypersensitives! This is mixing implausible but vaguely plausible health worries with very fringe ideas. There was just an odd look at a study into whether ‘hypersensitives’ can detect radiation gave ‘inconclusive’ results, which were skipped over in favour of the test subject’s own personal feelings on the matter (she’s installed silver foil all around her bedroom). I have sympathy with ‘electrohypersensitives’ in that they’re clearly suffering, but from what I’ve read the symptoms – headaches, trouble sleeping etc.. – are generic problems that can be caused by many many things. And radiation exposure has been studied a lot. As has electrosensitivity, as people have had exactly the same fears since TV started broadcasting.

We’ve now got (made up) figures indicating over two million UK electrohypersensitives that – profound tone of voice – the government is ignoring. And now we’re slagging off the World Health Organisation in favour of one UK investigator.

They have at least interviewed one of the (apparently) head scientists in charge of setting health limits, but poisoned the well by claiming he’s a controversial figure as he testified on behalf of mobile phone companies who want to place masts in controversial areas. But the danger of such radiation is the very issue being discussed! He claims that the weight of scientific evidence is very much in favour of there being no danger, but the programme is heavily hinting that this is not to be believed. Why aren’t they paying attention to the huge number of studies which show no problem? I thought this was meant to be a serious programme?

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I’m glad to see it’s not me being sensitive: the Bad Science forums and now the front page are talking about it. They both want to know why the background of the head scientist was queried, but the Powerwatch guy was given a free ride. There’s also a sensible rebuttal in today’s Guardian.