Daily Archives: 27 May 2007

The Great Wi-Fi Swindle (redux)

Last week I blogged about Panorama’s then upcoming programme about the supposed dangers of wi-fi. Nich Starling castigated me for criticising the programme before having watched it, which was fair enough. So, having watched to programme this lunchtime, what do I think?

What I think is that TV programmes that investigate potential health risks ought to spend at least 25% of the time explaining the science behind the issue. What I think is that the motto that should be plastered above the monitors of the whole production team should be ‘remember the MMR scare’. What I think is that they should avoid using loaded terminology, such as insisting on the sensationalist word ‘radiation’ instead of the more mundane ‘radio waves’ (same number of syllables, natch) and shouldn’t use hyphenated portmanteau nonsense words like ‘electro-smog’ which were coined by the anti-lobby. What I think is that you shouldn’t question the independence of one scientist while swallowing whole the agenda of another, as Ben Goldacre has pointed out.

I don’t think you should use an alleged health condition like electro-magnetic sensitivity as proof of another alleged health condition that radio waves give you cancer. I think that you shouldn’t take the isolated results of one woman who appears to be able to sense radio waves as proof when the whole study has not been published yet. I think you should take note of the researchers of that study who appear to think that the best ‘cure’ for electromagnetic sensitivity is cognitive behavioural therapy. I think that if 3% of the UK population suffered from electromagnetic sensitivity, we might have noticed before now.

And finally, I agree with Guy Kewney: Sir William Stewart (not to be confused with William G Stewart, lest Will Howells accuse me of blasphemy) should indeed ‘shit or get off the pot‘. Yes, by all means have another review. In fact, with new technology like this, it is probably a good idea to have a review every five years or so for a good half-century. But let’s have a bit of perspective, eh?