Wi-fi is now very common in homes and public places including in schools across Australia. It enables electronic devices to be connected to a computer network wirelessly using radio waves, or radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic energy (EME). There is some public concern about potential health effects associated with RF EME emissions from Wi-fi.
ARPANSA has conducted a comprehensive measurement study of RF EME from Wi-fi in 23 schools throughout Victoria and New South Wales. The study focussed on the measurement of the RF EME level resulting from the use of Wi-fi networks in these schools, and compared this level against the public exposure limits in the Australian Standard. To better understand the EME exposure environment in these schools, measurements of other EME sources in the everyday environment, such as mobile phone base stations, (AM and FM) radio and TV towers were also taken. Measurements were conducted inside the school building(s) in a classroom or the library and outside in the schoolyard.
The diagram below shows the measurements as a percentage of the Australian Standard representing typical exposure* from Wi-fi and other common RF sources across the 23 schools that were measured.
Typical exposure from Wi-fi and other common RF sources in the Classroom
|Wi-fi and other common sources||Classroom measurement|
|Wi-fi||0.0002% - 500 000 times below the limit|
|Radio broadcast||0.0005% - 200 000 times below the limit|
|Mobile phone base station||0.00004% - 2 500 000 times below the limit|
|TV broadcast||0.000009% - 11 111 111 times below the limit|
|Other||0.000002% - 50 000 000 times below the limit|
Typical exposure from Wi-fi and other common RF sources in the School Yard
|Wi-fi and other common sources||School yard measurement|
|Wi-fi||0.000001% - 100 000 000 times below the limit|
|Radio broadcast||0.002% - 50 000 times below the limit|
|Mobile phone base station||0.0002% - 500 000 times below the limit|
|TV broadcast||0.00003% - 3 333 333 times below the limit|
|Other||0.000004% - 25 000 000 times below the limit|
*Each source was measured in the centre of the classroom and in the schoolyard for one minute and the average was taken. Typical exposure indicates the median one-minute averages across the 23 schools.
All the measurements of Wi-fi and other sources were much lower than the limits of the Australian Standard. In the classroom the typical RF EME from Wi-fi was 0.0002% of the general public exposure limit. These figures are out of the 100% allowable for general public exposure. In the schoolyard the typical RF EME from Wi-fi was 0.000001% of the limit. In the classroom Wi-fi was similar to radio broadcasts whereas in the schoolyard Wi-fi was lower than all other sources.
This study showed that the typical RF exposure of children from Wi-fi at school is very low and comparable or lower to other sources in the environment such as radio and TV broadcasts and mobile phone base stations.
ARPANSA’s current advice is that there is no established scientific evidence that the low exposure to RF EME from Wi-fi adversely affects the health of children or the general population. More information can be found on the ARPANSA fact sheet ‘Wi-fi and Health’.
The study was published in the scientific peer-reviewed journal Radiation Protection Dosimetry.