October 14, 2003


Virginia Postrel and Volokh mention Illinois parents suffering Wi-Fi phobia:

Parents of students who attend an Illinois school district are suing over the use of Wi-Fi technology in classrooms, alleging that exposure to the low-level radio waves may be damaging to students' health.

"We've been trying to raise the issue with the school district for almost two years," said Ron Baiman, whose children are among the plaintiffs. "We aren't seeking any monetary awards; we're seeking a moratorium until use of the technology has been proven to be safe."

Or, as Virginia writes, until they prove a negative -- something that literally can never happen. Wi-Fi is merely a means of delivering information; other info-delivery technologies have existed for some time. Printing, for example:

In the printing industry, the incidence rate for injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers was 5.0 in 1999, compared with 5.4 in 1998. The lost workday incidence rate was 2.6 in 1999, compared with 2.8 in 1998.

In the paper and allied products industry, the incidence rate for injuries and illnesses remained above the national average at 7.0 in 1999, compared with 7.1 cases per 100 full-time workers in 1998. The lost workday incidence rate remained the same in 1999 at 3.7.

Wi-Fi faces shutdowns and legal challenges before it is even put in place, yet deadly printing continues without threat. It should be halted -- until it has been proven to be safe.

Posted by Tim Blair at October 14, 2003 12:54 AM

I'd like to introduce these concern parents to Dihydrogen Monoxide, the deadly chemical that's kill thousands a year.

Posted by: BigFire at October 14, 2003 at 01:35 AM

Except that they can prove drugs are safe every day. They often do it before they release them onto the market. Thalidomide slipped thru the system but 'scientific experimentation' as I think they call it appears to be a wonderful technique. Google may throw up some more information on this tool.

PS - Why do most ppl who comment here remain anon?
It appears, at first blush, a wonderful forum for ideas and I cannot believe someone would be embarrassed to leave their calling card.

Posted by: Albert Einstein at October 14, 2003 at 01:49 AM

That's easy for you dead blokes to say.

Posted by: EvilPundit at October 14, 2003 at 02:28 AM

Have any of these people got a cordless phone in their homes? Wi-Fi operates in a similar frequency range to that of standard cordless phones [wi-fi runs at 2.4Ghz, while the cordless phones can be 2.4-2.7Ghz depending on manufacturer) but I don't see them being banned from homes/schools/shops...

Posted by: bailz at October 14, 2003 at 03:00 AM

What is it about this aversion to anonymous posting? If I type in a text string in the Name box that appears to be a "real" person that somehow makes the point more credible? Or leave an e-mail address that may, or may not, be my "real" address? How would anyone know? Does anyone really want to know who I am? What are they going to do? Look me up and give me a stern talking to?

Posted by: nobody important at October 14, 2003 at 04:16 AM

While we're at it, let's ban all radios and cellphones and IR transmission towers until they're proven to be safe too...

Posted by: Roger Bournival at October 14, 2003 at 05:04 AM

Pet peeve: it's not impossible to prove a negative at all; actually, saying you can't is patently false. The trick is just what question is being asked and the assumptions you start with.

"The bicycle does not have 2 wheels" is pretty easy to prove -- just count them. And "4 is not equal to five" can be proved without too much difficulty, assuming you agree on basic numerical principles (if you don't agree on basic definitions, pretty much anything is impossible to prove, which is why "there is no God" is pretty hard to argue about reasonably).

Posted by: Geoff at October 14, 2003 at 06:37 AM

Sorry Albert but we don't prove drugs are safe. What testing does is show that within an acceptable limit statistically the drug is unlikely to cause unwanted effects. In other words, it won't cause dangerous side effects or death more often that some number (say 1 in 100,000) with a certain confidence level (say 95%). There will always remain a 1 in 20 or 1 in 100 chance that the real risk is higher than the acceptable limit.

Lots of common drugs (which are just another artificial class of chemical) can kill. Aspirin for instance or even water, right BigFire? Bailz and Roger are right on.

Posted by: RKD at October 14, 2003 at 08:04 AM

There was a study released in Holland a couple weeks ago (discussed in my blog) that suggested that the new 3G cell phone technology might cause headaches and nausea. With that and this wi-fi scare, I think we are witnessing the beginnings of the next new irrational fear: digital communication signals! GM food, pesticides, perfumes and nuclear waste are all pretty played out, but this new fear could have legs. Write the first book to spook the timid, appear on the talk shows, make a million dollars!

Posted by: Bruce Gottfred at October 14, 2003 at 08:57 AM

Perhaps they would accept Wi-Fi if they realized that protection is just an aluminum foil hat away. (No! No! Shiny side OUT!)

Posted by: Ernie G at October 14, 2003 at 08:58 AM

Here in Illinois we call it "The People's Republic of Oak Park."

Posted by: Jack at October 14, 2003 at 09:24 AM

I lived in Oak Park for many years. It's a beautiful suburb with tree lined streets, historic houses (Frank Lloyd Wright), good city services and schools. I left because a minority of wackos seemed to be intent on using our willingness to pay high property taxes ($8000 my last year there) to forward their personal agendas. When I left the village had enacted a hand gun ban, effectively required landlords to allow a village agency to "steer" renters to maintain racial mixes and declared the city a nuclear weapons free zone. I moved to Michigan so I could keep my thermonuclear devices (and the summers are cooler on that side of the lake).

Posted by: KenG at October 14, 2003 at 10:42 AM

Ban cables too, the kiddies might trip over them!

Posted by: Naiad at October 14, 2003 at 11:29 AM

Can't these nags find something suspected to be unsafe about spam?

Posted by: slatts at October 14, 2003 at 01:05 PM

It caught my eye that Dick-ona-stick Baiman still has his kiddies at the school after two years of whinging. His kids will grow up and sue him for negligence.

Posted by: Jake D at October 14, 2003 at 03:12 PM

Spam is very unsafe especially when deep-fried.

Posted by: pooh at October 14, 2003 at 04:01 PM

No one has yet published the stats on how dangerous blogging can be too. I am sure there are hundreds, no thousands of innocents who cannot make their mind up themselves, engaging in this dangerous pursuit. Think of the many hours these bloggers could be spending doing worthwhile things like sitting outdoors absorbing some extra UV rays, or breathing polluted air.

Posted by: Simon at October 14, 2003 at 04:04 PM

Oh, sure. Tell me NOW, when I've just purchased a 2.4G cordless phone.

And it's SITTING WITHIN THREE FEET OF ME as I type this.

Hm. Not only that, but I've been getting a headache for the past thirty minutes... but then, I haven't had my morning caffeine yet.

No, it must be the phone.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish at October 15, 2003 at 04:27 AM

I swear, everybody in my state north of Mount Vernon are barbarians. This is just the kind of left wing crap that goes on in Chicago.

What's truly astounding to me is that people in Chicago are complaining about radio waves. There's probably no place on earth where more radio stations, television networks, cell phone towers, and private communication devices bombard millions with radio waves from the top of every building for miles. The ambient communications energy could probably be measured on a geiger counter, and they're JUST NOW worried? Insane.

Posted by: Aaron at October 15, 2003 at 05:21 AM

And never forget that you can't possibly put up any of those ugly wireless phone atennas in my neighborhood. Just a minute, my wireless just quit working. WTF??

BANANA Forever!!

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at October 15, 2003 at 11:26 AM

I had me one o' them wi-fi setups. Measly little thing wouldn't carry more'n 100-150 yards.

So I rewired it.

Sucker puts out 15 kilowatts of pure-D power now, baby! I can connect from way 'cross town, even with the watertower in the way.

Now if these headaches would just go away...

Posted by: mojo at October 15, 2003 at 04:37 PM