Is Wi-Fi Safe? Radiation Health Risks and Gaming Routers

You step outside onto your front porch to see all the wavelengths our abundant and diverse technologies lob into the air. You can see purple cellular, green Wi-Fi, blue bluetooth (heh), and even yellow garage clicker nettings engulfing and choking up the air around you. You can almost taste and smell the rainbow. A thick stream of dark green bits head straight for your pocket. You flinch, that couldn’t have been safe. It apparently triggered the Mario Bros coin sound ‘CLER ERRR’ you downloaded almost a year ago as your message alert. It’s a group message from your buddies in the thread coined “Spamalot”, you ignore it.

Those green bits were a set of data sent to your smartphone through your Wi-Fi gaming router. The same gaming router you decided to buy from Best Buy when they had a sale on alien technology. No not Dell’s Alienware brand, we’re talking about those black boxes ready to phone home, then take off at any moment. Nowadays it is not uncommon to see wireless routers marketed as “gaming routers” with four, six, and even eight antennas. noesiseon hit the front page of Imgur with this comical meme showing the evolution of wireless routers.

Imgur.com

As powerful as these routers may be, it raises concern for some as to whether these spaceships pose a health risk. Do they emit radiation that can possibly cause the ‘C’ word, cancer?

What Is Electromagnetic Radiation?

First, let’s go over a quick lesson on wavelengths and radiation. Accordingly to an article by Gizmodo, “Radiation is just a fancy word for energy that propagates out from a source in waves”. The kind of radiation most relevant to this discussion is known as electromagnetic radiation, it stems from microwaves, radio waves, visible light, and even x-rays. The most dangerous types of radiation are those that decay over time releasing high energy particles in all directions. There are even high-energy electromagnetic waves like gamma rays, x-rays, and the high end of the UV spectrum that are harmful. They’re that scary guy in the alley spewing ionizing radiation, they like to affect your DNA. Below you will find a leveraged chart from the Science Media Centre visualizing how the higher frequency in wavelength directly influences the danger radiation can conflict on living tissue.

Science Media Centre

Do Gaming Routers Pose A Health Risk?

Bare with me as this can get somewhat geeky/techy, whatever you want to call it. Wi-Fi routers emit electromagnetic radiation energy at a lower frequency. Wireless networks run on five frequency bands including: 2.4 GHz, 3.6 GHz, 4.9 GHz, 5 GHz, and 5.9 GHz. Most devices run on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. In fact, that is all you will get out of the high-end home routers. Your gaming devices such as gaming PC’s using Wi-Fi will not work outside of those two. Most of the high-end routers have software/chipset enhancements, not to mention the number of bands they emit, coined “Dual-Band” and “Tri-Band”.

Current high-end routers can have more than one 5 GHz band. These routers are labeled Tri-Band, which allow for more media devices to be spread out among more ports. It makes those traffic lanes less congested by providing more “lanes” if you will. This additional hardware feature adds redundant wavelengths that disperse in a donut shape on top of one another. They may not be green, or visible for that matter, but they are there. This redundancy is arguably counterproductive on Wi-Fi performance. Access points (or routers) typically need just enough distance from each other so they don’t interrupt. With both bands coming for the same device, it is as close as it can get and therefore creates disruption.

So why talk about multiple bands? There are concerns that the low radio frequency (RF) signals don’t become dangerous until they are emitted from many devices all at once. Accordingly to Kelly Classic from the Health Physics Society, the only time the human body can be harmed from RF electromagnetic radiation is when the body experiences “thermal effects”, where the body can’t dissipate the heat properly. This usually stems from a lack of blood flow to that area of the body, as that movement is intended to cool tissue.

Whether it’s having more than one band, getting too close, or even being exposed to more than the recommended dose, all evidence leading to cancer is inconclusive. Why? We haven’t been exposed to this kind of radiation for that long. In fact, as of now, it is considered “safe”. We only have sample data starting from the 90’s, and that is not enough time to truly understand the risks involved. Different studies cite different results. Some have come from a different angle, such as possible child exposure risks. In any case, time and studies will tell whether our exposure to RF radiation has any adverse effects in the long term or not. With that we hope you enjoyed reading about whether Wi-Fi is safe or not. We shall see, let’s hope for the best.

Leave your comments below and tell us what you think based on your own experiences and research. There are already lots of other things to be worried about. Don’t work in a nuclear power plant, make sure you put on sunscreen, and always wear sunglasses when the sun is out. There, that should cover a fraction of those worries. Keep learning about how to better yourself like I am and be a “Gamer For Good Health”.

Author: Jonathan Walton | Founder + Gamer