Local councils and other public authorities deploying wireless networks have called for further government research into the health effects of Wi-Fi after concerns were raised by the BBC's Panorama programme last week.
Council leaders are concerned that publicity over the possible long-term, low-level radiation risks of Wi-Fi could dent public confidence and affect take-up of their wireless services. They added that any delay in rolling out wireless would mean the UK missing out on the economic benefits it could bring.
"Without this research, we as a council cannot give users an education about health effects," said Stephen Hilton, programme lead at Bristol Council's digital development agency, Connecting Bristol.
"The government needs to spearhead research to provide councils with the means to educate the public if it wants to see wireless networks provide economic returns."
Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said independent research was needed, but it should be funded by industry and commercial wireless operators. "They also have a lot to gain by addressing these concerns," he said.
Currently there is no requirement for councils or businesses to carry out health assessments when deploying Wi-Fi networks, and industry regulator Ofcom is not required to take any health guidance when allocating signal spectrum for wireless systems.
Research into the health effects of Wi-Fi
A study by the European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks said, "No health effect has been consistently demonstrated [from radio frequency energy] at exposure levels below the limits set by the International Committee on Non Ionising Radiation Protection in 1998." However, it acknowledged that the data for evaluation "remains limited".
An assessment by the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority said, "None of the latest studies strengthen the evidence of any genotoxic [DNA break up] effects of radio frequency fields."