Penang govt to widen consultation on wi-fi health risks


Some good news reported in The Star. The Penang state government will broaden its consultation about the possible health risks of wi-fi.

Wide consultation is a good idea. Such public consultation should take place before any major project is  launched.

“The state government is ready to cancel and abandon the project if there is scientific proof to show that the health of the people will be adversely affected by the wireless network,” says Guan Eng.

Fine. But what if studies point to significant health risks? When it comes to untested new technology and public health,  caution should be exercised – especially if we are not sure of the long-term effects.

There is a difference between free wi-fi for the whole of Penang and say, mobile phones. In the former, the technology is thrust on the people, who do not have a choice. In contrast, in the case of mobile phones, people are free to choose whether or not to use them.

When organising the public awareness forum, both sides of the argument – along with accompanying evidence and research papers – should be presented. It is only then that we can make informed decisions about the proposed project. This report from The Star:

Sunday October 5, 2008 MYT 4:21:30 PM
Penang to continue study on health effects of WiFi

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government will widen its consultations with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the public on possible health risks posed by free Internet wireless connections in the state.

A public forum to discuss the issue will be held after the Hari Raya festive period, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said in a press release on Sunday.

He made the commitment in response to NGO objections to the wireless broadband project, which is aimed at providing free WiFi connection to the entire state within 24 months.

“I have instructed our tech-savvy Member of Parliament Jeff Ooi to organise the forum.

“For public education, we will make available various research papers on radio frequency (RF) radiation that has been wrongly linked to WiFi and WiMAX,” he said, adding that Ooi was Malaysia’s first blogger elected into Parliament and author of a book on the knowledge-based economy.

“We are receptive to public requests for continued consultative and educational sessions with the government pertaining to the implementation of the free Wireless@PENANG project. Public consultation is a continuing process even after a project is announced.

“The state government is ready to cancel and abandon the project if there is scientific proof to show that the health of the people will be adversely affected by the wireless network,” he said.

Lim also said that a World Health Organisation report concluded that the amount of non-ionizing radiation absorbed by a person’s body from a WiFi station is less than one-fifth that received from FM radio and television sets.

Caution and broad consultation will help in coming up with wise decisions. I think – or rather, I would like to believe – that both sides of the debate share the over-riding concern of ensuring that public health is not compromised in the quest for development. That is what sustainable development is all about.

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8 Oct 2008 1.34pm

Just want change, I know everywhere people are poor, for instance in Portland, City Commissioner Erik Sten, spearheaded the outreach plan in December 2004, and brought down the “chronically homeless” from 1,438 to 386 in December. That’s almost a 74% drop. The Penang homeless have to wait for the 10th Malaysia Plan and we are in 2008 currently on the 9th Malaysia Plan. Most of these homeless Penangites are carted away and relocated to Kedah or Pahang and placed into welfare homes. Anyway this topic is not about the homeless, that was an example of how good money can be… Read more »

Just want change
Just want change
8 Oct 2008 2.16am

George, Everywhere has poor people, you are so naive to think that Portland does not have poor people who are homeless, who are living underneath fly over or bridges???? Portland is going to shutdown the wifi is not because of health concern, is because of its maintainance. Penang is a developing state, if we don’t implement something what is so called “future technology” (actually, is existing technology, and we are so far behind, but yet still so conservative), then we can never march ahead. I do agree that Penang government should take care of other public wellfare, but it does… Read more »

8 Oct 2008 1.03am

joolee thanks for your linked articles, they were useful, To think that people use this situation to earn an extra buck is sad. Despite all that it is still 50/50 on the Electromagnetic effects on humans. A long time ago on July 20, 1969 when the Apollo Spacecraft took mission to the moon everyone was glad but oblivious to the fact that the chemicals which were used on the rockets were harming the ozone layers. Years later they debated about it and came to a conclusion that space travel and conquering the galaxy was more important. Again the humans are… Read more »

7 Oct 2008 6.48am
Just want change
Just want change
7 Oct 2008 2.38am

I don’t understand about all these public health concerns. I do read about an article talking about wifi leading to cancer, but there are all kinds of such articles on NET now. If we are going to decide something based on those NET articles, we can never go anywhere. I am in Portland, USA but I am a Penangite; and Portland is a Wifi city for years, just like what Penang government is going to do. And I never heard anything about health risk or any reports on health damage from both the public and the government of Portland. People… Read more »

7 Oct 2008 1.09am

There are no conclusive evidence that WiFi can adversely harm any living thing on this planet. Although the research is still at an early stage and will probably take another 100 years of pushing papers back and forth while giving out some ang pows under the table delaying the final conclusion that yes it is harmful, but by then Malaysia will have people with two heads and two limbs walking backwards and s***ting from their mouths. For more details on Electromagnetic Safety see I think it’s much safer to do bungee jumping, skydiving, wrestle a crocodile or eat all… Read more »

7 Oct 2008 12.10am

some might think certain NGOs are so kaypo/ anti-development and pushing away the government’s good efforts.

but i am glad that there are NGOs like these who make me stop and think and reconsider rather than accept blindly whatever that’s given. I am glad that they are there to represent the collective small voices like myself.

sometimes, i think NGOs make better opposition members rather than Oppositions members themselves.

6 Oct 2008 11.56pm

I would agree that the wifi project should be studied further before implemented. Things that are free definitely everybody wants but not necessarily it is good for us. Maybe there is no current proof that wifi is bad for our health but maybe like some diseases, it might take time or prolonged exposure to show. I agree with Mr Anil that people can choose not to use handphone but should the wifi project be implemented, people have no choice to not be affected by it. We all want free wifi. The difference is that some are so short-sighted with wanting… Read more »

6 Oct 2008 9.09pm

Hello…..all are welcome to participate. No brother sister award of the business. Imagine if BN is still around, bet someone’s brother or sister or relative will get the monopoly….I think we have gone through that before…

6 Oct 2008 12.35pm

To LKY, you seem are very selective in picking up a household application that is not similar to wifi. For instance, microoven is EMF shielded which is safe for consumers. Do we have choice to turn off EMF signals from wimax, TV and handphone transmission towers? Remember that TV signals can reach a several hundred Km unlike wifi signal limited coverage to less than 100m. Even you are hiding indoor, those above mentioned radio waves are still bombarding your brain cells, body parts, etc. non-stop. As I said earlier, let’s shut down TV stations and mobile phone services first for… Read more »

6 Oct 2008 11.33am

The argument seemed to be wifi and no-wifi. In fact the argument should focused on whether there should be wide spread outdoor coverage of wifi. ============================================================= The Penang governmet Wifi Forum should get the public fesdback on this specific issue rather than (1) wifi and no wifi and (2) whether is safe or not safe. One can have tv. mircowave and wifi in the house. But remember, you have the choice to turn on of off. And beside there are very strict regulation controlling the emission power of consumer products. The danger of public service wifi outdoor coverage is that… Read more »

6 Oct 2008 10.51am

Why we are so suddenly concern on wifi@Penang? We shall also stop using wimax, handphone, TV, FM radio, etc. for its radiation risks to our health.

IF the Wifi benefit is much higher than the risk, then take the risk or else let we Malaysians follow Taliban-style in banning every modern inventions from the West.

6 Oct 2008 10.44am

Many people outside of Penang failed to understand the real reasons for objections against this free Wi-fi plan because they do not know that apart from kiam siap, the Penang Hokkiens are also kia si one. That’s why even free also don’t want.

6 Oct 2008 10.40am

And now it’s wifi, and the pros and cons of it by the Penang Government. It’s been, what, almost 8 months of a DAP led government? We still are waiting for them to enforce traffic laws in Penang. Having never solved one problem, they start something new like wifi. I’m all for wifi on the island, and willing to pay for it. They haven’t even solved public transport yet. Maybe in 5 years time after the 13 GE. Promises, promises. BN made promises, too. Bus Users Group have met with State Government about public transport. Nothing has happened yet. Soon,… Read more »

6 Oct 2008 10.07am

Anil, Don’t worry and do your research.

I also support the Penang gov’s decision. It is a good one. I read some artciles and have not found anything conclusive. So, enjoy the wifi.

6 Oct 2008 9.38am

Hie Anil,

Continue with your quest to fight for the people, regardless of whether you’re right or wrong.

At the end of the day,differences in opinion and a critical public discourse would result in a solution that is most balanced and appealing to various stakeholders.

What Anil was previously alluding to is perhaps the very-Barisan way the PR government of Penang called on the Wi-Fi project and award it through close-tender…or something like that…

6 Oct 2008 8.56am

Well, in the jungle, you would face natural health risk. Pick your choice, da man. Denggi, malaria vs WiFi intoxication. Pick da choice de dey

6 Oct 2008 8.13am

Glancing thru your posting and the comments , it is simply obvious that many of your commentators are grouping in the dark and trying to be smarter than the others .

Some are right tho , the Consumer Associations have to sensationalise to “stay in business”. Everybody is right , if you wanna be truly safe and sound just stay in the cave somewhere in the jungle, there will be no unnatural health risks then

Dr. Hamid Ibrahim
Dr. Hamid Ibrahim
6 Oct 2008 7.26am

Dear Anil

You are doing good service to the citizens of Penang as well
other Malaysians.

Senior Citizens:

The Federal government has no plan for the senior citizens;
at least the Penang Administration should initiate some
plan for them.

I was in Perth sometime ago; for a start, the Perth City
Council issues bus tickets at special and reduced rate;
for a start, the Penang City Council should start special
reduced bus rates for seniors – say from the age of 55 – 90

Of course, there are other facilities lunch mid-day lunch
etc. We will dealth with it later.

Elohe Sra
Elohe Sra
6 Oct 2008 1.57am

Wi-Fi has been around for a while. Does anyone know of an ACTUAL case of someone who got damaged by this technology? One of the phenomena of recent times is the plethora of “research” that is done on everything, everyone and their dog. Predictably, we are told that everything that we touch these days is dangerous. Problem is, there is a grain of truth in all that – but short of abandoning civilization and living off the land (I’m sure even that has some inherent dangers – chlorophylittis, anyone?), I think some common sense is in order. Let’s not spite… Read more »

Lily Chandra
Lily Chandra
6 Oct 2008 1.09am

FREE for the people? More like FREE bunch of site licenses for antennas and repeaters and base stations and towers! Hmmm… my wondering mind here — licenses worth lots of money lo.

All hazardous stuff to be near to. Brandon, you better make sure none of these are around your abode — sure property price will drop!

You never know when CAP will come in handy to champion your cause.

6 Oct 2008 12.56am

If we can have smoke free zones in recognition of people’s rights to smoke free environment.

Why and how can electromagnetic smogs be forced over my space when i do not want it?

6 Oct 2008 12.40am

FREE only, sampah pun ambik balik rumah!

Cheapskate Penangites will fall for anything FREE! Clever PR strategy. Just say the magic word “FREE”.

6 Oct 2008 12.30am

‘We are all now living in a soup of electromagnetic radiation one billion times stronger than the natural fields in which living cells have developed over the last 3.8 billion years.”


Simple Boy
Simple Boy
5 Oct 2008 11.13pm

Lifted from real news of the world (no not the Star la):

“A recent authoritative Finnish study has found that people who have used mobiles for more than ten years are 40 per cent more likely to get a brain tumour on the same side of the head as they hold their handset; Swedish research suggests that the risk is almost four times as great. And further research from Sweden claims that the radiation kills off brain cells, which could lead to today’s younger generation going senile in their forties and fifties.”