A spate of articles, mostly in the UK, are trying to use bad science and anecdote to freak us out: I am from Missouri, as the saying goes, and I say: show me. The reports that Wi-Fi in specific and wireless data networks in general can make people sick seem to rely entirely on a rickety framework. Despite the focus of this site on Wi-Fi, I will be the first to trumpet the news loudly and continuously if Wi-Fi turned out to be dangerous to use, or if clinical proof in peer-reviewed journals appeared about electrosensitive individuals. As noted here in the past, I have no doubts that people who claim to be electrosensitive have probably a range of illness that defies diagnosis, but I also have no doubt that the many anecdotes I've read as well as purported studies don't provide confidence that electromagnetic radiation is the culprit.
The latest round of articles seems to beat the drum that Wi-Fi or EMF "poisoning" is just another example of an industry lying to its customers and regulators while subverting scientists. Look at the tobacco industry, for instance, which turned out to have a multi-decade campaign of suppressing the truth about the effects and addictiveness of nicotine-bearing products. But let's face facts. It was well known by the 1950s that cigarette smoking was bad for you, and the next 50 years were just wishful thinking. (My father convinced my grandfather to quit smoking in the early 1950s, and my grandfather never smoked again, and lived until his early 90s.) In the intervening period, tobacco firms also manipulated the level of nicotine, and didn't fret over harm, thus producing more addictive products that meant more bad health effects.
Asbestos as a case study is interesting, too. Miners have never been particularly well treated in any era, despite their vital role in powering each aspect of industrial revolution. Coal still runs a good hunk of American electrical plants, and metals forced from the earth are rendered into servers by the millions that then suck coal into computation. In the early part of the 20th century, deaths from workers mining asbestos was already well know. Asbestosis's first diagnosis was in 1924.
The risk from these two causes was well-known long before action was taken to correct them. Doctors knew. Academic papers were published. Information was available. What wasn't known was how irresponsible the industries involved were about handling the issues, and how much they suppressed and ignored in the process. (There's also a twist: Asbestos cases may have been dramatically overstated because of radiologists and attorneys who managed to give a diagnosis of asbestos-related illness to people with no exposure and no disease, in effect stealing money from miners and construction workers who deserved it.)
On the wireless side, there's no such early evidence. The studies to date that have been peer reviewed and published--not collections of anecdotes or World Health Organization forums--show cellular effects only in circumstances that don't mimic actual short or long term use. The studies that look at large cohorts find no effect, even over long periods of time. Of course, each of these studies is critiqued by those with either vested health or financial interest--people who think they're being harmed by EMF or would like to make a buck off it.
But we're not in the position where obvious, widespread health effects are visible among even the population of long-term mobile users. Wi-Fi, having been in use since 1999 in some organizations, also hasn't produced any noticeable effects.
This is not to say that there's no possibility that particular aspects of cellular and Wi-Fi technology couldn't produce harmful effects on users or those in the vicinity of their use. But there's no parallel one could make between our current understanding of the possible effects of EMF on human beings from these widespread technologies, and what was known about asbestos and tobacco long before appropriate steps were taken.
My father uses Wi-Fi all the time, and I'm not about to ask him to stop.