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Wireless Systems Increase Radio-frequency Radiation in Buildings: Building Industry Solutions

May 4, 2020


A  new publication “Building science and radiofrequency radiation: What makes smart and healthy buildings”  in the industry journal Building and Environment details best practices in buildings to reduce radiofrequency as including wired technology instead of Wi-Fi, and corded phones in buildings. The study is open access. 

Clegg et al.,  Building science and radiofrequency Radiation:What makes smart and healthy buildings,  Building and Environment, 2019


    • •Wireless systems increase radiofrequency radiation (RFR) in buildings.
    • •Scientific evidence identifies adverse effects from RFR below regulatory limits.
    • •Globally, some governments and public health agencies are reducing RFR exposures.
    • •Low RFR best practices include wired technology instead of Wi-Fi, and corded phones.
    • •Safer, sustainable strategies and solutions for “smart” buildings are feasible.


Radiofrequency radiation (RFR), used for wireless communications and “smart” building technologies, including the “Internet of Things,” is increasing rapidly. As both RFR exposures and scientific evidence of harmful effects increase apace, it is timely to heed calls to include low RFR levels as a performance indicator for the health, safety and well-being of occupants and the environment.

Adverse biochemical and biological effects at commonly experienced RFR levels indicate that exposure guidelines for the U.S., Canada and other countries are inadequate to protect public health and the environment.

Some industry liability insurance providers do not offer coverage against adverse health effects from radiation emitted by wireless technologies, and insurance authorities deem potential liability as “high.” Internationally, governments have enacted laws, and medical and public health authorities have issued recommendations, to reduce and limit exposure to RFR.

There is an urgent need to implement strategies for no- or low-RFR emitting technologies, and shielding, in building design and retrofitting. These strategies include installing wired (not wireless) Internet networks, corded rather than cordless phones, and cable or wired connections in building systems (e.g., mechanical, lighting, security). Building science can profit from decades of work to institute performance parameters, operationalizing prudent guidelines and best practices. The goal is to achieve RFR exposures that are ALARA, “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.”

We also challenge the business case of wireless systems, because wired or cabled connections are faster, more reliable and secure, emit substantially less RFR, and consume less energy in a sector with rapidly escalating greenhouse gas emissions.


4.3. Early life stages

During their rapid development, the embryo, fetus, infant and child are more vulnerable to many environmental insults, and impacts are potentially lifelong. Various life stages have different vulnerabilities and susceptibilities to RFR [52,53,54,55]. Modeling indicates that children absorb substantially higher RFR doses from cell phones, in deeper brain structures, than do adults (Fig. 2) [20]. Research has also found proportionately higher doses to tissues in children compared with adults, from wireless laptops and utility meters [56,57,58].

Table 1. Examples of national legislation limiting RFR.


7.1. Regional U.S. Guidelines and recommendations to limit RFR exposure in schools

8.2. Strategies to eliminate or minimize RFR exposures from sources within buildings

As exemplified in section 8.1, engineers, architects, designers and planners have a unique opportunity to create healthier living, learning and work environments by reducing use of wireless technologies and thereby reducing levels of RFR. Although it is simpler, preferable and less expensive to implement RFR-free options during the initial design and construction stages, existing buildings represent many opportunities for improvements.

8.2.1. Connect necessary technologies with cables

An important first step to minimize levels of RFR within buildings is to eliminate indoor sources of RFR, and to connect all technologies via wire or fiber cable (“wired”).

Consider alternative approaches to wireless technology. Recommendations include:

•Neighborhood infrastructure with cable access for high-speed, wired telephone and Internet;
•Within buildings use cables, preferably shielded, in Local Area Networks (LAN) to provide wired access points for all networking and data transmission, including wired connections for modems, routers, Internet and media; lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), thermostats and humidistats; surveillance and security systems; fire detection and response (e.g., sprinklers); pool equipment such as pump and treatment controls, etc.;
•Install easily accessible wired (not cordless) phones and prohibit installation and use of cordless phones;
•Throughout the building, provide connections to hardwired CAT6 or CAT7 Ethernet cables, preferably shielded, to service devices such as computers, tablets and other devices. Use wired peripherals and accessories. Ensure that all wireless features are turned off or disabled;
•Install wired RJ11 phone jacks for corded and landline telephones; and
•Use analog, non-transmitting utility (water, electricity, gas) meter options, that do not transmit data wirelessly.