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I was investigating installing powerline networking in my home in order that I can switch off my wifi installation (partly for performance reasons, partly because the layout of the house means that my 16 month old son is sleeping a few metres from the hotspot), when I was told by a colleague that the emissions from powerline networking (Homeplug style) is actually worse than WiFi.

Is this true? Is there any evidence to support this?

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    My opinion: If either of them had a known and measurable impact it would be subject to strong regulation, and -if it was not forbidden in the first place- you would find warnings all over the box. – johanvdw Sep 23 '11 at 12:41
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    If your home wiring was leaking enough EM at the right frequencies to be 'worse' than your WiFi transceiver, the WiFi wouldn't be working at all due to all the noise. – dtanders Sep 23 '11 at 13:32
  • You might want to look at this question: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1178/… – Reinstate Monica Sep 25 '11 at 0:38
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According to the World Health Organisation there is no risk from low-level, long term exposure to wi-fi networks. (See this BBC article or the WHO itself).

I don't know of any similar information about powerline networking, but it seems unlikely that your home wiring will emit more EM energy that the wi-fi stations antennas. After all, those are specifically designed to emit that EM, and your wiring is not.

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    Here's a bit of subjective information too: I work on ADSL gateways. I spend my working days exposed to dozens of access points. If wifi was harmful I (and my coworkers) would be among the first to be affected. So far (after 7 years!) there are no symptoms. – Kristof Provost Sep 23 '11 at 13:22
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    Not being symptomatic does not mean you're not affected. Also, you could be symptomatic but not recognize those symptoms. But I do think wifi is pretty weak so little worries. – John Sep 23 '11 at 14:28
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    I would be worried about cell phones, if anything - you stick those things right next to your head, to communicate with towers miles away. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Sep 23 '11 at 19:23
  • @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft: alas, there is no proof that cell phones cause cancer. – nico Nov 8 '11 at 6:54
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It all depends what you mean by worse. I think there is no safety or health issue (and the right place for evidence is in this question: Are WiFi waves harmful?). But if the question is wide enough to include RF interference, then the answer is yes.

Interference is caused because domestic power lines do broadcast the high frequency signals used to transmit data. In some circumstances these cause much more interference than Wifi (which is more tightly regulated and sits in reserved frequency bands where it won't interfere). This is something that is likely to vary from country to country but the UK story is told in this Register article (also a good source of primary links to the regulator and the key evidence.) The key section reports :

PLT [power line telecommunications] involves sending radio signals over mains electrical wiring for home networking, but given the lack of shielding on electrical wiring those signals tend to leak out and can interfere with anyone else trying to use the same frequency. Currently that only hits radio amateurs and those listening to shortwave radio, but faster PLT kit goes higher up the dial and has attracted concern from the Civil Aviation Authority as well as taking out DAB broadcasts and MW transmissions too...

The UK regulator, OFCOM, has, so far, not been persuaded to act despite some power line kit clearly breaching the interference regulations.

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