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September 19, 2011

School removes Wi-Fi wireless system

The Canadian Charger

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Pretty River Academy in Collingwood, Ontario, a private school with 150 students attending kindergarten to Grade 12, is the first Ontario school to remove Wi-Fi wireless system from campus.

In the midst of an ongoing debate about potentially harmful effects of Wi-Fi, a recent World Health Organization statement that said radio frequency radiation from WiFi and cell phones posed a threat similar to DDT, lead and car exhaust raising additional concerns.

The Canadian Charger is leading an awareness campaign to educate the public on the health risks of using wireless communication devices or being near wireless communication towers.

Similar to the tobacco industry funding studies for years that concluded that cigarettes don't cause cancer, and industry and government funded research that concludes that carbon dioxide emissions don't cause global warming, the multi-billion dollar telecommunications industry continues to fund research which concludes there are no harmful effects from microwave radiation generated from such systems as cell and Wi-Fi networks. 

Dr. Magda Havas, associate professor of environmental and resource studies at Trent University, who researches the health effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic energy at the extremely low frequency range associated with electricity (60 Hertz) and at the radio frequency range commonly associated with wireless telecommunication, said the research which Health Canada relies on is not evidence-based.

“I call it whitewashed when scientists don't really present the facts clearly.”

She noted that there are plenty of scientific studies that indicate that microwave radiation can result in symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, nausea, type-II diabetes, difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering, sperm immobility and heart palpitations, yet government organizations and school boards ignore them, often insisting there is no conclusive evidence.

“I find it fascinating that the public school system is promoting Wi-Fi, refuses to listen to parents, silences teachers, ignores the research, and can't get Wi-Fi installed fast enough, even though many of these schools already have a wired system, so the Wi-Fi is redundant. It seems that they were allotted money for this (money that can't be used for anything else) and every school is following like sheep to the slaughter.”

When confronted with the WHO warning, Dr. Havas said Health Canada replied that it was only for cell phones; and that's not true.

“That's nonsense. The World Health Organization said it applies to all wireless technology.”

Moreover, she noted that children are being exposed to radiation on a continuous basis throughout their time at school.

“We're essentially microwaving children all day long. When we have these routers in schools they're much more powerful than at home because they have to serve a lot of computers. You're exposed to pulse microwave radiation all the time whether you're using it or not.”

Operating on the cautionary principle, Peace River Academy removed its old Wi-Fi system over the summer and replaced it with Ethernet connections ahead of the first day of the school year.

Principal Roberta Murray-Hirst said the new hard-wired Internet system is actually faster than their previous system and gives teachers control over when students can go online.

Ms. Murray-Hirst said they did not receive any complaints from students or parents about health concerns but decided to take the precaution anyway.

"We like to be proactive and obviously safety is always a concern," she said.

The debate over wireless Internet in Ontario schools grew heated last summer when a group of elementary school teachers attempted to have the technology banned from classrooms in the Niagara region.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario voted to keep wireless Internet but a group called the Safe Schools Committee has continued to push for a ban.

They claim exposure to wireless Internet causes headaches, insomnia and rashes in students – afflictions that seem to subside on weekends and vacations, only to return when the kids go back to school. Notwithstanding their concerns, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health said wireless Internet posed no threat to children at schools.

Meanwhile Dr. Havas said many other countries such as France, Germany and Switzerland are issuing guidelines which are much more protective than the ones we have in Canada.

“In Europe they have REACH, a community watchdog. Their scientists are much more diligent than they are here.”

Even China, a country which often ignores environmental and health concerns in favour of business development, is issuing warnings about exposing children to microwave radiation. The China Board of Health said children under eight-years-old should use only use cell phones for emergencies and teenagers should be limited to 10 minutes per day.

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