Are Wi Fi Systems in Schools Safe?
There has been a worldwide shift in thinking about the safety of the widespread adoption of Wi-Fi systems for internet access in schools. These systems are convenient, however they use similar radio frequency electromagnetic radiation (RF EMR) frequencies as cell phones, cordless phones and microwave ovens. Although at lower power, these microwaves pass through the body and can affect fragile biological processes during development. Children absorb more brain radiation due to thinner skulls. Parents, teachers and researchers are concerned that kids are being exposed to harmful radiation continuously without consideration of adverse long term health effects, effects on learning and concentration as well as related psychosocial issues with privacy, security, commercialism, social media and internet addiction. Many community and parent groups have organized to oppose Wi-Fi in local schools, arguing that wiring schools is safer, more secure and cheaper.
Children’s Nervous Systems Are Not Fully Developed
This is a critical discussion as children are not fully developed, especially with regards to their brains and nervous system connections. Children’s skulls are thinner as well and thus absorb more radiation. Pediatrician, Dr. Lisa Thornton, has health concerns with cell phones. Their reproductive systems are also at risk with close exposure to wireless devices. Some schools, especially in Switzerland and Germany, are moving toward fiberoptic and wired systems to protect both the health of as well as the privacy of students. Many schools in the U.S. are beginning to prohibit cell phone use of students during school hours. Universities and law schools are banning the use of laptop computers in class due to distraction. Despite these efforts many K-12 schools in the United States embrace and are expanding wireless and online technologies, including in charter schools. The Environmental Health Trust has complied a list of government, health agency and school policies to reduce EMR exposure in public spaces. International Actions on Wireless Radiation
FCC Safety Guidelines for Wireless Radiation are Outdated
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guidelines for RF EMR are based on a short 30 minute exposure to a device and do not take into account long term health effects, additive effects of multiple devices, synergistic effects with other toxic exposures, and sensitive populations such as those with chronic illness or electrosensitivity. FCC safety guidelines are also based only on heat and not biological effects identified in research studies. Scientists worldwide who have studied radio frequency radiation have called for reevaluation of the outdated safety standards set by the FCC in 1996 with the passage of the Telecommunications Act.
Schools are Removing Wireless and Returning to Wired Connections
Many schools in Europe have removed Wi-Fi and laws in France, Israel and Austria ban Wi-Fi in schools in preschools and the younger grades. For a full list of schoolvisit EHTrust.org. In the United States, The Collaborative for High Performing Schools who have policies for schools to improve student performance through improved building design have developed a section on Best Practices for a Low EMF Environment in 2014. This well researched and well written policy document includes recommendations for the
- wiring of WLAN networks
- Keeping computers and tablets away from the body
- Prohibiting cell phones and other personal wireless devices in the classroom
New Jersey Education Association Advises Lowering EMF in Schools
The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) in September 2016 wrote guidelines for their schools explaining the potential harm from non ionizing radiation emitted from wireless devices and use of digital technology. NJEA offers precautionary advice. They include recommendations to minimize
- Repetitive Strain
- Neck and back Pain
- Blurred vision and headache
- Altered sleep patterns
- Radiation exposure from devices by hardwiring computers, printers, phones, projectors and boards classrooms
Ashland Public Schools “Best Practices for Mobile Devices”
Ashland Public Schools in Massachusetts adopted a “Best Practices for Mobile Devices” policy in 2015 after reviewing the research on EMR. The effort was lead by Cece Doucette who initially worked on funding to get Wi Fi and wireless devices in the school system. After learning of the potential health hazards she became an advocate to remove Wi-Fi in schools. Here is the Ashland poster placed in each school room Best Practices to Reduce EMR. The “Best Practices” policy includes the following recommendations.
- Turn off the device when not in use
- Turn Wi-Fi on only when needed
- Always place the mobile device on a solid surface
- Viewing distance should be a minimum of 12 inches from the screen
- Specific product information guides are available through the IT department
- Staff members should regularly remind and instruct students in using best practices in regards to mobile devices
Physicians Speak Out on Wi fi In Schools
Well known physicians who have studied the health effects of radio frequency radiation, Dr. Martha Herbert and Dr. David Carpenter, have long questioned the safety of cell towers and wireless networks in schools. They have advocated for safer wired networks. Others have joined them as more research is pointing to harm. For an extensive list of Physician Letters on Wi- Fi visit Environmental Health Trust Doctor Letters Wi-Fi and Cell Towers in Schools
Parents Speak Out on Wi Fi in Schools
Charlene Acres Describes Her Daughter’s Development of Electrosensitivity at School
Charlene Acres is a computer scientist and mother who clearly describes her daughter’s development of electrohypersensitivity (EHS) when at school. Her daughters symptoms were severe headaches and fatigue. They found that the cell towers near school and addition of wireless systems in school caused the symptoms. The levels of Electromagnetic radiation measured in the school were within the Safety Code 6 regulations. This is a compelling and useful story to help understand EHS which is well documented. Most physicians were not able to diagnose or treat this condition.
Physicians Speak Out
Dr. David Carpenter on Wi Fi in Schools
Dr. David Carpenter is a Harvard trained public health physician and Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at University of Albany. He has more than 435 peer reviewed publications. He discusses the need to remove Wi fi in schools to reduce their risk of cancer. Dr. Carpenter suggests wired connections for schools.
Below is a list and links to research on Wi-Fi health effects followed by medical advisory agencies, education organizations and policies regarding children’s exposure to wireless devices and Wi-Fi.
Scientific Research: Wi-Fi Health Effects (partial)
For a full list go to MDSafeTech Wi-Fi Radiation Health Effects
- The effect of Wi-Fi electromagnetic waves in unimodal and multimodal object recognition tasks in male rats. (2017) Hassanshahi A et al. Neurol Sci. 2017 Mar 22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28332042
- Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields From Wi-Fi in Australian Schools. (2017) Karipidis K et al. Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2017 Jan 10. http://rpd.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2017/01/10/rpd.ncw370.long
- Letter to the editor regarding Karipidis study Wi-Fi in Australian Schools . (2017) Bandara P, Johansson O. Radiat Prot Dosimetry. Aug 10, 2017. https://academic.oup.com/rpd/article-abstract/doi/10.1093/rpd/ncx108/4080174/Letter-to-the-Editor?redirectedFrom=fulltext
- Effects of prenatal exposure to WIFI signal (2.45 GHz) on postnatal development and behavior in rat: Influence of maternal restraint. (2017) Othman H et al. Behavioural Brain Research. 36:291-302. May 30, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28288806
- Postnatal development and behavior effects of in-utero exposure of rats to radiofrequency waves emitted from conventional WiFi devices. (2017) Othman H et al. Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2017 Apr 22;52:239-247. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28458069
- Thermal mapping on male genital and skin tissues of laptop thermal sources and electromagnetic interaction. (2017) Safari M et al. Bioelectromagnetics. 2017 Aug 11. doi: 10.1002/bem.22068. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28799651
- Effects of long-term pre- and post-natal exposure to 2.45 GHz wireless devices on developing male rat kidney. (2016) Kuybulu AE et al. Ren Fail. 2016 Feb 24:1-10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26905323?dopt=Abstract
- Oxidative stress of brain and liver is increased by Wi-Fi (2.45GHz) exposure of rats during pregnancy and the development of newborns. (2015) Çelik Ö et al.J Chem Neuroanat. 2015 Oct 28. pii: S0891-0618(15)00074-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26520617
Maryland Children’s Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council
In December 2016 the MCEHPAC issued a “Wifi Radiation in Schools in Maryland Final Report”. This state agency is tasked with identifying environmental health issues that impact children and to protect them from exposure to environmental hazards. Under their state code Md. Code Ann., Health-General §13–1506, their responsibilities include
- Gather and disseminate information to the public, including the research and medical communities, community–based organizations, schools, and State agencies, on how to reduce, treat, and eliminate children’s exposures to environmental hazards to further the public’s understanding of the environmental hazards that may potentially affect children;
Recommend uniform guidelines for State agencies to follow to help reduce and eliminate children’s exposure to environmental hazards, especially in areas reasonably accessible to children…
After gathering abundant testimony, including that of former IARC member Dr. Anthony Miller, the Advisory Board for Marland Children’s Health and with transparent discussion the Maryland Children’s Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council Report recommendations include
- Formally petition the FCC to revisit the exposure limits to wireless radio frequency radiation
- Consider using wired devices in those already wireless and design classrooms with wired connections.
- Have children place devices on desks to serve as barrier between the device and children’s bodies.
- Teach children to turn off WiFi when not in use.
- Consider placing routers as far away from students as possible.
Catholic English Teachers Association in Ontario
OECT calls for a ban on Wi-Fi in Schools (2012) Ontario English Catholic Teacher’s Association Urges Ban. After much deliberation their policy document was developed in 2012 to support removing Wi Fi from schools Position regarding health effects of non-ionizing radiation- Ontario Catholic Teachers Association(OECTA )
France: Law on Public Exposure to Electromagnetic Waves Adopted. Feb 5, 2015. The French National Library along with other libraries in Paris, and a number of universities had already removed all wi-fi networks. The current law includes the following:
- a prohibition on Wi-Fi installations in nursery schools,
- Wi-Fi turned off in schools when not in use
- yearly evaluations of EMR in public places to be available to citizens
- Wi-Fi hotspots to be labeled
- advertisements must recommend headsets
- annual electro-hypersensitivity report updated annually
- requires the National Agency for Health Food, Environmental and Work Safety to evaluate the risks and consequences of exposure to EMR
- asks that cell towers be turned to as low a power as possible to function. France Law EMR 2015 or French government bans Wi-Fi in schools
Ashland Massachusetts Public Schools in 2015 developed a policy to reduce Wi-Fi in schools. A “best practices” policy is posted in every room. Ashland Public Schools Best Practices to Limit Wi-Fi
Ashland Schools Best Practices to Reduce radio frequency Radiation. 2014. Here is the announcement posted Ashland Schools Best Practices Room Signage 8-27-14
The City of Haifa has ordered removal of Wi-Fi in all schools according to news report . 2016. City of Haifa Removes Wi Fi in Schools
Israel Shifts to Wired Connections in Schools. 2015. Israel Bans WiFi in Kindergarten
The Austrian Medical Association recommendations to the public in 2012 to use wired internet connections instead of Wi Fi as well as how to identify, diagnose and treat electrosensitivity. Guideline of the Austrian Medical Association for the diagnosis and treatment of EMF- related health problems and illnesses (EMF syndrome)
The 2011 European Parliament Resolution 1815: The potential dangers of electromagnetic fields and their effect on the environment. The goals listed include setting preventable thresholds for long term exposure, raising awareness throughout the community, and protecting “early warning” scientists. European Parliament 2011
Israel Health Ministry Calls for Parents to Limit Kid’s use of cell phones. July 27, 2008. Israel Health Ministry calls for limiting cell phone use
India bans advertisements of pregnant women and children in mobile phone ads or near cell antennae. June 2008. India bans cell phone advertisements
Testimony Against Cell Towers and Wi Fi in Schools
Opposition to cell to school cell towers in Anne Arundel County in Maryland
Opposition to cell towers in Anne Arundel County Schools has received broad attention. The Baltimore Sun reported on the money schools would receive from placing 40 cell towers on their schools and also the deep concerns of parents. Cell towers at schools ignite debate in Arundel. They note Montgomery Schools no longer allow cell towers on school grounds. Parents question why a private company should benefit for the use of our public school land. Full testimony at the public hearing is here Full Public Testimony.
16:9 Canadian Investigative Newsmagazine Investigative Program on Wi Fi in Schools
This 2010 Canadian broadcast interviews several children who experienced a variety of symptoms consistent with electrosensitivity after the school installed Wi Fi. These include heath palpitations, headaches, nausea and rashes. An industry consultant measures levels of electromagnetic radio frequency radiation. The levels were within the Safety Code 6 guidelines.
Schools Banning Cell Phones at School
This is a compilation of news stories regarding schools banning cell phones in schools during school hours. There is concern with cell phones used by students causing distraction, contributing to bullying and interfering with learning.