WiFi in Schools - The Facts | 08Mai2014 17:26:27
Around the world an increasing number of governments and authorities have banned or warned against the use of WiFi in schools. Many experts, scientists and doctors are warning the public to take a precautionary approach.
Let's examine the facts. WiFi is a wireless technology that allows computers, tablets and smart phones to exchange data wirelessly through a computer network. This data is transferred using microwave electromagnetic radiation.
You can't see it, taste it or smell it. Yet we are increasingly using this technology every day. WiFi uses microwaves of the same frequency as cordless phones and microwave ovens. But with less power.
This is the non-ionising radiation portion of The Electromagnetic Spectrum.
Microwaves are a smaller section within the broader range of radio frequencies.
The Electromagnetic Spectrum ranges from radio, mobile phones, WiFi and microwaves, radar, visible light through to ultraviolet light. And then the ionising forms of radiation such as x-rays and finally radioactive elements. WiFi has a standard range of 30 metres indoors. However, walls, building materials, filing cabinets, etc., can reduce the effective range. In a school setting the wireless access point connects laptops and tablets to the school's wide computer network which in turn is usually connected to the internet.
A WiFi access point is always on and broadcasts it's unique id continually so that new devices can find it. In our WiFi setup an email takes around 1/40th of a second to transfer wirelessly from the computer to the access point. A typical 3 minute video clip is about 550 times bigger than an email. So, using the WiFi it takes around 12 seconds to download this 3 minute video. Now, let's look at this in a classroom setting. Here is a class of twenty students all with wireless devices. If twenty students in the class all downloaded a 3 minute video at the same time. It would take four minutes. Four minutes of the access point at full constant power, or the equivalent of sending 10.000 emails.
Now, keep in mind this is just one class downloading one 3 minute video.
How about all the other classrooms in the school building? In Australian schools the future projection is to make all students carry notebooks or tablets, and to have more resources online via the national curriculum. That's videos, tutorials, books and online quizzes. You can imagine that at the start of each lesson the entire school will be accessing the network wirelessly to download the resources for that lesson. During these times the power density of the WiFi will be at its maximum throughout the entire school.
There are nice Scientific Studies that have been conducted specifically to investigate the health effects from WiFi in schools. However, there is an increasing amount of scientific research on related wireless technologies.
Like mobiles, mobile phone towers and cordless phones, that suggest there are possible health risks from the use of these technologies. Humans are electromagnetic beings. The human heart, brain and nervous system work by using electrical signals. And this can be monitored using EEG and ECG.
The fact that doctors use electrotherapy for healing purposes proves that frequencies do interact and have an effect on the body. Although some frequency bands are beneficial for healing, other non-ionizing frequencies have potentially harmful biological effects. Growing numbers of scientists believe that artificial sources of electromagnetic radiation are interfering with the body's natural bioelectrical signals. Some people may be affected by exposure to WiFi microwave radiation.
And others may develop sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation.
Reported symptoms included headaches, dizziness, anxiety, insomnia, loss of concentration, loss of memory, pressure in the eyes, deterioration in vision, sensitivity to light, nosebleeds, impaired sense of smell, ringing in ears, hearing loss, fatigue, weakness, numbness, tingling, heart palpitations and arrhythmia, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, skin problems, digestive problems and nausea, muscle and joint pain.
Research also indicates to an increase likelihood of more serious long term effects including infertility, cancer and DNA damage. Radiation penetrates the body of a child or young person more than it does an adult. This makes children more vulnerable to microwave radiation due to their thinner skulls, softer bones, underdeveloped immune system and developing cells. They will also have a longer lifetime of exposure to EMR than adults today.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, ARPANSA,
is the Australian Government Agency which sets the standard limits for radiation exposure as outlined by the International Comission on non-ionizing radiation protection, ICNIRP. Radio frequency standards were developed in the nineteen fifties for high powered radar systems. The standards in Australia have remained virtually the same since this time. These safety limits are based on short term thermal injury. This means that the safety standards are (only ??) based on the heating or burning of body tissue in the short period of time. Like a microwave oven. The current safety limits do not take into account any non thermal long term effects.
This means that any biological changes to the body other than heating are not taken into account. Research studies funded by the Telecommunications Industry rarely show any biological effects. In contrast to this however, the vast majority of independently funded research report long term biological effects such as: Neurologic, endocrine, immune, cardiac, reproductive and other biological effects including cancer. All we can say about the current Australian safety standards is that we won't heat up using WiFi.
Increasing numbers of scientists and organizations from around the World are calling for the outdated safety standards to be changed. The Council of Europe states that the limits of exposure to eletromagnetic fields which have been set for the general public are obsolete. They have been calling for stricter exposure limits for all equipment which emits electromagnetic waves. They believe the current permitted standards fail to protect the public against harmful biological effects which may not become known until after years of exposure. Since some people are experiencing health effects at levels well below the current exposure limits.
Experts want Governments to inform the public about the possible risks so that the public may use this technology more safely. Since untested wireless technologies are advancing into our homes, schools, work and public spaces faster than experts can evaluate the EMR health risks. Scientists and doctors are calling for precautionary measures to be taken immediately to prevent extensive damage to public health.
Countries like Switzerland, Italy, France, Austria, Luxemburg, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Israel, Russia and China. Have set exposure limits 100 to 10.000 times less than Australia. This is because they recognize that there can be biological effects caused by electromagnetic radiation.
>> EMR standards 100 – 10.000 times less than Australia – Australia 200 µW/cm2 – Switzerland 4 µW/cm2 – Salzburg 0,0001 µW/cm2
1) The Council of Europe has called for a ban on WiFi use in schools and recommends wired internet connections in schools.
2) Several schools in England and France have dismantled their WiFi systems and reverted to a wired system due to concerns raised by parents and teachers.
3) The French national library, along with other libraries in some Universities, have removed all WiFi networks.
4) WiFi has also been removed from all schools in the town of Hérouville-Saint-Clair.
5) The Bavarian Parliament has recommended that no schools in the province use wireless.
6) The Frankfurt City Government said that it would not install WiFi in its schools until it has been proven to be harmless.
7) The German Government recommends against installation of WiFi in schools, the removal of cordless phones and to use cable connections rather than WiFi and Bluetooth.
8) The Public Health Department of Salzburg has advised schools not to use WiFi.
9) In Russia and Poland the safety limits are much lower to include non thermal effects.
10) In 2008 the Russian Radiation Protection Committee gave a warning about the serious and irreparable consequences of electromagnetic radiation, especially for children. They increased this warning again in 2011 and recommended that WiFi not be used in schools.
11) In Austria, the Austrian Medical Association has pressed for a ban of WiFi in schools.
12) The Swiss Government has issued caution in regard to wireless radiation emitted by baby monitors, cellphones, laptops and tablets, etc.
13) Israel's Minister of Health supports a call to ban WiFi in schools.
14) In May 2011 the World Health Organisation classified radio frequency electromagnetic radiation as possible human carcinogens. This is the same category as DDT, dry cleaning chemicals, led, pesticides and engine exhaust.
Although there have been earlier alerts about the health risks from EMR and calls for stricter guidelines to protect public health,
>> 1994 CSIRO Report EMR – 2002 Freiburg Appeal EMR – 2006 Benevento Resolution EMR – 2007 Bio Initiative Report EMR – 2008 Venice Resolution EMR – 2009 European Parliament Resolution EMR – 2010 Seletun Report EMR – 2011 Russian RNCNIRP Resolution EMR
these recent WHO warnings about EMR's possible carcinogenic risk highlights the need for an urgent precautionary approach.
What is a precautionary approach?
When an action or policy carries the risk of harm to human health, even if there is some scientific uncertainty about the cause and effect, precautionary measures should be taken. We need to take responsible measures to reduce exposure to EMR until research demonstrates conclusive results.
Some authorities in Europe and elsewhere have made conclusions about WiFi health risks to children. Based on these reports and related studies they have examined the long term health effects of mobile phone and mobile phone tower emissions. Australia however has no restrictions on the use of WiFi in schools, and with policies such as the Digital Education Revolution Initiative, tablets and laptops are being vigorously rolled out in schools.
The Federal Government says that; “the choice to install wireless networks is one that is made by education authorities.” However, the education authorities are not qualified to make decisions about public health. They just say that they are within the current safety standards as set by ARPANSA. At present no one in Government is acknowledging the potential for long term biological risks of wireless in schools.
If the standards are only for heating of tissue, who will be held responsible for all other biological effects? Surely the Ministry of Health should be responsible for assessing long term risks from EMR and protecting children's health? Wireless devices are installed without any radiation emissions checks in each specific site where they are installed.
>> NO EMR Checks – NO training for teachers – NO monitoring of children – NO long term evaluation
Teachers and staff are unaware and untrained about monitoring the effects of EMR on children. So they are unable to recognise any symptoms from EMR exposure. Evaluating a possible long term health effects on school children is not being conducted by the Education Authorities, Government or the (standing city ??) agencies.
ARPANSA, who sets the standards, says; research relating to children is limited and the possibility of harm cannot be completely ruled out. Given that WiFi has not been proven to be safe for long term biological effects, and there are no specific studies conducted to look at the risk to children, why are these wireless EMR technologies being rolled out in schools?
>> Long-term Health – TODAY – PUBLIC HEALTH – ECONOMY – TAX – FOREIGN POLICY - $18 BILLION PER YEAR – CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE – 15-20 YEARS
When it comes to long term health risks Governments don't always take swift actions or a precautionary approach. This was the case with smoking and asbestos. In addition to Public Health, Governments have many responsibilities including the economy, taxation and foreign policy. These can conflict with the Government's Health Protection role.
In Australia, Telecommunications is an 18 billion dollar industry per year.
This is a huge economic success and valuable tax revenue for the Government.
To protect these interests, Government and industry want conclusive evidence of biological effects. This could take another 15 to 20 years. By which time the damage could be extensive and irreversible to children.
Employees of the Telecommunications industry are often the experts called upon to provide advice on the safety limits. Surely there is a conflict of interest in having industry representatives tasked with this responsibility. In Australia, ARPANSA follows ICNIRP's exposure limits. However, the European Parliament raises concerns about ICNIRP's unclear origin and structure. And suspects ICNIRP of having rather close links with the industries.They also say that the industry benefits from recommendations for maximum threshold values of electromagnetic fields.
Could this be the reason why obsolete safety standards are maintained and biological effects are disregarded? Despite mounting independent scientific evidence? Scientists from both sides agree that more research is needed.
However, independent research which shows biological effects fails to receive further funding.
Some scientists who have conducted research and found evidence of biological effects have been discredited, discriminated, had their funding stoped and their research prevented from being published. Shouldn't these very scientists be the ones that are supported and funded to clarify research into this area of uncertainty? Isn't it crucial to support genuine independent research that can provide objective evidence to protect public health rather than industry profits?
We can’t use obsolete safety standards developed for radar to prevent short term heating injuries and hope that there are no long term effects to children when used in a classroom setting. We urgently need objective credible research into the long term biological effects of wireless on children.
We can't afford to put the convenience of wireless technology and cheaper short term costs before children's health. Authorities like the European Parliament and the European Environmental Agency believe that there is already sufficient scientific evidence for Governments to take an immediate precautionary approach, especially to protect children who are most vulnerable. They state that; “waiting for high levels of scientific and clinical proof can lead to very high health and economic costs as was the case in the past with asbestos, leaded petrol and tobacco.” However, ignoring the early warning could be much worse as EMR affects everyone.
Whole populations are now exposed to varying amounts of electromagnetic fields. These levels will continue to increase as technology advances.
Over the last 15 years there has been a steep increase in illness amongst young people. Allergies, asthma, autism, learning disorders, behaviour disorders, ADHD, concentration problems, strokes and brain tumors have been rising each year.
Some scientific reports have matched these spikes in illness with the published research on the effects of low level radiation on human health.
They show how the increase in illness corresponds with the increased usage of wireless communication technologies over the past 15 years.
Currently in Australia, despite the early warnings, more and more new wireless technologies are introduced into our daily lives. Mobile phones, 3G, 4G, Cordless phones, WiFi, baby monitors, digital radio and TV, smart electrical meters and other smart appliances. In the face of uncertainty, where children are concerned, shouldn't we take smarter options to reduce the exposure from wireless radiation in schools?
Chronic exposure to wireless radiation is a preventable environmental hazard.
That is sufficiently well documented to warrant immediate precautionary actions. Responsible authorities overseas have responded by banning or warning against the use of WiFi in schools. It is time for the Australian Government and Education Authorities to take responsible precautionary measures to reduce the risks from EMR exposure.
“WiFi in Schools Australia” fully supports the use of technology, computers and the internet for education in schools. We also believe that schools have a duty of care and need to provide a safe learning environment for all children. We believe that schools should not expose our children unecessarily to the long term risks from the use of wireless technology. We favour wired communications as a safer option until there is conclusive evidence that there are no harmful effects from long term use.
Please get informed, pass on this knowledge to family, friends, politicians and decision makers. Please support our call to stop the use of WiFi in schools until this technology has been proven safe for long term use. For more facts and to find out what you can do, visit wifi-in-schools-australia.org