Wellington Grey on the truth about wireless devices
The tinfoil hats are out in Ontario, as teachers, parents and politicians pile on Wi-Fi.. Parents in Simcoe County, north of Toronto, are claiming that their kids are suffering from headaches, dizziness and even racing heart beats, and are blaming Wi-Fi. and that nobody is listening to them. According to the Star,
"Parents are getting together and realizing this is the pattern," said Rodney Palmer of the Simcoe County Safe School Committee. "We went to the school board and they did nothing."
The Star continues:
The symptoms, which also include memory loss, trouble concentrating, skin rashes, hyperactivity, night sweats and insomnia, have been reported in 14 Ontario schools in Barrie, Bradford, Collingwood, Orillia and Wasaga Beach since the board decided to go wireless, said Palmer.
"These kids are getting sick at school but not at home," he said. "I'm not saying it's because of the Wi-Fi because we don't know yet, but I've pretty much eliminated every other possible source."
Even the normally sensible New Democratic Party is jumping into the fray.
"Within a few months of Wi-Fi being installed, stories start coming forward with kids complaining about headaches, neurological effects, loss of balance and problems with fine motor skills," said NDP health critic France Gelinas. "There is enough anecdotal evidence from parents that this is worth looking into."
The largest teachers union, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, is voting today on a proposal to limit the use of WiFi in schools, citing health concerns. The Resolution:
That ETFO, through OTF, lobby district school boards to develop policies that prohibit the use of wireless technologies within schools.
Rationale: There are a growing number of scientific publications that are reporting adverse health and biological effects of Wi-Fi electromagnetic and microwave radiation on our health and the health of our children. There are also a growing number of scientific and medical organizations that are asking for stricter guidelines to be enforced with respect to Wi-Fi technologies.
Daniel Krewski, director of the McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment at the University of Ottawa, would probably disagree with the teachers. He is quoted in the Globe and Mail:
"Based on literally thousands of papers that have been written on health of radio-frequency fields, we have no clear evidence the fields cause adverse human health effects."
The Globe and Mail's Carly Weeks takes a more nuanced view than the Star, writing:
The issue taps into common fears that technological innovations come with serious drawbacks. But many leading health organizations and experts say there's no solid science to back up the concerns. It's a major debate that doesn't seem to have a resolution on the horizon.
David Savitz director at the Disease Prevention and Public Health Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, says that the best evidence is that WiFi is not a hazard, and implies that it is all in our heads.
Part of the problem is that people are prone to be suspicious of any new technology that becomes ubiquitous in a matter of years, Dr. Savitz said.
"I don't want to be dismissive and I don't want to be critical of those raising concerns," he said. "I think it's a very natural question to ask when you modify the environment with technology."
More in the Globe and Mail
Dr. Steven Novella of the Neurologica blog points out that Wi-Fi isn't very strong.
From a basic science perspective, there is little plausibility to the notion that Wi-Fi radiation would have any health effects. The amount of energy that is absorbed by a person living in a Wi-Fi field is negligible - less than 1% of exposure from a typical cell phone and well below current safety levels.
He looks at the Simcoe County cluster of "non-specific, common and subjective" complaints and suggests that there could be other causes and other reasons that people think Wi-Fi is the problem.
It should not be that much of a surprise that students are exhibiting non-specific symptoms at school but not home. Stress alone is a sufficient explanation, but there may be others. For example, many students go to school sleep-deprived because they are staying up too late. ...There likely is no one answer to what the children are reporting. Once a community has identified a culprit, then many people with non-specific symptoms from any cause are likely to latch onto the available explanation for their symptoms.
TreeHugger has published many posts about EMF and cell phone towers. There may well be some danger in being too close to powerful sources of the stuff. But Wi-Fi? My kids had it at home and had it at school, but somehow it was the school that gave them the headache.
More on both sides of the issue of the dangers of Wi-Fi in TreeHugger:
Spray-on Defense from WiFi and Cellphones
New Study Proves EMF Affects Living Things, Discovers Electro-bonsai Effect
WiMax on the Brain: Is "WiFi on Steroids" Safe?
Are Your Mattress And Bedframe Killing You With EMF?
A Univerisity without WifI