Does your school have wireless internet access? If so, have you or other parents you know ever worried about the health effects of Wi-Fi on children?
According to recent news reports, some parents in Ontario, Canada are blaming Wi-Fi in schools for causing symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, rashes, sleep and behavioral changes, and racing heartbeats in their children. According to the parents, these adverse symptoms are showing up in their children during the school week but disappear during weekends, when they are not in school.
Many schools in the U.S., have already implemented wireless internet service, and some districts are even beginning to install Wi-Fi in school buses.
Meanwhile, critics of Wi-Fi in schools point to research that suggests radiation such as that from Wi-Fi causes negative negative health effects, and may be particularly harmful to children.
There is compelling research out there: Susan Clarke, a former research consultant to the Harvard School of Public Health, has been researching the effects of wireless technology for years. According to Clarke, "Radiation from Wi-Fi deploys the same frequency as that used by the microwave oven. It maximizes the absorption in living tissues, especially those approximately the size of a child's head. The thinness of children's skulls adds to their absorbed radiation. Physiologic effects of such radiation are consistently documented in the scientific literature, with neuroendocrine effects produced in the immediate and short-term, cardiac effects produced in the short- to medium-term, and cancers in the long-term." Scary stuff.
Those who support Wi-Fi in schools, on the other hand, assert that they do not believe that there is "convincing scientific evidence" that Wi-Fi in schools poses a danger to children, and point out that other technology, such as cell phones and cordless telephones, also use wireless technology. They also note that the level of radiation exposure from Wi-Fi is much less than the levels from using TVs or FM radios. (Clarke argues that Wi-Fi is different than FM radio and TV. "Unlike wireless device-based infrastructures, FM and TV are considered one-way transmissions, broadcasting from a tower as they do," says Clarke. "By contrast, cell and cordless phones and Wi-Fi all broadcast from the device as well, two-way. Such device antenna broadcast, in addition to their pulse-modulated cm-microwave radiation, are why the latter are even more hazardous than FM and TV radiation. FM and TV infrastructures are well established in the scientific literature to produce adverse health effects.")
Frankly, I think we need more research to show a definitive link between wireless technology and negative health symptoms in children. But that doesn't mean that we should dismiss or discount the reports from parents who say that their children are negatively affected by Wi-Fi. After all, couldn't these children just be more sensitive to something that's affecting all kids, much like canaries in coalmines?
It should also be noted that this technology is fairly new (we didn't have widespread use of cell phones thirty years ago, for instance). So whatever long-term negative health effects may be caused by children being exposed to this technology is impossible to measure just yet.
In the meantime, I'm keeping my eyes peeled for any info about wireless tech and the effect on children. My son's school has it, and we have it in our home. And like most homes in the U.S., we have a cordless telephone.
In fact, I'm considering making changes, even before definitive studies appear, just to be on the safe side. I love the convenience of technology, but it isn't worth taking even a small chance when it comes to my child's health.
You can read more about this issue on Moms for Safer Wireless, a non-profit organization whose goal is to educate people about the potential health effects of wireless products. Another site to try is that of Magda Havas, PhD, an Associate Professor of Environmental & Resource Studies at Trent University, who teaches and does research on the biological effects of environmental contaminants.