Report on Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR and EMF)
Health Fears Over Wireless Internet in Schools
|By Kevin McCandless
April 25, 2007
|London (CNSNews.com) - As British schools race to provide
wireless Internet access to every school classroom in Britain,
teachers here are warning that the move could have a devastating
effect on the health of the next generation's brain power.
Philip Parkin, head of the British Professional Association of Teachers (PAT), voiced concern about the possible damage electro-magnetic field (EMF) radiation associated with wireless Internet may cause to developing young minds.
Although he stopped short of calling for a ban on wireless Internet, Parkin urged the government to mount a full scientific investigation on the possible long-term consequences of exposure to the radiation.
Several months ago, Parkin reported having received reports from teachers complaining of migraine headaches and fatigue in schools where the new systems had been installed. He wants to know whether there is a connection.
"I am not saying there is a danger, but I have enough concern to ask for it to be investigated," Parkin said in a statement earlier this week. "There are huge commercial pressures which may be why there has not yet been any significant action," he added.
Wireless Internet (also known as Wi-Fi) enables computers in certain vicinities to connect to the Internet without having to rely on telephone line, broadband cable or similar wired systems.
According to recent estimates, Wi-Fi has been installed in about half of British primary schools and in more than 80 percent of secondary schools.
A scattering of studies around the world have looked into related EMF-reliant technology such as mobile phones, but research into the possible dangers of Wi-Fi has been scant.
Critics of the new technology warn that exposing people to prolonged exposure to EMF may prove catastrophic, and some have called it the 21st century equivalent of smoking or passive smoking.
(Ironically, in 2000 health researchers in Britain published a report examining whether cell phones - viewed as trendy and addictive - were taking the place of cigarettes for British youth, and asking whether the fad may turn out to be the "holy grail" long sought by anti-smoking campaigners.)
Wi-Fi defenders argue that people get more radiation exposure by watching television, sitting in front of a computer or even listening to the radio.
|A spokeswoman for the British Education Department said
Wednesday that the government based its advice to schools on the
guidelines issued by the Health Protection Agency (HPA), which does
not consider any risk to exist.
The protection agency - an independent body established to protect the health of citizens against infectious diseases and hazards including radiation - said in a statement that it had always pressed for new research into wireless technology, but denied media reports saying HPA Chairman William Stewart is opposed to it.
The agency said Stewart was not prepared to "condemn" the technology, adding that Wi-Fi devices are of very low power, much lower than mobile phones.
Alasdair Philips, a spokesman for Powerwatch, a citizen advocacy group, said Wednesday that he believed the decision to provide Wi-Fi technology in school classrooms was irresponsible.
"What we're saying is that if this was a new drug, we wouldn't have it anywhere near the streets," he said. "We'd have it on trials."
In recent years, as Wi-Fi technology has been introduced into classrooms - together with the explosion in popularity of cell phones - Philips said he has received reports of short-term memory loss, constant headaches and lethargy among students.
He conceded that these symptoms may in part be caused by poor diet and lack of exercise but said he also wondered whether wireless Internet in classrooms were not also to blame.
Unlike the case with radio and television, which involve continuous wave transmissions, Wi-Fi relies on pulsed transmissions to transmit data. As a result, Philips said, the system is exposing people to types of radiation they haven't had to deal with before.
He could not say that Wi-Fi is actually dangerous but believes it may be a health time bomb set to explode years or even decades from now.
"I'm really worried," Philips said. "I think it's disastrous. I think it's a lot bigger than passive smoking."
The World Health Organization established an international EMF project in 1996 to study long-term health effects of the radiation.
"Electro-magnetic fields of all frequencies represent one of the most common and fastest growing environmental influences, about which anxiety and speculation are spreading," the agency says on its website. "All populations are now exposed to varying degrees of EMF, and the levels will continue to increase as technology advances."
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