Middle School

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Is WIFI a Hazard in Schools?

Wireless technology is convenient, but its effect on children is not clear.

Most people would agree that having computers at school is a no-brainer. But a growing number of scientists and parents are discovering there are hidden risks associated with wireless technology that may be harmful to children.
“The radiation used in electro-magnetic – or wireless – communication has harmful biological effects,” says Dr. Kerry Crofton, a Victoria-based health educator with a PhD in psychology. “That radiation can come from Internet access, cell phones, PDAs, cell tower antennas – we are surrounded by microwave radiation, and there have been hundreds of studies that provide clear evidence of harm from that exposure. But there have been no long-term studies of the effects of wireless radiation in schools.”
The studies that have been done have used 200-pound men as their subjects, not children. And Crofton says tweens, in particular, are susceptible to harmful radiation. “The skull is thinner and the brain more aqueous until people reach their early 20s, and tweens are particularly vulnerable because of their developing systems. We may think our pre-teens are hard-headed, but anatomically they are very vulnerable. Their brains absorb more of this radiation.”
The symptoms of excessive exposure reported by many children, says Crofton, include:
• dizziness
• headaches
• suppressed immune system
• sleep disruption
• cognitive impairment
• memory tampering

While Crofton agrees there are educational advantages that come from computers and the Internet, she notes there are safer solutions. “There are things that can be done to minimize radiation from school computers, and parents should be asking for these changes.”
Crofton acknowledges that a parliamentary committee that looked at the effects of WiFi in schools found no clear evidence of harm, and that government regulators agree with that assessment, but she doesn’t buy it. “We haven’t been getting all the information we should,” she says. “At the very least, we should be using precaution. If we were talking about playground equipment that numerous studies had shown was unsafe, how long would the equipment stay there?”

Minimize Potential Hazards
School computer labs should be set up with these features in mind, says Kerry Crofton:

  • Hard-wired, not wireless. “Many schools had a hard-wired system that was perfectly functional, and changed over to wireless, mostly for the sake of convenience. If it’s wireless, parents should ask to have it changed back to a hard-wired system.”
  • Flat-screen computers. They emit lower levels of radiation than the boxy old cathode-ray tube monitors.
  • Backs not facing students. Ensure that computers are lined up back-to-back or against the wall, since much of the radiation comes from the back of the computer.
  • Safe distance from screen. Havechildren sit at least 75 centimetres from the screen. They should not be able to touch the screen with their arm outstretched and they should not be using a wireless keyboard or mouse. “Anything that transmits wirelessly has these fields around it,” says Crofton.

For more information check out Kerry Crofton’s book, Wireless Radiation Rescue and website, radiationrescue.org.

Published in March 2011.

Sara Curtis is a Toronto-based health writer and mother of two children, ages 5 and 7.

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