From: Margaret E White
Wifi in school should be stopped, say teachers
The use of wireless internet in schools should be suspended amid claims children may be exposed to health risks, according to teachers.
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 3:33PM BST 08 Apr 2009
They said schools should "stick to wired computers" until it can be proved networks do not cause cancer or sterility.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which represents more than 160,000 staff, called for a major investigation into the biological and thermal effects of wi-fi.
It follows the installation of wireless internet systems in almost three-quarters of secondary schools and half of primaries across the UK.
At the ATL's annual conference in Liverpool, teachers backed calls for curbs on the use of wi-fi until health risks have been properly assessed.
Colin Kinney, a teacher from Cookstown High School, Northern Ireland, said: "Have we the right to avoid the moral warnings simply for access to a few more computers? Are our pupils going to thank us in the years to come if they have become sterile or suffer from cancer, brought on by or exacerbated by the exposure to wi-fi?
"Perhaps they would just be eternally grateful that we enabled them to finish their power point presentation for geography.
"Should we force our pupils to use it without long-term safety studies being carried out? I don't believe we should."
The union backed calls for a Government investigation into the "considerable biological and thermal effects" and for the results to be made public.
Wi-fi works by transmitting information via radio waves from a telephone line to a computer and back.
Becta, the Government's education technology agency, says it does not actively promote use of the technology but insists it can "complement" a school's wired network.
Almost 14,500 schools are believed to have installed the systems. Whole towns have also been contacted, with Norwich already a "wi-fi city".
Current guidance from the Health Protection Agency suggests there is "no consistent evidence of health effects" from wi-fi equipment.
But its chairman, Sir William Stewart, broke ranks two years ago by saying there should be a review of the health effects amid fears they could pose even greater dangers than mobile phone masts
Mr Kinney told the conference: "Let's stick to wired computers and other wired devices for the time being.
"Okay, so teachers may have to wait a little longer for their IT suite to become available but at least we will be safeguarding health.
"Let's ask for an independent investigation taking into consideration the biological as well as thermal effects of wi-fi and for the results to be made public."
Take wi-fi out of class: teacher
A County Tyrone teacher has called for wireless products, known as wi-fi, to be taken out of classrooms because of health concerns.
Colin Kenney, of Cookstown High School, said there has not been enough research into its long-term effects.
Wi-fi technology uses radio waves, in the same way mobile phones. Many schools now use it to teach lessons.
"We just simply don't want another asbestos-type disaster, in another 20 years time," said Mr Kenney.
He raised the issue at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers annual conference.
"We welcome new technology to deliver the curriculum, but when there's an element of doubt that there may be biological effects on children, I don't think we can take the risk," said Mr Kenney.
His concerns have been supported by Dr Grahame Blackwell, who has carried out several studies on wireless and mobile communications technology and has supported groups who have opposed its installation.
He said there was "clear evidence in government reports that there could be biological effects below levels that we regard as our safety thresholds".
"If this was lipstick it would not be allowed on the market until they tested that out and checked there was not a problem," he said.
Professor Paddy Regan of the University of Surrey, however, said there was no proven link.
"I don't think there is any quantifiable, sensible risk in using wi-fi in schools.
"On the Health Protection Agency website, their overall conclusion is that there is no proven link of any biological effects."
Dr Blackwell said that there was sufficient research to suggest wi-fi was a health risk, and that action should be taken now.
"There is substantial evidence that there could be a problem.
"If you are going to wait until you can actually identify the causal link, then you could find yourself a few years down the line with major problems."
The European Parliament approved the EMF resolution, prepared by MEP Frédérique Ries, on April 2, 2009.
The votes by the MEPs were: 559 for, 22 against and 8 abstentions.
Text to the adopted document available here:
See News story on the Reis Report, dated March 31, 2009 Man-made electromagnetic fields: are we at risk?
Public health - 31-03-2009 - 12:25
The Reis Report contains some excellent recommendations and we congratulate the 559 MEP's for voting in support of this resolution and taking this ethical approach to public health
Unfortunately, the alternative motion was not adopted which excluded the call for the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) to carry out a scientific review and report back to MEPs. Many members of SCENIHR consist of people who have a background in the ICNIRP committee and have been involved in establishing limits. SCENIHR also require absolute and extensive proof. David Gee gave an excellent presentation at the European Commission workshop on the problems with regards to waiting for absolute proof; his presentation is available on the following EU Commission website:
SCENIHR's conflict of interest has been raised by Danish EU-MEP Christel Schaldemose in the following questions submitted to the EU Commission. Below are two links to the Danish EU-MEP Christel Schaldemose's questions to the EU Commission on children's use of mobile phones and the conflict of interest of SCENIHR. One of our colleagues has kindly provided an English translation, see below the website links.
Written questions for the EU Commission by Danish EU-MEP Christel Schaldemose
Concerning the risk of children developing tumours due to mobile radiation
Children are using mobile phones more and more. At the same time are the preliminary results from research with youngsters who started using mobile phones before 20, showing that the increased risk of developing brain tumours is similar to adults.
It is both unethical and contrary to the precautionary principle, which the EU is delaying implementing, until it is established for certain that children are exposed to a high risk of developing brain tumours as a result of electromagnetic radiation. In France a court judgement was recently made which determined that a mobile provider should place their mobile mast at a distance.
Is the Commission intending to follow independent experts' advice (Khurana 2008, Herberman 2008) and demand that children under 12 years should only use mobile phones for emergency calls and should reduce their mobile phone use to a minimum?
Concerning the independence of experts in the SCENIHR
Written question for the EUCommission by Danish EU-MEP Christel Schaldemose
ICNIRP, who is responsible for determining the international limits for electromagnetic radiation, which are used in large parts of the EU, has been criticised by both researchers and organisations for setting limits that are too high, to the advantage of the telephone industry and the military sector.
Even so, the majority of the recently established expert group in the EU, the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR), consists of people who have their background in the ICNIRP and thereby have been involved in the establishment of the limits which have since been asked to be reviewed.
Is it the view of the Commission that these experts, who have been involved in the establishment of the limits for radiation, can be considered to be impartial and independent?
Does the Commission realise that a lowering of the limits for electromagnetic radiation will result in a great economic burden for European mobile operators?
Is the Commission in agreement that to have been, or to be, a member of ICNIRP consist in a strong conflict of interests in order to take part in the work of the SCENIHR?
What steps is the Commission intending to take in order to achieve a better balance between critical and uncritical researchers in the ICNIRP?
I would like to thank you all once again for your support.
Radiation Research Trustee