Wireless Electrical and Electromagnetic Pollution News
27 March 2010
Parents blame children's health problems on schools' Wi-Fi technology
Posted By NATHAN TAYLOR, THE PACKET AND TIMES
Federal guidelines for the use of wireless technology are outdated and should be more in line with emerging research, experts say.
And some Simcoe County parents, who say their kids have experienced adverse health effects as a result of wireless Internet (Wi-Fi) in their schools, agree.
Rodney Palmer, who has two children, four and nine years old, at Mountain View Elementary School in Collingwood, recently made a presentation to the Simcoe County District School Board.
He informed the board that some students were experiencing headaches, dizziness, distorted vision and other symptoms that otherwise weren't usually a problem with the children.
Palmer's four-year-old daughter would get a rash on her leg -- something that would happen only at school, he said.
"It's really the long-term effects that I'm worried about. Introducing a four-year-old to microwave radiation for six hours a day when it's not being used is profoundly unnecessary," he said, noting the majority of the school's eight transmitters were left on when they were not needed.
The long-term effects are what worry researchers, too.
The longer people are exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), the more sensitive they become to them, and the symptoms become more severe, said Magda Havas, an associate professor at Trent University who has been conducting electromagnetic research for 20 years.
She cited a study out of the University of Stockholm in Sweden, where human cells were exposed to radiation at frequencies of both 915 and 1,900 megahertz (MHz). The ability of a cell to heal itself was shown to be impaired when exposed to either frequency.
Havas was involved with a 2008 blind study in Colorado that tested the effects of EMFs on 25 adults. Researchers used cordless phones with a frequency of 2.4 gigahertz (GHz), which is used in schools, Havas noted. When the phones were turned on, six people's hearts "started behaving erratically," she said, adding their heart activity normalized after the phones were shut off.
What's alarming to Havas is that 2.4 GHz is a microwave frequency.
"What we're using for Wi-Fi in schools is basically a weaker microwave," she said. "With a microwave oven, you close the door and the microwaves are contained within the oven, whereas, with our schools, the microwaves are released into the environment. The school becomes the microwave."
Wireless Internet has become more common in the board's schools over the past two years. All schools have it at some level, and the goal is to extend that availability to portables.
It's safe by Health Canada's standards, and it's all in the name of equity, said superintendent of education John Dance, who is responsible for IT.
When the board was getting feedback while crafting its IT strategic plan in 2007 and 2008, greater access to the Internet was identified as a need. Allowing access from portables is a step toward equitability in that sense, Dance said.
Also, "it's the 21st-century technology."
"That's where all the technology is right now," he said of wireless.
Another benefit of Wi-Fi, he said, is increased security for the board's network.
The only Wi-Fi-related concerns seem to be coming from Mountain View Elementary School, Dance said, and any decision to turn off transmitters would be made by trustees.
"It would be unusual for us to make a unilateral decision when the board hasn't had a chance to discuss it," he said.
Trustees will get that chance.
Palmer's deputation to the board has been sent to the facility standing committee.
"The issue has been deferred. It has not been dismissed," Dance said.
When it comes to safety standards, the board refers to Health Canada guidelines.
"My understanding is what we have in schools are thousands of times lower than the limit for exposure," Dance said. "All we can do is go back on what our authorities are. They say that it is safe."
The president of Lakehead University feels Canadian and world health authorities won't be saying that forever. "At some point in time, the evidence will become overwhelming and people will say, 'Why weren't we protected?'"
Fred Gilbert said. "At the end of the day, school boards could have some inherent liability."
Gilbert, a biologist, implemented a presidential policy -- which later became a general policy after it was embraced by the university's vice-presidents -- at Lakehead regarding Wi-Fi and cellular antennae.
The purpose was "to limit wireless connectivity based on the 'precautionary principle' as there are numerous scientific studies that demonstrate a basis for concern that continuous or frequent long-term exposure to the non-ionizing radiation of electromagnetic fields could have adverse health effects."
"There was a building mass of information saying, 'Let's stand back a bit. Let's take stock of this,'" Gilbert said.
The policy applies to Lakehead's Thunder Bay and Orillia campuses. There are a couple of spots at the Thunder Bay campus where Wi-Fi is available, and that was in response to demand from students.
Essentially, the precautionary principle advises against waiting on scientifically conclusive evidence -- a major grey area with Wi-Fi -- "where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage."
For a body like a school board to refer back to Health Canada and World Health Organization guidelines is "fair," Gilbert said, "but you have to take a look at past history, even around those authorities," he said, noting safety standards change as biological effects become more greatly understood.
Both Gilbert and Havas say it takes too long for the policy to catch up with the science, with Havas saying it happened with concerns about asbestos, cigarettes and pesticides.
"It takes a generation," Gilbert said. "You have a generation that is effectively a guinea pig for what's going on."
Havas agreed, and said it's especially important to go by the precautionary principle in this case, as the health effects are often not surfacing until after years of exposure.
"There's so much evidence out there that these are harmful, but the authorities are not paying attention," she said.
Lakehead doesn't have Wi-Fi at its temporary campus in Orillia, though it's likely the condos above, in the same building, do. The permanent campus, when it opens in the fall, "will be wired and there will not be a need for wireless," Gilbert said.
Lakehead instead uses a fibre-optic system.
MORE INFO NEEDED
Orillia trustee Debra Edwards admitted she doesn't "know the implications" of Wi-Fi in the schools.
"We're not technicians knowledgeable about the dangers to exposure. We need to find out," she said.
If there are transmitters being operated unnecessarily at any schools, "that doesn't make any sense," she said.
"We need to ensure that, beyond any doubt, we're not exposing our children to any dangerous levels of radiation," she said. "We can't just look the other way."
Rebecca Ness, whose eight-year- old son attends Admiral Collingwood school, recently plugged back in after going wireless.
"My house was so wired," she said. "Then I started seeing effects on my son." She said he experienced distorted vision and hearing problems. She made the switch a couple of weeks ago and said the problems "totally disappeared" in 24 hours.
"Even though the symptoms are gone, I worry about it in our schools," Ness said. "The inconvenience of getting sick outweighs the inconvenience of having to plug your computer in."
In an email, Health Canada stated: "Health Canada has no scientific reason to consider the use of wireless communications devices, such as cellphones, BlackBerrys, wireless laptop computers and their supporting infrastructure, dangerous to the health of the Canadian public."
Further, it stated it updates its exposure guidelines every five to 10 years.
"If future scientific evidence demonstrated that exposure to RF (radio frequency) energy levels below the current limits were harmful, the Government of Canada would take immediate action to protect the health of Canadians."
The Ministry of Education was asked a list of questions, including whether it had concerns about the safety of Wi-Fi in schools, whether it had received complaints or concerns about it, and whether it encouraged school boards to implement wireless technology.
In an email, a ministry spokesperson stated: "The ministry's position is that if anyone has health and safety related concerns we recommend they raise these concerns with their local board."
The Simcoe Muskoka catholic District School Board uses Wi-Fi in all its schools and its board office. Communications director Diane Legg said in an email that the board is not aware of any complaints.
"On the contrary, we are frequently asked why we don't have more Wi-Fi in our schools," she said.
The board also refers to Health Canada guidelines and says it is "certainly aware of the debate" and is "monitoring the situation."
The Little Red Schoolhouse is HOT
Shifts happen. Now that President Barack Obama has signed the historic health reform bill, Congress may want to come together and take notice of a once "invisible" health care risk that is now emerging on the horizon. Its key target: school children.
Right now, for example, if you were to visit the ElectromagneticHealth website of expert Camilla Rees, MBA, a guest speaker for the film Full Signal, at this week's D.C. Environmental Film Festival, you could click on Neighborhood AntennaSearch.
By entering your home or business address, you will discover how many cellphone towers and antenna are located within a four mile radius. In Washington D.C., for example, you may be surrounded by as many as 75 towers and 892 antenna. Here in Boulder, Colorado, the number is much lower, still, there are more than 12 towers and 59 antenna within a four mile radius of my house.
We are living, it seems, in a sea of invisible smog of electronic radiation called EMF. And the health risk to schoolchildren is getting worse. Why? Since 1997 and the passage of the Telecomunications Act, more and more cellular antennas have been placed in neighborhoods around the world to support an ever growing number of cell phone users.
Many of these antenna are cleverly hidden in church steeples (the church gets a monthly fee for this), in chimneys, on flagpoles, or water towers. However, when they are placed on school property, the school district is unable -- by law -- to refuse placement of the antennas. Unable to protect the health of schoolchildren from the impacts of EMF, they are, instead, paid a monthly fee. They receive from $2-5,000 per month per antenna.
It's a local issue everywhere, says Rees, and it intertwines health concerns with financial gain.
That's why change needs to happen at the federal level. When the federal government passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Section 704 included a federal pre-emption, which took away local and state rights to limit the location of towers in any way. Not for environmental reasons, or human health.
So what are the health risks to children and adults? According to Ms. Rees, federal guidelines are 1,000 times too lenient because they are adhering to a false premise, that unless the radiation is HOT enough, it is not harmful. However, she points to thousands of studies that show biological effects at non-heating levels. The research shows DNA damage, along with impacts to the immune system, nervous system and endocrine system, causing disruption at every level of life.
This health issue is taken so seriously in Europe, that Switzerland's leading expert Dr. Rau M.D., says it is criminal to expose children to this type of radiation. Europe is way ahead of the U.S. in regulating the use of cell phones. The European parliament passed a resolution in April, 2009 recommending that member countries establish wireless free zones. Specifically, schools, health care institutions, daycare and retirement communities must be completely free of wifi. In four years, guidelines call for radiation to be reduced to 1/10th of today's levels.
Pro-active France has already banned cell phones in primary schools. They have also called upon the manufacturers to make a phone that can only text, not include speech except through wired headset or speaker.
Although the U.S. is heading in the opposite direction, there is cause for hope. Next month, on April 26, the Brag Antenna Ranking of Schools Report will be released. It is a Herculean project organized by Dr. Magda Havas Ph.D, and supported by ElectroMagneticHealth, and citizen advocate groups.
The Brag Report ranks all public and private schools in the U.S. and gives each a color code. Dr. Havas' students have been engaged in this project for several years. The Brag Report will make it easy for parents to do a search to find out if their school ranks black, red, amber, or green (best). The goal of the report is to get parents activated and engaged with this issue.
This is where the leadership of parents of school-age children comes in. And it offers another opportunity for a leadership role for our country's First Lady Michelle Obama. While she can't stop the growth of this widespread industry, she can help shine the spotlight of parental concern about the local risk to our nation's school children.
Modern communication gadgets
Until last summer I was, like most people nowadays, very fond of all my modern communication gadgets from wifi to mobile, from Palm to laptops and all their advantages. From 2006 onwards I went several times to see a doctor for heart palpitations, but they couldn’t find anything wrong with me. Then in July 2008 I suddenly started experiencing dizziness on numerous occasions, till it got so bad one night, suffering even from speech problems, that I ended up in A&E thinking I had a stroke or heart attack; in the following weeks I underwent many tests. The results showed I was absolutely fine, but the symptoms stayed. The doctors told me I just had been stressed, but the thing is I wasn’t stressed at all prior to this. To my own shock and confusion I realized that my dizziness always occurred, when I was in close vicinity to Wifi, mobiles, Blackberries and mobile masts. Other symptoms added themselves to the list: Headaches, excessive sweating during the night, memory and concentration problems, a pain in my head, and discomfort either side of my neck [Glands] pins and needles in my hands, a feeling of being static (I gave people electric shocks in that early period, when I shook their hands), prickly skin and even skin rashes. The latter, when I was sitting in front of my computer or the tv. Even certain light sources (energy saving light bulbs and neon lights) caused the skin problem to occur.
After medical professionals weren’t able to help, I started my own research and found many websites and blogs by people, with exactly the same problems as mine. They are sufferers of electro-sensitivity (ES), a condition fully recognized in Canada and Sweden as a medical impairment (with 250.000 sufferers in Sweden alone) but unfortunately ridiculed in the UK. I had never heard of it (this to show I am not a hypochondriac), but once I realized that this was the source of my problems, I started clearing my home environment from Wifi, DECT phones and non-essential electrical items. My problems immediately started to get noticeably better. Since I am suffering from this condition, I have spoken to many people about it and even if not everyone has fully blown symptoms of ES, I have encountered many people who have some of the described symptoms. So the problem might lie on a bigger scale than the assumed 3-5% of sufferers worldwide. This is the main reason of me contacting you, as I have the feeling that more awareness needs to be raised, as many many people suffer of a small portion of ES symptoms. Especially prevalent seems the following:
Most men carry their mobile in their jacket or trousers for easy access. I used to carry mine in my motorbike jacket’s front left pocket. When I stopped doing that the unexplained palpitations I suffered from for 2 years vanished immediately. In conversations with friends, colleagues and fellow bikers I heard that many of them experience similar symptoms like pain or tremors in the chest area or what the American media refers to as “phantom text messages”. Every now and then I’d think I had a text message, when carrying my phone in my trouser pockets, but when I checked there was nothing there. According to Swedish scientist and ES expert Olle Johansson this is caused “by high intensity bursts of extremely-low frequency electromagnetic field charges that your phone is producing and (that are) affecting your nervous system.” This seems to affect mainly men, as men are more likely to carry their phone on their body than women, who mainly carry them in their handbags. Of course I don’t know, if carrying your mobile is a cause of ES or if these phantom text messages are just another symptom and the causes could lie somewhere else, like problems with your immune system for example, which could to make you more susceptible to all the electromagnetic radiation around us, but in any case I guess it can’t be good to have heart palpitations. I know: I have heard every joke about “vibrating pockets” and have been many times referred to Ben Goldacre’s “Bad Science” column. There are definitely pseudo-scientists out there making a lot of money from scaremongering, but we have to distinguish between those and the victims in all this.
Retrospectively I am convinced that my heart palpitations were an early warning sign for what was happening later on. I might have been able to avoid to come to down with electro-sensitivity, if I had known more about it. And believe me: ES is not an easy thing to live with. During all this happening I thought for a short period of time, that it might just be my ancient phone causing trouble, so I opted for an iphone, but that just made things far worse, which brings me to another issue of widespread problems nobody seems willing to be talking about.
Now I know that the radiation emitted from an iphone/ Blackberry is far higher than the one of my old Nokia. (Measured in SAR ratings: iphone a whopping 2.0, the ancient Nokia a mere 0.57) In the US for example the guidelines are much tighter, the iphone on the market there has a lower rating. Since then I have spoken to many proud owners of their Powerful 3G Phones. Many of them experience sleep problems (most of them seem to wake up in the early hours of the morning (around 4.30 am) and find it difficult to get back to sleep) and/ or feel ill. Even though some of them admitted, that their problems started shortly after acquiring their new gadget, they are of course unwilling to put two and two together. As I was when it all started happening to me. Our fast communication tools are just so wonderfully convenient, that we are very reluctant to think, there might be a problem. And I’m not talking about some weird conspiracy theory. Just the reluctance to let go of something making our lives so much easier. But maybe the price we are all paying on the long run will be too high? Even though it should be said, that of course the revenue of the communications industry is vast. But smoking used to be a relaxing pastime, didn’t it? If you are still sceptical, while reading this, maybe you can suspend your disbelief and convey an easy test: Maybe ask around in your office, if people are experiencing sleep problems and/ or the phantom text messages?
Maybe ask willing participants to switch off their mobile and Wifi during the night, remove the DECT phone from the bedroom and not to carry the mobile on their bodies for a period to see if it makes any difference? The phones, if kept switched on by your bed (i.e. used as an alarm clock) will not let your brain go into a proper sleep pattern and thus not allowing for your body’s necessary recuperation process to work over night.
There should be warnings on phones: Do not keep by your bed. I am sure that the results of such a test will be very convincing. Since all this has happened to me I have spoken to many fellow sufferers, as well. Many people, completely left alone by the NHS, forced to leave their jobs and in some cases even their homes. I am in writing contact with a woman who is now living in a tent, as it is the only place, where she can be symptom free. A desolate and lonely existence. The people I have spoken to come from all walks of life: lawyers, bankers, actors, lighting technicians, librarians etc. They all suffer the same symptoms. If they were all hypochondriac, how come they all have the same set of symptoms?
Surely this can’t be some sort of mass hallucination or hysteria. Even the though numbers are growing ES sufferers and anyone trying to ask for more research are being ridiculed. So far research hasn’t come up with any conclusive results, but as a sufferer of ES I know, that has just to do with the fact that the scientists undertaking the trials don’t understand (or worse don’t take it seriously) and so the lab environment is a problem in itself for most sufferers.
The whole scenario reminds me very much of the case of ME (especially because of some of the similarities in symptoms between the two illnesses).
Sufferers of ME were ridiculed for years as having “yuppie flu”. Maybe there is even a link? Other problems to come include the widespread ideas of rolling out wifi over whole cities and the installation of so-called smart-meters, that will send your electricity usage reading wirelessly to the providers.
I am already scared, how I will be able to live my life and cope at my job with the increasing EMFs and Wifi everywhere. Looking back it would have been great, if I had known more about the possible problems of overexposure to modern communication. We all should be more careful until it is really proven that there are no dangers involved in using wireless technology to the extent we do at the moment.
Personally I'm really worried for the future of all my friends and family living in this country. I believe we are sleep walking into a really big problem for our health. Please take the time to look at the sites above, and talk to others!
Posted 2/27/2010 4:11:49am
Problems with headaches and mobile phones
I have had problems with headaches and mobile phones for years, but it took me 10 years to piece together the evidence. Eventually, I could not speak on my cordless (DECT) phone at home for more than 15 minutes without developing a striking pain above my right ear, followed by a hot-cold sensation. This would last for a few hours and symptoms became increasingly easy to notice. I visited my doctor and his advice was: stop using your wireless phones. We also wanted to buy a house - a lovely one - but noticed on the information pack that a phone mast had been placed on the corner of the property (about 12 meters from the house). I wanted to find out the levels of radiation we'd be looking at and bought an expensive device to measure this. Well, needless to say we measured more than just the property. I quickly discovered that the DECT phone at home was as bad as my mobile phone and so was my microwave, when in use.
We went back to using the old-fashioned cable phone for a landline and now I try not to stand near the microwave when it is switched on. I even started a consultancy to identify levels of EMF in other peoples' homes, so they can do something to improve their problems. I had also developed sleeping problems around this time (it seems once you're sensitive to EMF radiation, it's easy for more and more symptoms to develop). I scanned my bedroom and discovered a very strong signal coming from the neighbour's house (we share a wall). I looked into shielding materials and discovered that they are very pricey, but luckily my husband, who is well qualified in electrical engineering, happened to pick up that any conductive material applied over the problem area will help to reduce radiation - if you're keen to find out more, search the internet for Mast Radiation Surrey. I have put up pictures and information about the readings and decreases we achieved using just kitchen foil and thermal foil. We covered the wall and waited for results. Admittedly it took about 3 weeks before I slept properly again, but I'm definitely feeling a whole lot better.
Out of curiosity, we asked the neighbour if they'd put WiFi in their bedroom and they told us they had recently upgraded to "double strength" broadband in their bedroom - well, that explained it then. About the house with the phone mast: let's just say these things give of a massive amount of signal. 100 metres from an average mast gives off the equivalent radiation to your mobile next to your head (about 150uW/sq metre). I have started plotting readings on a map (South London/ Surrey). It covers the area I live and work in - if you're keen to see real readings as an example of radiation levels around masts, try looking for Radiation Purley on the internet. My site opens with a map of the area. I hope this information can help those of you who want to find some concrete measurements.
Personally, I like to see/experience these things for myself to believe them. But as you can see, I have become a believer.
Posted 3/8/2010 5:37:12am
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By: Corey Pein 03/24/2010
Hi Cory (re your story)
Like Arthur Firstenberg I suffer from electro hyper-sensitivity. It is a very unpleasant condition which makes life quite difficult.
Please view the video which is linked below, it was made by one of the most knowledgeable researchers of the health effects of electro magnetic radiation. Please note that the radiation emitted by Wi Fi is very similar to a DECT cordless telephone.
Would you please comment on the facts presented in the video.
Would you like me to send you more scientific information about the dangers of microwave radiation and Wi Fi?
Important research on electro sensitivity From Dr. Magda Havas
It provides unequivocal evidence that the radiation from a cordless (DECT) phone interferes with the heart. This video provides evidence that electro hyper-sensitivity is real, is physical, and may be life threatening.
It also shows that non-thermal exposure, at levels well below federal guidelines in most countries (0.3% of the 1000 microW/cm2), has biological and health effects.
Note - No response from this reporter. He is willing to write an article criticizing persons with electro sensitivity, yet when he is provided with proof of the dangers and effects of microwave radiation, he ignores it. Not my idea of a responsible reporter.
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