Wi-Fi in Schools?

The image (poster) below was prepared by a group in the United Kingdom, called WiFiinschools.org.uk.  The organization claims to be a small group of scientists concerned about the rapid spread of wireless technologies.  The poster image appropriately conveys the sentiment of those concerned about the proliferation of wireless technologies in our schools.

WiFi Poster from UK

In some circles, Wi-Fi stands for “Wireless Fidelity,” but more precisely it is a trademarked term referring to a specific type of wireless communication.  Wi-Fi represents a type of wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet and network connections.   Wi-Fi works with no physical wired connection between sender and receiver by using radio frequency (RF) technology, a frequency within the electromagnetic spectrum associated with radio wave propagation.  When an RF current is supplied to an antenna, an electromagnetic field is created that then is able to propagate through space.

RF radiation is a form of non-ionizing radiation.  There has been some evidence that it can cause adverse health effects, based primarily upon experiments with animals and case studies with individuals.  The poster shown above has footnotes for two specific studies that will be reviewed in a future posting on this website.  Without going into detail into those and other studies at this time, let it be said there is at least some evidence that RF radiation emissions at the frequencies associated with Wi-Fi technology can do exactly what the poster indicates, “damage human DNA and change what is going in my brain.”  Combining that evidence with the fact the International Agency for research on Cancer (IARC) classified RF radiation as “possibly carcinogenic,” does it seem prudent to proliferate the use of wireless technologies in our schools?

Several prominent organizations are advising caution with regard to wireless technologies being used by children.  Here are four:

  •  In October 2012, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM)  issued a public warning about Wi-Fi in schools that stated:  “Adverse health effects from wireless radio frequency fields, such as learning disabilities, altered immune responses, and headaches, clearly exist and are well documented in the scientific literature.  Safer technology, such as use of hardwiring, is strongly recommended in schools.”  Also, refer to the letter written by the AAEM to the Los Angeles Unified School District in March 2013 at the following link:  http://aaemonline.org/images/LettertoLAUSD.pdf.
  • In addition, such organizations as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), wrote in May 2011, that “governments should ‘for children in general, and particularly in schools and classrooms, give preference to wired Internet connections, and strictly regulate the use of mobile phones by schoolchildren on school premises’, and put in place information and awareness-raising campaigns on the risks of potentially harmful long-term biological effects on the environment and on human health, especially ‘targeting children, teenagers and young people of reproductive age’.”
  • It is the policy of the National Education Association that, “The National Education Association believes that all educational facilities must have healthy indoor air quality, be smoke-free, and be safe from environmental and chemical hazards, and be safe from hazardous electromagnetic fields [emphasis added].”  Reference:  2012-13 NEA Resolution, Section C-19 Environmentally Safe Schools.  Also, refer to the Los Angeles Teacher’s Union (UTLA) Resolution to “uphold the NEA Policy … for Environmentally Safe Schools” and to “advocate for technological solutions that maintain technology upgrades while not increasing employees exposure to electromagnetic radiation.”  UTLA Resolution March 2013
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), wrote to Congress in December 2012, stating that, “Children are disproportionately affected by environmental exposures, including cell phone radiation.  The differences in bone density and the amount of fluid in a child’s brain compared to an adult’s brain could allow children to absorb greater quantities of RF energy deeper into their brains than adults.”  In a separate letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in July 2012, the AAP wrote, ‘Children, however, are not little adults and are disproportionately impacted by all environmental exposures, including cell phone radiation.  In fact, according to IARC, when used by children, the average RF energy deposition is two times higher in the brain and 10 times higher in the bone marrow of the skull, compared with mobile phone use by adults.  While the Academy appreciates that the FCC is considering investigating whether the emission standards should be different for devices primarily used by children, it is essential that any new standard for cell phones or other wireless devices be based on protecting the youngest and most vulnerable populations to ensure they are safeguarded throughout their lifetimes.”  [It is acknowledged that the above letters by the AAP dealt primarily with concerns over cell phone usage, but there was also reference to “other wireless devices.”]

{Updated Entry:  Also see a website posting describing an open letter sent to all US School Districts by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM): http://skyvisionsolutions.org/2013/08/10/use-wired-internet-connections/.

Furthermore, in November 2013, the AAEM issued a position on “Wireless Radiofrequency Radiation in Schools” that includes the language that follows:

“The AAEM strongly supports the use of wired Internet connections and encourages avoidance of radiofrequency [radiation] such as from Wi-Fi, cellular and mobile phones and towers, and ‘smart meters’,”}

Below is a video created in 2010 regarding the issue of WiFi in schools being investigated in Canada.  The Work is identified and acknowledged to have been created by Canada’s “16×9,” an “investigative show on the cutting edge, bringing you hard-hitting stories, ground-breaking investigations, and an in-depth look at the movers and shakers that dominate the news.”


To offer some perspective at this point, it will be mentioned that Russian and Chinese RF exposure guidelines are about 100 times more conservative than most so-called Western countries.  Both sets of guidelines are considered science-based.  The Russian and Chinese guidelines, however, acknowledge that chronic, non-thermal RF exposure effects do occur based upon biological experiments with animals and case studies with individuals.  Scientists observe a range of effects, such as changes in electroencephalogram (EEG) readings, induction of autoimmune responses (formation of antibodies to brain tissues), stress-reactions, as wells as adverse effects for blood serum results.  It cannot be claimed with certainty that all observed effects are pathological and/or irreversible, but in any case, it is concluded that such effects influence the physical and mental well being of affected individuals and therefore constitute a health hazard.

In the United States and most other Western countries, exposure standards are primarily based upon engineering calculations assessing short-term thermal effects of RF energy on human tissue, such as burning or electric shock.  For chronic exposures, non-thermal considerations were not included for the US and most western European exposure guidelines due to a claimed “paucity of reliable data on chronic exposures.”  Russian scientists, on the other hand, argue that RF exposure guidelines based upon chronic exposure levels and interactions are more representative of the real world experience of the population and thus are more appropriate than exposure to acute situations at thermal exposure levels which are rarely encountered.  Furthermore, Russian scientists assert that the establishment of threshold levels based solely on thermal considerations makes the assumption that an organism will compensate or adapt to non-thermal RF exposure effects and that there is no basis for this assumption.

So there you have it, a controversy.  It is not practical to eliminate all wireless technology at this point, but it would seem appropriate to exercise a precautionary approach and to limit the expansion of such technology where possible and where alternatives exist, especially for the youngest and most vulnerable among our population.

Updated Entry February 9, 2014:  Viewers of this webpage may be interested in a recent posting, entitled, State of Washington Presents Biased View of Wi-Fi Safety in Schools.

Below is a recent video (August 2013) released on Wi-Fi safety for kids intended for an Australian audience but one wonders why more is not being done in the United States as well.

For additional information, here is a somewhat longer video from the same Australian organization as above:

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