appeared in the Times
newspaper that questioned the safety of wi-fi in schools. In it, two schools are mentioned in particular. Online news agencies with their cut and past culture have repeated and created froth and fervour, giving greater creedence, but adding nothing new.
When I first read it, I was of course aghast! Could it be that one of the central planks of anytime anywhere learning is causing health problems? I instinctively know it isn't, and have worked with high power fields in my telecomms career, so know the health and safety issues (and my friends aren't dropping with cancer!). I did what my background taught me to do, ... some private research
to prove one way or the other!
In the cold light of scrutiny, the stories appear to owe rather more to the small 'p' political considerations of good relations within a school community than a risk assessment of health issues. There is clearly a fundamental problem with understanding the science, so i'll summarise the facts:
- Don’t get confused between electric fields and radio frequency fields. Try these flash based tutorials from the Health Protection Agency to understand why.
- If you are considering banning wi-fi on safety grounds, then out must also go public broadcast radio, terrestrial TV, police fire and ambulance systems, mobile telephones, and wireless microphones, as these sources are higher powered. Probably better to put tin foil on the inside of the buildings and shield it completely!
- Radio frequency waves as cancer-causing magic moonbeams is more to do with fear and ignorance than fact.
- Radio frequency transmission is a well understood technology.
- Guidelines already exist, and are robust. The only concern they have is for heat generated by close proximity - not a concern at the very low power levels of wi-fi.
Scientific research by the EU
, and guidance by the world health organisation
is clear that electromagnetic hypersensitivity is more perception than reality, as in blind tests, no afflicted individual could tell whether the test transmitter was on or off, and reported the symptoms in both cases, mmm! Giving it a name doesn't make it real!
The world is full of radio waves from BBC stations to mobile phones, and at much higher levels than school wi-fi, which is restricted to 10 milliwatts, which is 5% of the power of a single mobile telephone, and this restriction is only to stop it interfering with other peoples wi-fi networks, not on the grounds of safety!
To bow to irrational pressure may be expedient, (and may save some money!), but let's not confuse this with science
. I'm not ready yet to give up all of the benefits on the strength of zero evidence, and my whole family bathes in the warm glow of a home wi-fi network. Indeed the whole of Westminster
is bathed in wi-fi, and there are no signs of poor health amongst our politicians (Umm, tee hee).
There is more evidence that poor nutrition
has a detrimental and long-lasting effect on our children, yet parents still pass bags of chips through railings. All a matter of perception really. To yield to the palpitations and twitches of a single classics teacher
when confronted by teenagers in a classroom (doesn't have the symptoms at the weekend or during school breaks!) is absurd. The symptoms are probably real, the attributed cause isn't!