Friday, February 25, 2011

WiFi - safe, right?

The Simcoe County District School Board is attempting to bury the hatchet on this issue that arose last summer as parents within several of its school communities protested the use of wireless technologies in its facilities.
The parents claimed the radio-frequency waves were causing illnesses in their children.
It caused a kerfuffle, that led to the use of the technologies being suspended in some schools and the delay of implementation in others.
The board received a report this week, as reported in the Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin, indicating the RF levels present in the facilities with equipment are below health standards set by the Canadian government.
(Trustee Caroline) Smith said the report updated the board on the Wi-Fi safety debates that have been ongoing for months now.
"An evaluation of radio frequency (RF) and microwaves levels at Mountain View Public School and Collingwood Collegiate Institute (CCI) was conducted by Dr. Tony Muc & Radiation and Health Consulting," she said.
There has been a great deal of talk and opinion around the subject of Wi-Fi," said Smith. "This report (attached) helps clarify that the levels of RF within SCDSB schools are safe. Muc's report scientifically measures the RF levels within two schools within the SCDSB."
Muc's conclusions state "the RF and microwave electromagnetic field levels in a representative sample of areas normally accessed by students at both MES and CCI are a factor of least 25 below the exposure limits specified in Health Canada Safety Code 5. All the observed levels are far below exposure limits currently established or proposed by the major international or national agencies or organizations for public (including children) or occupational exposures."
That won't satiate those who brought their concerns to light last year however.
Others have taken note, as seen in this coverage out of Peterborough on the Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB's plan on implementing wireless technologies at its elementary schools.
I don't think this is the best hill upon which to wage this war.
Low-power wireless frequencies are so completely a part of our first-world lives. We're surrounded by these frequency waves-- in our workplaces, in our public spaces, even in places where we may not be aware of their existence. Not to mention our homes (I'd be curious to see if any of the people protesting WiFi in schools have wireless technologies at home), which are becoming increasingly wireless to suit our demand for convenience.
Though time will ultimately tell, we're also not seeing any epidemic of illness across society as a result of all this exposure. We consciously or subconsciously assume that risk every time we buy into a wireless technology or participate in it.
We should want our schools to give students access to the latest technologies (WiFi being far from  a "latest" technology) and teach them how to use that technology to enhance their learning.


Anonymous said...

So do you advise parents and school communities to trust government standards and reports?

Can school boards write a guarantee that states that no child will be affected by the use of WiFi in the schools?

Education Reporter said...

Anon 27 Feb. 10:52
I think the report shows that based on what is known today, the use is acceptable.

As to your second question-- it's ridiculous to ask the board to make such a promise. A child affected by RF may not even have acquired the related illness in school-- we're so bombarded by these frequency waves that proving without a doubt it happened in any one single location would be difficult. Unless you live completely off the grid and school is the only place where there are an RFs in your child's life. And in southern Ontario, with its proliferation of digital and data cellphone networks along with countless other wireless devices, that's just impossible.

Can anyone write an absolute guarantee that a child won't be affected by something, somewhere in life? That's a question that deals in absolutes that don't exist when you take human behaviour and other less-predictable variables into account.