Wireless Networking in Schools – A call to limit unnecessary radiation exposure in light of potential health risks

Marshall Roberts is an IT specialist who has performed research on the potential health effects of wireless networking in schools because he has children and is concerned about the astronomical uptake of wireless technologies in schools. Marshall wrote a comprehensive report on this issue which he sent to the Department of Education (DoE) in Tasmania requesting answers. SSMA contacted Marshall to see if he would be willing to write a guest blog for our website because our children are being exposed involuntarily and without consent to wireless RF every day 24x 7 starting at home from smart meters and other wireless devices as well as at school (e.g. iPads, laptops, wireless routers etc.). Marshall kindly agreed and his blog follows:

What have I got to offer?

Back in May 2012, I did some reading (about 40 hours’ worth) to try to see through the noise of the “WiFi in schools” debate and come to an informed position, and I then put that position to the authorities. I am an IT consultant, so if I had any bias you’d expect it to lay with promoting IT. I am also a critical reader, who can write well enough to provide a solid introduction to the issues in a readable and even-handed way.

I’ve distilled my current thoughts into some take-home points to convince you that the issue is important enough to spend the time reading my 30+ page submission which can be found here Wireless-Networking-in-Schools. I will briefly touch on each of these points separately, and some are also expanded upon in my submission.

  • the standard governing Radio Frequency (RF) exposure is outdated and selective
  • Wi-Fi radiation is not trivial relative to other radiation sources
  • no one is really regulating how wireless equipment is used (so you have to)
  • the telecommunications industry is ‘spinning’
  • we’re talking about children

The standard

It was last updated in 1998 – before the Wi-Fi brand even existed, let alone became a part of everyday life. It effectively ignores any biological effects (e.g. effects on DNA), which have been noted in thousands of studies; it is based on the assumption that RF radiation will only harm you if it heats you up too much.

All opinions and arguments aside, the fact is, while this standard has been in force, the World Health Organisation classified RF radiation as a possible human carcinogen, based on examinations of real-world (and, therefore, ‘within the standard’) use.

Wireless relative to other RF radiation

A common argument (and one that was put to me personally by Australia’s standards body) is that the radiation from wireless networks is likely to be overpowered by other sources anyway. My research turned up an independent evaluation commissioned by a major educational institution in Australia which actually demonstrated that radiation from wireless networks made up some 97% of the radiation on that campus (details are in my submission). The Wi-Fi Alliance (owner of the Wi-Fi trademark) is still keen to ‘drive adoption’ of the technology further, and it seems we may even be taking this literally, with recent plans to build cars that are mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. Wi-Fi is likely to be a growing, not diminishing, concern.

No-one is really regulating

Consider the image below which shows what happened with my submission.


I had raised a specific point – that the Department of Education is not minimising exposure, as required by the Australian standard, in any way; wireless at our school was on 24 hours, 7 days a week. In response, responsibility for enforcing different aspects of the standards were passed around between a number of organisations with, finally, the end result being that no organisation is actually tasked with overseeing the way in which wireless technologies are used. Consider also the statements that appeared in early iPhone manuals regarding US regulations: “iPhone’s [Specific Absorption Rate] measurement may exceed the [Federal Communications Commission] exposure guidelines for body-worn operation if positioned less than 15mm (5/8 inch) from the body (eg: when carrying iPhone in your pocket).” (i.e. Apple was selling a product that was tested to comply in certain situations, but put the onus on the consumer to ensure the device was only used in those situations – if you want a copy of this statement I suggest you download the iPhone 3G document from the Mobile Manufacturer’s Forum before Apple updates it with a less-scary sounding statement). And no, it’s not just phones: the spiel for the 4th generation iPad states: “to be sure that human exposure to RF energy does not exceed the FCC, IC, and European Union guidelines, always follow these instructions and precautions: Orient the device in portrait mode with the Home button at the bottom of the display, or in landscape mode with the cellular antenna (located under the black edge at the top of the device) away from your body or other objects.” So yes, it’s very much up to us to regulate how the device is used, to make sure we’re within the standard (which itself may be seriously flawed).

The industry is spinning

If you’re really interested in the history of industry involvement in setting standards, consider this 280 paged thesis, subtitled “An examination of the manipulation of telecommunications standards by political, military, and industrial vested interests at the expense of public health protection”.

For a very quick example, this newspaper article quotes an industry spokesperson as saying that “these regulations have a significant safety margin, or precautionary approach, built into them”. The apparent misappropriation of the term “precautionary approach” is quite stunning here, given that the standard itself explicitly acknowledges the possibility of biological effects that ‘may or may not be harmful’, and then goes on to set the standard using a starting point far above the exposure levels at which biological effects are known to occur. The calls by many experts for implementers of these technologies to adopt a precautionary approach are largely due to the fact that the standard itself does not.  They do have a safety margin built in, but in respect to biological effects, the safety margin has been shown in numerous studies to be woefully inadequate. A skeptical reader could suspect that the spokesperson was deliberately attempting to muddy the waters and make calls for a precautionary approach seem redundant.

We’re talking about children

Even the standards body, which has thus far clung doggedly to its outdated standard, has acknowledged that studies have shown that the standards are breached by up to 40% in experimental models of children at the standard’s maximum exposure levels that were calculated to prevent these limits being reached. As early as 1988, experts warned that children absorb high frequency EMR more readily than adults. When it comes to the use of wireless in schools, we are discussing the institutionalised exposure of a most vulnerable cohort in society – individuals without the capacity for informed consent, who are scientifically acknowledged as being more at risk to this particular threat.

You can read more of Marshall’s blogs on his pursuit for answers regarding the safety of wireless at http://www.anidealist.net/category/wifi/

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25 Responses to Wireless Networking in Schools – A call to limit unnecessary radiation exposure in light of potential health risks

  1. aayushi says:

    Now I’m a bit scared about using technologies.
    It’s harmful too, for us.

  2. Pingback: RussBianchi.com » Blog Archive » Wireless Networking in Schools – A call to limit unnecessary radiation exposure in light of potential health risks

  3. trevor churchill says:

    SP Ausnet are Deploying WiMax Technology for Smart Meters according to the DPI on their Web site in section 3. Technology deployed in Victoria
    SOURCE: http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/smart-meters-a/resources/reports-and-consultations/advanced-metering-infrastructure-cost-benefit-analysis/3.-technology-deployed-in-victoria

    WiMAX is sometimes referred to as “Wi-Fi on steroids”
    . It is similar to Wi-Fi, but it can enable usage at much greater distances.
    SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WiMAX

  4. julie winn says:

    I agree that the mandate of wi fi equipment should be outlawed in schools and all places where people are subject to this harmful radiation and have to suffer through no choice of their own , and which will have disastrous affects on their careers, education and health.

  5. trevor churchill says:

    Safe & Smart 4 r Kids – reduce wireless radiation .

    This video follows the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency’s advice (ARPANSA Factsheet 14 – updated June 2013) on reducing wireless radiation – and explores the implications of children using wireless devices such as iPads, at home and at school.

  6. Trevor Churchill says:

    Wi-Fi Dangers – BBC Panorama FULL VERSION .

    SWEDEN have acknowledged that 3% of their citizens are EMF Effected
    In 2003 the Swedish Government recognized the EMF sickness as a DISABILITY

    In Sweden if one Child is effected by Wi-fi in a School the School Closes down the Wi-fi system,and proceeds with an Investigation

  7. jack cruso says:

    It is necessary that we should understand the harmful effects of the radiations on or body, scientific EMF studies suggest prolonged exposure to wireless DSL or cable devices cause tumors, as well as memory loss and other forms of brain damage.
    In general, high artificial EMFs like these have been shown to disturb the human body’s natural energetic field, leading to stress and fatigue as well as DNA changes and degenerative diseases like cancer.

    • Sharron says:

      Agreed – prevention is better than searching for a magic cure to an illness. About time the government woke up to itself – exposing children to these untested technologies daily and not so much as a word to the parents (who should be the only ones making the decisions re their own children anyway!)


    Let me add one more point:

    Most anti-wireless advocates tend to conflate the terms ‘biological effects’ with ‘harmful health effects’. Any and all activations of the senses will provoke some kind of ‘biological’ effect in people – that has never been in dispute. So let’s be clear about the terms, and clear about what is revealed by the study you may be reading. Then ask what the clinical significance of the finding is. Has this been replicated by other researchers? Was it a team or individual work? Was it published in JAMA, BMJ or other prestigious journal? There are many predator or vanity journals that will publish anything sent them – for a fee.

    Read negative and positive studies, and view both with a critical eye.

    • PAWIS says:

      Doubting Thomas, while scientists debate and investigate how and whether known biological effects will translate into harmful health effects from RF exposures should we subject all of our children to it? Is that wise, given how long it takes scientists to come to definitive conclusions? We have little perspective of our LACK of knowledge and assume that science has the answers, but answers of this kind are a very long time coming (one has only to look at the understanding of cancer, for example…) Mandating a ‘possible harm’ for all children in schools is incredibly short-sighted.

  9. Leanne Baxter says:

    May I suggest, since we now have a new more responsible and sensible government in Australia, that you re-submit these concerns to the appropriate department. Hopefully you will not get get the run-around that you did under the previous government. (But I would give them a little time to re-organise their departments and responsibilies first.)

    • Anonymous says:

      Leanne are you aware that it was the Liberal State Government that made installation of smart meters a mandate. Now the Federal Liberal Government wants to outlaw community outcry against any big business works (ex. coal seam gas development to agricultural land and water supplies being destroyed as a result of it.) They want it made illegal to object to things that will be detrimental to our country as well as the people within. Now, do you think that they will listen? DEMOCRACY IS DEAD IF THEY ARE SUCCESSFUL!!!

      • Eric says:

        Anonymous, can you please fill me in with a reference to what the Federal Liberal Government is saying they are going to outlaw. I would really like to look into it because the impression I’m getting is one of outlawing free speech. As far as I’m concerned you can kiss this country goodbye in that case.

      • Steve says:

        The Abbott government wants to make boycotts illegal — criminalising our ability to hold corporations to account.
        See the online petition here for more details http://action.sumofus.org/a/abbott-boycotts/3/3/?sub=homepage

      • Julie says:

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that the smart meters were in fact forced on us by the Brumby Government. The liberal government inherited the smart meter mandate mess, and after some investigation decided to continue the roll out. I don’t agree that they should have continued the roll out but if the smart meters were a decision by labor, I don’t think the liberal government should be accused of forcing something on us that was in fact initiated by the labor government.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes John Brumby was a bully boy and introduced smart meters but from what I understand is that the Liberal Premier that took his place made it so called “compulsory” for all Victorian households to have one. I am not a fan of either parties that who, so far, have bullied us and treated us as if we are stupid. Check out Steve’s link above to see what Abbott has planned for Australians who protest.

  10. Maureen says:

    I would urge all parents of school age children to visit the Wi-Fi in schools Australia website.
    It gives a very comprehensive overview of the problems that can arise from children’s constant exposure to wireless ( microwave) radiation.
    At no other time in mankind’s history have people been constantly exposed to such high levels of man made, electro magnetic radiation from a myriad of electronic devices.No one, not even the scientists really know what the long term effects of this will be. People who are showing symptoms now are simply being ignored.
    As a teacher of 30 years, I can no longer work as I have developed an extreme sensitivity to EMR. When in a classroom with Wi-Fi activated I would develop a severe head pressure, my vision would begin to blur & my face would become red & blotchy. I could not think clearly. These symptoms would continue for many hours after I had gone home.
    I have been speaking to a secondary school principal in NSW who has had to resign because of her sensitivities to Wi-Fi.
    I know of another two teachers who are also unable to work anymore. One was hospitalized with a life threatening heart arrhythmia she believes was caused by her exposure to EMR.
    I have met with the Education Minister twice & his response was” I am not a scientist. I rely on the experts”.
    So, as indicated above, if the authorities we are relying on to protect us are failing to do so, then we all need to take a stand.
    Write to your school council, contact your local State & Federal Minister,& voice your concerns.
    Our precious children should not be the guinea pigs in this huge experiment!

    • Gwen 's says:

      Another reason for “HOME SCHOOLING”.!

      • Amaron says:

        Yes that would seem the answer, HOWEVER…… I have three children (1 in a Wi Fi drenched high school) and I have refused to allow Wi-Fi in our home. We still have ADSL2 running through Ethernet cables which run around the floor of our home to our laptops and pc’s. Problem solved? No! When I and my husband boot up our laptop, it automatically searches for Wi-Fi signals and it easily picks up seven at least. That means that despite our defiant effort to keep Wi Fi out of our home, it’s really still getting in because our laptops are picking up the signals. What’s the solution for that?

        • Anonymous says:

          Regardless of your brand/model and the operating system it runs, the wireless interfaces can be turned off or disabled on any laptops so that they won’t be used at all.
          Just Google your make/model and “disable wireless”.

        • Eric says:

          Amaron, the solution is to switch of the Wi-Fi option on your laptops. This is done in either of two ways. The simple way is to physically switch off the wi-fi switch which should be on the side or front of your laptop. It should be there if you search for it. If your laptop doesn’t have a physical wi-fi switch you can still switch off the wi-fi network through control panel system software. In windows, you go into Start, Control Panel, System, Hardware, Device Manager and I think it’s Network Adapters where you then switch off the wireless network. If you get stuck please post again and I will give you more precise info, but you can definitely switch off the problem you are having. Hope that helps.

        • Steve says:

          I think the point that Amaron is trying to make is that even though they have turned off wireless in their own house they are still getting irradiated by neighbours’ wireless routers etc. To stop this requires shielding either using carbon paint and/or other RF shielding materials which can be very expensive if you want to do the whole house.

  11. Steve says:

    Outstanding piece of work Marshall. It is very reassuring to see that there are others who share my concerns on the potential impact of wireless and the poor state of affairs our Australia’s RF standards are in. I also see you have experienced the same reciprocal buck passing that I have covered in my blog reciprocal buck passing, no care, no accountability and no responsibility. It is only through applying constant pressure to these uncaring and irresponsible government departments and scientists through web petitions, blogs, letters and phone calls that we have a chance to cause change. Keep up the good work!

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