A question by local parents has prompted a provincewide debate over the impact wireless Internet access in schools may have on our children’s health.
A group of local parents says Wi-Fi in elementary schools is making their children sick.
They are worried that electromagnetic radiation from wireless transmitters are causing a lengthy list of problems they say have been absent over the summer break.
“”We went quietly to the school board,”" said Rodney Palmer, whose children attend Mountain View Elementary School in Collingwood.
“”All I want is for it to be turned down in my son and daughter’s school. Wi-Fi is a tool and a very useful one, but let’s not overuse it.”"
Some of the problems reported at the Collingwood school and 11 others in Simcoe County include headaches, dizziness and rashes.
There are four Barrie schools – Terry Fox Elementary, Holly Meadows, Ferndale Woods, Mapleview Heights – on the list of schools where teachers and students report health problems.
Concern among teachers has prompted a call for the removal of Wi-Fi from schools until the issue of its impact on health is more clear.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, currently meeting in Niagara, heard a proposal from the Niagara local Tuesday.
“”We’re putting forth a resolution to remove wireless… in our schools until more research”" either confirms or denies the health implications, said Niagara teacher Tay Shiner. “”Our main concern is the education and well being of children.
“”An executive member has received several calls from teachers. They have voiced concerns about being in a Wi-Fi school.”"
The motion didn’t garner enough support, however, and was defeated.
Other groups elsewhere in the province are investigating the issue.
Susan Clarke, who studies radio-frequency radiation bioeffects, addressed a Thornbury group last week with concerns. Wi-Fi, she told them, alters fundamental physiological functioning in humans and can cause neurological and cardiac symptoms.
The Simcoe County District School Board, with the support of the provincial ministries of health and education, maintains the system is safe for children’s use in classrooms.
The school board is satisfied that its systems conform with Health Canada’s safety code and with current safety standards.
“”The last message that we had from our trustees was that it was affirmed… that we were staying with wireless,”" said John Dance, the school board’s superintendent of schools.
Access to the Internet has become part of the 21st century learning regime and is not restricted to administrative staff. Every school and classroom in the public board has access to the Internet, as do most portable classrooms.
Digital textbooks are also becoming more mainstream because software licences are easier to keep than hard copies of the books themselves.
In addition to increasing demands from students, there are the requirements of special-needs students, some of whom rely on technological advancements to help them learn.
Without wireless, says Dance, current, updated learning, becomes difficult.
And, he says, the systems used to create wireless access are not similar to cellular phone systems and antennas.
Cellphones, he says, are much more powerful than wireless access points.
Palmer argues Health Canada’s position isn’t that wireless is safe but that it encourages “”sound judgment”" in the rapidly advancing field of technology.
In the case of his children’s school, he adds, there is adequate access to the Internet without reliance upon the redundant wireless route.
Lakehead University has opted out of Wi-Fi and cellular antennae at both its Thunder Bay and new Orillia campus. It relies on fibre optics to connect students to the Internet.
Its November policy declares that it is completely connected to the World Wide Web and has adequate cellphone access.
The “”precautionary principal”" heeds questions raised by some studies indicating possible health concern over continuous or frequent long-term exposure to the non-ioinizing radiation of electromagnetic fields.
“”It (the policy) will be reviewed every year,”" said Lakehead’s Michael Pawlowski, vice- president of administration and finance.
Palmer, who has a health-related business, said other possible causes for the children’s symptoms like mould in the school, have been eliminated.
The only remaining area of concern that remains unresolved, he said, is the wireless network.
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Date posted: Tuesday, August 7th, 2012 10:08 am | Under category: Uncategorized
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