Report Labels WiFi Dangerous in Schools

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association Health and Safety Committee has produced and published a report [PDF] that urges wifi be regarded as a workplace hazard in schools. The OECTA website glosses it this way:

A position regarding the use of Non-Ionizing Electromagnetic Radiation, including WiFi, in the workplace, Researched and presented by the OECTA Provincial Health and Safety Committee, January 2012

There are growing health and safety concerns regarding the widespread use of technology, such as cellular phones and wireless computer networking (WiFi), which produce non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation. It is estimated that at least 3 per cent of the population has an environmental sensitivity to the radiation that is emitted by these devices and, as a result, experience serious immediate physical/biological effects when exposed.

As has been the case with other known societal health and safety issues, such as exposure to cigarette smoke or asbestos, the health effects of unprecedented long term exposure to this radiation may not be known for some time. Widespread use of, or exposure to, wireless communication devices and WiFi technology in Ontario schools, can be positioned as a potential workplace hazard.

This paper examines what is currently known about the impact of non-ionizing
electromagnetic radiation, reviews the implications it can have for Ontario schools, including OECTA members, and makes recommendations to the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association on the issue.

A column in today’s Globe and Mail thrashes the report, giving it “a big fat red-marker F.”

I won’t rehearse the “non-science” contained in the report here—the column does a descent job of that. But I will suggest that public ignorance about the various electromagnetic waves we encounter in our daily lives is immense, which, with the help of the media, can lead to unfounded fears and then to irrational policy.

I will also say that the comparison of wifi to cigarette smoking and asbestos inhalation as potentially harmful agents is utterly irresponsible given what we do in fact know about the impact of this very low level radiation. This is, as it happens, the identical comparison made in a 2011 Report from the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs [PDF] of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly that got itself well-kicked by John Timmer, a scientist writing in ars technica. It could be that there’s some “cross contamination” here between the Luxembourg and subsequent OECTA reports.

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Comments

  1. Given the source of the report, an appropriate response, apocryphal or not is “it still moves”.

    Some members of the OECTA should get the point, even if it’s only the (putative) science teachers.