WiFi radiation safety a growing concern among parents of school children

The Right Click

The fight to protect students from potentially harmful WiFi signals is heating up again as parents across the country are demanding wireless internet networks are removed from schools.

Back in October, The Right Click reported that two schools in Ontario had banned WiFi networks in an effort to protect students from radiation. Since then, more parents have taken up the fight to keep their children away from WiFi signals by transferring students to schools with wired Internet and campaigning at their current schools for educators to ban WiFi.

According to The National Post, at least 12 schools in Ontario and B.C. banned WiFi networks in September by either refusing to install or removing their existing networks in an effort to protect children from the potentially harmful frequencies.

Advocates who are fighting to have WiFi removed from schools say they don't understand why schools are dragging their feet when it comes to keeping kids away from WiFi networks.

"This is not a question mark," said Rodney Palmer, who is with the Safe School Committee, to The National Post. "The idea is that we shouldn't kill them to be online."

Nowhere is the debate at such a critical junction as it is in Vancouver. Up until now, the Vancouver School Board had a board-wide ban on the wireless networks and a resolution prohibiting the construction of cell towers with 305 metres of school property, according to the Vancouver Courier. But if the current VSB trustees go ahead with their plan to install WiFi networks in all of their schools beginning in 2012, that will likely change.

Parents in York Region north of Toronto are outraged, as well. All of York Region's 197 schools have WiFi networks installed, according to The Toronto Star, and parents staged a protest in November to make it clear that they were unhappy about it. While it was only a protest of about 30 or so people in York Region, one protester said that a bigger, national demonstration is planned for the spring.

Some experts are disagreeing with the actions of the parents, however, saying that those who are spreading panic about WiFi are actually doing more harm than good.

"This is the problem. These activists are good at intimidating," said Dave Michelson, an associate professor of electrical engineering at UBC, to The National Post. "They have a deep-seated belief that it must be true. It becomes a matter of faith, not fact."

Michelson researches and measures radiofrequency (RF) energy like that which is transmitted by WiFi. He says that the RF levels are "virtually undetectable."

For now, Health Canada maintains the stance that WiFi poses minimal risk to children. While the government body acknowledges on its website that no long-term safety studies have yet to be completed documenting the effects of WiFi on children, they have taken into account the studies that are out there and determined that low-level RF energy is not dangerous to children. Schools and school boards are therefore left to make their decisions on whether or not to install WiFi on their own.

(Getty photo)