Technology is ever changing at a speed we can barely keep up with. For most of us, the idea of a stationary office no longer exists; it now travels with us in the form of a blackberry and the norm in communication has become a device you carry on your hip.
We stay connected, but at what price and who pays?
Last spring my colleague, Carol Hughes, after attending the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health meetings that investigated the health effects of microwaves from wireless devices such as cell phones and Wi-Fi, was approached by a group from Ontario who reported an illness cluster in their school that is consistent with microwave exposure.
A District School Board in Simcoe Country had installed a blanket microwave Wi-Fi system throughout every school. At one elementary school, parents of students began to report an illness trend involving childhood headaches, nausea, vertigo, insomnia, and even tachycardia (a heart condition requiring medical attention). These symptoms disappeared only when the children were not in school.
Like any concerned parent, they contacted the Simcoe County School Board and were told that the Wi-Fi system is perfectly safe according the Health Canada.
While at a committee meeting, Health Canada officials defended the department’s Radiofrequency Exposure Guidelines (Safety Code 6), only to have those same guidelines questioned by international research scientists whose research show that people can experience biological changes in the presence of these low-level microwaves. One scientist also warned about an increased prevalence of cancer if Health Canada’s “safe” limits for microwave exposure are not lowered.
Health Canada officials confidently stated there is “no cause for concern that Wi-Fi is dangerous.” Perhaps instead, they should have said that in their opinion, that Safety Code 6 is sufficient.
During the committee meeting it was heard that there is no consensus among research scientists that microwave radiation is safe. In a study by the Royal Society of Canada, commissioned by Health Canada in 1999 and updated in 2001, there is conclusive evidence that there are potentially dangerous side effects from microwave exposure, such as:
· The weakening of the blood brain barrier which protects us from disease,
· Increasing certain enzymes known to promote cancer,
· Behaviour change
According to the Royal Society Report, young children are among the most vulnerable when it comes to microwave exposure. The report is clear that these biological changes happen well below the current “safe” limits set by Health Canada.
Health Canada’s guidelines are not protecting us. They are outdated and designed for a grown man at 6 minutes of exposure. They don’t take into account a 4 year child getting microwave exposure for 6 hours a day, five days a week, for 14 years of public school.
In a recent letter to the Minister of Health by NDP Health critic Megan Leslie, she writes that wireless technology has not existed long enough for long-term tests to be done and that we should err on the side of the precautionary principle. She states in her letter that while we cannot roll back the clock on the introduction of wireless technology into the everyday lives of Canadians, citizens want reassurance that Health Canada is following this issue closely and is reacting to new research as it arrives.
Exposing children to all day Wi-Fi in school is really an experiment, with unknown consequences. This is hardly promoting a safe learning environment for young children.
The New Denver Area Parent Children’s Association has joined the ranks of other parents around Canada and the world to push for Wi-fi Free schools and libraries.
Alex Atamanenko is the MP for BC Southern Interior.