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As students returned to school (Tuesday), Oakville-based Canadians for Safe Technology (C4ST) took to the streets to voice concerns about student safety.
Several C4ST members handed out pamphlets outside Kenollie Public School in Peel to raise awareness of the possible health impacts of unrestricted Wi-Fi in schools.
“Parents deserve to know wireless radiation can cause a wide range of symptoms including headaches, nausea and racing heart rates,” said Oakville’s Frank Clegg, former Microsoft Canada president and C4ST chair.
“We picked elementary schools because there are studies that show wireless radiation can penetrate 70 per cent of the brain of a child (five-year-old) while in an adult, this penetration is only 10 per cent.”
Clegg said the Peel District School Board was selected because it is in the process of introducing Wi-Fi to its classrooms, something C4ST is hoping it can stop.
Clegg said Halton school boards started adding Wi-Fi earlier and so have more Wi-Fi networks in place. He said C4ST hopes to hold similar information demonstrations in Halton.
The CEO-turned-activist said there is no shortage of reasons to be concerned about constant Wi-Fi exposure as two years ago the World Health Organization (WHO) declared microwave radiation from all wireless devices to be a possible carcinogen.
The Halton District School Board’s Chief Information Officer Bruce Smith said the board would continue to monitor all reports and guidelines concerning Wi-Fi safety from WHO, Health Canada, and the Ontario Medical Officer of Health.
The board states on its website according to the WHO, there is no convincing scientific evidence the weak radiofrequency signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects. The website also states Wi-Fi is installed in every Halton District School Board school, including portables and the long-term plan is to have Wi-Fi coverage in every school.
As such, accommodations cannot be made for students whose parents request they are taught in an area where there is no Wi-Fi.
Clegg said his group is not calling for a complete ban of Wi-Fi in schools.
He said the need for Wi-Fi could be reduced through the use of hardwires and that a school’s Wi-Fi should only be switched on when students need to download information. Clegg envisions some areas of a school be Wi-Fi free and said in Vancouver, some residents are calling for one school in each district to be Wi-Fi-free.
“There has to be recognition at the board level there is a problem, this is not a healthy thing to do and then they need to look at remedies,” said Clegg. “Subjecting young students, particularly elementary students, but even high school students, to a constant bombardment from multiple routers is not good.”
The Halton District School Board’s website said in hard-wired environments, only a few devices could be used at a time and students wouldn’t be able to access information as quickly. Also tablets and other personal electronic devices cannot connect to a hard-wired network.
The board concluded installing only hard-wired networks in Halton public schools would significantly limit staff and student use of technology.
Halton’s Catholic school board did not offer comment as of deadline.