Health fears lead schools to dismantle wireless networks

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2461748,00.html
Update:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2461748.html

-------

WiFi in Schools

From: SylviaWright
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2006 03:55:52 EST
To: letters@thetimes.co.uk

Dear Sirs

I must congratulate Joanna Bale for her excellent article in The Times today on the potential health risk of wireless networking in our schools. This is a concern I have long held and have attempted to raise awareness of locally (South Staffordshire). I fear that our young people are being exploited by the mobile phone industry, but it becomes far more worrying when Local Authorities - who are ultimately responsible for the welfare of our children while they are in school - are ignoring official advice that children under 16 should not be exposed for long periods to the pulsed electromagnetic radiation from such devices - and let's be clear on this, it is the same technology used for WiFi as in mobile phones and cordless home phones (another very worrying trend).

It is quite ironic that urgent action is being taken to limit the targetting of our children by commercial enterprises (such as the junk food industry), but we are quite happily replacing any benefit from these measures with another risk, potentially much more harmful. Our young people are, in many cases, being exposed to high levels of emr 24/7 - both in the home and at school...Independent scientific studies have shown that such exposure - as well as posing a health risk - can have a detrimental impact on the mood, behaviour and mental state. In fact, Alasdair Phillips, Director of Powerwatch, has written a comprehensive letter advising schools to use wired networking, and the Director of Public Health for Salzburg, Dr Gerd Oberfeld, has written an open letter of warning on the subject.

Again, well done to Joanna & The Times, I hope that more schools will decide to take the precautionary approach much championed by Sir William Stewart.

Regards
Cllr Sylvia Wright

--------

From: Dr Grahame Blackwell
To: letters@thetimes.co.uk
Sent: Monday, November 20, 2006 11:00 PM
Subject: WiFi in schools (Times 201106)

Dear Editor

An A-star for Joanna Bale's excellent impartial report on Wireless netwoks in schools (times 20th November). Sadly, though, E-minus for your so-called Health Editor's facile and heavily-loaded comment. Informed parents have every reason to be concerned about WiFi in schools. Ms Davies was right to liken it to having a mobile phone mast in the classroom, the technologies are remarkably similar. Peer-reviewed replicated research shows reduction in melatonin production by those exposed to periodic amplitude modulated (pulsed) radiation of this sort. Melatonin is a sleep regulator and anti-cancer scavenger. Guess what? - Statistically significant increases in cancers around mast installations according to several independent studies, and sleep problems experienced by many living close to masts. Other research shows this type of radiation allows transfer of toxins from the bloodstream into brain cells. This would lead to significant increases in headaches, nausea, dizziness and disorientation around masts, and in the longer term significant increases in occurrence of brain degenerative disorders such as Alzheimers and Motor Neurone Disease. Guess what? - I'll leave you to fill in this gap. Two years ago a four-year EU funded research project involving twelve partner institutions from seven countries reported multiply replicated results of single- and double-strand breaks in DNA chains, of the sort that lead to cancer, as a result of this type of radiation at levels within our government's 'safety' guidelines. They stated categorically that it was no longer possible to say that we don't know how this sort of radiation could cause health problems. Nigel Hawkes likens this radiation to that of radio and TV. I suggest he carries out a short experiment, starting with resting a jack-hammer (switched off, of course) on his foot. No problems. Now start the jack-hammer up, still resting on that foot. By the laws of physics it can't be any heavier when running than when switched off - so there's no risk. That's the difference between radio and TV signals and mobile telecomms signals, including WiFi - except that the jack-hammer is aimed at every cell in the body, notably at brain cells. Mr Hawkes should stop spouting pro-industry propaganda and take a look at the wealth of research showing the health problems that he so hotly denies. Perhaps then he'll deserve the title he writes under.

Grahame Blackwell

--------

This is a copy of my letter to the Times.

Vee


Dear Editor

Your health editor Nigel Hawkes is correct when he states it is not possible to prove anything in life to be totally safe. However is Mr. Hawkes not aware of the growing evidence that WiFi, mobile phone masts and wirefree telephones are causing many people serious health problems? Does he seriously believe that a Government inquiry paid for by the industry itself will give us the truth on this matter? Come on Mr. Hawkes wake up and smell the coffee or at least the sizzling of fried brains.

Yours

--------

My letter to The Times today:

Dear Editor,

Nigel Hawkes has let The Times down with his biased evidence-free piece on mobiles phones.

A few points.

1) Linking the ionizing radiation of the nuclear tests of the 50s with mast radiation is fallacious for one thing. His denial of any ionizing radiation effects is another. Many eminent scientists disagree. Your readers should be told. For more see http://www.llrc.org .

2) Hardly a shred of worthwhile evidence to back up campaigners claims? There are mountains of the stuff.

Take the Washington-based Wireless Technology Research programme of 1993 chaired by George Carlo. It ran over five and a half years; it comprised of 56 studies, including in vivo and in vitro studies, provocation studies and epidemiological studies. It was supervised independently by the Harvard School of Public Health, with several layers of peer review built in.

It found the following biological effects at sub-thermal levels of exposure:

Opening of the blood-brain barrier with subsequent leakage of large albumin molecules into the brain leading to:

Formation of micronuclei, an indication for the triggering of cancer

Disruption of DNA function, including negative impact on DNA repair mechanisms (found at SAR values of 0.7 W/kg, i.e. less than half of what is allowed by the ICNIRP guidelines)

Higher cancer mortality (although people had only been using phones for circa 5 years)

More than twice the risk of neural epithelial tumours (beginning outside, inward growing)

Significant increase of acoustic neuroma (a benign tumour of the auditory nerve) after 6 years of use.

Significant correlations between the side of the head where the phone was held and the location of tumours

3) And yes the WTR’s findings were confirmed in 2005.

Step forward the REFLEX Project, a 4-year EU-backed study by twelve partners in seven countries. Their results confirmed the likelihood of long-term genetic damage in the blood and brains of users of mobile phones and other sources of electromagnetic fields. This project concluded that in-vitro damage is real and that it is important to carry out much more research, especially monitoring the long-term health of people. Several other independent labs participating in the programme replicated each other’s findings.

4) If we followed our own logic Hawkes says campaigners should be concerned about Radar installations, TV transmitters and cordless phones. Actually we are.

Unfortunately for him and us there is a vast body of occupational studies, some as long term as 20 years, from the ex-USSR and Russia, proving beyond doubt, the existence of microwave sickness as a result of exposure to Radar. The pathology of microwave sickness is in fact the same as the symptoms experienced by a small but significant number of individuals following exposure to DECT phones, Wi-Fi and mobile phones and their transmitters. 878 of these studies have been reviewed in 1996 by Prof Em. Dr Med Karl Hecht, on behalf of the German Federal Office for Telecommunication (German equivalent of OFCOM). We won’t hold our breath for Mr Hawkes to review this evidence or that of Professor Olle Johannsson (Karolinska Institute of Sweden) who found significant statistical correlations between morbidity rate of cancer in various countries to the introduction of new band of radio and TV transmission in every case.

5) Shouldn’t we be worried about Wi-Fi? Well actually campaigners are.

Wi-Fi access points have very high emissions. They are usually in the room where people work at their computers, whereas mobile phone transmitters, which do have a stronger output, will be further away. Obvious stuff but not to Mr Hawkes.

6) What about another industry-funded inquiry which Hawkes mockingly proposes?

Protestors welcome inquiries but not of the usual kind. Industry currently funds much research and just as the tobacco industry used to do for decades, tends on the whole (with notable but quickly suppressed exceptions) not to find any negative outcomes for its products. That’s its point. Is anybody surprised that truly independent research on these topics is rare and struggles for funding? Negative impacts research doesn’t also benefit from the kind of funds supporting lobbying and PR-campaigns from the industry and which appear to have worked their magic on Nigel Hawkes. But the research is out there (loads more than I’ve mentioned here, see also under http://www.hese-project.org/hese-uk/en/heseuk/science.php ) and should be properly reported.

Times readers deserve better than this.


Andrea Klein



Letters to the Editor

The Times

November 22, 2006

Wireless networks may not be worth the headache

Sir, The attitude of your health editor on wireless networking in schools
("Health fears lead schools to dismantle wireless networks", Nov 20) beggars belief.

Wi-fi makes some people feel very ill indeed. I am one of them. I felt ill the day we installed wi-fi in our house and better the moment we went back to cable. I feel dizzy, confused and sick the moment I walk into offices, hotels and shops with wi-fi.

We should not be flooding Milton Keynes, Norwich and areas of London with this cloud of poison under the auspices of allowing everybody access to the internet. And we should not be bowing to the telecoms industry when we have absolutely no certainty on the long-term health effects.

KATE FIGES
London N16

[ Wireless technology made me sick
http://omega.twoday.net/stories/2975957/ ]



Sir, I would echo the opinion of Nigel Hawkes: the basis of any health issues arising from wi-fi signals is extremely dubious.

Much more apparent, however, are the benefits wireless networks can bring to educational institutions at every level. Wireless networks are significantly cheaper to implement than cabled ones in most environments, and allow a degree of mobility and flexibility that support new applications, from laptops in laboratories, gym environments and even outdoors, where cabling is unsuitable.

One sixth-form college in the North of England uses wireless connectivity to maximise the provision of study space, taking it beyond the traditional classroom setting. Staff and students there have the freedom to work from anywhere on campus.

Schools may choose to take a ³precautionary² approach, but must weigh the unsubstantiated risks of wi-fi radiation against the very real benefits of wireless education.

DAVID CRITCHLEY, Director, Public Sector, Cisco Systems UK



Sir, All wi-fi networks in schools should be immediately replaced by wired systems.

Many people are becoming electrosensitive as a result of constant exposure to the high-frequency electromagnetic fields created by mobile phone transmitters, DECT, BlueTooth, WLAN and wi-fi.

When subjected to these I develop symptoms, including severe headaches, pain in both breasts, tingling and itching skin and twitching of the eyelid. These symptoms go away when I am no longer exposed to these fields and so I now spend as little time as possible in ³wi-fi enabled² towns and cannot attend evening courses at the local college or university.

What is the constant exposure to wi-fi at school doing to the health and behaviour of children and teenagers? The Government wants universal mobile telecommunications systems coverage of the country and wi-fi access to homes while virtually anyone can install a system in their home that will also penetrate into the home of their neighbours.

M. WHITE,
Preston, Lancs



Sir, It is quite ironic that urgent action is being taken to limit the targeting of our children by commercial enterprises such as the junk food industry, while we happily negate any benefit from these measures with another risk, potentially much more harmful.

Our young people are, in many cases, being exposed to high levels of electromagnetic radiation 24/7. Independent scientific studies have shown that such exposure, as well as posing a health risk, can have a detrimental impact on the mood, behaviour and mental state. Alasdair Phillips, director of Powerwatch, has written a comprehensive letter advising schools to use wired networking, and the director of public health for Salzburg, Dr Gerd Oberfeld, has written an open letter of warning on the subject.

CLLR SYLVIA WRIGHT
Essington, Staffs

--------

Mobile phones tumour risk to young children
http://omega.twoday.net/stories/469215/

--------

MP calls for ban on wiFi in schools

http://tinyurl.com/y3r6t6

Western Mail

21st November 2006

WIRELESS computer networks should be banned from the nation's classrooms because of fears about their effects on health, it was claimed last night.

Adam Price MP said Wales should follow the lead of Canada, where schools no longer used microwave signals to link computer terminals and laptops.

He has backed one school in his Carmarthenshire constituency which has removed the technology. Parents with children at Ysgol Pantycelyn, Llandovery, warn there is not enough awareness about the possible dangers.

Although exact numbers are unclear, increasing numbers of schools have been installing transmitters in classrooms, which allow pupils to have wireless access to the faculty's computer network, email and the internet.

But there are concerns the microwave radiation coming from the transmitters, as with mobile phone masts, could be harmful, especially to younger children.

Some symptoms reported include loss of concentration, headaches, fatigue, memory and behavioural problems and there are even worries over cancer in the longer term.

Some experts believe children are more vulnerable to the radiation because of their thinner skulls and the fact their brains and nervous systems are still developing.

Mr Price said, "The science isn't clear, but it comes down to the precautionary principle, especially with children, because they're still in development.

"The long-term effect is not known because it's still fairly new, which is why the technology has been banned in schools in Canada."

He said he would back a similar ban in Wales, adding, "I don't think it's just a media-driven health fear or panic. There's a basis to have a look at more studies."

The technology in Ysgol Pantycelyn was quickly switched off after pressure from parents made it clear there was a great deal of unease over the possible health effects of the wi-fi terminals.

Hywel Pugh, headmaster of the school, said, "The whole school was hard-wired anyway, but one or two areas were causing us a bit of concern, so we put in the wi-fi connections over a trial period.

"But it raised concerns among parents. Some were worried it could have an effect on younger children. We listened to the concerns and then decided to find other ways to get around the problem.

"Wi-fi wasn't essential, so we decided to switch it off as a precautionary measure.

"We'd have a review of that policy if we ever had a situation where wi-fi became essential, but would not go ahead without consulting parents."

The school had already banned mobile phones from being used by children, although Mr Pugh said that measure was for reasons of discipline, rather than health.

Judith Davies, who has a 15-year-old daughter going to the school, said, "There's a lot of parents who don't know about the risks involved with this technology.

"There have been outcries over mobile phone masts even near schools, but this technology gives out the same kind of radiation, and it's inside the school. It's at least as serious, if not more serious.

"You can switch off wi-fi at home if it's making you feel unwell, but it's more of a problem in a school. There's no reason for it to be in schools where there is already cable."

A recent report by Professor Sir William Stewart, who chairs the Health Protection Agency, said evidence of potentially harmful effects of microwave radiation had become more persuasive over the past five years. It advised a precautionary approach, although conceded there was a lack of hard evidence of health damage.

Carmarthenshire County Council said it was up to individual schools' governing bodies to decide whether to use wi-fi.



The Times
November 25th 2006
News in Brief

MP calls for inquiry into risks of wi-fi

A Labour MP and distinguished cancer specialist called for a government inquiry into the potential health risks of wireless computer networks after The Times revealed that some schools were dismantling their equipment amid fears that it could be dangerous (Joanna Bale writes).

Ian Gibson, a former chairman of the Commons Science and Technology Committee, said: ³We need a departmental inquiry into this situation. The Department of Health should be looking into it seriously. What we really need is another inquiry like the Stewart report into mobile phone masts.²

Dr Gibson is an honorary Professor and former Dean of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2470828,00.html

--------

Fear compels schools to shut down WiFi

Schools across the country have begun removing their wireless computer networks amid fears the new technology could pose a health risk to children.

Parents and teachers claim low levels of microwave radiation emitted from the transmitters may be damaging pupils, potentially even causing cancer in the long term.

Scientific evidence is inconclusive but some researchers say children face a greater health risk because of their thinner skulls and developing nervous system.

According to The Times, which spoke to a handful of schools replacing wireless systems with their cabled predecessors, parents and head-teachers are opting for a precautionary approach.

One concerned mother reportedly said: “Many people campaign against mobile phone masts near schools but there is a great deal of ignorance about wireless computer networks.

“Yet they are like having a phone mast in the classroom and the transmitters are placed very close to the children.”

One school dismantling its wireless network said local authorities told them the technology was safe to use, but it insisted the long-term effects were still unknown.

“We listened to the parents’ views and they were obviously very concerned,” said Tim Cannell, headteacher at Prebendal School, in Chichester, West Sussex.

“We had been having problems with the reliability of it anyway, so we decided to exchange it for a conventional cabled system.”

Responding to the paper’s investigation, Michael Bevington, a former classics teacher, said he was in no doubt as to the impact of the transmitters.

“I felt a steadily widening range of unpleasant effects whenever I was in the classroom.

“First came a thick headache, then pains throughout the body, sudden flush, pressure behind the eyes, sudden skin pains and burning sensations, along with bouts of nausea.”

The Health Protection Agency says evidence of the health risk posed by wireless technology has become more persuasive in the past five years.

Their enquiry found that in light of the absence of any evidence showing the technology damages health, a precautionary approach should be taken.

Nov 21, 2006

All content © Contractor UK Limited

http://www.contractoruk.com/news/002961.html

--------

Schools panic over WiFi

Crumbs >> RichardThurston's Blog at ZDNet UK Community

For those interested, here is my response (when it gets published!):


Hi Richard,

It is interesting that you claim that these parents are uninformed when you don't actually know how informed or otherwise they are. There is plenty of evidence to support that there may well be risks from mobile phones and from phone masts. I agree that there is almost no research (in fact, I have yet to find any published papers at all) on Wireless networks and health, however they are very similar to base stations in a number of ways (signal type, signal frequency, pulsing nature of signal etc..). FM radio waves used for TV and Radio are very different in a number of potentially important ways, and cramming the technologies all into the same box is both scientifically poor form and slightly ignorant.

I'm not trying to jump on the "alternative, scare-mongering" bandwagon here, as no doubt you are probably thinking. I am keeping my personal opinions close to myself at this stage, but to be honest the tone of your article irritates me just as much as the uninformed public crying risk at things they do not understand - It is equally uninformed, equally unbalanced and equally without merit as an argument. I accept that you have a responsibility to explore the relative merits of technology, but that does not mean that you, because of lack of research on your part, should be ridiculing a whole (albeit small) subset of population that believes there to be a risk, especially as there have not been any papers to date to confirm or undermine their fears in wireless networks.

The truth of the matter is the jury is still out on these technologies - no-one knows whether they are harmful or not. From a mechanism point of view there is almost nothing suggesting how harm could be happening based on these microwave transmissions. From an epidemiological point of view there is steadily growing evidence that both phones and masts are a risk, and this is steadily being backed up by some fairly strong lab work (albeit at higher power than typical base station exposure -- not higher than normal mobile phone exposure however). In a classroom of wireless enabled laptops accessing a wireless network, the signal strength in the data pulses is in the order of several volts per metre and usually higher than living close to a cellular phone basestation.

I suspect harm will not be admitted until the mechanism of action is known, but just because it isn't known doesn't necessary mean that the effect is not real, especially when it appears to be being replicated.

Perhaps the aim here shouldn't be to "change people's minds" so much as what to see what the truth is first?

Best Regards, - Graham Philips

PS Here is a list of some recent research papers that support my points if you are interested in some further reading, with the PubMed IDs so you can quickly find them on there ...

17045516 - Panagopoulos DJ et al - Mutation Research - October 2006 Fruit flies exposed to GSM 900 MHz and DCS 1800 MHz from common digital phones had a large decrease in oviposition due to degeneration of large large numbers of egg chambers after DNA fragmentation of their consitituent cells. This is a mechanism where the radiation appears to be causing cause actual DNA damage.

16962663 - Abdel-Rassoul G et al - Neurotoxicology - August 2006 Found headaches, memory changes, dizziness and tremors to be significantly higher among people living near base stations than controls, and gave significantly lower performance in one of their attention / memory tests. Both results were statistically significant.

16878295 - Nylund R and Leszczynski D - Proteomics - September 2006 Again, a lab experiment that found gene and protein expression changes from exposure to mobile phone radiation, but with different lines reacting differently, suggesting that cell response may be dependent on genome and proteome content - this could go some way to explaining why different people react differently.

17034627 - Hardell L et al - World Journal of Surgical Oncology - October
2006 Statistically significant increased risk was found for all brain tumours from mobile phone usage, mainly acoustic neuroma and malignant brain tumours. Odds Ratio increased with latency period, especially for astrocytoma grade III-IV.

16954120 - Yurekli AI et al - Electromagnetic biology and medicine - 2006 Highly significant (p < 0.0001) increases in oxidative stress was found in labatory rats from exposure to simulated base station radiation at levels far below guideline levels (converted SAR value 0.011 W/kg - far below most phones).


- Graham Philips
Powerwatch UK



It appears the author of the previous ZDNet article has changed his tone and quite possibly his viewpoint on the issue.

Followup blog entry: http://community.zdnet.co.uk/blog/0,1000000567,10004578o-2000331766b,00.htm
http://community.zdnet.co.uk/blog/0,1000000567,10004574o-2000331766b,00.htm#comment20082978

For those that didn't read the original (and all the subsequent discussion): http://community.zdnet.co.uk/blog/0,1000000567,10004574o-2000331766b,00.htm

Best Regards,

- Graham Philips
Powerwatch UK

--------

Health Fears Lead British Schools to Dismantle Wi-Fi Networks
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,231145,00.html

See all stories on this topic:
http://tinyurl.com/32m9s4

--------

Some British schools dismantle Wi-Fi over health fears
http://www.arnnet.com.au/pp.php?id=1825755070&fp=4&fpid=56736


Informant: Mark G.

--------

EMF-EMR-related toxicity
http://freepage.twoday.net/stories/2981671/

--------

Health risks of Wi-Fi and WLAN on our health
http://omega.twoday.net/stories/1122031/

EMF/EMR from Wireless Networks can lower Melatonin
http://omega.twoday.net/stories/3482006/

Wi-Fi fears for school children
http://freepage.twoday.net/stories/2978779/

WLAN, DECT in Schools and Kindergardens
http://omega.twoday.net/stories/1579030/

WLAN Sickness: Rubbish or Reasonable?
http://omega.twoday.net/stories/1692101/

Swedes hit hard by WiMAX waves
http://omega.twoday.net/stories/2163464/

WiMAX could fry your brain
http://omega.twoday.net/stories/2974443/

School sued for installing a wireless computer network
http://omega.twoday.net/stories/1121957/

LIBRARY DIRECTOR RESIGNS BECAUSE OF WIFI
http://freepage.twoday.net/stories/3194530/

Teachers want wi-fi risk research
UK teachers union calls for Wi-Fi research
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6583213.stm



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