Protect Santa Fe’s Public Libraries from Wireless Technology

By Rebekah Azen

As wireless technology spreads rapidly across the globe, there are many who are concerned about the risks that have been demonstrated to go along with it — for the allure of “freedom” and “convenience” that wireless promises comes loaded with the cost of an invisible yet dangerous health hazard: electromagnetic radiation.

Just 10 years ago we were relatively free of electromagnetic pollution compared to today. On average, we are being exposed to electromagnetic radiation (EMR) pollution 3,000 times what we were in 1996 due to the rapid spread of wireless technology. Cell phones and wireless Internet are the primary culprits of this invasion. Our bodies and our environment are not designed to deal with this man-made electromagnetic assault that is proliferating out of control.

Along with the ever-growing number of cell towers mushrooming out of control are Wi-Fi “hotspots,” focal points of microwave radiation for Internet connectivity, irradiating every living organism within their reach. Wi-Fi is the “new kid on the block,” and it seems that just about every organization and business wants it, thinking it will enhance their reputation and service. The Santa Fe Public Library Board, which sets policy for the library, is now “exploring” a plan to go wireless in order to allow laptop users access to the Internet and possible network services. Everyone ought to be particularly alarmed about this prospect because it (1) presents a phenomenal health hazard, (2) would bar access to those who are electromagnetically sensitive, (3) would undermine the services and functions of the public library by redirecting resources for wireless service, and (4) would threaten the historical and priceless role of the public library and transform it into an Internet café.

A wireless system is dangerous in itself, as it is always emitting microwave radiation 24/7 whether you have a laptop running or not. If you put five or 10 or 20 or 30 or more laptops into a wireless-capable area, the microwave radiation that everyone in that vicinity is exposed to is exponentially increased. In libraries that have already made this change, they are finding that people with laptops are flooding in. This is creating a very high level of microwave radiation exposure, and to say that libraries will become “cesspools of microwave radiation” is not an exaggeration.

I, for one, along with the growing population of electromagnetically sensitive people, will not be using the library under these circumstances. It is simply unacceptable that a library, which is an invaluable public resource for information and knowledge, would be polluted in this way, effectively barring access to many, many people who either don’t want their health endangered or simply can’t risk exposure for fear of serious health consequences. Research indicates that electromagnetic waves and radio frequencies trigger stress responses in cells. These stress responses may create minor biological disturbances such as headache, insomnia, nausea or tinnitus, or lead to serious health consequences such as increased blood sugar, nervous system dysfunction, DNA damage, cancerous tumors, chronic fatigue, respiratory arrest, seizure, heart attack, stroke, etc.

Children are particularly vulnerable to electromagnetic radiation and should not be exposed to cell phones and wireless Internet. Have library administrators forgotten that library services to children are a significant part of public library service? And what about public library staff being exposed continuously? Don’t they have the right to be protected from harmful radiation, and shouldn’t the city of Santa Fe have a policy protecting public employees from excessive EMR pollution?

People who are electromagnetically sensitive are disabled in a way that can hardly be conceived of by most people. The public library is one of the few places that is still accessible for these people, as workplaces, businesses, government buildings, cafés, schools, cities, counties and states are all gearing up to go wireless. In Sweden, electromagnetic sensitivity, better known as electro-hypersensitivity, is recognized as a full-on disability, and though it is not recognized as such in the United States yet, there are state, federal and local laws designed to protect disabled citizens, and they have rights just as anyone else in this society. The public library is a “public” resource, paid for by the public, and everyone has the right to access the library and its resources without health endangerment.

In libraries that are undergoing this wireless transition, they are finding that it is requiring an extraordinary amount of time, energy and money to deal with technical problems, answer patron questions about using the technology, create circulation services for laptops, and purchase laptops. All of these activities redirect what little resources libraries have toward services that are largely unnecessary and that slowly undermine the traditional role of libraries, effectively turning them into Internet cafés.

Do we really “need” wireless Internet? Don’t we already have computer access and Internet access in libraries, and isn’t the intent to provide more access to users simply self-defeating? Providing wireless doesn’t resolve the demand for computer and Internet service in libraries, it only propels it further along. This is the experience of libraries that have gone wireless.

And what about those who don’t have laptops? Is the library going to expend a fortune on laptops (when it could have gone to book purchases and other library services) so that the “disadvantaged” have equal access? Or are we going to relegate “those” people to the public terminals, where they must wait in line while their wealthier brethren can saunter in, demurely pull out their laptops and connect without a fuss? Isn’t this simply catering to those who already “have”? The effort to provide computers in libraries was originally meant to diminish the digital divide and create equity between the “haves” and “have nots.” Librarians need to remember their original intentions in this regard, and they need to remember the role and function of a public library: information, equity and access.

Wireless Internet does not mesh with or enhance the mission of the public library. It only creates serious health hazards, erodes the quality of library service, and threatens the foundation upon which public libraries have stood for over 100 years in this country. Fifty years of research and thousands of articles from medical journals and other reputable scientific sources from around the world on the health hazards of electromagnetic pollution should be enough, alone, to dissuade library administration that this is an issue not to be ignored. The public library should be the bastion of education, public knowledge and information that is its mission. Mindless obsequiousness and capitulation to wireless technology (or, for that matter, any technology that is passively and uncritically accepted) is not within the purview of the public library mission. Efforts to improve library services are sought after and appreciated, but it needs to be understood that wireless Internet is not a step forward.

The time to stop this invasion is now. Please contact the Santa Fe Public Library Board president, Michele Huff, at 982-6484 or e-mail her at You can also contact the new mayor and city councilors. Let them know that you’re opposed to a wireless invasion of the Santa Fe Public Library system and exhort them to keep our libraries intact, safe and accessible for all. For more information on the hazards of EMR proliferation, visit Wireless Action Network of New Mexico at

Informant: James River Martin


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