Wi-Fi fears for school children


24 November 2006 09:41

Council bosses who pioneered Norwich as a Wi-Fi hotspot have today allayed fears that the wireless computer networks could damage people's health.

Campaigners have for years called for no more mobile phone masts to be built near schools or homes because it has not been proved they are not harmful to health.

And now concern has been raised as to whether the low levels of radiation emitted by transmitters used in the wireless technology could be harmful to health.

Norwich North MP Ian Gibson has called for more research to be conducted into potential dangers after parent power forced some schools elsewhere in the country to ditch the wireless networks.

He said: “We 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 William Stewart report into mobile phone masts.”

The health scare comes at a time when the city is leading the way with the technology. In August the £1.1m Norfolk Open Link project was launched in the city.

The two-year pilot project, managed by Norfolk County Council and funded by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), means people can get free broadband internet access.

It covers most of the city centre as well as key sites such as UEA, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and Norwich Science Park.

More than 200 small aerials have been fixed to lampposts to create the network, with the main internet connection on top of County Hall.

Kurt Frary, Norfolk Open Link project manager at Norfolk County Council, said: “The technology used for Norfolk Openlink is similar to that used in some modern mobile phones and laptops and it has been well received by people in Norwich. All aerials are sited high on lampposts and buildings so that they are at least 30cm from the user.”

But in other parts of the country parent power has sparked schools to ditch their wireless networks.

Wi-Fi, your questions answered:

Wi-Fi stands for Wireless Fidelity and enables data to be transmitted over a wireless network.

This means people can get a rapid connection to the internet without the need for cables.

It works using antennae to create Wi-Fi hotspots. These hotspots receive radiowaves which are then encoded and sent to Wi-Fi compatible equipment such as computers and mobile telephones.

Norfolk Open Link is the first large-scale community wireless network of this type in the UK to use lamp posts to host over 200 access points.

The network features more than 200 small Telabria APM 300 aerials, fixed to existing street furniture and buildings, mostly lampposts so that no masts have been needed.

Each aerial has a 250m to 300m reception radius.

The aerials feed signals back to “backhaul” sites which then link back to County Hall up to the project's 40mb internet link.

The output power of wireless networks like Norfolk Open Link is very low (0.1 watts) and, as the equipment is not held against the user's head, there is very little exposure to radio wave energy.

Do you know of a school which has banned Wi-Fi? Or are you a parent campaigning to get it banned at the school your children go to? If so telephone Evening News reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer @archant.co.uk.

Copyright © 2006 Archant Regional. All rights reserved.



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Will a WiFi network harm your children?


Monday November 20

CAMPAIGNERS have called for parents to remove wireless computer networks from their homes amid fears for children's health.

It comes as some schools have dismantled their wireless systems - known as WiFi - and gone back to using cables in case radiation emitted by transmitters harms pupils.

Scientific evidence is inconclusive, but some researchers believe low-level radiation causes loss of concentration, headaches, fatigue, behavioural problems and possibly cancer.

They say children could be more at risk because of their thinner skulls and developing nervous systems.

Karen Barratt, from campaign group Mast Sanity, said: "There is no good reason to have something like that in your house apart from the fact it is a lot tidier not to have cables. But it is worth having a bit of mess to protect children's health."

Some schools use transmitters in classrooms to give pupils access from laptops to the school computer network and the internet.

Last month, a group of parents at the Prebendal School in Chichester, West Sussex, successfully lobbied the headteacher to remove wireless networks.

At Ysgol Pantycelyn, a comprehensive in Carmarthenshire, governors also agreed with parents' requests to switch off its wireless network.

Parent Judith Davies 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."

Professor Sir William Stewart, chairman of independent body the Health Protection Agency, said that while there is no hard information, evidence that microwave radiation can have harmful effects has become "more persuasive" recently.


Schools abandon wireless revolution


Daily Mail
Monday November 20, 2006

A GROWING number of schools are removing wireless Internet connections amid health fears.

Wireless hubs have been installed by many schools to allow staff and pupils online access from any part of the building using laptops.

But many researchers believe the radiation from the transmitters can cause loss of concentration and memory, headaches and even cancer, with children more susceptible because of their thinner skulls.

After intense lobbying from worried parents, Tim Cannell, headteacher of Prebandal School, in Chichester, West Sussex, agreed to remove the network from his school's grounds.

'We listened to the parents' views and they were obviously very concerned,' Mr Cannell told the Times. 'The authorities say it's safe, but there have been no long-term studies to prove this.' Headteacher Hywel Pugh removed the wireless network at Ysgol Pantycelyn, a comprehensive in Carmarthenshire, following complaints by teachers and parents, while part of the wireless system was switched off at Stowe School in Buckinghamshire after a teacher fell ill.

A spokesman for the Department of Education and Skills said: 'It is up to individual schools to decide on this.'




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