Safe School
Committee
 

                                                                                                                         March 8, 2011 
______________________________________________________________________________________________________

MRSS student struggles with Wi-Fi

A community forum this week will deal with health effects of wireless technology.

By Maria Rantanen

               
The MacDonald family had to get rid of a transformer in their house to help Amy, 15, who has electro-hypersensitivity.

Photograph by: Maria Rantanen, TIMES

A year ago, Amy MacDonald had problems getting out of bed. At 14, her legs were weak, she was fatigued, she had daily migraines, insomnia and it was getting increasingly difficult to focus at school.

Both her schoolwork and her quality of life were suffering.

The dancer, who is now 15, is doing a lot better – but that’s after it was discovered there was an electrical transformer directly under her bed.

Amy was diagnosed by naturopathic doctor with electrohypersensitivity, a condition recognized in Europe but not in Canada, that is thought to be caused by wireless routers that emit radio-frequency radiation.

It’s not just EHS kids who are vulnerable, said Amy’s mother Val, it’s all students at school.

“It’s like we’re all guinea pigs in an experiment,” Val said.

But because children are still growing and developing and their cells are dividing, they are particularly vulnerable she added.

A community forum about wireless technology, hosted by Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Michael Sather, will be held on Wednesday evening.

A delegation, led by naturopathic doctor Samantha Boutet, presented their concerns to the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows board of education two weeks ago.

Boutet asked that the school district dedicate one school in the district that would be hardwired and wouldn’t have a wireless network and keep a registry of symptoms that children are experiencing at schools with Wi-Fi.

She also asked that parents are able to give “informed consent,” so that they understand the potential risks.

“We get used to technology,” Val said. “No one wants to get it taken away from them.”

The MacDonald family had renovations to their kitchen done two years ago which included putting in new light fixtures after which Amy started experiencing EHS symptoms.

Sometimes, she was so weak in the morning her knees would buckle when she got out of bed, her mother said.

Amy’s mother Val took her to their family doctor and a pediatrician, but neither one could identify what was wrong with her.

“I would always be really, really tired and I didn’t know why,” Amy said.

They then went to see Marc Boutet, a naturopathic doctor who diagnosed her with electrohypersensitivity.

The doctor sent the family home with a body voltage meter, which the family used to measure electricity running through Amy’s body in different parts of the house.

In her bedroom, the meter showed her numbers to be extremely high at +8.0 while a normal reading would be +0.1.

The MacDonalds hired a consultant to come and inspect their home, and he discovered the transformer right below her bed.

After the transformer was removed in the summer 2010, Amy started feeling better.

But when she went back to school in the fall, her symptoms started coming back.

That’s when they made the connection between the wireless router at school and Amy’s health.

Amy is taking three classes outside of school, both online and through home-schooling, which ends up being a lot more work than if she did them at school.

“I barely see my friends at school,” she said.

The family is considering sending her to Thomas Haney for some her schooling next year, but because of the open registration, she can remain registered at Maple Ridge Secondary as her main school so that in two years she can graduate with her friends.

Being away from school is not fun for Amy. She misses her friends and finds it awkward to explain her condition and why she has to be away so much.

Board chair Ken Clarkson said he doesn’t know much about the issue. Since the delegation presented to the board of education, the board hasn’t had time to meet and discuss the issue, he said.

“I think generally that issue is with Health Canada,” he said. “It’s not a school board issue.”

Health Canada states that there is “no convincing scientific evidence” that wireless networks with low levels of radio frequency radiation are dangerous.

While some people are concerned about the potential risks with wireless networks, Clarkson said he received a concern from someone at the other end of the spectrum worried their child would miss out on opportunities without technology in place.

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