Safe School
Committee
 
                                                                                                                                                 Friday, August 19, 2011
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Teachers' union to look at Wi-Fi concerns

By Kristy Kirkup, Parliamentary Bureau

OTTAWA - The union representing Ontario teachers is set to review wireless Internet in schools after educators raised health concerns and voted on the issue.

Tara Strickland, a kindergarten teacher in St. Catharines, Ont., brought forward a motion calling on the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario to review Wi-Fi in the classroom. Other union members voted on the motion at a recent annual general meeting and now an ETFO executive will spend the year looking at Wi-Fi in schools.

"You can choose to have it in your home if you want it in your home, or you can choose not to have it in your home if you're worried about it," said Strickland. "You can't choose when it's in the school. It's something that you can't really consent to."

Some Canadian parents and educators believe wireless Internet is making their kids sick and have been calling for it to be removed from schools for more than a year.

Researchers say toxicology studies show children are more affected by radiation than adults but studies have not been done on the short or long-term impacts of Wi-Fi on kids.

"I just feel that we should be taking precautions when it comes to our health and children's health," said Strickland.

Dozens of students and teachers from a number of school boards complain about dizziness, headaches, nausea and even heart issues that occur at school. They believe wireless Internet could be responsible for the symptoms.

Wi-Fi signals in schools are much stronger than what someone would experience at home, but Canada's federal health agency says Wi-Fi is safe.

"We don't know the long-term effects of Wi-Fi," said Health Canada's chief of radiation safety Beth Pieterson. "From all evidence we have today, there is no evidence based on international experts telling us that there is a cause for concern from exposure to Wi-Fi."

The WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer reclassified radio frequency emitted by "wireless devices" as a possible carcinogenic to humans in May. The study was based on a cell phone use but the IARC committee chair confirms the research can be applied to wireless Internet.

"The classification covers radio frequency electromagnetic radiation, which would include wireless," Dr. Johnathan Samet said in an e-mail.

Health Canada says the classification doesn't include wireless.

"The studies that made the conclusion to go to the 2B possible classification were all with heavy cell phone users that use cell phones against their head and the strength of radio frequency in that situation is many, many times higher than anybody is exposed to from Wi-Fi or any of the other wireless technologies," said Pieterson. "You cannot make that direct link at all. Certainly in IARC's announcements, they didn't make that link at all either."
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