Wireless Computer Networks (Wi-fi)
Statements, press briefings and further information links on wireless computer networks (wi-fi) and electro-sensitivity.
Briefing to Press Association on wi-fi, 22 April 2007
Philip Parkin, General Secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers (Voice), said:
"I have concerns about the health of both pupils and staff.
"I am concerned that so many wireless networks are being installed in schools and colleges without any understanding of the possible long-term consequences.
"The proliferation of wireless networks could be having serious implications for the health of some staff and pupils without the cause being recognised."
"I am not saying there is a danger, but I have enough concern to ask for it to be investigated.
"There are huge commercial pressures which may be why there has not yet been any significant action.
Briefing given to TES for article on 15/12/06 on wireless computer networks and electro-sensitivity
Voice General Secretary Philip Parkin said:
" In the light of what has happened to one of our members [who has developed sensitivity to electro-magnetic radiation], I am concerned that so many wireless networks are being installed in school and colleges without any real understanding of the possible long-term consequences.
"There are some serious questions that need to be answered. If the possible effects on some staff and pupils are not understood, then what impact could this have on teaching and learning? Are any effects greater on younger, growing children? Might exposure at a young age increase electro-sensitivity?
"Are the illnesses experienced by some staff - chronic fatigue, migraine, stress-related illnesses - made worse by such networks or other electrical equipment without people realising?
"The proliferation of wireless networks could be having serious implications for the health of some staff and pupils with the cause going unrecognised.
"Clearly some people may be more electro-sensitive than others but that doesn’t mean nothing should be done. This is new technology and we don’t know the long-term impact. I’m not saying this technology - which has many educational benefits - should be banned, but more research and proper safeguards are needed.
"Electro-sensitivity is recognised as a serious condition in Sweden but not in this country or the rest of Europe. It may be a bigger problem than is officially recognised here."
(for further information / if you have been affected):
Communications Officer, Richard Fraser (Voice Press Office)
General Secretary, Philip Parkin
Tel: 01332 372 337
23 April 2007
Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP
Secretary of State for Education and Skills
Great Smith Street
Dear Mr Johnson
WiFi Technology in Schools
The Professional Association of Teachers has become increasingly concerned about the health and safety implications of the installation of wireless networks in schools (and in the wider community).
The issue was first brought to our attention last year when one of our members suffered significant health problems after the installation of a wireless network in his classroom. His symptoms were reduced when the school removed the network from his room. He remains sensitised to electromagnetic radiation and is affected by sources in the wider community. Clearly this can be quite debilitating given the presence of wireless networks and hot spots in homes, towns and cities.
Subsequent to this we have received further contacts from those concerned about this issue and also copies of research evidence which suggests that there may be a serious problem here potentially affecting 5-10% of the population to a greater or lesser extent. Symptoms caused by exposure to electromagnetic radiation include headaches, nausea, lack of concentration, memory loss and behaviour changes in children.
The issue has received a higher profile in some of our continental neighbours with work in countries such as Sweden, Finland, Germany and Austria. Some scientific studies appear to show that the radiation can affect body tissue and kill brain cells. Concern has been expressed about the possible long-term effects on young people who may be exposed to this from an early age. There is informed speculation about the consequences this may have on them in middle age and beyond.
BECTA’s publication Wireless networking in schools (2002) stated that :’Given our current knowledge it is reasonable to assume that WLAN technology offers no appreciable risk to children or others in schools.’ PAT believes that it is no longer reasonable to make such an assumption. Evidence suggests that there is a need to investigate this now. I am interested to note that Sir William Stewart, the Chair of the Health Protection Agency, is indicating that he now favours an inquiry into this matter.
It is estimated that 80% of secondary schools and 50% of primary schools may already have wireless networks installed. There are 35,000 hotspots in the country and some cities, such as Norwich, are turning whole city centres into wireless areas. We are living in an ‘electronic smog’, the potential effects of which have not been fully investigated.
The leading article in the Independent on Sunday (22.4.07) summed it up in this way: ‘The inconvenient truth is that we are conducting a massive experiment on ourselves and particularly our children.’
PAT would like to see the government commission a full scientific investigation/inquiry into the effects of wireless technology in schools. We also believe that there is an accumulating weight of evidence to suggest that schools should now be actively discouraged from installing any further such networks until the results of an inquiry are known.