Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wireless Controversy

There have been a few articles in the paper recently about parents in Simcoe County trying to stop wireless networks from being available in schools due to health concerns. There are a few schools that don't offer Wi-Fi for these reasons, yet the article suggests there isn't any evidence it's a real concern. My issue is that there really isn't any evidence that there ISN'T a connection between long term exposure and cancer.  We really have to get on board with the precautionary principle and make sure things are safe before we use them instead of using them until they're proven harmful.

I suggest, again, that interested readers peruse this GQ article on the topic. From the GQ article:

Wi-Fi operates typically at a frequency of 2.4 gigahertz (the same frequency as microwave ovens) but is embedded with a wider range of modulations than cell phones, because we need it to carry more data. "It never ceases to surprise me that people will fight a cell tower going up in their neighborhoods," Blake Levitt, author of Electromagnetic Fields: A Consumer's Guide to the Issues and How to Protect Ourselves, told me. "They they'll install a Wi-Fi system in their homes. That's like inviting a cell tower indoors."

In the summer of 2006, a super-Wi-Fi system known as WiMAX was tested in rural Sweden. Bombarded with signals, the residents of the village of Götene—who had no knowledge that the transmitter had come online—were overcome by headaches, difficulty breathing, and blurred vision, according to a Swedish news report. Two residents reported to the hospital with heart arrhythmias, similar to those that, more than thirty years ago, Allen Frey induced in frog hearts. This happened only hours after the system was turned on, and as soon as it was powered down, the symptoms disappeared.

The concern about Wi-Fi is being taken seriously in Europe. In April 2008, the national library of France, citing possible "genotoxic effects," announced it would shut down its Wi-Fi system, and the staff of the storied Library of Sainte-Geneviève in Paris followed up with a petition demanding the disconnection of Wi-Fi antennas and their replacement by wired connections. Several European governments are already moving to prohibit Wi-Fi in government buildings and on campuses, and the Austrian Medical Association is lobbying for a ban of all Wi-Fi systems in schools, citing the danger to children's thinner skulls and developing nervous systems.


Our school is introducing Wi-Fi in some areas of the school this fall, along with student e-mails and access to facebook.  I'd like to be able to show YouTube clips in class, but they're still firewalled.  But I'm not convinced adding more technology to teaching necessarily makes for a better learning environment - or a healthy one.

No comments: