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American health organization suggests Wi-Fi be kept out of schools

TORONTO – Wireless technology is everywhere, and allows people to access internet services on their phone, tablet, laptop, or even desktop computer – but is it safe?

Leading health experts claim studies suggesting adverse health effects of wireless technology do not provide sufficient evidence to affect public policy.

However, the Kansas-based American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), released a statement on Wednesday saying schools should avoid using Wi-Fi, instead choosing wired alternatives.

“Adverse health effects from wireless radio frequency fields, such as learning disabilities, altered immune responses, and headaches, clearly exist and are well documented in the scientific literature,” the AAEM statement said. “Safer technology, such as use of hard-wiring, is strongly recommended in schools.”

The AAEM isn’t the first organization to advocate limitations on the use of Wi-Fi.

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In February, the Ontario English Catholic Teacher’s Association published a position paper suggesting that Wi-Fi not be used in schools until further research is completed, because the long-term effects of the technology are not known.

“It is estimated that at least 3 percent of the population has an environmental sensitivity to the radiation that is emitted by these devices and, as a result, experience serious immediate physical/biological effects when exposed,” according to the position paper.

Ontario’s Minister of Health Laurel Broten quickly dismissed the allegation from the teacher’s association in February, telling Global News that “there is no evidence” that suggests adverse health effects from wireless technology.

What do leading health organizations say about the use of Wi-Fi?

Well they say Wi-Fi is generally safe, but like most things it requires more study.

Wi-Fi does emit radiofrequency fields (RF), which according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – a subsection of the World Health Organization (WHO) – could be “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

Health Canada though, while accepting the IARC statement, claims that “the vast majority of scientific research to date does not support a link between RF energy exposure and human cancers.” 

The RF levels emitted by Wi-Fi technology is also below any worrying level of radiation, according to Health Canada.

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The Health Protection Agency (HPA), an agency similar to Health Canada situated in the United Kingdom, shares roughly the same position as Health Canada.

“There is no consistent evidence to date that exposure to radio signals from Wi-Fi and WLANs adversely affects the health of the general population,” said a statement from the HPA. “The HPA sees no reason why Wi-Fi should not continue to be used in schools and in other places.”

However, both organizations suggest further research needs to be done on the health effects of Wi-Fi.

So is the current negative research enough to limit Wi-Fi in schools?

Dr. Anthony Muc from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto suggests that while “science does not give absolutes,” the current evidence on Wi-Fi is not enough to justify public policy changes.

“At what point do you get to a level of confidence in the information that’s available that would justify in fact prohibiting Wi-Fi?” Dr. Muc said. “The bottom line consensus in the scientific community… there is not a sufficient level of evidence, or certainty, whatever, to justify that kind of action.”

The Academy of Environmental Medicine did not respond to requests for interviews.

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