Wi-Fi levels deemed safe after tests at GTA schools
Published Wednesday, June 4, 2014 3:26PM EDT Last Updated Wednesday, June 4, 2014 6:51PM EDT
It's there while we sip coffee, shop and even study. Wi-Fi has become a part of everyday life, and it's now a part of every school in the Peel region.
But is it safe? Wi-Fi was installed in all Peel district schools last fall, launching an ongoing debate about whether the radio waves are harmful to students.
Health Canada scientists consider all radio frequencies below 10 megahertz to be safe. Frequencies above 10 megahertz may have heating effects on the human body, but the biological effects at or above 10 megahertz have not been scientifically determined.
Politicians like Elizabeth May have warned the public about potential harms of Wi-Fi exposure, but experts insist that the radiation is very low.
Using a cellphone exposes people to higher levels of radiation than Wi-Fi does, and no adverse health effects have been established, according to Health Canada. The Canadian safety code is consistent with science based standards used in other parts of the world like the U.S., Europe and Japan.
Despite assurances from public health agencies, including Health Canada, that there was no evidence of the negative health effects of Wi-Fi, the Peel District School Board decided to test the Wi-Fi levels independently.
The PDSB hired G2S Environmental Consulting to measure the electromagnetic radiation levels at 25 schools. In total, 551 locations in the schools were measured. The tests found the maximum levels of radio waves are well below Health Canada's standards.
PDSB Director of Communication Brian Woodland said the results prove that having Wi-Fi in the schools is safe.
"The tests were done while the devices were in use and while class was in session, including all ambient Wi-Fi from cell towers and others homes, so that is great sense of security and safety for parents staff and community," Woodland said.
Regardless of studies, parents, researchers and groups are still sounding the alarm, saying that Wi-Fi in schools is putting kids at risk.
Frank Clegg, former president of Microsoft Canada, has devoted much of his time to raising awareness about the dangers of Wi-Fi exposure for children. He pointed to numerous studies that he said showed there are long-term health effects.
He said long-term exposure leads to thinner skulls in children, and "their eyes and brains and bone marrow absorb more of the radiation."
Clegg told CTV Toronto that he's not opposed to technology in schools but suggests the school board turn off the Wi-Fi when they are not using it or use Internet cables instead of wireless systems.
Trent University's Dr. Magda Havas has studied the effects of Wi-Fi and has been a long-time critic of wireless Internet in schools.
"We are going to have a tsunami of health effects, ranging from cancer to reproductive problems to heart ailments," she said.
But the Peel District School Board says it's relying on the medical community and sources like Health Canada, that advise low level of Wi-Fi in schools is not dangerous for children. The board said having technology in the class has been a huge success, and representatives are planning to expand the digital classroom in the years to come.