Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wi-Fi Health Hazards, but Only If You Are British

Americans, you don't count. So stop bleating and eat your hay.


Wi-Fi: Children at risk from 'electronic smog'
::: Revealed - radiation threat from new wireless computer networks
::: Teachers demand inquiry to protect a generation of pupils
By Geoffrey Lean, environment editor
Published: 22 April 2007

Britain's top health protection watchdog is pressing for a formal
investigation into the hazards of using wireless communication
networks in schools amid mounting concern that they may be damaging
children's health, 'The Independent on Sunday' can reveal.

Sir William Stewart, the chairman of the Health Protection Agency,
wants pupils to be monitored for ill effects from the networks -
known as Wi-Fi - which emit radiation and are being installed in
classrooms across the nation.

Sir William - who is a former chief scientific adviser to the
Government, and has chaired two official inquiries into the hazards
of mobile phones - is adding his weight to growing pressure for a
similar examination of Wi-Fi, which some scientists fear could cause
cancer and premature senility.

Wi-Fi - described by the Department of Education and Skills as a
"magical" system that means computers do not have to be connected to
telephone lines - is rapidly being taken up in schools, with
estimates that more than half of primary schools - and four-fifths of
secondary schools - have installed it .

But several European provincial governments have already taken action
to ban, or limit, its use in the classroom, and Stowe School has
partially removed it after a teacher became ill.

This week the Professional Association of Teachers, which represents
35,000 staff across the country, will write to Alan Johnson,
Secretary of State for Education, to demand an official inquiry.
Virtually no studies have been carried out into Wi-Fi's effects on
pupils, but it gives off radiation similar to emissions from mobile
phones and phone masts.

Recent research has linked radiation from mobiles to cancer and to
brain damage. And many studies have found disturbing symptoms in
people near masts.

Professor Olle Johansson, of Sweden's prestigious Karolinska
Institute, who is deeply concerned about the spread of Wi-Fi, says
there are "thousands" of articles in scientific literature
demonstrating "adverse health effects". He adds: "Do we not know
enough already to say, 'Stop!'?"
For the past 16 months, the provincial government of Salzburg in
Austria has been advising schools not to install Wi-Fi, and is
considering a ban. Dr Gerd Oberfeld, its head of environmental health
and medicine, calls the technology "dangerous".

Sir William - who takes a stronger position on the issue than his
agency - was not available for comment yesterday, but two members of
an expert group that he chairs on the hazards of radiation spoke of
his concern.

Mike Bell, chairman of the Electromagnetic Radiation Research Trust,
says that he has been "very supportive of having Wi-Fi examined and
doing something about it". And Alasdair Philips, director of
Powerwatch, an information service, said that he was pressing for
monitoring of the health of pupils exposed to Wi-Fi.

Labour MP Ian Gibson, who was interviewed with Sir William for a
forthcoming television programme, last week said that he backed
proposals for an inquiry.

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