To raise awareness of the risks of RF EMR in School
My daughter goes to this school and I was Chair of the Board there a few years ago when my older children were there.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>
Date: 26 January 2014 12:06:18 PM NZDT
Subject: Wifi, BYOD and management to protect staff, student and parent health and safety
I have been closely following international research and policy on managing possible health, safety and environmental concerns from cellphones, celltowers, cordless phones, wifi and other radio-frequency waves (including AM and FM transmitters, smart meters and baby monitors) since 2008 when Telecom proposed a new celltower immediately next to the Atawhai Playcentre sandpit and I was asked to assist our local community.
Since then I have been involved in many EMR related issues, and I am now widely acknowledged as a NZ expert in this field.
Over the last few years many RF EMR technologies have become increasingly affordable, and user friendly. As a result they have become increasingly adopted in a variety of educational facilities and other workplaces. There is presently an increasing trend for wifi and BYOD (bring your own devices) in our schools. Many of the potential learning benefits are obvious.
However this technology comes with some potentially serious health and safety and learning risks which need to be managed.
The report on the front page of last night's Nelson Mail (Saturday 25 January 2014) about the trend this year for Nelson Schools to encourage students to bring their own BYOD to use at school, and my experience with related issues around NZ have motivated me to share some of my expertise to ensure that you understand the health and safety concerns and can implement appropriate precautionary strategies to manage these.
Risks from EMR
Radio frequency electromagnetic radiation "RF EMR" can cause adverse health effects.
Biological effects on the function of cell membranes, DNA replication, stress and other hormone management, cancer, and adverse effects on the general well being and equilibrium of individuals
Allergic type effects known as electro-hypersensitivity or electrosensitivity.
There is also clear evidence from the recent research of NZ scientist Dr Mary Redmayne that RF EMR can interfere with natural hormones and cause headaches and tiredness and lack of concentration in the intermediate school aged children that she studied.
The NZStandard NZS2772:1 is dated and protects only against heating effects such as death, burns and electric shocks
The acute heating effects of RF EMR are universally recognised and are managed by NZStandard NZS2772:1 1999.
NZS2772:1 1999 provides no protection against biological effects, electrosensitivity or for people with pacemakers or other electronic body parts. This proposed Australia/NZ standard was controversial even when it was being drafted due to the heavy industry influence, and resulted in the Australian's breaking off to develop their own more stringent standard.
Clause 10(d) of NZS2772:1 1999 requires steps to be taken to minimise exposure from RF EMR where these steps can be done at no or minimal cost. This clause is little known and often ignored.
There is currently no formal guidance in NZ to protect against biological effects of EMR
At present the NZ government does not recognise biological effects of RF EMR and accordingly has no standards or up to date advice to warn parents, schools or other employers of the possible risks or to recommend exposures be minimised. The last NZ review of EMR risk was in 2004.
NZS2772:1 1999 which protect against heating effects, is widely considered to be around 1000 times too high to protect against biological effects from RF EMR. In other words emissions that are measured at only 1% of the maximum allowed by NZS2772:1 may be 10 times above internationally recognised safe limited for biological effects.
Following a Parliamentary Inquiry in 2008 and 2009, the Local Government and Environment Committee recommended a review of NZS2772:1 to ensure NZ had best international practice, and a review of the composition of the Government's Interagency Advisory Committee to ensure the advice to government was not being dominated by vested interests (Refer Report into the Petition of Sarah Allan and 3100 other dated 28/11/2009).
The Minister for the Environment rejected the recommendations in this report.
The NZ government position is lagging behind that of many other governments including Russia, Israel, Switerland and many states of the EU such as Belgium, France and Italy, where there is increasingly widespread advice to minimise and manage RF EMR exposure, particularly for children. This risk for children is of particular concern due to their smaller size and developing brains and bodies, many years of exposure ahead (typically the effects of carcinogens do not show up strongly until 20 or more years exposure due to a latent period of at least 10 years - hence the delay in the reclassification of tobacco) and the lack of specific research on children.
Why is a precautionary approach needed?
In May 2011 the World Health Organisation reclassified RF EMR as a Class 2B carcinogen. This followed analysis of the international "Interphone" study which compared certain types of brain tumours of "heavy users" of cellphones in the early 2000s against others. This is the first WHO recognition that RF EMR may cause biological effects as well as heating effects.
NB: The definition of "heavy user" was someone who used a cellphone for at least 10 years for an average 30 mins per day. By today's standards this is at best a moderate use, and the 10 years is barely enough to provide for the latent period between exposure and development of cancer.
Many states now prohibit the sale of cellphones to young children and formally warn parents to try to keep their teenagers' use of cellphones to a minimum. Many European states now include advice to parents and students about minimising cellphone use, turning phones off when possible, and storing them well away from the body in their school health education. There is a trend for more testing of phones and for more consumer information about the "SAR" (emissions) rating of cellphones and cordless phones.
Recently many new cellphones have started to be sold with earplugs, and with small print advice that the device should not be stored or used within 15mm of the body.
Non-ionising radiation can harm health
Some claim that RF EMR is not "ionising" radiation so is safer than X-rays and other radiation. However UV is also non-ionising radiation and it is now widely accepted that non-ionising UV radiation can cause both sunburn (an immediate burning effect) and longer term biological and carcinogenic effects including melanoma and other skin cancers. Responsible schools include health and safety polices to ensure students are protected from the sun and UV rays .
RF EMR falls between XRays and UV light on the spectrum, so it cannot be assumed it is incapable of causing biological harm.
I have recently learned that BYOD wifi servers in classrooms can emit high levels of RF EMR whether or not they are being used.
It is sound advice for care to go into planning the set up of BYOD wifi to minimise all unnecessary exposure and to enable these devices to be turned on only when needed.
Some people are particularly sensitive to EMR and suffer allergic type reactions from even very low exposures. Symptoms include debilitating headaches, itchy skin, erratic heartbeat, loss of balance and concentration and other allergic and stress type responses to exposure.
Electro-sensitivity (EMS) tends to develop in individuals over time after exposure that is beyond their personal capacity.The dose that triggers electro-sensitivity varies considerably between individuals. It may be specific for one or more frequencies, or more general. The symptoms and frequencies which cause these may worsen over time.
Swedish research estimates electro-sensitivity affects approximately 4% of the population. The average classroom of 30 persons would likely include on average 1-2 teachers, teachers aids or students who are electrosensitive.
In the modern world electrosensitivity is debilitating. In the medium term EMS will become inevitably become recognised as a workplace accident, triggering ACC.
What your school can do
As you increasingly embrace the benefits of new technology I urge your school to also understand and address the challenges and risks of RF EMR and wifi.
Sensible steps include:
* understand the possible risks and be open to ways of minimising unnecessary exposure, educating staff and students and having a process of confidential concerns to be investigated and addressed
* be alert for adverse effects
* make provision for staff and students who are electrosensitive (or who are otherwise concerned about exposure to RF EMR) to learn in an environment that is safe for them.
* ensure all BYOD work areas are carefully designed to avoid emissions having to having to go through children's bodies, and so exposure is minimised and sources are kept as low as possible and far as possible from children's bodies.
* ensure all BYODs are used on desks and not on children's laps.
* require all transmitters and BYOD devices to be turned off when not in use.
*Keep BYOD work areas isolated from other study and play areas so emissions are contained.
*Hard wire the BYOD workspace to avoid unnecessary exposure to RF EMR.
*educate staff, students and parents to be alert to the risks and to minimise unnecessary exposure.
Please feel free to circulate this email to your colleagues.
You are also very welcome to contact me to discuss any queries you may have.
Thank you for you interest in understanding and managing this important health and safety issue.
Sue Grey LLB(Hons), BSc (Microbiology and Biochemistry), RSHDip PHI , former Member and Chair of Nelson Central School Board and concerned mother of three.