Sunday, April 06, 2014
LETTER: Consider the dangers of Wi-Fi
Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 9:45 am | Updated: 11:40 am, Fri Apr 4, 2014.
I appreciate that the North Kingstown School Committee would like to believe there is not a problem with Wi-Fi. It can then, of course, take advantage of the large $688,000 grant that is available to install new technologies. Under normal circumstances, it would be reasonable to cite Federal Communications Commission exposure guidelines to justify the safety of installing antennas, but this issue is complex, and what the School Committee seems not to understand is that in thousands of peer reviewed studies, published in prestigious scientific and medical journals, it has been well-documented that FCC guidelines for wireless radiation are not protective of human health, nor protective of wildlife or the ecosystem.
Studies from countries the world over repeatedly have stressed the special vulnerability of children to the physical and cognitive effects of this radiation. So, under these circumstances, before the truth is fully out on this issue, while the FCC is reviewing its guidelines, while other countries are starting to take Wi-Fi out of schools, turning off cell towers and limiting cell phones, and while physicians groups are recommending limiting radio frequency/microwave exposures to children, what is the right thing for the School Committee in North Kingstown to do?
The one thing to not do would be to rush into a decision of such significance, with potential grave long-term consequences for pupils and faculty alike, especially when the schools are already hard-wired and students already have access to the Internet. Only one member of the School Committee attended my lecture in Wickford on March 13, where I presented quite a bit of the science.
A knee-jerk response would be to shun accountability by merely pointing to other “authorities’” opinions on this issue, such as the “FCC guidelines,” or the “evidence” other schools are installing Wi-Fi antennas. But two wrongs do not make a right, and numbers, as we all know, are sometimes designed to deceive. It may be the easier path to take to prevent spending time in the weeks ahead digging into this subject, but it is not the most responsible. The School Committee is, after all, ultimately, responsible for the environment in which more than 4,000 children are educated in North Kingstown, and for the results they achieve. You may not be aware that when radiating devices of distraction are removed from the academic setting, academic performance sometimes soars.
Internet overuse, with radio frequency exposures, has been shown to impair cognitive function, attention and the ability to feel empathy. In worst-case scenarios, children can develop serious technology addictions, and even “digital dementia,” needing intensive, inpatient care in what is a brain condition resembling irreversible dementia in the elderly.
Research shows radiation emitted by cell phones and Wi-Fi impacts children’s development, their cognitive function, attention, memory, perception, learning capacity, energy, emotions and social skills. There also is diminished reaction time, decreased motor function, increased distraction, hyperactivity and inability to focus on complex and long-term tasks.
Cellular devices can lead to a heightened sense of anxiety in children, to isolation and feelings of psychological and physical dependency. Does the School Committee understand there is evidence from many countries of these effects? Why would a School Committee take the risk of chronic Wi-Fi exposure to children and faculty when there are alternative, safer, hard-wired means to access the Internet already installed at the schools?
Putting this situation in historical context might help. Please consider the extraordinary human and environmental toll in situations where government has enabled corporate power and greed at our expense, such as with tobacco, asbestos, DDT, Bisphenyl A, silica, vinyl chloride, PCBs, GMOs, pesticides in food, and more recently, fracking and the neonicotinoid chemicals wiping out bees. Do you really think our federal government is looking out for its citizens’ health? Is the North Kingstown School Committee putting their head in the sand, like a stork, pretending not to understand the dynamics of corporate influence on government?
Instead of welcoming heroic efforts of responsible, intelligent community members, like math teacher Shelley MacDonald, Town Councilman Kerry McKay and School Committee member Bill Mudge, is the School Committee wishing these individuals and concerned parents could be silenced to prevent the awkwardness of this moment – this moment of ethics when who one is as a human being is tested? Don’t we all want a different kind of America, where the truth is always welcomed and citizens actively engage with government to assure representation of all interests, including our children’s health, cognitive function, learning capacity and DNA?
We need courage on this subject in our governments on all levels, with people willing to speak truth to power from the highest levels to the local school boards. If one examines the U.S. government track record on health and environmental concerns, you will find decades-delayed responses to critical public health issues, with a huge public health and economic toll, because Congress was heavily influenced by industries. On the Moyers & Co. show last spring, “The Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and the Fate of America’s Children” showed the lead issue to have all the same dynamics as the present issue with electromagnetic fields, including suppression of science, intimidation of scientists, influence on media and industry responding as if the public concern was a public relations problem, not a public health problem. A challenging situation, indeed, but not something Americans of character would shy away from.
School Committee officials in North Kingstown have a moral and legal duty to consider all the known information about the biologically active nature of electromagnetic fields, and to not be swayed by the aggressive commercial efforts of technology companies. Slow down. Consider the evidence. Do the right thing for children, please.
San Francisco, Calif.
The author is the founder of ElectromagneticHealth.org, an advocacy group focused on the health and environmental effects of electromagnetic fields, and co-author of the e-book, “Public Health SOS: The Shadow Side of the Wireless Revolution.”