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WiFi in Schools: How Safe?

GRAPHIC: Schools in Illinois and around the country are using wireless Internet connections - and receiving billions in federal aid to expand Wi-Fi use - despite growing concern that exposure to Radio Frequency (RF) transmissions may be harmful to students and teachers. Graphic credit: Compfight/Flickr

GRAPHIC: Schools in Illinois and around the country are using wireless Internet connections - and receiving billions in federal aid to expand Wi-Fi use - despite growing concern that exposure to Radio Frequency (RF) transmissions may be harmful to students and teachers. Graphic credit: Compfight/Flickr
September 22, 2014

WILMETTE, Ill. – Warnings about the potential hazards of radiation from Wi-Fi in school classrooms are on the rise.

But those who are concerned about the health effects of Radiofrequency Radiation – RFR, as it's known – are finding it can be hard to make headway.

Sheri Calarco, a parent in Wilmette, says her youngest son started getting headaches and rapid heart rates, only when he was in school.

After a lengthy process of elimination, Wi-Fi remained the likely culprit.

The Calarcos found another school, less dependent on wireless computing, for both their sons, and they want parents to know what they know now.

"When your son or daughter is on their tablet, accessing the Internet, and they get a little hyper or headaches ensue – these are things that you have to start connecting the dots, as a parent," she stresses.

Studies show links to fatigue, neurological disorders and cardiac irregularities, among other symptoms.

In Rhode Island, high school math teacher Shelley McDonald says she has been warned her job is in danger if she continues to raise concern about Wi-Fi in her school.

McDonald, of North Kingstown, says replacing wireless with hard-wired classrooms would be less expensive in the long run and would eliminate Wi-Fi RFR, which she says gave her daily headaches and insomnia.

"In school, I experienced the same symptoms that I experienced at home when I had a Wi-Fi router,” she contends. “And since they installed the commercial-grade Wi-Fi routers – the wireless access points in all of our classrooms – it's become much, much more pronounced."

McDonald says the school administration should at least alert teachers, students and parents to possible hazards. She points out the school administration does that when the school sprays the lawns for mosquitoes.

Olle Johansson is a professor of neuroscience in Stockholm, Sweden, who has been studying the effects of artificial electromagnetic fields for more than 30 years. He says parents around the world ask his advice.

"Mother and father, calling me, emailing me, writing me a paper letter, and asking, 'Are these gadgets safe for my child?'” he relates. “And, as a scientist, I cannot say they are."

The National Association of Independent Schools recently released a one-page statement on Wi-Fi safety concerns, a statement that the Campaign for Radiation Free Schools says contains information that's misleading, untrue, out of date or in dispute.

Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, Shelley McDonald seems like an Erin Brockovich or an insider – warning, in this case, about Wi-Fi.

"I feel as though this is sort of the secondhand smoke of our generation,” she says. “Right now, people think it's no big deal, but these kind of health effects – particularly cancer – take so long to manifest that we're not going to know about the impacts for, you know, 10, 20, maybe 30 years."


Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - IL