#714: UK teachers union calls for Wi-Fi research
Teachers want wi-fi risk research
Teachers want to clarify the safety of wireless
Teachers want an investigation into whether there are
any health risks from wireless computer networks in
The PAT teachers’ union is writing to the education
secretary for a clarification on wi-fi safety.
“There’s a concern the potential health risk of this
technology hasn’t been investigated fully,” says the
union’s general secretary, Philip Parkin.
The Health Protection Agency says “wi-fi devices are
of very low power, much lower than mobile phones”.
Mr Parkin, leader of the Professional Association of
Teachers, is writing to Education Secretary Alan
Johnson to ask for a “full scientific investigation
into the effects of wi-fi networks in schools”.
“I am concerned that so many wireless networks are
being installed in schools and colleges without any
understanding of the possible long-term consequences.
“I am not saying there is a danger, but I have enough
concern to ask for it to be investigated.”
The union highlights the case of Michael Bevington, a
classics teacher at Stowe school in Buckinghamshire.
Mr Bevington “had never had any problems before the
wi-fi. When it was put into his classroom he suffered
nausea, blinding headaches and a lack of
concentration. When the school removed the wi-fi his
Many primary and secondary schools use wi-fi networks
– but the teachers’ union believes that there is
insufficient long-term evidence to show whether such
networks are safe.
The Health Protection Agency points to the low power
levels of such wi-fi networks, compared to mobile
But while the HPA declines to back health fears about
wi-fi, the agency also offers no clear guarantee of
In a statement, the agency says its chair Sir William
Stewart, is being “pressed by lobbyists to condemn
wi-fi and is unprepared to do so. He has not taken a
position on wi-fi”.
“The HPA and Sir William have always pressed for more
research into these new technologies. The only firm
precautionary advice issued by the HPA is about
children’s use of mobile phones.”
The need for greater research into health hazards from
such technology is reflected in the minutes of an HPA
meeting last month – where on the issue of
“electrosensitivity” it was said that “scientific
investigations conducted so far very seldom give clear
A two-day meeting of experts on electrosensitivity,
with a “political and scientific remit”, was proposed
by the HPA for early next year.
Studies for the HPA have so far been unable to confirm
or disprove claims about electrosensitivity.
Part of the problem for researchers is that it is
difficult to isolate the individual effect of
technology such as wi-fi networks – when people might
also be exposed to more powerful signals, such as from