• 24 APR 07
    • 0

    #714: UK teachers union calls for Wi-Fi research

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6583213.stm

    Teachers want wi-fi risk research

    Teachers want to clarify the safety of wireless
    networks
    Teachers want an investigation into whether there are
    any health risks from wireless computer networks in
    schools.
    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”.

    ‘Long-term consequences’

    “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
    condition improved”.

    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
    phones.

    But while the HPA declines to back health fears about
    wi-fi, the agency also offers no clear guarantee of
    its safety.

    ‘No position’

    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
    answers”.

    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
    mobile phones.

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