From Martin Weatherall:
The Progressive Librarians Guild, Jun. 16, 2008
PROGRESSIVE LIBRARIANS GUILD STATEMENT ON WIFI IN LIBRARIES
Often unaware of the potential risks to both library staff and the
public, libraries have adopted wireless technology as a means to
bridge the Digital Divide and in order to fulfill their mission under
the Library Bill of Rights.
Research on the health effects of wireless technologies (2.4GHz and
5.0GHz bands) and electromagnetic (microwave) radiation indicates
wireless technology, among other effects, may cause immune
dysfunction, increased risk of brain tumors and acoustic neuromas,
childhood cancers, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease (European
Environment Agency, Bioinitiative Working Group, 2007), and
genotoxicity. Research also indicates that public health standards
are inadequate in offering guidance on the use of wireless
technologies in community spaces.
The Precautionary Principle can act as a policy guide in which to
critically debate the risks and benefits of wireless technology. The
European Environmental Agency, Bioinitiative Working Group and the
International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety through the
Benevento Resolution have called for the application of the
Precautionary Principle in the use of wireless technology. In the
United States, the Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary Principle
“When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the
environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause
and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically…”
Therefore, exposure to wireless technologies in the above bandwidths
is a public health issue that library workers should address
philosophically as a profession and directly in terms of daily library
operations, programs, and services. European library workers have
taken steps calling for such an examination based on the current
research on health effects of wireless. The Bibliotheque Nationale de
France has forgone installation of a public wireless system and the
staff of the Sainte Genevieve Library (Paris V) has called for a
discussion on wireless technology safety in university and public
libraries based in part on the conclusions reached by the European
Environmental Agency BioInitiative Working Group (2007,4, 26):
Although this RF target level does not preclude further rollout of WI-
FI technologies, we also recommend that wired alternatives to WIFI be
implemented, particularly in schools and libraries so that children
are not subjected to elevated RF levels until more is understood about
possible health impacts. This recommendation should be seen as an
interim precautionary limit that is intended to guide preventative
actions; and more conservative limits may be needed in the future.
Based on this information, Progressive Librarians Guild recommends
that via their professional organizations, information workers address
the risks of wireless technology in public spaces, take steps in
learning about the risks of wireless in terms of exposure and impact
on library services, monitor wireless technology in their
facilities, critically evaluate and adopt alternatives to wireless
technology especially in children’s sections of libraries, create
warning signage on risks of wifi throughout their libraries, and act
as a community resource in the public education on wireless
1. Wireless-B, or “IEEE 802.11b” standard operates on the 2.4 GHz
band. Wireless-G, or IEEE 802.11g, uses the same frequency band, but
is capable of higher speeds. Wireless-A (IEEE 802.11a) uses the 5.0
GHz band, a higher data transfer. Wireless-N, using both 2.4 and 5.0
GHz bands, with proposed data transfer capability exceeding wired
networks. See Wireless Standards.
2. Genotoxic or genotoxicity: capable of causing damage to DNA. See
Lai, below, a review of the literature on wireless and genotoxicity.
3. Benevento uses 0 to 300 GHz as a baseline for recommendations.
4. 2400 MHz mentioned in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France press
release is synonymous with 2.4 GHz.
5. Inexpensive AC gauss meters which measure 1-5 GHz can be found on
the Web at stores such as EMF Safety Superstore.
6. For example, one alternative is the Panasonic HD-PLC power line
network adapter uses electrical wiring (power outlet) as a link
between a PC and modem. The adaptor is available through amazon.com.
7. Thanks to Carolyn Raffensperger and Ted Schettler at the Science
and Environmental Health Network, Rebekah Azen, SJSU SLIS students
Abe Ignacio, and Milton John Kleim, Jr. for their comments.
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