• 07 JUL 08
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    #905: The Progressive Libarians Guild statement on WiFi in Libaries

    From Martin Weatherall:

    The Progressive Librarians Guild, Jun. 16, 2008



    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)[1] 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.[2] 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[3] 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
    (1998) states

    “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[4] 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,[5] critically evaluate and adopt alternatives to wireless
    technology[6] 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.


    American Library Association. Library Bill of Rights. 1948, 1996
    (accessed May 29, 2008).

    Anders Ahlbom, et al. “Epidemiology of Health Effects of
    Radiofrequency Exposure: CNIRP (International Commission for Non-
    Ionizing Radiation Protection.” Environmental Health Perspectives 112
    no. 17(2004): 1741-1754 (accessed May 27, 2008).

    Collaborative on Health and the Environment. Consensus Statement on
    Electromagnetic Radiation Draft, October 10, 2006 (accessed May 22,

    Environmental Research Foundation. Precaution Reporter #67, December
    6, 2006 (accessed May 22, 2008).

    European Environmental Agency. “Radiation Risk from Everyday Devices
    Assessed.” September, 2007 (accessed June 1, 2008)

    European Environmental Agency, BioInitiative Working Group.
    Bioinitiative: A Rationale for a Biologically-based Public Exposure
    Standard for Electromagnetic Fields (ELF and RF) August 31, 2007
    (accessed May 22, 2008).

    The French National Library Renounces WiFi,” Press Release, April 4,
    2008. English: “La Bibliotheque Nationale renonce au Wi-Fi,” 4 Avril
    2008, (accessed May 27, 2008).

    Harremo√ęs, Poul, eds., et al. Late Lessons from Early Warnings: the
    Precautionary Principle 1896-2000. Environmental Issue Report No. 22,
    European Environment Agency, January 10, 2002 (accessed June 1, 2008).

    EEE. “Wireless Fidelity — WiFi” (accessed May 22, 2008).

    International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety. Benevento
    Resolution, Benevento, Italy, on February 22, 23 & 24, 2006 (accessed
    May 22, 2008).

    Labor Institute, NYC. Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs): A Training
    Workbook for Working People. New York: New York. Occupational Safety
    and Health Training and Education Program, 199?.

    Lai, Henry.”Evidence for Genotoxic Effects — RFR and ELF DNA
    Damage.” European Environmental Agency, BioInitiative Working Group.
    Bioinitiative: A Rationale for a Biologically-Based Public Exposure
    Standard for Electromagnetic Fields. August 31, 2007. Section 6, 1-43
    (accessed May 22, 2008).

    Lakehead University. “WiFi Policy.” January 1, 2004 (accessed May
    22, 2008).

    Lee, S. et al. “2.45 GHz Radiofrequency Fields Alter Gene Expression
    in Cultured Human Cells. “FEBS Letters (Federation of European
    Biochemical Societies) 579 no. 21 (2005):4829-36.

    Science and Environmental Health Network. The Precautionary
    Principle (accessed May 22, 2008).

    Thatcher, Diana. “Librarians: Keep Public Library Wi-Fi Free. Sante
    Fe New Mexican June 8, 2008 (accessed June 8, 2008).

    WEEP. “French Library Gives up WiFi.” April 7, 2008 (accessed May
    22, 2008).

    World Health Organization. Electromagnetic Fields and Public Health:
    Exposure to Extremely Low Frequency Fields. June, 2007 (accessed May
    30, 2008).

    Wingspread Consensus Statement on the Precautionary Principle,
    January 26, 1998 (accessed May 22, 2008).

    Copyright Progressive Librarians Guild, 1997-2008.

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