Santa Clara County MD warns: Internet and Wi-Fi in schools can affect learning

Cindy Lee Russell, M.D., Vice President of Community Health, Santa Clara County Medical Association wrote an article warning about the health risks of technology in schools:  Shallow Minds: How the Internet and Wi–Fi in Schools Can Affect Learning

Dr. Russell writes: “There are a host of concerns with classroom technology, and the virtual world it creates, that have not been explored in the rush to “modernize” education and prevent our kids from becoming “computer illiterate,” despite the fact that computers are designed for ease of use.  These issues range from distraction in the classroom, impairment of cognitive development and long-term memory, deficiency in learning social skills, Internet addiction, cyber bullying, access to inappropriate content, eye fatigue,and security risks to online learning networks. In addition, the sheer cost of computers and continuous upgrades is likely to break many school budgets. We have not mentioned the issue of toxic e-waste, another growing public health problem.”

“We will not get rid of the Internet or computers. We should not ignore, however, the enlarging body of science that points to real threats to public health and, especially, our children’s safety and well-being. The best approach is precautionary. Reduce the risk by reducing the microwave emissions. It is our obligation as physicians and parents to protect our children. They are the future and our legacy.”

Dr. Russell recommends:

  1. Remove wireless devices (white boards and routers) in schools in favor of wired connections and fiberoptic.
  2. If there is Wi-Fi, then give teachers the authority to turn it off when not in use or if they feel it is not necessary.
  3. Ban cell towers near or on schools.
  4. Limit screen time on computers.
  5. Limit or ban cell phone use in the class
  6. Limit or ban cell phone use at home
  7. Do not allow laptops to be placed on laps
  8. Undertake independent scientific studies on Wi-Fi and computer use that look at acute and long-term health effects.
  9. Train teachers how to recognize symptoms of EMF reactions.
  10. Conduct meetings with parents and teachers to address this issue in each school.

Dr. Russel cites the science, international actions, and provides a reference list. This is an excellent paper to give to school principals and administrators.

Dad’s win school wi-fi battle

NZ dadNew Zealand dad’s concerned for the health and safety of school children have a won a battle against a local school to have the wi-fi removed and use wired connections instead.

Damon Wyman and David Bird led a campaign to remove the wireless system from Te Horo School and replace it with cable-based internet due to concerns it could cause cancer and other health problems.

Damon is the father of Ethan who died from a brain tumor and had attended the local school.  His son was exposed to Wi-Fi at school, and he also slept with an Internet-connected iPod under his pillow at night.

The school sent a survey to parents, and after reviewing the results agreed to remove the wi-fi in the junior classrooms.  Watch the video here: http://tvnz.co.nz/technology-news/fathers-win-school-wi-fi-battle-5787916/video

Too much wi-fi on airplanes

Amy O’Hair investigates just how much wi-fi radiation is on a Southwest Airlines flight.  She’s using a cornet meter. She finds out- its too much!  (For wi-fi safety testing humans are compared to sacks of potatoes.) One solution: Ask the airlines for a device free zone on the plane, away from the routers. Alaska Airlines has some routes that are still wi-fi free.

Students demonstrate wireless hazards at Science Faire

Two young scientists researched and studied wireless health risks for science fair projects. One student was interested in the controversy surrounding wi-fi and whether it should be in schools or not. She found fruit flies exposed to industrial wi-fi had genome mutations. Another student researched mobile phone radiation and warns about brain cancer, insomnia and other health problems.

In May of 2013 a team of Danish 9th grade girls did a science study on wi-fi and found watercress seeds would not grow near a wi-fi router.

The students placed six trays filled with water cress in a room without radiation, and six trays in another room next to two wi-fi routers. Over the next 12 days, the girls observed, measured, weighed and photographed their results. The cress seeds placed near the routers had not grown, whereas the cress seeds in the other room, away from the routers, thrived.

watercress_wifi studyThe experiment earned the girls top honors in a regional science competition and the interest of scientists around the world. Full story here: Student Science Experiment Finds Plants won’t Grow near Wi-Fi Router

Sebastopol school board approves wireless computers for kids

The Sebastopol Unified School District (SUSD) unanimously approved funding for wireless computers in two elementary schools (K-5) and (K-8).

talk to the hand The Superintendent declared wireless was safe,  despite health warnings from science and medical experts, which were reviewed, but ultimately ignored. One board member expressed concern about increasing screen time for kids, and another about the placement of routers, but no precautions were included in the decision.

The request for a hard wired computer lab, which would be safer, faster, more secure and  more reliable was countered with a letter signed by a couple dozen parents who urged the board to “invest the funds in computer infrastructure that is portable, wireless and cost effective.” Reasons included fears of declining enrollment and children’s inadequate preparation for today’s technological  society.  The  letter states,”Key to their [children’s] professional success, social integration and economic sustainability, and therefore their health will be their ability to navigate the world of technology…”

The push for computers in the classroom is part of Common Core State Standards, the new federal curriculum which has been sharply criticized as eliminating community-based planning, and instead of fostering education for individual need and the common good, it puts children on a treadmill to become scared, obedient workers for the global economy. 

wireless cartSebastopol’s initial plan is to purchase 60 wireless computers, 30 for each school and store them on a cart which teachers can bring into the classroom.  While this plan is considerably modest compared to what other schools have deployed, (the Los Angeles School District is giving every student an iPad) it’s unknown if or when a 1:1 computer for every child will happen in Sebastopol.

It is also unknown how many, or where, additional routers will be installed.  The routers will increase the radiation exposure for children, teachers, and staff, even when the cart is not in use.

GofundmeChildren who have medical conditions (headaches, heart palpitations, medical implants, seizures, EMF sensitivity) are at risk in a wireless environment.  The public school may become inaccessible for them, or they may be isolated from peers when the computers are being used.  In Canada a lawsuit has already been filed against wi-fi in school.

A common misconception, which is used to downplay the health risks, is to promote the idea that wi-fi is already everywhere.  That’s similar to thinking engine exhaust is already everywhere, so reducing car trips by walking and biking to school is unnecessary.  It does not justify increasing wi-fi, and misses an important point.  Being closer to the source of pollution matters greatly.  Imagine breathing the fumes behind a bus, compared to knowing there are exhaust particulates in the air.  Ambient wi-fi signals are not the same as being in a room with 30 wi-fi computers, or being near routers which are always on.

checkmarkThe Alliance for Childhood wrote, “Fool’s Gold:  A Critical Look at Computers in Childhood“. They caution, ” Those who place their faith in technology to solve the problems of education should look more deeply into the needs of children.  The renewal of education requires personal attention to students from good teachers and active parents, strongly supported by their communities.  It requires commitment to developmentally appropriate education and attention to the full range of children’s real low-tech needs- physical, emotional, and social, as well as cognitive.”

Parents everywhere beware!  Common Core is bringing computer testing into the schools and giving the government a whole new tool to track and profile children.

Doctors weigh in on dangers of Wi-Fi

This is one of the best TV news coverage on wireless risks for children. I apologize for the ad, but the video is worth waiting for. The commentary by the newscasters is great. Watch till the end, and hopefully the video won’t be changed or removed. Already the script has a disclaimer by the school system.

FOX5 Vegas – KVVU

Letter to SUSD

Schools in California and beyond are transitioning away from books to computer based learning. In many cases they’re using wireless computers (iPads) to teach at least two subjects, math and language arts. This is part of a new federal curriculum called Common Core.

In my comments to the Sebastopol Union School District I advocate for an alternative technology plan creating a hardwired computer lab for testing and test preparation.  Click here to view the original Letter to SUSD

In Sebastopol the school district is presenting their technology plan on Wednesday September 18 at 4:30 at  7611 Huntley Ave.

9/16/2013
To: Members of the School Board, staff, and teachers
Sebastopol Union School District
7611 Huntley Ave. Sebastopol CA. 95472

Re: Comments on Common Core Technology Plan

The Sebastopol Union School District (SUSD) board is considering adopting a technology plan that converts students from book based learning to computer based learning and testing. This will be presented on September 18 at the board meeting as agenda item 9.1,1, and possibly be adopted at the next board meeting in October. As a parent of a sixth grader at Brookhaven, and director of the EMF Safety Network, I ask SUSD to apply the precautionary principle and adopt an alternative plan that reduces and limits children’s screen time and wireless exposure.

An alternative plan is to create a hardwired computer lab, for testing and test preparation, instead of using computers in classrooms for lessons and testing. This request is based on health advocacy warnings and recommendations from the World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, Kaiser Permanente, American Academy of Environmental Medicine and other medical and science experts.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey in 2010, children between the ages of 8-18 spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes on technology every day.2

  • How many more hours of screen time will children have if schools convert to computer based learning?
  • Will children also be expected to do their homework on computers?
  • Will the new technology and supporting infrastructure be wired or wireless?
  • Are parents adequately informed and included in the decision making process on whether or not to increase their children’s computer use?

Apply the Precautionary Principle to Ensure Safer Learning in Schools

The Precautionary Principle is based on ‘do no harm’ and ‘better safe than sorry’ philosophy. When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. 3

Kaiser Permanente recommends limiting screen time to less than 2 hours a day for teens, less than 1 hour a day for children ages 3 through 12, and no screen time for children under 3. 4 Kaiser explains: “Alot of kids spend more time in front of a screen than they do reading, talking with family and friends, or playing outside. It’s also affecting their health. Too much screen time is associated with: violent behavior, poor school performance, lower reading scores, sleep pattern disturbances, being overweight, consumption of junk food and bad habits later in life (like tobacco and alcohol abuse).”

The American Academy of Pediatrics states,“…studies consistently show that older children and adolescents utilize media at incredibly high rates, which potentially contributes to obesity and other health and developmental risks.”The Academy supports limiting screen time and media use for children and adolescents. 5

Wireless is a Health Risk and a Possible Carcinogen

In May 2011,the World Health Organization classified wireless radiation a possible carcinogen6. This classification is based on studies linking cell phone radiation to brain cancer, but it also applies to all wireless devices, including wi-fi routers and computers.

The American Academy of Environment Medicine (AAEM) in a letter7 to Los Angeles Unified School district (LAUSD) discusses why precaution for wireless is warranted and strongly recommends hardwiring computers in schools. AAEM writes, “There is consistent emerging science that shows people, especially children are affected by the increasing exposure to wireless radiation….Adverse health effects from wireless radio frequency fields, such as learning disabilities, altered immune responses, and headaches, clearly exist and are well documented in the scientific literature”.The AAEM states 3% of children and staff will be immediately affected 30% will have time-delayed reactions.

Apple provides warnings about health risks of iPads8 including headaches, blackouts, seizures, convulsion, eye or muscle twitching, loss of awareness, involuntary movement, or disorientation. There are consumer complaints about iPad health symptoms on the Apple support Forum.9“Is it just me or someone else also feels dizzy or nausea after using iPad for a while? 

“YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!! I’ve been getting it too…”

” I have the same problem you have… I looove the ipad but I don’t think I can keep it as I get nausea and feel a bit dizzy just using it for a few minutes.”

“… just today finished series of tests…echocardiogram, brainscan, ultrasound on carotid artery,..the works…to diagnose dizziness, and even one fainting episode..since Xmas. Guess what I got for Christmas…iPad…”

Federal Safety Guidelines Don’t Protect Children

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wireless guidelines are for short term (30 minutes) thermal exposures only. There are no safety guidelines specific to children. The FCC is currently reviewing their guidelines, based on a US Government Accountability Office request.10

Dr. Martha Herbert, a Harvard pediatric neurologist and neuroscientist writes,“Children are more vulnerable than adults, and children with chronic illnesses and/or neurodevelopmental disabilities are even more vulnerable… Current technologies were designed and promulgated without taking account of biological impacts other than thermal impacts. We now know that there are a large array of impacts that have nothing to do with the heating of tissue. The claim from wifi proponents that the only concern is thermal impacts is now definitively outdated scientifically.” 11

Dr. Ted Litovitz, physicist, stated many studies are showing biological effects below the FCC thermal limit, including psychological changes, stress response, DNA damage, and affects on the immune system, heart, and blood brain barrier. According to Dr. Litovitz biological effects are seen at 75,000 times below the FCC guideline!12

Create a Hardwired Computer Lab and Limit Screen Time

Faced with new testing standards and a new common core curriculum the schools are caught between new government mandates and health authorities safety recommendations. SUSD should not mandate computer based learning and computers in the classrooms. Instead, use the funding to create a hard wired computer lab, and limit children’s use to testing, and test preparation. Provide waivers for those parents, or students opposed, or medically unable to test on computers.

Some students will not feel well in a computer based environment and this will affect their ability to concentrate and learn. In Canada one family has sued the school district because the wi-fi in school makes both their children sick. With public schools throughout California and beyond transitioning to wireless computer based learning, this problem will only increase. What will SUSD do to keep more vulnerable children safe?

Furthermore, while you have the funding to upgrade technology, its a great opportunity to ensure all internet connections, including teachers and staff computers are hard wired for the safety of students, teachers and staff. Please keep the phone lines within the school wired and corded too!

Please feel free to contact me with your comments and or questions. I regret I will not be able to present this information in person on Wednesday.

Thank you for your consideration,

Sandi Maurer
EMF Safety Network
PO BOX 1016
Sebastopol, CA 95473 

I have no doubt in my mind that at the present time, the greatest polluting element in the earth’s environment is the proliferation of electromagnetic fields. I consider that to be far greater on a global scale than warming, and the increase in chemical elements in the environment.’’- Dr Robert O. Becker, Author of Cross Currents and The Body Electric

Footnotes

2Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Oldshttp://kff.org/other/event/generation-m2-media-in-the-lives-of/

3 Science and Environmental Health Network FAQ http://www.sehn.org/ppfaqs.html

4 Kaiser Permanente: “Limit Screen Time for healthier Kids”

5 AAP letter to the Federal Communications Commission dated July 12, 2012 http://www.scribd.com/doc/104230961/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-letter-to-the-FCC

6Wireless devices-potential cancer risk says World Health Organization http://emfsafetynetwork.org/?p=4386

12http://emfsafetynetwork.org/?p=11094

Additional Resources

The BioInitiative 2012 Report is an analysis by 29 independent scientists and health experts from around the world about possible risks from wireless technologies and electromagnetic fields. http://www.bioinitiative.org

Wi-fi in schools video: A ten minute introduction to wireless precaution in schools (Australia) http://youtu.be/GJPTzaNkcUk

Professor Olle Johansson Warns of Wireless DNA Damage to children / two minute video http://emfsafetynetwork.org/?p=9990

Is Wi-fi Safe? http://emfsafetynetwork.org/?p=10576 video

Excerpts from eight expert letters submitted to the LAUSD, by Joel Moskovitz, PhD, Director, Center for Family and Community Health,
School of Public Health, UC Berkeley: http://www.saferemr.com/2013_03_01_archive.html

‘Safe Schools 2012′. Medical and Scientific Experts Call for Safe Technologies in Schools. http://wifiinschools.org.uk/resources/safeschools2012.pdf

Scientific Panel on Electromagnetic Field Health Risks: The Selentun Statement

http://www.sagereports.com/smart-meter-rf/docs/Fragopoulou_et_al_2010b.pdf

EMF World Concerns Summary: A compilation of what government, public health and environment organizations and officials, independent scientists, health advocacy groups and activists are advocating around the world in response to the proliferation of EMF, and especially wireless radiation. http://emfsafetynetwork.org/?p=116

Wi-fi in Schools, a consumer advocacy website focused on wi-fi in schools: http://wifiinschools.com/