The safety of wifi is again in question as teachers ask for an investigation in the safety of wireless networks in schools.  The call comes as Philip Parkin, General Secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers wrote to the Secretary or State for Education requesting a government commissioned scientific inquiry in to the effects of wireless technology in schools.

Parkin refers to “research evidence which suggests that there may be a serious problem here potentially affecting 5-10% of the population to a greater or lesser extent. Symptoms caused by exposure to electromagnetic radiation include headaches, nausea, lack of concentration, memory loss and behaviour changes in children.”  He goes on to mention “Some scientific studies appear to show that the radiation can affect body tissue and kill brain cells.” And goes on to discuss the potential for long term effects as a result of exposure from a young age.

Quite some time ago I brought up the fact that some schools in the UK were putting plans to introduce wireless networks on hold or had even decommissioned existing infrastructure due to concerns raised by both parents and staff.  This is again becoming a hot issue with Sir William Stewart, the chairman of the Health Protection Agency has indicated that he would be in favour of an inquiry.

Dennis Henshaw professor of human radiation at Bristol commented on the matter saying, “The research hasn’t been done. Therefore we cannot assume that there are no effects,” The head of the Government’s committee on mobile phone safety, Professor Lawrie Challis has also advised caution. Professor Challis appeared on several national news programs with the message “Since we advise that children should be discouraged from using mobile phones, we should also discourage children from placing their laptop on their lap when they are using Wi-Fi,”

Concluding his letter to the Secretary of State, Parkin referenced a passage taken from the ‘Independent on Sunday’ newspaper: “The inconvenient truth is that we are conducting a massive experiment on ourselves and particularly our children.” He also suggested that schools should be actively discouraged from installing wireless networks until the results of an inquiry are known.

Are we being over cautious when it comes to possible negative effects of wi-fi technology?  Have those who insist on it’s safety been seduced by the convenience of wireless networking? Can we really enjoy using the latest technology in absolute safety?