Forget about WiFi woes

On Monday, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) called on schools to prohibit the installation of WiFi, citing increased risk of brain cancer.

The debate stemmed from a May 2011 World Health Organization report that designated radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

The WHO report states “there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.”

With inconclusive evidence and a variety of sources that contradict WHO findings, WiFi should continue being used in schools.

The radiofrequency from a router isn’t particularly harmful compared to other technologies. According to the British Health Protection Agency (HPA), the frequencies in WiFi are broadly the same as those from FM radio, television and cell phones.

If the concern is significant enough to merit the removal of WiFi, then radio and television should be taken out of classrooms as well.

The HPA further claims that the radiofrequency exposure from sitting in a WiFi hotspot for one year is equivalent to making a 20-minute call on a cell phone.

Concerned parents and teachers are right to take children’s safety seriously, but removing WiFi from schools does them a disservice. Internet access provides a near-endless wealth of information, and if there’s a concerted push for more online learning, eliminating WiFi isn’t efficient.

Plus, wiring computers for an entire classroom is costly.

Bending to fears based on insufficient evidence only serves to validate these fears.

WiFi has become nearly omnipresent, and can be found in libraries, coffee shops, hotels, malls and most homes. Parents have the right to be wary of a risk that hasn’t been disproven, but paranoia towards technology isn’t reasonable. Limiting a child’s exposure at school won’t protect them from the surfeit of radiofrequencies elsewhere.

More research needs to be conducted until there’s a definitive answer as to whether or not WiFi presents a significant health risk. Until then, schools should follow the recommendations of health and education officials: WiFi isn’t dangerous.

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