The Pied Piper of Portland -- A Precautionary Tale of Wifi in Schools
The proliferation of Electromagnetic Field (EMF) radiation in our lives has occured beneath our radar, so to speak. Our quiet acquiescence to touch-screen devices with their carefree portability, awesome apps, and constant, instant social contact is ubiquitous. What's not to love? We've all but ignored the possibility that there could be a downside to the suffusion of EMF radiation on our environment and health. Society's embrace of screen devices such as cell phones, computers, tablets or notebooks, and even wifi enabled TV has occurred almost entirely without regard to potential environmental and health risks -- especially to children.
Is wifi radiation from cell phones, computers, and tablets harmful to children? Should we take precautions to protect children at school?
From the Chicken Little prognosticator to the Pied Piper aficionado, respondents' answers spanned the continuum. While some thought wifi radiation to be no more harmful than rays of sunshine, others were sure that wifi was a constant danger to us all. Of particular note is that although everyone had an opinion, no one was quite sure why they adamantly held to it. When asked about the science supporting their beliefs, most were unsure. What questions should we be asking? What does the preponderance of the evidence tell us?
In May of 2017, voters overwhelmingly approved a $790 million construction bond that would modernize four schools and fund fixes to safety hazards in nearly every Portland school. Concerned citizen and parent David Morrison is advocating that some of that money be spent to hardwire computers in schools. He believes the risk of not taking action to protect our children is too great to ignore. A growing contingent of scientists and doctors support his view. Within the next month, Morrison along with experts Dr. David Carpenter and Dafna Tachover from New York, will present testimony regarding the harmful effects of wifi radiation on students to the Portland Public School Board. The meeting is open to the public at PPS school board headquarters -- 501 N. Dixon St. All are invited.
Effects of Wifi Radiation on Children at School
Dr. David Carpenter and Dafna Tachover
April date to be announced
Portland Public School Board
501 N. Dixon Street, Portland, Oregon
All are invited to attend.
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Both Carpenter and Tachover are featured in Generation Zapped, a new film that investigates the potential dangers of prolonged exposure to Radio Frequencies (RF) from wireless technology; it’s effects on our health and well-being, as well as the health and development of our children. With funding for safety upgrades available, now seems the opportune time for PPS to address this concern. Will PPS make wifi safety a priority?
David O. Carpenter is a public health physician with a medical degree from Harvard Medical School who serves as director of the Institute for Health and the Environment, a Collaborating Center of the World Health Organization, as well as a professor of environmental health sciences at U Albany's School of Public Health. He previously served as Director of the Wadsworth Center of the New York State Department of Health, and as Dean of the University at Albany School of Public Health. Carpenter has more than 370 peer-reviewed publications, 6 books and 50 reviews and book chapters to his credit as well as being co-editor of the Bioinitiative Report. Read his submission to the FCC here, his letter on WiFi in Schools here, and his testimony on Wifi in Schools here.
Dafna Tachover, founder of We are the Evidence, is an attorney both in New York and in Israel who received her degree in the UK. She also has an MBA and has had a diverse international legal and business career. She gained a technical understanding of wireless networks and infrastructures as a communications and computer officer in the Israeli Defense Forces where she was the commander of the computer center for their Operations Center and Headquarters. In 2009, she developed electromagnetic sensitivity from wireless technology radiation. Since then, she has dedicated herself to exposing the epidemic of sickness caused by this technology; to protecting the rights of the injured; to eradicating the misrepresentation that wireless technology is safe; and to pursuing those who betray the public’s trust. She has also been fighting against the deployment of Wi-Fi in schools.
The adoption of and the adherence to Common Core State Standards and the mandated Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) high stakes tests has led to the acquisition of more and more wifi in Oregon public schools. Government initiatives like Future Ready Schools and Digital Promise require kids to spend more time on wifi powered devices at school. Should we protect children from high concentrations of wifi radiation at school? Should we be more concerned about health risks to children considering increased screen time at school coupled with home usage?
Parents for Safe Technology have expended considerable time and effort to collect and distribute information about how to protect children from harmful wifi effects at school. The only wifi-free school listed in Oregon is the private Portland Waldorf School. It should be noted that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Silicon Valley parents in general strictly limit (or limited) screen time for their own children. Although the New York Times article alludes to the fact that they all must know something we don't know (maybe it's this), the subject of harmful wifi is never broached in interviews.
Psychotherapist and addiction specialist Nicholas Kardaras, author of Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids and How to Break the Trance discusses how digital screens may have a negative effect on children and what parents can do to address it.
From the interview:
Reporter: How do you factor in that schools use screen devices as part of the curriculum? Are schools at fault? Is the education system at fault? A lot of parents view this as a positive that school have a lot of technology.
Kardaras: That’s what gets me the most upset. That’s an absolute lie that screens are educational. I think what’s happened, and I’m trying to be kind here, educators have been conned by technology companies into believing a narrative that iPads are somehow educational. In fact, if you look at the research, and I’ve looked at the research and other people who are education experts have looked at the research, it the greatest lie going. It’s the biggest scam going. Education technology is a $60 billion a year industry. There’s a financial agenda to implement technology in schools. But yet a country like Finland that is at the top of the educational world hierarchy — they’ve rejected screens. They’ve said we’d rather focus on traditional teaching.
The problem is when you are integrating it into the curriculum and when you are giving unlimited screen time at home, there’s a tipping point that a child developmentally suffers, personally suffers, and neurologically suffers.
The Solution One solution might come from The Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS). CHPS is a leader in sustainable and healthy building with the goal of recently adopted EMF building code requirements which include wired computers, wired phones, and wired LAN networks. There are steps that schools can take immediately as well. Below is a sample commitment by the school community to reduce wifi emissions at school. Each person has an important role to play.
Roles and responsibilities to reduce exposure to unnecessary
microwave radio frequency emissions
limit use of mobile phone and wireless devices on school grounds
turn off mobile phone or switch to flight/airplane mode if spending extended time at school with children like when listening to children read
turn off mobile phone or switch to flight/airplane mode when not in use
wireless devices (tablets/ipods) used for learning purposes must be in flight/airplane mode.
Teachers and Support Staff
limit use of mobile phone on school grounds and use landline where possible
turn off mobile phone or switch to flight/ airplane mode when not in use
keep wifi connected phone away from children
wireless devices (tablets/ipods) used for teaching must be in flight/airplane mode
inform staff, parents and students of WiFi and Wireless Devices Policy
provide access to wired computers and telephones (no cordless DECT phones)
ensure new buildings (if internet access required) include a fully wired ethernet infrastructure
use powerline ethernet adaptors which use existing electrical wiring to extend a network
recommend mobile phones be switched to flight/ airplane mode when not in use and ipods and tablets be used in flight/airplane mode
The DecisionThe decision to hardwire computers in Portland Public Schools is by no means an unique one. Any school district paying attention to the mounting scientific evidence on wifi emissions is or soon should be considering the problem. The struggle comes, not from an unwillingness to protect our children, but from continually dwindling funds for . . . everything. Is protection from wifi radiation a priority? Will PPS decide to hardwire computers to hedge against the risk of endangering the health of our youth? Is the risk great enough to justify the dollars spent? Is the precarious alternative, fraught with uncertainty, too great a danger to ignore? The metaphor of the Pied Piper is an apt one. Either way, PPS will pay the piper. The question then becomes who decides the price.
"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."
“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.”
Cindy Russell MD
A short summary: We live in a world of screens. They're everywhere, pervasive in our lives. We use them for work, play. But it’s much more than that. The screens use us, too. How did we get here? And where’s this journey leading us? What does that even look like? And is it what we want? Is this culture’s technology changing us and our societies for the better? Does it empower all of us—like it claims to—or does it only empower a select few at the expense of the many? What’s the price we pay to live in this pervasive electronic world?
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