Wi-Fi in Schools: Experimenting With the Next Generation

March 5, 2019

The internet has unleashed human knowledge. Never before has it been so easy to learn so much. Of course, it has also drowned us in distraction and created a breeding ground for trolls and misinformation, but if the internet is redeemed by anything, it is its liberation of education.

When it comes to accessing this ocean of information, we have two basic choices: wired or Wi-Fi. The vast majority of schools have embraced the wireless revolution. It’s easy to see why. Compared to wired internet, wireless is simpler, cheaper, and faster for schools to install.

Today, students are trading notebooks and textbooks for laptops, cellphones, iPads, and all manner of “smart” devices connected to a potent wireless infrastructure that lets them be used virtually anywhere on school grounds.

But that wireless web comes with a devastating downside. Doctors and scientists say that the students and teachers who attend these schools are risking their health.

Radiation Dangers

Dr. Martin Pall, Professor Emeritus of biochemistry and basic medical sciences at Washington State University made a grave case about the dangers involved in his paper, “Wi-Fi is An Important Threat to Human Health,” published in the July 2018 issue of Environmental Research.

“The placement of Wi-Fi into schools around the country may well be a high-level threat to the health of our children as well being a threat to teachers and any very sensitive fetuses teachers may be carrying, as well,” Pall writes.

Since Wi-Fi is found everywhere from private homes to public spaces, Pall’s alarming claim seems hard to fathom. And yet his evidence is compelling: 23 controlled scientific studies demonstrating numerous adverse effects to Wi-Fi radiation exposure. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg—there are dozens more studies on Wi-Fi harms which were not included in the paper.

Wireless radiation has become commonplace despite well-documented evidence of its harm, with thousands of studies going back several decades demonstrating health problems associated with exposure. Some of the strongest evidence came last year from the final report of a $30 million, 19-year study funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It was conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP)—the federal agency tasked with testing toxins—and was designed to be the final word on whether wireless radiation was harmful. It showed clear evidence of cancer and DNA damage linked to cellphone use.

Concentrated Risk

Schools are particularly worrisome, experts say, because they are where the most intense concentration of wireless radiation is found today. The Wi-Fi systems schools have adopted are much more comprehensive than your average home or coffee shop Wi-Fi. These commercial grade systems use several routers or “access points” throughout the classroom, often in the ceiling above students’ heads. Now, add in all the radiation spewing from all the wireless devices operated by each student, and you’ll find that kids are spending up to seven hours per day in a thick soup of electro-smog.

Even worse, the people we place in this remarkably concentrated field of wireless radiation are more vulnerable to it. Compared to adults, children are smaller and have smaller and thinner skulls so the radiation penetrates more easily and gets to larger parts of the brain. Also problematic, children’s’ immune and nervous systems are still developing. Plus, kids’ cells divide at a faster rate, which increases the risk for mutations that can lead to cancer.

According to Pall, these factors make children more susceptible to the disease processes that wireless radiation has been consistently shown to cause: oxidative stress (which can lead to cancer and non-cancerous conditions, as well as DNA damage), sperm and testicular damage, neuropsychiatric effects, cell death, changes to the endocrine system, and calcium overload.

Evidence of Illness

These disease processes aren’t merely theoretical. Epidemiological studies conducted by Dr. Lennart Hardell, an oncologist at Orebro University Hospital in Sweden, showed that children exposed to this radiation are more likely to develop cancer and develop it quicker.

Other doctors and scientists say exposure is likely a significant contributing factor to the rising rates of other childhood diseases. Dr. Hugh Taylor, a professor and chair of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University, has shown that fetal exposure to wireless radiation affects neuro-development and behavior and can lead to Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)— a condition that has doubled in the past 10 years.

Harvard Medical School professor and a pediatric neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Martha Herbert, makes a compelling argument that the rise in autism spectrum disorders may also be related to our rise in wireless radiation exposure.

Herbert’s 60-page report from 2012 doesn’t provide evidence of cause, but it does reveal several similarities between symptoms known to occur with wireless radiation and biological manifestations in autism, such as cellular stress, tissue damage, protein misfolding, and injury of membranes.

Herbert describes autism, not as a condition of a broken brain, but of a brain that has a hard time regulating itself. And she believes that if such a brain is caught in a cloud of wireless radiation, it is confronted with a disruptive factor, making it even harder for behavior and biology to come into balance.

While the brains of children with autism may be most vulnerable to microwave radiation, Herbert says every brain is at the mercy of its influence.

“I really am concerned about people’s brains,” Herbert said. “It’s not a joke to have this stuff getting into these three pounds of delicate, gel-crystalline structure in our heads that does this amazing stuff. It wasn’t meant for this level of exposure.”

Electromagnetic Neurology

Herbert explains that, just like our wireless devices, our brain communicates with electromagnetic signaling. In fact, as our instruments have become more sensitive, scientists have discovered that each cell in our body uses electromagnetic signaling.

Now that we live in a wireless world, where we all walk around in a field of electromagnetic radiation nearly all the time, Herbert believes there is enough scientific support to argue that this influence could be an important contributor to degrading the optimal chemical-electrical function of our bodies—thereby detuning our brains and nervous systems.

Autism was once considered strictly a genetic abnormality. But as knowledge of the condition has grown, researchers have uncovered a more complex landscape, where a host of environmental influences have shown an impact on gene expression.

This means that instead of one smoking gun tied to this fast growing condition (the latest estimate from the Centers for Disease Control is that one in every 40 children has autism, up from one in every 166 in 2005), there are likely many factors. Toxic chemicals, for example, have long been demonstrated to impact fetal brain development.

But Herbert argues that, due to electric nature of our bodies, wireless radiation may create more of a disruption than toxic chemicals.

“When you have a toxicant exposure, it can affect the brain, but it has to go through metabolic pathways that can influence the electromagnetics in order to do that,” Herbert said. “But when you have electromagnetic radiation, it’s a straight shot. It’s the same language, so it can be more instantaneous.”

Sick in Schools

Dafna Tachover is a former telecommunications officer turned lawyer who advocates for people harmed by wireless radiation. Her Supreme Court lawsuit in Israel led to the first limits on Wi-Fi in schools worldwide. Tachover showed evidence of 200 sick children from the Wi-Fi in just six schools.

Now in the United States, Tachover says she is contacted by several parents every week with children who have become sick from their school’s wireless system. She says the most common symptoms include headaches, increased sensitivity to noise, nose bleeds, concentration and memory problems, nausea, exhaustion, and hyperactivity.

“Unfortunately, these harms are not potential but existing, and at an epidemic scale,” Tachover said.

The acute or chronic illness that results from wireless radiation is known as electromagnetic sensitivity. It’s the same illness the U.S. Navy dubbed “microwave sickness” when soldiers who had been working with technologies such as radar for extended periods of time displayed the same symptoms. The illness is named for the microwave frequencies that powers wireless technology. Those who contract microwave sickness can’t be in the presence of wireless radiation without painful and sometimes debilitating symptoms.

One child Tachover is working with is a 13-year-old girl from Oregon whose desk was directly under the classroom’s Wi-Fi router. After she developed microwave sickness, her parents enrolled her in a private Waldorf school, because they’re one of few schools that don’t use Wi-Fi.

In some cases, parents are forced to homeschool their children because they can’t get access to schools without Wi-Fi. In other cases, sick kids are forced to make do.

Tachover said one parent had two sons who developed microwave sickness. This mother urged her sons’ school to accommodate by hard wiring the classroom internet and even offered to pay for the accommodation, but the school refused. As a result, her children can only attend school for a few hours per week.

“When in the Wi-Fi environment they experience headaches, concentration problems, skin rashes and hyperactivity,” Tachover said.

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