B.C. school districts divided on future of Wi-Fi
Published Wednesday, June 27, 2012 2:56PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 27, 2012 7:38PM PDT
A B.C. school district concerned about the dangers of wireless signals is reviewing a CTV investigation revealing that radiation levels in classrooms equipped with Wi-Fi aren’t any higher than in those without.
The Greater Victoria School Board has placed a moratorium on the installation of wireless systems until it hears from a committee studying the potential for health impacts. But after hearing about a CTV News investigation on wireless signal exposure, school board chair Peg Ocherton said she wants to know more.
“I'd be interested in actually seeing the report. If CTV's willing to share that fully with us, that would be great. I'd give it to the committee for their referral,” she told CTV News.
After her request, CTV forwarded information to Orcherton, who will ask her committee to review it before making recommendations to the board.
She admitted the board is taking a prudent approach.
“The question for us is student safety,” Orcherton said, adding that there are at least two students who have health problems their parents believe are connected to electromagnetic emissions.
In tests conducted at four Vancouver schools, children in schools with Wi-Fi installed were found to have about the same exposure to electromagnetic emissions produced by the devices as schools without Wi-Fi. The levels inside schools were about 10 times lower than a student would feel outside in the playground or walking to school.
Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus said she wasn’t surprised by the results.
“We overall feel that we have been assured that it is a safe technology, that is appropriate for use in schools,” she said.
The B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils voted in May to ask each school district in the province to set aside at least one school at each education level without Wi-Fi, cordless phones or cell phones, in response to some parents’ beliefs that the waves can cause everything from headaches to cancer.
After being shown the results of CTV’s investigation, confederation chair John Puddifoot said he would speak with his board.
“I’d love to have had this data before the resolution was passed,” he said.
Dave Michelson, a researcher at the University of B.C. Radio Science lab, studies radio waves, and says the emissions from wireless devices carry millions of times less energy than cancer-causing rays like UV from the sun.
“The miracle of wireless communications is we can detect signals that weak and get information out of them. As far as any physical effects, they're too weak to have almost any physical effect,” he said.
Karl Reardon, the Planetworks engineer who performed the tests for CTV News, said that the signals coming from the Wi-Fi units were too low to measure on most equipment.
“It’s so far below any of the standards; it's literally thousand of times below the Health Canada limits. It's comparable and lower than the environment we're exposed to every day when we're outdoors,” he said.
The province’s two largest school districts, Vancouver and Surrey, are hoping to have Wi-Fi installed in all of their schools by the end of next year.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Mi-Jung Lee