Resolutions, Recommendations and Statements of Concern
The following organisations, groups and individuals have expressed their concerns about potential adverse health effects for the public, especially children, from the repeated use of wireless technologies.
The International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety (ICEMS)
See also 'Precautionary Approach'. ICEMS, in their Beneveto Resolution (2006) and Venice Resolution (June 2008), have stated their concern for the effects of human exposure to electromagnetic fields on health. Made up of scientists, medical doctors and engineers from around the world, ICEMS ‘are compelled to confirm the existence of non-thermal effects of electromagnetic fields on living matter, which seem to occur at every level of investigation from molecular to epidemiological.’ ‘We, who are at the forefront of this research, encourage an ethical approach in setting of exposure standards which protect the health of all, including those who are more vulnerable.’ ‘… new standards should be developed to take various physiological conditions into consideration, e.g., pregnancy, newborns, children, and elderly people.'
'We take exception to the claim of the wireless communication industry that there is no credible scientific evidence to conclude there is a risk. Recent epidemiological evidence is stronger than before, which is a further reason to justify precautions be taken to lower exposure standards in accordance with the Precautionary Principle. We recognize the growing public health problem known as electrohypersensitivity; that this adverse health condition can be quite disabling; and, that this condition requires further urgent investigation and recognition.'
'We strongly advise limited use of cell phones, and other similar devices, by young children and teenagers, and we call upon governments to apply the Precautionary Principle as an interim measure while more biologically relevant standards are developed to protect against, not only the absorption of electromagnetic energy by the head, but also adverse effects of the signals on biochemistry, physiology and electrical biorhythms.’
ICEMS have produced a series of four videos for teenagers which describe how mobile phones can be used more safely and what the potential risks are (January 2010).
European Parliament and European Environment Agency
More information in 'Precautionary Approach'. The European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (2008) has stated that it is greatly concerned at the International Bio-Initiative report (2007) concerning electromagnetic fields. In September 2007 the European Environment Agency (EEA) advised the 27 member states on the basis of the Bio-Initiative report that they should introduce more effective protection of the general public from electromagnetic fields. In April 2009 the European Parliament called for increased funding for further studies into health effects of long-term exposure to electromagnetic fields (see Precautionary Approach). In September 2009 the Director of the EAA stated that the evidence for potential risks is strong enough to justify steps to reduce people's exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields and that the current exposure limits needed to be reconsidered.
See also Precautionary Approach and Bio-Initiative Report sections. Briefly, the International Bio-Initiative report (2007), referred to by the European Parliament, has stated that 'There may be no lower limit at which exposures do not affect us. Until we know whether there is a lower limit below which bioeffects and adverse health impacts do not occur, it is unwise from a public health perspective to continue ''business-as-usual'' deploying new technologies that increase ELF and RF* exposures, particularly involuntary exposures'.
*ELF and RF. ELF, extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields from electrical and electronic devices and power lines. RF, radio frequency radiation from wireless devices such as cell phones and cordless phones, cellular antennas and towers and broadcast transmission towers.
'The consequence of long-term exposures in children whose nervous system continues to develop until late adolescence, is unknown at this time. This could have serious implications to adult health and functioning in society if years of exposure of the young to both ELF and RF result in diminished capacity for thinking, judgement, memory, learning, and control over behaviour'.
'.... we recommend that wired alternatives to Wi-Fi be implemented, particularly in schools and libraries so that children are not subjected to elevated RF levels until more is understood about possible health impacts. This recommendation should be seen as an interim precautionary limit that is intended to guide preventative actions; and more conservative limits may be needed in the future.’
Members of the French Senate presented a bill to restrict exposure to electromagnetic fields (April 2009; in French; partial English translation). It included:
Article 14 The Wi-Fi function of all Wi-Fi-equipped devices is deactivated by default. Instruction booklets contain clear and visible information about the health risks of using Wi-Fi and preventative measures to take when it is activated.
Article 15 Where possible, in public buildings wired connections will be obligatory for all new communications networks, except in special circumstances which are in the public interest. Where possible, existing Wi-Fi installations will be replaced by wired networks within 5 years of the promulgation of the present law.
Article 16 WiMax roll-out is suspended for 5 years from the promulgation of the present law and will be replaced by wired broadband.
In October 2009 the French Health and Security Agency recommended that people reduce their exposure to mobile phones and other wireless devices. "The time for inaction is past" said the Director, Martin Guespereau. Exposure to children should in particular be limited and Wi-Fi transmitters switched off whenever possible.
For French Schools, see further down the page.
Philip Parkin, the General Secretary of the Education Professionals Union, Voice, formerly the Professional Association of Teachers, UK, has called for a full investigation into the networks. ‘We continue to be concerned about the possible effects of Wi-Fi. Particularly on children whose brains and bodies are still developing’ he said (2007). Voice is calling for a moratorium on new Wi-Fi networks in schools and the suspension of existing Wi-Fi if possible.
'The proliferation of wireless networks could be having serious implications for the health of some staff and pupils without the cause being recognised'. 'There are huge commercial pressures which may be why there has not yet been any significant action'. Speaking about the announcement of an investigation into Wi-Fi by the Health Protection Agency (measuring emissions from computers in schools to check whether they are within ICNIRP guidelines), Mr Parkin states, 'Whilst we welcome this investigation I do not feel that it goes far enough. It seems to be concentrating on what should be known already rather than on what is not known. It seems to me that the HPA:
- has pre-judged outcomes before they have done the work;
- seems to only be considering the thermal effect of EMR (electromagnetic radiation) and not the potential long-term health risks associated with the non-thermal effects;
- is assessing against the totally inadequate ICNIRPS guidelines which only relate to the thermal effects of EMR;
- does not appear to be doing any health-related investigations amongst children; and
- appears to be concentrating on measuring radiation levels which are already known, or should have been before the technology was allowed to be used in schools.'
In December 2008, Philip Parkin described his continuing concern about the potential effects on children of Wi-Fi in school, in the article 'A ticking time bomb?'.
'It is a considerable concern that in schools we are installing Wi-Fi systems and we have no clear evidence that they are safe' says Philip Parkin in an interview, May 2009. When asked whether the Government has fully grasped the potential long-term consequences of Wi-Fi in schools, Mr Parkin replied 'No the government has not. The government is avoiding the issue... we have to be absolutely sure that it is safe. This is something the government has not been prepared to grasp.'
Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL)
Mark Langhammer, Director of the education union ATL Northern Ireland, UK, has said 'A safety-first approach would oblige governors and education employers to monitor and report on Wi-Fi provision in schools. It could allow for parents to withdraw their children from Wi-Fi areas of the school and it would oblige government to test and measure, based on biological, as well as thermal criterion' (Belfast Telegraph, 30/10/2008).
Members of the ATL have called for a major investigation to be carried out by the Government into the biological effects of Wi-Fi networks (9/4/2009). The Union has argued that these should not be used until it has been proven that they do not cause a threat to children's health. ATL member Colin Kinney proposed the motion at the Union's annual conference. He raised concerns that pupils could be risking cancer or sterility due to the installation of these networks. 'Should we force our pupils to use it without long-term safety studies being carried out? I don't believe we should,' he stated. The ATL agreed to lobby the Government to carry out a full investigation into the effects of Wi-Fi (Daily Mail, 8/4/2009).
The German teachers' Union for Education and Knowledge (GEW, Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft) has told its members to resist the rollout of Wi-Fi into schools in Germany on safety grounds. The GEW Union in Hesse has proposed 'Due to possible effects on school performance, a healthy school should not only be smoke free, but also allow teachers and students to teach and study in a radiation free environment' (2007).
Ontario Catholic Teachers Association
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association recognizes that the installation of Wi-Fi microwave transmitters and the expanded use of wireless devices in Catholic schools and educational facilities may present a potential Health and Safety risk or hazard in the workplace. Association Website. 2012.
Austrian Medical Association and Public Health Department of Salzburg
The Public Health Department of Salzburg (2005) has warned that Wi-Fi should not be put in schools or nurseries. The Austrian Medical Association is lobbying against the deployment of Wi-Fi in schools.
Schools in Germany
The Bavarian Parliament has recommended that no schools in the province use wireless LAN networks. The Frankfurt City Government said that it would not install Wi-Fi in its schools until its had been shown to be harmless.
The German Federal Government has recommended that the use of WLAN in the workplace or home should be avoided, if possible. They have stated that conventional wired connections are preferred (July 2007).
Schools in the UK
Several schools in the UK have removed their Wi-Fi systems because parents were concerned about adverse health effects (TimesOnline, Nov 20th, 2006; Ulster Star, 28th Aug 2008; BBC News, 25th Sept 2009). Parents in some schools are refusing to let their children use the wireless computers, and are campaigning to have alternative wired-up computing facilities available (Liverpool Daily Post 21st Oct 2009; BBC Radio Merseyside 1.15pm 21st Oct 2009; Gazettelive 15th Oct 2009).
Schools and Universities in France
The city of Hérouville St. Clair in France has agreed that by the end of the school year, all Wi-Fi equipment will be removed from primary schools. An information campaign will also be conducted with residents to raise awareness of the risks associated with mobile telephony (27th April 2009, and further information). September 2010 update on Wi-Fi in schools in Hérouville St. Clair (and translation).
The Health and Safety Committee for Paris III Sorbonne University has announced that it is stopping the use of Wi-Fi on its premises (May 2009).
Libraries in Paris
The Bibliotheque Nationale de France has forgone installation of a public Wi-Fi system, and decided to follow the precautionary principle following concerns raised in the Bio-Initiative Report (2007). Wi-Fi has also been switched off in the Sainte Genevieve Library in Paris after a member of Staff complained of adverse health effects from the wireless network.
Lakehead University, Ontario, Canada
Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada has limited its use of Wi-Fi based on the precautionary principle, due to health concerns. It has comprehensive fibre-optic computer network throughout the campus, 9000 plug-in sites, internet cafes and computer laboratories. The University state that they have taken this approach because there are numerous scientific studies that demonstrate a basis for concern that continuous or frequent long-term exposure to the non-ionizing radiation of electromagnetic fields could have adverse health effects. Its statement (November 2009) on the use of Wi-Fi includes: ‘There will be no use of Wi-Fi in those areas of the University already served by hard wire connectivity until such time as the potential health effects have been scientifically rebutted or there are adequate protective measures that can be taken.’ 'Cellular communications antennae will not be placed on University property' (2009).
The Progressive Librarian's Guild
The Progressive Librarian’s Guild in America (2008) recommend ‘that via their professional organizations, information workers address the risks of wireless technology in public spaces, take steps in learning about the risks of wireless in terms of exposure and impact on library services, monitor wireless technology in their facilities, critically evaluate and adopt alternatives to wireless technology especially in children’s sections of libraries, create warning signage on risks of wi-fi throughout their libraries, and act as a community resource in the public education on wireless technologies.’
Professor Dennis Henshaw, Professor of human radiation effects at Bristol University has called for an enquiry into the dangers of Wi-Fi wireless internet technology (2007). ‘The research hasn’t been done. Therefore we cannot assume that there are no effects’ he told the Independent Newspaper. ‘This technology is being wheeled out without any checks and balances’.
Dr Johansson at the Department of Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm has sent a letter advising against the use of Wi-Fi to Swedish School Governors (Powerwatch, 2005). Videos from Dr Johansson about wireless technologies, Wake Up Call 1 and Wake Up Call 2 (2010).
Dr Havas from the Department of Environmental and Resource Studies, Trent University, Canada, has written two open letters to schools recommending that they do not use Wi-Fi (May 2009, January 2010). Dr Havas has also sent an open letter to the Chief Medical Officers in Canada requesting that they make a public announcement about the potentially harmful effects of Wi-Fi radiation in the school environment (September 2010). Face to Face interview with Dr Magda Havas.
Ian Gibson, former MP and chairman of the Commons Science and Technology Committee and honorary Professor and former Dean of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia, said ‘We need a departmental enquiry into this situation. The Department of Health should be looking into it seriously’ (The TimesOnline, Nov 25th, 2006).
David Carpenter, MD, Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment, School of Public Health, University of Albany, New York, has said 'Based on the existing science, many public health experts believe it is possible we will face an epidemic of cancers in the future resulting from uncontrolled use of cell phones and increased population exposure to Wi-Fi and other wireless devices. Thus it is important that all of us, and especially children, restrict our use of cell phones, limit exposure to background levels of Wi-Fi, and that government and industry discover ways in which to allow use of wireless devices without such elevated risk of serious disease. We need to educate decision-makers that 'business as usual' is unacceptable. The importance of this public health issue can not be underestimated'.
The Stewart Report, UK
The Stewart Report (2000, see also Precautionary Approach) commissioned by the UK Government stated that a precautionary approach should be taken to the use of mobile phone technologies until more detailed information on any health effects becomes available. It recommended that the beam of greatest intensity from mobile phone masts should not fall on any part of a school's grounds or buildings without the agreement of the school and parents. The Stewart Report also advises that children should not use mobile phones for non-essential calls.
Information on Wi-Fi
An article on Wi-Fi from the Ecologist, 2008.
Further articles and links about Wi-Fi are listed on the Voice website.
UK Chief Medical Officers
UK Chief Medical Officers recommend that if parents wish their children to avoid being subject to possible risks, they should not let their children (under the age of 16) use mobile phones (Department of Health Website, 2006). However, some schools are now buying mobile phones for their pupils to use (BECTA).
The Russian National Committee on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (RNCNIRP)
The RNCNIRP have announced their concern about the high risks to children's health from the use of mobile phones and wireless communication systems (2008, Radiation Research Trust). In a statement by the Chairman, Professor Yury Grigoriev, the RNCNIRP say 'The members of the Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection emphasize ultimate urgency to defend children's health from the influence of the EMF (electromagnetic fields) of the mobile communication systems. We appeal to the government authorities, to the entire society to pay closest attention to this coming threat and to take adequate measures in order to prevent negative consequences to the future generation's health. The children using mobile communication are not able to realize that they subject their brain to the EMF radiation and their health - to the risk. We believe that this risk is not much lower than the risk to the children's health from tobacco or alcohol. It is our professional obligation not to let damage the children's health by inactivity'. It is worth reading the whole statement made by the RNCNIRP (here).
Russia recommends that mobile phones are not used by children under the age of 18. Russia also recommends that pregnant women do not use mobile phones.
The RCNIRP are calling on the international scientific community to study the risks to children from the use of mobile communication systems and to research the effects of chronic low intensity radiofrequency electromagnetic fields on the developing brain (March, 2009).
The French Government has warned that children should limit their use of wireless phones (2002) and is introducing legislation to ban advertising of mobile phones to children (2009). The French Senate voted to ban mobile phones in schools because of health concerns (October 2009).
The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) in Finland has recommended restricting the use of mobile phones by children (2009).
The Israeli Ministry of Health has called for children's use of mobile phones to be limited (2008).
Israeli Parliament has backed a bill requiring a health warning on all mobile phones: "Warning - the Health Ministry cautions that heavy use and carrying the device next to the body may increase the risk of cancer, especially among children." March 2012.
The Indian Ministry of Telecommunication has recommended that children under the age of 16 should be discouraged from using cell phones (2008).
Tajikistan has banned mobile phones in all schools and universities in a bid to boost education (March 2009). Those who carry a mobile phone will be fined.
Interphone Study into the possible link between mobile phone use and cancer
The co-ordinator of the International Interphone study, Elisabeth Cardis, recommends, as far as children are concerned, that mobile phones should not be used beyond reasonable limits and that landlines should be preferred.
Association of Teachers and Lecturers, 2008, Warning signal to schools using Wi-Fi, Kathryn Torney, Belfast Telegraph 30th Oct 2008, http://groups.google.com/group/mobilfunk_newsletter/browse_thread/thread/3b2c06b777eac53d (accessed Dec 2008).
Bio-Initiative Report, 2007. A Rationale for a biologically-based public exposure standard for electromagnetic fields (ELF and RF). http://www.bioinitiative.org/index.htm (accessed Aug 2008).
Department of Health, 2006. Mobile phones and Health, Leaflet 2883, http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_4123979 (accessed Aug 2008).
Ecologist, 13th March 2008, The Gathering Brainstorm, Mark Anslow, http://www.theecologist.org/pages/archive_detail.asp?content_id=1179.
EMFacts Consultancy, 2008, Wireless networks (Wi-Fi) Consumer Health and Safety Advice, http://www.emfacts.com/wifi/ (accessed Dec 2008).
European Parliament mid-term review of the European Environment and Health Action Plan 2004-2010, Ries F. (2008) (2007/2252(INI)), http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/pr/713/713890/713890en.pdf (accessed Aug 2008). http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=REPORT&mode=XML&reference=A6-2008-0260&language=EN (accessed Sept 2008).
Independent Newspaper, 29th April 2007, Scientists demand enquiry over WiFi, Owen, J., http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-wellbeing/health-news/scientists-demand-inquiry-over-wifi-446695.html (accessed Aug 2008).
International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety (ICEMS). The Venice Resolution June 2008, http://www.icems.eu/resolution.htm (accessed Aug 2008).
International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety (ICEMS). The Beneveto Resolution September 2006, http://www.icems.eu/resolution.htm (accessed Aug 2008).
Lakehead University, Canada, 2004, General: WiFi Policy, http://policies.lakeheadu.ca/policy.php?pid=178.%20... (accessed Aug 2008).
Libraries in Paris, 2008, SECTION FSU Bibliotheque Nationale de France, La Bibliotheque Nationale de France renounce au WiFi, http://www.robindestoits.org/La-Bibliotheque-Nationale-de-France-renonce-au-WiFi-Avril-2008_a283.html (accessed Aug 2008).
Panorama 21st May 2007, BBC1, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/panorama/6674675.stm and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/panorama/6683969.stm (accessed Aug 2008).
Powerwatch, 2005, letter from Professor O. Johnsson, http://www.powerwatch.org.uk/pdfs/20070723_wifi_olle.pdf (accessed Aug 2008).
Progressive Librarian's Guild, Statement on WiFi in libraries and the Precautionary Principle, June 16, 2008, http://libr.org/plg/wifiresolution.php (accessed Aug 2008).
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The TimesOnline, Nov 25th, 2006, News in Brief, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article649578.ece (accessed Aug 2008).
The TimesOnline, Nov 20th, 2006, Health Fears lead schools to dismantle wireless networks, Bale, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article642575.ece (accessed Aug 2008).
Voice, Teacher's Union, Parkin, P., 2007, http://www.voicetheunion.org.uk/index.cfm/page/sections.contentdetail.cfm/navid/11/parentid/0/_sa/17/id/907 (accessed Aug 2008).