Is Children’s Health and Safety in Schools Really Our Top Priority? Contributed by Melissa Smith

Melissa Smith is a children’s health advocate and a former CA high school math educator with a decade of experience in the classroom. Melissa can be reached at mtsmith74@gmail.com.

Is Children’s Health and Safety in Schools Really Our Top Priority?

After more than a decade of extensive wireless usage and in light of mounting evidence of biological harm from exposure to wireless radiation, it is time for school districts, county boards of education, and the CA PTA to teach safeguards to students and educators that reduce radiation exposure, especially for the most vulnerable populations, which includes young children.

Wireless radiation (also known as radiofrequency radiation (RFR) or microwave radiation) is emitted by all wireless devices, including routers, laptops, desktops, tablets, cell phones, gaming consoles, Apple TVs, anything with Bluetooth, wireless headphones, SMART meters, etc. “Every wireless device with an antenna radiates to receive and send data. These antennas constantly emit microwave radiation to create a connection to a cell tower or router antenna. Microwave radiation is able to travel through walls and our bodies. This is how your phone can still receive signals in a building even though the cell tower is outside. It is also how a personal device like an iPad or laptop computer can access the internet when the router is in another room or a neighbor’s home” (Schools and Families Course, www.wirelesseducation.org).

Bloomberg Law reports that on January 25, 2021, judges at the D.C. US Court of Appeals “voiced skepticism that the Federal Communications Commission had adequately considered dangerous health effects when it established guidelines for radiation emission from cell towers and wireless devices.”1 Here are the audio and written transcripts from the hearing.2 

A Yale study in 2012 showed that “in-utero mice that were exposed to wireless radiation tended to be more hyperactive and had reduced memory capacity.”3 In his 2018 paper “Wi-Fi is an Important Threat to Human Health,4 Dr. Martin Pall summarized studies confirming induced biological effects including DNA damage, oxidative stress, sperm dysfunction, sleep disruption, and more from exposure to Wi-Fi. These health effects were confirmed by Dr. Joel Moskowitz (director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Family and Community Health at the School of Public Health) in his extensive review of numerous published studies from 2016-2018.5

The image below from Dr. Om Ghandi, Professor and Chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Utah, demonstrates the increased absorption of wireless radiation within the brains of children compared to adults (“Children’s Unique Vulnerabilities to Wireless Radiation,” Om P. Gandhi et al., 2012).

Doctors and health institutions have stated the need for precautions in the use of wireless radiation:

  • The California Department of Public Health states, “RF [radiofrequency] energy can reach a larger area of a child’s brain than an adult’s brain. A child’s brain and body grow and develop through the teen years. During this time, the body may be more easily affected by RF energy and the effect may be more harmful and longer lasting.”6
  • The 60,000+ physicians in the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have advised the US government since 2013 to reassess regulations regarding human exposure to wireless radiation, especially for children and pregnant women, and “[adopt] standards that are protective of children and reflect current use patterns.”7
  • Dr. Anthony B. Miller (longtime advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO), and Senior Epidemiologist for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)) gave 8 policy recommendations in 2019 related to the protection of the public from RF exposure, including “limiting RFR exposure in children under 16 years of age.”8

States, school districts and teachers’ unions are beginning to recognize the need to protect our children from unnecessary and/or excess exposure:

  • The November 2020 Legislative Report from New Hampshire states, “The insurance industry recognizes wireless radiation as a leading risk and has placed exclusions in their policies not covering damages by the pathological properties of electromagnetic radiation…There is strong evidence that the younger the child, the more susceptible they are to the negative impacts of RF-radiation.”9 The state has recommended changing to wired or optical connections within a 5-year period so that children are not subjected to RF-radiation in the classroom.
  • The Palo Alto PTA Council10 in the heart of Silicon Valley and the Maryland Department of Health recommend using hard-wired internet connections over wireless in schools.11
  • Los Angeles Unified School District uses a precautionary threshold level for wireless radiation exposure that is 0.1 μW/cm2 or 10,000 times lower than the FCC standard because they want to protect children.12
  • The New York State United Teachers recommend airplane mode in the classroom and turning off the router when the Internet is not needed.13
  • The New Jersey Education Association recommends hardwiring all devices that use the Internet, hardwiring fixed devices like printers and boards, airplane mode, and not wearing devices on the body.14
  • “Best Practices for Wi-Fi”are posted in the classroom or online for various Massachusetts15,16 and New York17 schools.
  • United Educators of San Francisco passed a resolution for safer technology standards.18

Just as a person is asked to consent to x-rays at a dentist’s office, parents should have to consent to their child using wireless devices in the classroom (especially when there is an easy solution to eliminate the radiation, like using an Ethernet cable to connect to the Internet).

At the very least, “Best Practices for Wi-Fi” should be adopted and widely promoted by school districts. While districts figure out how to transfer over to hardwiring or optical wireless, the following free practices can reduce children’s exposure to wireless radiation at school and at home:

  • On all devices, the default settings should be set to OFF for the following antennas: cellular, Bluetooth, Siri, location services, Wi-Fi and personal hotspot, and each one turned on only when specifically needed.
  • Place the device in airplane mode or turn off the device when you are done using it, thereby disabling the antennas.
  • Keep devices away from the body; always place the device on a solid surface.
  • Viewing distance should be a minimum of 12 inches from the screen.
  • Stream as little as possible. Download necessary apps and information beforehand and then work offline (in airplane mode) as much as possible.

If schools are unable to hardwire right away, take measures to reduce the harmful effects of routers which are “often the greatest source of radiation in the classroom.”13 Ideas for reducing the radiation emitted from the router:

  • Find out if the router has an easily accessible power switch that can be turned off when access to the Internet is not necessary or manually switch the router off via computer settings.
  • Kill-switches or timers are low-cost options to shut down the router when not in use. Encourage parents and educators to employ this at home, especially at night, since sleeping is when the body heals. 
  • District or School Information Technology staff can use the WiFi network’s management software to reduce the power of the router by reducing the beaconing signal, asking vendors for sleep mode, disabling the 5 GHz band (which consumes more power because of its higher frequency) and decommissioning older networks that are no longer in use.
  • Use a router guard19 or Signal Tamer20 to cover your router to reduce radiofrequency emissions, while still allowing for Wi-Fi connectivity.
  • Place routers as far away from students as possible, and where they spend the least time.

More webinars21 and presentations22 can be made available by the CA PTA on its website and email-blasted to teach about the adverse effects of wireless radiation. Parents especially need to be made aware that cell phones are not to be used as toys or distractions, especially for babies and young children. Airplane mode with antennas turned off is the only way a device should be handed to a very young child, if at all.

“Radiofrequency radiation (RFR) is an environmental toxin which like many other toxins is inadequately studied, monitored or regulated. Because one cannot feel it, see it or hear it, RFR is among the many other toxic exposures silently and slowly affecting our basic biology, genetic structures and that of our environment. This causes a silent decline in our health and that of the environment. Precaution in use is critical”23 (Cindy Russell, M.D., Executive Director of Physicians for Safe Technology).

In its resolution on electromagnetic fields, “The California State PTA [resolves to] educate and inform its districts, councils, and units about the potential hazards of EMFs and encourage school districts and schools to develop risk reduction policies and continue to disseminate information on the subject as it becomes available.”24 As the CA PTA, let’s continue to abide by our resolution and inform CA educators and parents of the adverse effects of wireless radiation, especially on the most vulnerable populations, including babies, young children and pregnant women.

Melissa Smith is a children’s health advocate and a former CA high school math educator with a decade of experience in the classroom. Melissa can be reached at mtsmith74@gmail.com.

References:

  1. https://news.bloomberglaw.com/product-liability-and-toxics-law/fcc-faces-skeptical-appeals-judges-in-radiation-emissions-case?context=search&index=0
  2. https://ehtrust.org/judge-wilkins-to-the-fcc-i-am-inclined-to-rule-against-you-video-court-transcript-and-press-conference-replay/, https://ehtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/EHT-et-al.-v-FCC-1.pdf
  3. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep00312
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118300355
  5. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zeM5L7-x4Xnu9B6SxpHPQ0J_dHIHMQCy/view
  6. https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CCDPHP/DEODC/EHIB/CDPH%20Document%20Library/Cell-Phone-Guidance.pdf
  7. https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/7520941318.pdf
  8. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2019.00223/full
  9. http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/statstudcomm/committees/1474/reports/5G final report.pdf
  10. https://ptac.paloaltopta.org/wp-content/uploads/Safer-Use-of-Technology-for-Children-During-Distance-Learning.pdf
  11. http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/OEHFP/EH/Pages/WiFiCEHPAC.aspx
  12. http://www.lausd-oehs.org/docs/Misc/Radiofrequency_Safety_Fact_Sheet_021113a.pdf
  13. https://www.nysut.org/~/media/files/nysut/news/2018/saferguidelines.pdf?la=en
  14. https://www.njea.org/minimize-health-risks-from-electronic-devices/
  15. https://mdsafetech.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/ashland-schools-best-practices-for-mobile-devices-room-signage-8-27-14.pdf
  16. https://worcesterschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/radio_frequency.pdf
  17. https://resources.finalsite.net/images/v1532692016/onteorak12nyus/gpklr1g7onon2805mzk8/student_acceptable_use.pdf
  18. https://uesf.org/news/san-francisco-educators-pass-resolution-calling-for-safer-technology-standards-for-all-san-francisco-schools/
  19. https://www.amazon.com/WiFi-Router-Guard-Large-Blocks/dp/B01IJD22YG
  20. https://www.lessemf.com/computer.html – 220
  21. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7RUeC6zUjg&feature=youtu.be&a&fbclid=IwAR31h8lkfJ8PmWjYSXhpIMLlVahiELF2HWLZ7WbieL7djrgNFc4rha5lPT4
  22. Jeromy Johnson “Wireless Wake-up Call” TEDx talk
  23. https://mdsafetech.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/letter-portland-schools-sb-283-final-32319-pdf.pdf
  24. http://downloads.capta.org/res/ElectroMagneticFields.pdf