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Letter on Health Risks of Wi-Fi in School for Principal and School Administrators

Jun 25, 2018


 Letter on Health Risks of Wi-Fi in School for Principal and School Administrators 

This letter has the latest research on the health risks of Wi-Fi in school and you can send it to the administrator to begin this important conversation on safe technology.


I am writing to you on an important issue regarding our children’s health. I am so thankful for you taking the time to consider this rather complex but critically important information. This text is hyperlinked so you can see the sources directly

While I understand that many schools are putting new wireless systems in classrooms as an improvement, I have become aware there is an unintended result: Wi-Fi systems utilize microwave radio frequency radiation (RFR) electromagnetic (EMF) fields increasing. Many scientists are deeply concerned about the long-term effects of exposure to RFR.

Thankfully, schools—in the United States and other countries are developing solutions for schools so that classrooms can have full Internet access but without the RFR exposures. I have put together this email with not only information on the scientific evidence on health effects but, more importantly, information on what schools can do to minimize any risks and still move forward into the 21st century with state of the art technology. I respect that monies have been spent on installing wireless systems and I am thankful that you are open to this discussion.

Wi-Fi devices were never and are not currently pre-market tested for long-term safety. US regulations on wireless radiation exposure limits have not been updated during the past two decades and they were developed well before Wi-Fi was even invented. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been long working on this as a children’s health issue and has repeatedly advised the US government to reassess regulations regarding human exposure to wireless radiation. The AAP states that children and pregnant women need more protections, and AAP points to research that indicates that children’s brains and bodies absorb proportionately more of this radiation due to their unique physiology. Children are at higher risk as their brain and immune system are still developing.

The healthy solution is ethernet internet connections. Not only is it cheaper to go wired versus wireless, but  ethernet is much more reliable and secure and will outperform Wi-Fi  capabilities in:

  • Data speed
  • Signal quality
  • Network expandability
  • Device adaptability

The health implications are significant.

Peer reviewed research has demonstrated a myriad of adverse effects of EMF radiation including increased brain cancer, DNA breaks, oxidative stress and immune dysfunction, altered brain development, sleep changes, hyperactivity, and memory and cognitive problems.

Due to these research findings, the California Department of Health, the Connecticut Department of Health, many international medical organizations and more than 20 nations are recommending RFR exposure reduction, especially for children. In 2015, an Appeal, now with over 237 signatories, was launched by scientists from 41 countries who have peer reviewed publications on electromagnetic fields. The Appeal calls on the United Nations to reduce exposure and educate the public.

Some examples of the scientific research include:

  • The US National Toxicology Program $25 million animal study on long-term exposure to radiofrequency EMF radiation found DNA Damage, heart damage, increased brain tumors and increased heart tumors deemed “clear evidence of cancer.” Importantly, this study was launched almost two decades ago by the FDA because the US government had not performed research on the long-term effects of RFR exposure and the FDA wanted data on long-term safety. The EPA was defunded from developing federal safety standards in 1996, and since then there has been no systematic review of the science by any US agency. (Final Report on Rat NIEHS Studies)
  • Researchers with the renowned Ramazzini Institute in Italy published findings that lab animals exposed to environmental levels of RFR developed the same types of cancers as the US National Toxicology Program found in their large-scale lifetime animal study.
  • Scientists state that the weight of current peer reviewed evidence supports the conclusion that radiofrequency radiation should be regarded as a human carcinogen- that radiofrequency causes cancer. Significant scientific papers have been published after  2011 when radiofrequency radiation was classified as a Class 2 B possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization International Agency for the Research on Cancer WHO/IARC. Researchers state that WHO/IARC were to now review the research year later, that  RF would have an upgraded classification as a Group 1A human carcinogen (Hardell and Carlberg 2017, Peleg et al., 2018, Miller et al 2018).
  • Kaiser Permanente researchers have published several studies linking pregnant women’s exposure to electromagnetic fields to the endpoints of increased miscarriage and increased obesity and asthma in the woman’s prenatally exposed children. Watch a clip from a webinar where Dr. De-Kun Li of Kaiser presents this research here.
  • A medical research team at Yale, led by Dr. Hugh Taylor, Chief of Obstetrics at Yale Medicine, found radiofrequency radiation exposure led to higher hyperactivity, poorer memory, and altered brain function—corroborating prior published research findings of altered brain development after exposure. These studies prompted the doctors and other experts to initiate an EPA recognized educational campaign called The BabySafe Project urging pregnant women to reduce wireless exposure to minimize risks to their babies’ brain development.
  • A published literature review found that the majority of research studies on the topic found exposure increased oxidative stress and free radicals—an effect known to lead to a myriad of chronic diseases.
  • Wireless radiation alters sleep patterns in replicated research in both animals and humans. For example, an animal study found an hour of exposure to RFR caused a one-hour delay for rats to drift into REM or deep sleep. Human studies have found exposure reduces REM sleep, alters the EEG signal and results in altered performance.  

In response to this research, a growing number of public and private schools are removing the wireless networks from schools and implementing practical solutions. Examples of best practices schools are following include:

  • The United Educators of San Francisco (UESF), at a joint health committee with the San Francisco Unified School District, has approved going forward with a resolution for safer technology. The resolution became official as of May 23rd, 2018 and the “Resolution on Enhancing Technology Safety in San Francisco Unified School District” and press release be found on UESF website.
  • The Collaborative for High Performance Schools (the United States’ first green building rating program especially designed for K-12 schools) has developed Best Practices for LOW EMF classrooms which includes using corded, not cordless phones, using ethernet connected, not wireless computers in the classroom.
  • The Maryland State Children’s Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council issued a report and recommendations to the Department of Education to recommend local school districts reduce classroom wireless radiation exposures by providing wired—rather than wireless—Internet connections. The MD report states that “WiFi can be turned off” and instead “a wired local area network (LAN) can provide a reliable and secure form of networking…without any microwave electromagnetic field exposure.” The report points out that construction and renovations can be a time to install wired connections. “If a new classroom is to be built, or electrical work is to be carried out in an existing classroom, network cables can be added at the same time, providing wired (not wireless) network access with minimal extra cost and time.”   
  • The Chief Technology Officer of Montgomery County Maryland Schools (one of the top School Districts in the country) shared Maryland’s recommendations to all staff. Some children in Montgomery County Schools are given wired rather than wireless computers upon parent request.
  • Ashland, Massachusetts became the first US School District to institute “Best Practices” posted in every classroom to “turn the Wi-Fi off when not in use and keep devices away from the body” (Magazine article on Ashland’s Decision Here, Newspaper Coverage.) Other public school districts are taking action, and two examples are the Onteora School District in New York State adopted “Best Practices with Wi-Fi” and the Worcester, Massachusetts School Committee voted to approve “Radiofrequency Radiation Exposure” to be posted on the Worcester District Website.  
  • Guidelines for Safer Use of Wireless Technology in Classrooms” were developed for the New York State Teachers’ Union who later hosted a webinar on the risks of wireless technologies.

The New Jersey Education Association recently published an article entitled, “Minimize Health Risks from Wireless Devices” and detailed several recommendations on reducing the health risks of technology: “Keep devices away from the body” and “hard wire all devices, including printers, projectors and boards.” Please download a PDF with the recommendations at this link.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is informing parents and the public about this issue in several ways. In addition to their letters to the US government, they have issued ten recommendations on how to reduce RFR radiation exposure. They also have addressed health concerns related to cell towers and reference a study that they say “confirmed concerns that living nearby mobile phone base stations increased the risk for developing headaches, memory problems, dizziness, depression, and sleep problems,” and concludes that “short-term exposure to these fields in experimental studies have not always shown negative effects, but this does not rule out cumulative damage from these fields, so larger studies over longer periods are needed to help understand who is at risk. In large studies, an association has been observed between symptoms and exposure to these fields in the everyday environment.”

Many countries and local governments have policies addressing wireless in the classroom:

  • France has banned Wi-Fi in kindergarten and restricts Wi-Fi in school by having the wireless off as the default setting and teachers have wired (not wireless) computers for Internet access. Schools are being hardwired, and in situations where wireless is needed it is only turned on for a short duration in the classroom as needed and turned off after use. France also has banned cell phones in elementary/middle schools and started educating the public years ago with public health initiatives about how to reduce exposure.
  • Cyprus has removed Wi-Fi from elementary classrooms and has a strong public awareness campaign educating parents, teenagers and pregnant women.
  • Belgium has banned cell phones manufactured for young children and also banned Wi-Fi in some regions.
  • Haifa, Israel has installed corded connections in all schools, and the countries Israel and Germany officially recommend wired connections in schools and reducing children’s exposure to RFR.
  • In 2015 the Queensland Department of Education issued Guide to Safe Technology” in 2015 that states, “follow the manufacturer’s usage guideline, operate from a table or bench — not on your lap” and “use ‘hands-free’ devices to keep smart/mobile phones away from your head and body.”  
  • The Child and Youth Service of the Department of Public Instruction of Geneva, Switzerland issued a letter  to be transmitted to all teachers about the health risks of digital technology, detailing how screens can affect sleep, eyesight, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity, and recommends “Only switch your WLAN on when you need it. With laptops, in particular, it is a good idea to switch the WLAN off as otherwise the device will repeatedly try to connect to a network, leading to unnecessary radiation and a shorter battery life” and “Don’t hold your laptop close to your body while it is connected to a WLAN.”

Multiple industry white papers have deemed electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure as high-risk. EMFs are defined as a “pollutant” by insurance companies alongside smoke, chemicals and asbestos. Due to these evaluations, it is industry standard to have an “electromagnetic field exclusions” clause in insurance policies, such as exemplified by the Portland Oregon Public School and California State University insurance policies. If a school wants to obtain insurance coverage for EMFs, they may need to purchase additional “Pollution Liability” policy enhancement coverage. In addition, some newer policies—such as this City of Ann Arbor Michigan Policy—are not only excluding damages but also excluding paying for the defense of “any supervision, instruction, recommendation, warning or advice given or which should have been given” in connection to injury from electromagnetic field exposures. When parents query their schools on the insurance coverage for injury from the Wi-Fi systems and/or the cell towers on the school property, they are usually told that there is not coverage.

In fact, all wireless companies warn their shareholders—in mandated annual 10k filings—that they may incur financial losses from lawsuits related to the electromagnetic radiation emissions of their products. For example,

AT&T states, “We may incur significant expenses defending such suits or government charges and may be required to pay amounts or otherwise change our operations in ways that could materially adversely affect our operations or financial results.” Wireless companies have not been able to obtain insurance to cover this risk from their products, because no insurance company will cover the liability for them. As Crown Castle (a company building wireless infrastructure) states in their 10K filings, “If a connection between radio frequency emissions and possible negative health effects were established, our operations, costs, or revenues may be materially and adversely affected. We currently do not maintain any significant insurance with respect to these matters.”  

Internationally renowned doctors have written on this issue with recommendations to reduce exposure to Wi-Fi in schools. Please read their letters here. The Santa Clara Medical Association published an article online, highlighting the health risks: “Wi-Fi in Schools”.

The reality is that in the United States, brain cancer rates are rising among children and teenagers. The US CDC presented 2018 research that found brain, renal, hepatic, and thyroid cancers are increasing among individuals under 20 years old in the USA after analyzing 2001–2014 cancer statistics from 48 states covering 98% of the US population.   

We ask you to do two things:

  1. Hardwire all technology with cables and ethernet.
  2. Ban the use of cell phones and wireless in schools.

Please review the Checklist on How to Reduce EMF and Wireless Radiation for Schools.

I look forward to the opportunity to discuss this with you. Thank you so much for your consideration of this issue.


Research compilation on RFR and several health effects including headaches, sleep, brain cancer and hearing loss.

Santa Clara Medical Bulletin article by Dr. Cindy Russell on Schools and Wireless

More resources at Environmental Health Trust