Why are doctors concerned about wireless in schools?
Schools are a unique environment because there are so many wireless devices in each room. All wireless devices (including cell phones, cordless landline phones, any item with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capability, etc.) generate and emit invisible electromagnetic radiation called radiofrequency (RFR). Children will spend several hours a day in classrooms with wireless exposures.
A growing amount of scientific research links this wireless radiation to serious health effects on health—such as memory and sleep problems, headaches, cancer, and damage to brain development.
Wireless radiation penetrates deeper into children’s brains due to their thinner skulls and unique physiology. Children’s brains and immune systems are still developing, therefore they are more vulnerable to the effects.
Where can I find medical and public health recommendations about wireless and cell phones?
Physician groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Vienna Medical Association, and the Athens Medical Association are among the many international medical organizations that have issued recommendations to the public to reduce exposure to cell phone radiation.
Countries such as France, Cyprus, and Israel have banned wireless in young children’s classrooms as their public health authorities recommend reducing children’s exposure to RF.
In several letters sent to school districts, physicians strongly recommended wired connections for technology in classrooms to eliminate unnecessary wireless radiation exposures.
The American Academy of Pediatrics
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations include:
- Use text messaging when possible, and use cell phones in speaker mode or with the use of hands-free kits.
- Make only short or essential calls on cell phones.
- When talking on the cell phone, try holding it an inch or more away from your head.*
- Avoid carrying your phone against the body like in a pocket, sock, or bra. Cell phone manufacturers can’t guarantee that the amount of radiation you’re absorbing will be at a safe level.
- If you plan to watch a movie on your device, download it first, then switch to airplane mode while you watch in order to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure.
- Avoid making calls in cars, elevators, trains, and buses. The cell phone works harder to get a signal through metal, so the power level increases.
Connecticut & California Department of Public Health
- Reduce cell phone radiation
- Use a hands-free device or speakerphone as much as possible.
- Text instead of talking.
- Avoid sleeping next to your cell phone.
Cyprus Medical Association, the Vienna Austrian Medical Chamber and the Cyprus National Committee on Environment and Children’s Health
- 5G free zones for schools, playgrounds, and nurseries.
- Ban the use of Wi-Fi and wireless devices in kindergartens and schools at least up to high school
- Promote wired internet.
- Support science-based public information campaigns to educate parents and the public.
What are the best practices for schools to reduce this exposure?
Schools can ensure Internet connectivity with safe corded connections, rather than wireless.
- The Maryland State Children’s Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council’s Report advises reducing RFR as much as possible with wired Internet connections.
- The Collaborative for High-Performance Schools, a US green building rating program, has developed LOW EMF criteria for classrooms so that RFR is reduced to as low as possible.
- Install a wired local area network (LAN) for Internet access throughout the school.
- Provide wired network connections for desktop computers, laptops, notebooks, and tablets.
- Desktop computers, laptops, notebooks, and tablets operated on a desk, not laps.
- All wireless transmitters shall be disabled on all Wi-Fi-enabled devices.
- Install easily accessible hard-wired phones for teacher and student use.
- Prohibit the use of standard DECT cordless phones operating at 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz
- Prohibit the use of cell phones and other personal electronic devices in instructional areas/classrooms.
- Measure magnetic field levels to comply with 1 mG in new construction and 2 mG in existing.
Maryland State Children’s Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council
- Reduce wireless in classrooms as much as possible with wired Internet connections.
- Install a wired network when remodeling or for new construction.
- Turn Wi-Fi OFF when not in use
- Upload first then switch tablets to airplane mode to play games or watch videos.
“The Maryland State Department of Education should recommend that local school systems consider using wired devices“
“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.”
Physicians Recommend Four Key Steps for Schools
- Banning cellphones in schools for personal use;
- Ensuring LAN networks, phones, printers, and technology systems are wired rather than wireless;
- Ensuring teachers, students and staff are accommodated;
- Prohibiting cell towers and cell antennas from being built on or near school grounds;
- Developing an educational health curriculum for teaching students and staff about cell phones and wireless technology.
What actions are governments taking?
Numerous governments such as France, Cyprus, and Israel are banning and/or restricting wireless in classrooms to reduce children’s radiation exposure.
The European Parliamentary Assembly issued Resolution 1815 which recommends reducing EMF exposure to the public and recommends, “for children in general, and particularly in schools and classrooms, give preference to wired Internet connections, and strictly regulate the use of mobile phones by schoolchildren on school premises.”
Local governments worldwide have passed resolutions to promote wired rather than wireless internet and many individual schools have removed and/or halted the introduction of wireless systems into school buildings.
In the United States, the federal government has not updated its wireless radiation limits since 1996. However, Oregon passed a bill, SB283, which directs the Oregon Health Authority to review peer-reviewed, independently funded scientific studies of health effects of exposure to microwave radiation, with a special focus on wireless network technologies in schools.
What are teachers and school staff doing?
Numerous teachers’ unions are calling for reducing RFR exposures in schools to as few sources and as low emission levels as possible.
- The United Educators of San Francisco passed a resolution to inform students and staff about why and how to reduce cell phone radiation.
- The New York State United Teachers union passed a resolution regarding safer technology and released a set of “Best Practices.”
- The New Jersey Education Association published “Minimize health risks from electronic devices” recommending the use of cords/cables/wires (rather than wireless) to connect devices and use of corded phones.
- The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation Limestone District has called for a moratorium on Wi-Fi.
The BabySafe Project Recommendations
Signed onto by over 270 doctors, public health experts, and educators.
- Avoid carrying your cell phone on your body (e.g. in a pocket or bra).
- Avoid holding any wireless device against your body when in use.
- Use your cell phone on speaker setting or with an “air tube” headset.
- Avoid using your wireless device in cars, trains, or elevators.
- Avoid cordless phones, especially where you sleep.
- Whenever possible, connect to the internet with wired cables.
- When using Wi-Fi, connect only to download, then disconnect
- and disable Wi-Fi.
- Avoid prolonged or direct exposure to Wi-Fi routers.
- Unplug your home Wi-Fi router when not in use (e.g. at bedtime).
- Sleep as far away from wireless utility meters (i.e. “smart” meters) as possible.
What are the recommendations for pregnant women?
Research has found prenatal wireless exposures linked to damage to brain development in animal studies. In addition, research studies looking at people have found prenatal cell phone exposures associated with behavioral issues in children.
Physicians and educators have joined together in an EPA recognized campaign to reduce pregnant women’s wireless radiation in order to protect babies’ brain development.
- New York’s United Federation of Teachers has posted Dr. Moskowitz’s “Reducing Your Exposure” and the BabySafe brochure for pregnant women.
The video below is from the BabySafe Project and features doctors such as Dr. Hugh Taylor, Chief of Obstetrics at Yale Medicine, sharing the research indicating that pregnant women should reduce cell phone radiation
Environmental Health Trust has several resources for educators. This graphic was developed by EHT after a school nurse asked use to design a poster she could hang in her office. Click HERE for these resources.
What resources do teachers have to teach students how to reduce cell phone radiation?
The California Department of Public Health issued guidance on how to reduce exposure to cell phone radiation, including keeping the phone away from the body, reducing cell phone use when the signal is weak, reducing the use of cell phones to stream videos, and not sleeping with your cell phone.
Education modules for students were developed in partnership with the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition to teach high school and middle schoolers about why and how to reduce radiation from cell phones and wireless devices.
Are cell antennas on school buildings or towers near schools safe?
Many scientists have written school administrators stating that cell towers should not be located on or near schools.
- A 2017 study evaluated effects in the human blood of individuals living near mobile phone base stations and found higher exposures linked to changes in the blood that are considered biomarkers predictive of cancer.
- A 2018 study found school-aged adolescents exposed to higher levels of RFR exposure had delayed fine and gross motor skills, spatial working memory, and attention in comparison to those exposed to lower RFR levels.
- A 2015 study of elementary students found higher Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in students exposed to higher levels of RFR.
- A 2017 study found that children in kindergartens located closer to cell antennas had total radiofrequency exposures more than 3 times higher than children at schools where cell antennas were further away.
What about electromagnetic radiation from high-voltage power lines or electrical substations near schools?
High-voltage power lines create magnetic field electromagnetic fields (MF-ELF), with stronger intensities near the power line. California, after conducting a scientific review, has regulations protecting school children by keeping high-voltage power lines at a distance. Repeated research over the years has linked higher electromagnetic fields to childhood leukemia.
More recently, Kaiser Permanente researchers published several studies linking pregnant women’s exposure to MF-ELF to increased miscarriage and to increased ADHD, obesity, and asthma in the women’s prenatally exposed children.
Other sources of MF-ELF radiation inside classrooms include electrical equipment, nearby electrical substations, and faulty wiring in the building. A laptop or digital device on the body also creates high magnetic field exposures directly under the device.
Many countries have strict limits on the magnetic fields in schools and some will not allow schools to be built if the levels are over 3 or 4 milligauss – levels associated with childhood leukemia. The United States does not have a federal limit on magnetic fields.
EPA has “Environmental Siting Criteria Considerations,” which recommend that for high-voltage power lines more than 50 kV, potential hazards include “Exposure to electromagnetic fields and safety concerns if power lines fall.” They recommend to “Identify and evaluate all high voltage power lines within ~500 feet of prospective school locations.”
The Collaborative for High-Performance Schools Low EMF Criteria also addresses this type of electromagnetic radiation, with steps to measure the levels and mitigate these electromagnetic exposures to levels that are lower than those associated with childhood leukemia.
Schools can easily measure the magnetic field levels on campus. Magnetic fields fall off rapidly with distance. If the source is internal, simply fixing wiring errors can often remedy the situation.
Are schools taking steps to mitigate this exposure?
Entire countries and cities worldwide, and many private schools in the US, are replacing Wi-Fi with corded connections.
- 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. In-school networks are being hardwired, and in situations where wireless is needed it is turned on only 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.
- Israel has banned Wi-Fi in nursery schools, restricts Wi-Fi in elementary schools, bans cell phones in classrooms, has a national institution educating on how to reduce cell phone radiation, and has a limit of 4 mG for EMF.
- Cyprus has removed Wi-Fi from elementary classrooms and has a strong public awareness campaign educating parents, teenagers, and pregnant women.
- An example of a private school policy reducing wireless exposure is the Upper Sturt Primary School.
- Onteora School District and Ashland, Massachusetts have “Best Practices” to turn off the Wi-Fi when not in use and to keep devices away from the body, posted in every classroom.
- Several school districts (Petaluma, Montgomery County) have policies that tablets should be on tables (not laps)—prompted by parents raising the health issue of Wi-Fi in school.
Where can I find more resources to support health technology?
- New Jersey Education Association Recommendations,
- EHT’s How To Reduce EMF in School Buildings
- CHPS Low EMF Criteria
- Please see more resources at our Toolkit on Wi-Fi in School webpage.
What other organizations are considering the issue of wireless in school?
The physicians, public, and environmental health experts with additional resources include:
Where can I find scientific research on wireless, schools, and children’s health?
Here is a short list of studies:
Clegg et al. “Building science and Radiofrequency Radiation: What makes smart and healthy buildings.” Building and Environment, 2019.
Miller et al. “Cancer Epidemiology Update, following the 2011 IARC Evaluation of Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields (Monograph 102).” Environmental Research, 2018.
Carlberg, Michael, and Lennart Hardell. “Evaluation of Mobile Phone and Cordless Phone Use and Glioma Risk Using the Bradford Hill Viewpoints from 1965 on Association or Causation.” BioMed Research International, 2017.
NIEHS, National Toxicology Program Carcinogenesis Studies of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation, Final Reports, 2018.
Pall M. “Wi-Fi is an important threat to human health.” Environmental Research, 2018.
Avendaño et al. “Use of laptop computers connected to internet through Wi-Fi decreases human sperm motility and increases sperm DNA fragmentation.” Fertility and Sterility, 2012.
Houston et al. “The effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation on sperm function.” Reproduction, 2016.
Shahin et al. “2.45 GHz Microwave radiation impairs hippocampal learning and spatial memory.” Toxicological Sciences, 2017.
Megha et al. “Low intensity microwave radiation induced oxidative stress, in ammatory response and DNA damage in rat brain.” Neurotoxicology, 2015.
Yuksel et al. “Long-term exposure to EM radiation from mobile phones and Wi-Fi devices in pregnant rats and their off spring.” Endocrine, 2015.
Kostoff, Ronald N. and Lau, Clifford G.Y. “Combined biological and health effects of EMFs and other agents.” Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 2013.
Yakymenko et al. “Oxidative mechanisms of biological activity of low-intensity radiofrequency radiation.” Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, 2016.
Redmayne M. “International policy and advisory response regarding children’s exposure to radio frequency EMF.” Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, 2015.
Ferreira, Juliana Borges, and de Salles, Àlvaro Augusto Almeida. “Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) in the head of Tablet user’s.” LAW On Communications, 2015.
Hedendahl et al. “Measurements of RF Radiation with a body-borne exposimeter in Swedish schools with Wi-Fi.” Frontiers in Public Health, 2017.
Siervo, B. Numerical evaluation of human exposure to WiMax patch antenna in tablet or laptop, Bioelectromagnetics. 2018