A group of Canadian parents is lobbying to have the wi-fi turned off in their children’s schools. They’re not worried about the distraction factor of endless internet access. Instead, they claim the wi-fi networks are causing health problems for the kids.
Numerous parents in Ontario are sharing anecdotal stories about kids suffering from headaches, dizzyness, concentration problems and nausea while at school. As evidence that the schools’ wi-fi networks must be to blame, the parents point out that their kids don’t suffer these symptoms on weekends.
Should these people be wearing tinfoil hats, or is there something to be concerned about there?
All the available data suggest it’s tinfoil hat time. While the parents’ concerns are real, wi-fi is unlikely to be the source of their troubles. They have nothing but anecdote to back up their claims, which is probably why the school boards aren’t taking them very seriously.
One mother complained about the demand for evidence, saying, “What doctor has been schooled about the rate of microwave infections?”
Now, let me break that down for you.
- Microwave radiation actually does not cause infections. It’s not like a virus.
- Wireless routers emit about as much radiation as your typical microwave oven, but spread out over your whole house.
- Radiation sickness is not an acute condition. If wi-fi were making these kids sick, the health effects would be slow and cumulative, not disappearing on weekends.
The signal from a wireless network is very low; one cell phone emits 10 times the radiation a router uses. Your kids absorb more heat from overhead lighting than they do from ambient wireless. We’re surrounded by radio frequencies and microwave radiation all day, every day. Just being on a city bus or in a typical office is going to expose you to more juice than being in a school with a wireless network.
Basically what this boils down to: change is scary. It’s easy to point a finger at something new that you don’t understand, and blame it for your troubles. But in this case, wi-fi’s almost certainly not the root cause of children’s headaches.