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Scientists are divided on this issue and cannot reach a consensus: The rapid expansion of wireless technologies has greatly exceeded the rate at which researchers can study their long-term effects on human health. Many scientists and experts believe that there is enough scientific evidence pointing to adverse health effects from wireless technologies to warrant taking an immediate precautionary approach, especially where children are concerned. Others want to wait for conclusive proof this is likely to take decades. No epidemiological studies have investigated Wi-Fi in schools.


Is Wi-Fi safe?


What are the official warnings?

The World Health Organizations International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMFs) as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B) 1 in 2011. This classification applies to all devices that emit radiofrequency/microwave radiation, e.g. Wi-Fi routers, tablets & mobile phones. ARPANSA (the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency) produced Fact Sheet 14: How to reduce exposure from mobile phones and other wireless devices 2 in 2013. The rationale is that wireless technology is very new, it contains some risk, and there is little research with regard to children. The fact sheet advises how to reduce the risk from wireless devices by keeping them at a distance, for example placing the wireless router away from where people spend time, and reducing the amount of time you use them. This advice is directly pertinent to the school situation where children spend a significant proportion of their time.


What safety standards protect us in Australia?

Emissions from wireless communications devices such as Wi-Fi and mobile phones are regulated by the ACMA (Australian Media and Communications Authority) and must comply with the exposure limits set out in the 2002 ARPANSA RF Standard: Radiation Protection Standard - Maximum Exposure Levels to Radio-frequency Fields 3 kHz to 300 GHz. The ARPANSA RF Standard is based on the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection) 1998 exposure guidelines which were developed before Wi-Fi was widely adopted. It demarcates clearly-identified acute thermal effects from non-thermal and chronic effects. Thus our RF Standard: includes protection against acute thermal effects i.e. it avoids damage by thermal heating of body tissue; excludes protection against any non-thermal effects; non-thermal effects are any biological effects that occur below the ARPANSA RF Standard levels their mechanisms and end-points are considered unknown i.e. they are not sufficiently explained and/or described by current science; excludes protection against any chronic effects; a chronic effect is a biological or health effect with symptoms that develop slowly, due to long and continuous exposure to a substance or agent e.g. cancer. ARPANSA says that chronic effects have not yet been investigated sufficiently by science, and thus no threshold level of RF exposure has been determined for harmful effects from chronic exposures. Chronic effects can take decades to establish.


What are other countries doing?

Like Australia, many other countries base their exposure limits on those of the ICNIRP. Most recently, however: The Council of Europe (47 countries) adopted Resolution 1815 3 in 2011 that recommends the use of wired internet connections in schools, and the creation of radiation-free zones to protect electrosensitive people. The Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (equivalent to our ARPANSA) recommends 4 the use of wired networks in schools and educational institutions, rather than Wi-Fi (2012).


Does the ARPANSA RF Standard use a Precautionary Approach?

No. The ARPANSA RF Standard incorporates a safety factor that is based only on known biological health effects e.g. thermal effects. The risks from thermal effects are certain. It is the non-thermal and chronic effects (see FAQ 3) that are regarded as unknown because they cannot be fully determined at present, and these are not provided for in the ARPANSA RF Standard. The Precautionary Principle is applicable in cases where a risk has been identified but not yet established or quantified. The Precautionary Principle is thus directly applicable to RF exposures because they have been identified by IARC as a possible human carcinogen.


What does a Precautionary Approach look like?

When an activity raises potential threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In contrast to the exposure levels allowed by the ARPANSA RF Standard, a precautionary approach has been advised by many scientists and public health advocates. Most recently, the BioInitiative 2012 Report has recommended biologically-based exposure levels founded on the lowest observable effect together with a ten-fold safety reduction to compensate for chronic exposures and sensitive subpopulations such as children. The BioInitiative Report says that Most safety standards are a thousand times or more too high to protect healthy populations, and even less effective in protecting sensitive subpopulations. It specifies that Wireless laptops and other wireless devices should be strongly discouraged in schools for children of all ages.


What kind of health effects are we talking about?

The BioInitiative 2012 Report has highlighted scientific evidence for damage to reproduction and possible effects for autism spectrum disorders, electrohypersensitivity (EHS/ES), cancer, stress proteins, fetal and neonatal effects, bloodbrain barrier effects, genotoxicity and neurotoxicity. Electrosensitivity symptoms include headaches, heart palpitations, cardiac arrhythmia, concentration difficulties, memory problems, insomnia, nausea, fatigue, tinnitus and more.


Do we need Wi-Fi to prepare children for the 21st Century?

No. The most important tools for our children are the computer and the internet a wireless connection is not going to make them smarter or give any technological advantages over a hard-wired connection. Wi-Fi is merely a convenience that allows laptops to be moved without having a cable connection. Fibre optic cables provide the best internet connections: the service is faster, the cable carries much more data, the data is more secure from hackers, and the cable does not expose children to continuous microwave radiation.


Where do we stand as parents?

The ARPANSA RF Standard includes a requirement to minimise unnecessary public RF exposures where achievable at reasonable cost. Wi-Fi is the cheaper choice only if one does not consider the possible long-term cost to childrens health. ARPANSA has advised the public with particular reference to children on how to reduce their RF exposures and minimise health risks (see FAQ 2). Children are more vulnerable for many reasons: their bones are softer, their cells are rapidly dividing, their bodies contain more water, and their lifelong exposure will be greater than ours. Wi-Fi is a major source of total indoor RF exposures and children spend a large portion of their lives at school. Use of online digital resources in school is set to rise and will bring a concomitant increase in microwave exposures. Schools must respect the decision of parents to apply ARPANSAs precautionary advice and reduce their childrens overall wireless exposures. Children have the right to a safe learning environment and schools and teachers have a duty of care to provide it.

10. What can we do?

Talk to teachers, parents, administrators and your school council or board. Insist that a precautionary approach be taken. Demand that your rights be protected through an informed consent procedure. Download, print and share this FAQ sheet. Reduce exposure to RF microwaves by using hard-wired connections wherever possible. Build ageappropriate knowledge and awareness in your children so they can make informed decisions about how they use wireless technologies. Sign the petition at:

For more information:

Visit these Australian websites: And these overseas websites:

Produced by:

With thanks to:

Brochures/Wi-Fi in Schools Australia FAQ April 2013 VCF