Although wireless internet access in schools could have a number of potential benefits, according to long-term Microsoft employee Frank Clegg, the downsides are just as real — and don't get nearly the same amount of attention.
Clegg, who was with the Redmond, Washington-based software giant for more than a decade-and-a-half and headed up Microsoft Canada between 2000 and 2005 says that an increasing number of children are getting sick from exposure to WiFi technology present in a growing number of school buildings.
According to Clegg, the illnesses reported by students – including symptoms like nausea, headaches and heart problems – are not an invention of parents' hyperactive imaginations. Doctors and even teachers are increasingly signing off on the idea that wireless networks can deliver real-life physical harm.
Earlier this week, Clegg's concerns were echoed by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, which announced that doctors were reporting that their parents are complaining of symptoms likely brought on by wireless signal exposure.
The debate of whether wifi is dangerous has been raging for years. In 2012, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, which represents teachers from 1,400 schools, issued a report that suggested wifi is harmful to students and must not be installed in schools. Few agreed with the report, noting that wifi is already ubiquitous, at home and in malls—even children's hospitals. Premier Dalton McGuinty said that the report does not raise any new issues and that there is no valid reason not to install wifi in schools. Speaking of the potential effects wifi exposure could have on people, Dalton told the Canadian Press last year that "I know that [Health Canada] continues to monitor these things very closely," noting that they have performed extensive worldwide research. "I place my confidence in them," Dalton said—not the Catholic union.
Of course, Clegg is not a medical expert and the AAEM has a dodgy reputation in the US. Environmental Medicine as a field is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties and the organization has earned itself a few mentions on QuackWatch, the website that tracks questionable and quasi-scientific research.
In a statement published in 2011, Health Canada said that current research didn't indicate that Wi Fi technology was harmful to people, as long as it met "established limits."
The World Health Organization was equally emphatic.
"A common concern about base station and local wireless network antennas relates to the possible long-term health effects that whole-body exposure to the RF signals may have. To date, the only health effect from RF fields identified in scientific reviews has been related to an increase in body temperature (> 1 °C) from exposure at very high field intensity found only in certain industrial facilities, such as RF heaters. The levels of RF exposure from base stations and wireless networks are so low that the temperature increases are insignificant and do not affect human health."