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Wi-Fi opponent wants schools to be hardwired

Health concerns rejected by school district as 'unfounded'
Parent Carl Katz says the proliferation of wireless communication shouldn't be in schools.

A South Surrey parent is urging others to join a campaign to ban wireless Internet in schools, citing concerns over the well-being of students.

Carl Katz – an IT technician and founding member/director of Citizens for Safe Technology, which has been battling the installation of smart meters across B.C. – said he hopes to raise awareness about the impact of Wi-Fi in schools and encourage parents to speak out.

“My daughter, who is turning 11 in a few weeks, is sensitive to the Wi-Fi. She is at Peace Arch Elementary and has nausea and dizziness,” Katz said, noting he, too, is electrohypersensitive to the radio waves used in high-speed data transfers.

“Given that parents of children who are electrosensitive in the Surrey School District are either pulling their children out of school or leaving them in with grave concern because they don’t have the option of home-schooling them, why are there no options for these children? They just upgraded the Wi-Fi in the school and I’ve lost more than a few sleeps over it.”

Surrey School District communications manager Doug Strachan said he knows of just one case in the district in which students were pulled from class due to Wi-Fi concerns.

Strachan said many of the fears are unfounded and can be attributed to skewed information.

“There’s a plethora of information out in the Internet about Wi-Fi, but a lot of people zero in on – and have their fears heightened by – studies that say electromagnetic radiation has been declared a carcinogen by the World Health Organization. But if they dig deeper, they will see the electromagnetic radiation is in the same classifications as alcohol and talcum powder,” Strachan said.

“It’s at a lower classification than sunlight. There needs to be context for everything.”

In November, the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils sent a letter to the Ministry of Education outlining a list of resolutions from the 2012 annual general meeting – including the designation of one public school at each education level per district that is free of Wi-Fi, cordless phones and cellphones.

However, the ministry noted that boards of education “have the authority to develop policies addressing the use of wireless technology in schools and to implement the appropriate technology where it is deemed necessary to support the education needs of students.”

Katz, who first noticed symptoms of electrohypersensitivity in 2007 – including nausea, dizziness and headaches – said negative health impacts from Wi-Fi are something he deals with daily, despite ridding his South Surrey acreage of wireless electronic devices in 2008.

In 2010, Katz and other members of CST, presented their concerns to White Rock council, prompting the city to ask the federal government to review its use, safety guidelines and standards for wireless technologies. Shortly after, Katz underwent surgery for a brain tumour, which he said was “very plausible” to be the result of a decade of exposure through his work in the information-technology industry.

Katz noted Wi-Fi is used worldwide, including retail businesses, hospitals, libraries and homes, potentially making everybody susceptible.

“The newest Wi-Fi standard 802.11n has a range of 1,000 feet, compared with the old 802.11b, which had a range of 250 feet,” he said. “When I drive, there are certain intersections where I get dizzy and sometimes I feel like I’m in a fog.

“Kids shouldn’t be exposed to that for six to seven hours.”

According to the Surrey Schools Wi-Fi Installations Info Sheet, the routers used in all Surrey schools are the Aruba AP-105, which “transmits at only a small fraction of the national allowable limit.”

“An active Wi-Fi router in a Surrey school was tested with the measurement tool directly on the router and the result was equal to 1/4 of one per cent of the Health Canada safety limit,” the info sheet states.

Said Strachan: “Wi-Fi is safe and has enormous advantages. There is no reason to go to tethering people. We rely on health experts and authorities in Canada to help us stay safe.”

Despite the lack of support from the school district in removing Wi-Fi, Katz said he plans to continue sharing the information he finds.

“The Surrey School District’s plan is to divide (parents) and conquer,” he said. “But wired is far superior to wireless and while it’s not as convenient, we have to give it up for our kids. They shouldn’t be forced to be eradiated in school.”