Earth Matters: A lesson in wireless radiation

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For many of us, the word “radiation” conjures up images of nuclear power plants, medical X-rays or even the iconic yellow-and-black warning signs that identified air-raid shelters back in the 1960s. It’s a scary word – one that we’ve all been taught means inherent danger.

And so it’s somewhat surprising that we are so accepting of radiation when it comes to the wireless devices that permeate our modern lives.

All of our mobile phones emit some level of radiation (radio frequency microwave radiation), as do wireless utility meters, wireless baby monitors, tablets, laptops and, of course, the ubiquitous wireless routers and antennas that send and receive the signals that tether us to the digital world.

For more than three decades, our government agencies have maintained that the radiation from all these wireless devices is completely harmless. It’s non-ionizing radiation, they say, incapable of having any effect on us other than a potential thermal effect – the burning of our skin if we get too close to a powerful antenna.

In fact, our current federal human exposure guidelines, established in 1996, are based on research conducted in the 1980s on such thermal effects. They are not at all relevant to today’s near-constant exposures in our homes, our schools, places of business and all means of transportation, nor do they recognize the robust and growing body of research on wireless radiation.

Back in the 1960s, the U.S. and Russia were both conducting extensive experiments on the health impacts of wireless microwave radiation on military personnel, and what they found (and documented) was worrisome. These studies, some classified until just recently, were among the first to show neurological and cognitive harm.

More than 50 years later, we have thousands of independent, peer-reviewed scientific studies documenting biological harm from exposure to RF microwave radiation, even at levels far below those long-outdated government standards.

One example is a recent 10-year, $30-million-dollar study by the National Toxicology Program of our National Institutes of Health that corroborated what hundreds of other studies have shown: clear evidence that long-term exposure to wireless radiation increases the risk of several cancers, particularly malignancies of the heart, brain and adrenal gland.

Unless you are looking for it, this information has been well hidden from the American public.  And so, we have experienced the unprecedented growth of the telecoms, including the expansion of wireless technology into schools, where even our very youngest children are being exposed for hours and hours to RF microwave radiation in their classrooms every day.

This is a very, very inconvenient situation for educators and parents alike.

Over the past decade, the tech industry has been very generous in helping to equip American classrooms with routers, laptops, tablets and software, all dependent on wireless technology. It’s been a national effort, making sure our kids have the tools and skills they need to compete in the world.

There is nothing wrong with technology in schools.  The internet offers students a vast resource of potential enrichment and learning.

Software programs can reinforce concepts, test skills and provide valuable feedback to teachers about a student’s progress. And besides, many modern businesses depend on technology to function, and their future employees need to understand how to make that technology work.

But what is the long-term impact for a student sitting in a classroom with a powerful router and twenty-five tablets or laptops all transmitting and receiving data (and emitting radiation) several hours each day?

One thing we know from the research: most children are unlikely to suffer immediate symptoms of exposure, although some will experience headaches, nausea, dizziness, confusion or “mental fog.”

But the fact that children in school classrooms are not exhibiting overt signs of serious illness should not be interpreted as a sign that everything is OK.  More serious long-term illness can take years to manifest itself, by which time the child has long since left the classroom where the problem may have had its origins.

The alarming fact is that our school classrooms are some of the “hottest” hot spots for wireless radiation and we need to make some adjustments in our approach to technology in the educational setting.

Ethernet connections, which used to be the way computers in school classrooms were connected, are generally faster, more secure, and while perhaps not as convenient as wireless tablets and laptops, come with no health risks whatsoever.

We need to re-wire our classrooms, and I am not alone when it comes to this conclusion – the teachers union in New York, NYSUT, created a resolution in 2017 on the hazards of wireless radiation emission, promoting hard wired computers and a long list of best practices to reduce exposures.

It’s hard, really hard, to step back from this technology. It’s fun, it’s trendy, kids and parents love it.

Perhaps it’s because people don’t know that their devices are emitting harmful radiation?  Like DDT, asbestos, tobacco, hormone replacement therapy and Vioxx, the science does eventually catch up!

We have a huge responsibility to our children and everyone else’s children, to do what we can to protect them from harm of all kinds, including RF microwave radiation in school classrooms. And right now, some parents in our local schools are struggling with whether to allow their kids to continue going to school and who never imagined that they would be considering homeschooling as an option.

The wireless classroom probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but now that we know its potential impact on our children’s health, it’s time to find the safest way to bring technology into our classrooms.

 

 

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