Concerned Parents Protest as Telecom Invades Schools: Government and Industry Denies the Risk

October 2010 Features

by Aliss Terpstra

Wi-Fi is apparently affordable even when school boards
are too strapped to keep libraries open

The growing number of people with sensitivities to electromagnetic fields and microwaves (EMF) is testament to the fact that average exposure allowances from modern telecommunications are too high to be called safe for everyone. And these people are getting tired of hearing a certain phrase: “If it was harmful, the government would never have approved it.” 

The world according to Health Canada works like this: Selected science from corporations or approval from an unquestioned authority (ie. the World Health Organization) equals safety. Therefore, people who claim to get sick from cell phones, computers, wireless internet and phones emitting microwaves at WHO-approved exposure levels must be suffering from something else – or they are crazy.

In the real world, true evidence of safety is the healthy functioning of the most vulnerable – pregnant women and children – when they are intentionally, unavoidably, or accidentally exposed to microwave radiation at approved levels. Yet an increasing number of people (around 15% according to Dr. Magda Havas), including children all over the world, are showing symptoms of ill health after exposure to WHO-approved levels of microwaves from transmitter towers, wireless internet and phones. The scientific research was there all along to show that this would happen, especially to children, but the science was simply not used by the WHO committee setting the standards. The committee members were from the telecommunications industries.

So, on weight of evidence, it is more likely that the ‘approved’ levels are unsafe and the craziness lies in the agency doing the approving.

Hazards of Childhood Exposure to Wi-Fi Transmitters & Cell Phones

Recently, children attending 14 schools in the Georgian Bay area communities of Simcoe County developed hypersensitivity illness with headaches, fatigue, brain fog, double vision, auditory confusion, skin rash, nausea and muscle weakness when exposed to the microwaves emitted by recently installed high-power Wi-Fi transmitters inside their schools. And when the kids were away from the schools, these symptoms disappeared. Repeated medical evaluations found no other cause, and no medical treatments proved helpful.

Naturally, parents were deeply concerned. But when they approached school board officials they were essentially told to stop bothering and go away. Health Canada experts supported the Simcoe school board officials, saying Wi-Fi in schools was safe for children.

According to a new book by Devra Davis, PhD, entitled: Disconnect: The truth about cell phone radiation, what the industry has done to hide it, and how to protect your family, there are five billion cell phones now in use around the world. The levels of microwave radiation they emit are approved as safe under these conditions – occasional use; short calls; held more than an inch away from the ear of a large adult male with head size in 90th percentile; and turned off between calls.

But many phones are held right against the thinner, smaller skulls of children whose parents never read that disclaimer. These phones are now zapping brains with the same power level used in radar, brains that have not fully developed the ability to make ethical judgements, calculate speed, or assess risk. This is why we don’t let children drive. Yet the Ontario government is considering allowing children to use cell phones in class. (“Heh-heh, at least they won’t be driving!” said Premier McGuinty.)

To match the exponential growth in phones used by children, school boards are being persuaded that it’s necessary to install Wi-Fi transmitters every few meters in ceilings and walls throughout the entire building to give children a “21st-century learning environment.” Wi-Fi is apparently affordable even when school boards are too strapped to buy current textbooks and keep libraries open. Teachers and students aren’t hampered by limited access to inconvenient cables and plugs, but can download and upload anything from high resolution video to updated curriculum text, anywhere, anytime. The sales pitch from Cisco is irresistible.

According to the non-industry-funded research on health effects at these power levels, the schools’ Cisco Wi-Fi transmitters have overlapping zones of microwaves powerful enough to break DNA strands and cause the brain to release heat-shock proteins into spinal fluid.

In addition to microwaves from a phone held next to the head or in the hands above the lap, the exposed children are constantly absorbing powerful carrier waves with varying pulsed signals intended for thousands of users that are nowhere near the school. Millions of massively electrified antenna towers are on rooftops everywhere to send the signals to phones and wireless internet ports. They are blanketing us with an invisible fog of pulsed frequencies that can prevent our brains from making melatonin at night, at power levels capable of commandeering the heart’s own electrical rhythm.

Industry and Government Response to Public Concerns

When the argument is made for using safer alternatives that require less power and emit less radiation (such as fiber optic cable, or less powerful phones that only receive text and voice in a narrow frequency range that does not need a constant carrier wave, or for demand-only with a short delay for power-up), we are told that there are no safety concerns (or carbon emission concerns) that warrant such a level of inconvenience for consumers.

When the plea is made for more research and more protective safety standards for an item that has already escaped from Pandora’s Box, made it on to store shelves around the globe, and is now starting to interfere, literally, with the birds and bees, we are told that the science is complete and the regulatory due diligence has been done. This denial is especially swift if the item has become an indispensable and lucrative cash cow for the government. The wireless telecommunications industry is just such a cash cow. The government revenues from transmitter fees and bandwidth access alone are incomprehensibly large – multiple billions of euros in Britain alone.

The industry is also appallingly energy-greedy, sucking up 1% of electricity produced globally to make that electrosmog feeding billions of phones and wireless networks. In 2009, a study from Britain estimated that the telecommunications industry’s global energy consumption released 110.7 million tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere. The electricity used to power the towers has the carbon footprint of driving 29 million cars for a year. Each telecom company gets to erect an unlimited number of their own towers, beside competitors, and no laws require them to coordinate transmission needs to reduce power consumption and consumer exposure. 

Experts Address Concerned Parents About Dangers of Telecom Pollution

Barrie Trower is a retired physicist, teacher, and champion of the rights of children to live without being damaged by lax government regulation of telecommunication microwave exposures. He now spends his life travelling around the world volunteering his expertise to that end. Trower is a soft-spoken, grandfatherly, unfailingly polite Brit who once worked for the British Secret Service debriefing Cold War spies on their use of stealth microwave weapons. On August 24, he and Dr. Magda Havas addressed a packed hall at the University of Toronto’s Health Sciences building.

Trower had come from Britain on invitation by parents from the Simcoe County Safe School Committee. Frustrated with the intransigence of their local school board in addressing concerns about the deteriorating health of their children in 14 different schools with powerful Wi-Fi systems, they had raised funds to bring Trower to Canada in hopes of pressuring the school board to remove Wi-Fi and alert others of the risk to children.

Dr. Magda Havas, a professor at Trent University and an internationally recognized expert on the health effects of EMF radiation, had helped the parents produce a short documentary interviewing some of the affected children and parents. In it, one young boy stated: “It was pretty obvious,” when describing how his symptoms abated after the wireless modem was disabled.

Prior to addressing the parents gathered at U of T, Trower had done several interviews for radio, television and newspapers and had also spent ninety minutes with Dr. Arlene King, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and her top public health officials, explaining the scientific evidence of biological effects of microwave radiation on children and why the current allowable exposure levels should be lowered.

'Then, they locked up the research report, with its preface statement admitting collusion to withhold the information from the public, as a classified document for fifty years.'

Trower told the audience of concerned parents that our Canadian government knew years ago that microwave radiation frequencies at the levels now used in wireless internet and phones were harmful. But the levels were allowed anyway for necessary exposures to police and military personnel – and also to “protect future industrial profits.” Then, they locked up the research report, with its preface statement admitting collusion to withhold the information from the public, as a classified document for fifty years.

Trower retrieved it with a Freedom of Information Access request because, he said, he knew what it was called and where to look for it.

According to Havas and Trower, no government agency, including the W.H.O., has established a safe level of microwave exposure for children. In fact, Health Canada itself had commissioned a review of the health risks associated with wireless communication devices by The Royal Society of Canada in 1999. This review clearly stated that biological effects and health effects do occur from microwave radiation used by “wireless communication devices” including the specific frequencies which were now transmitted by the school Wi-Fi devices in Simcoe County, and at well below the established “safe” guidelines published by Health Canada in Safety Code 6, based on the thermal effect.

Specifically, the Royal Society of Canada concluded that thermal effects well below the microwaves used by Wi-Fi devices can compromise the integrity of the blood-brain barrier (Sec. 6.6 pg 44). It also concluded that microwave radiation from wireless communication devices at intensities below Health Canada’s guidelines can activate ODC salivary enzymes known to promote cancer in humans. (Sec. 6.3.3 pg 41-42)

The Royal Society’s report concluded that microwaves at these frequencies and below Health Canada’s guidelines disrupt calcium regulation (Sec. 6.2 pg 35) and there is “strong evidence that microwave irradiation produces behavioural and associated biochemical changes at or below the occupational exposure limits in Safety Code 6.” (Sec. 6.7 pg 46)

Trower commented, “If we know there are no levels safe for children, and children are everywhere, how can the approved levels of exposure be safe? I have never met a single person who has read the ICNIRP (International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) guideline. It says, “Children, the elderly, and some chronically ill people might have a lower tolerance for one or more forms of microwave exposure.” Health Canada uses a safety threshold of ‘not more than 1,000 microwatts per cm2.’ In 2007 a group of scientists published a recommended safety level in their Bio Initiative Report, which is ‘not more than 0.1 microwatts per cm2’.”

With some apparent exasperation, the superintendent of education with the Simcoe County School Board said “we can’t just shut it down and affect the learning of 50,000 students because someone says it might have health effects.”

Let’s deconstruct this. Wi-Fi can be bought with taxpayer money, approved and installed without evidence of safety for children whose neurological systems are immature because someone from Cisco (selling Wi-Fi) says it’s safe. But it can’t be un-installed, even if taxpayers plead and insist; even if a Health-Canada-commissioned Royal Society report warns of serious risk; and even if children actually suffer harm.

It is the view of both Trower and Havis, along with the parents of at-risk children, that exposures must be lowered based on real-time effects and real rights to health protection, not on arguments about fake rights of children to have a “21st century learning environment”. Those suffering the harm must be believed and those selling the harm – including the government bureaucrats – need to be held accountable.

Unfortunately, barely a day after Trower had returned to England, Dr. Arlene King’s announcement reiterated the Ontario government’s belief in the safety of Wi-Fi because of Health Canada’s approval. The formal statement of support for Health Canada’s authority is now on the Ontario government website. What ought to happen is for Dr. King to believe the children and act in THEIR best interest instead of the interests of the telecommunications industry.

Good grief, have we not learned enough from the shoddy faked science leading to Thalidomide tragedies and the people killed by Vioxx and Prepulsid to know that regulatory approval does not equal safety? Do we not have enough people killed by prescription drugs approved due to glowing reports written by drug companies and handed straight over to Health Canada with a cheque to know that it’s time to make Health Canada more accountable?  Does Dr. King actually think Monsanto and Reynolds Tobacco science-for-profit is useful for approving public health safety standards?

Tighten the standards and force manufacturers to comply so those documented biological effects do not occur, instead of discarding the victims and embracing the harmful standard. Trower explained how to do it. Other countries like France and Germany have done it for their children. We should too.


Dr. Magda Havas

Simcoe County Safe School Committee

Royal Society Report for Health Canada, 1999:

The Canadian Initiative to Stop Wireless, Electric and Electromagnetic Pollution

Disconnect – The truth about cell phone radiation, what the industry has done to hide it, and how to protect your family. Devra Davis, PhD, MPH. Dutton 2010.

About the Author

Aliss Terpstra, RNCP, FTRC’s Research Coordinator, is a Registered Nutritional Consultant in Toronto who has been an environmental and consumer health advocate for over twenty years.

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