In Kingston Ontario, two teachers unions want to have Wi-Fi turned off because they believe the signals post a health risk. Ashely Csanady writes in the National Post:

“We’re concerned because Wi-Fi and microwave communications have not been determined to be safe, and we’ve never received any training about the hazards such as all the warnings that come with your cellphones or wireless devices,” said Andrea Loken president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation Limestone District. “We’ve never been asked if we’re OK with being subjected to Wi-Fi all day everyday while we’re at work. No one has given consent and no one has been informed of the risks.”

dangers of wifiThe dangers of Wi-Fi. (Photo: Wellington Grey)

This is not a new issue in Ontario. A few years back there was a campaign to remove Wi-Fi from a school district north of Toronto. The fight may have traction because one of the most vocal activists about the subject, Dr. Magda Havas, teaches at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, and writes extensively about the problem — right in the middle of it all.

But thousands of studies and most reputable scientists suggest there's little risk, primarily because the energy output of a router is so low. As Dr. Steven Novella of the NeuroLogica blog noted,

From a basic science perspective, there is little plausibility to the notion that Wi-Fi radiation would have any health effects. The amount of energy that is absorbed by a person living in a Wi-Fi field is negligible — less than 1% of exposure from a typical cellphone and well below current safety levels.

This is the biggest problem with the worries about Wi-Fi; it's only one of many sources of Electromagnetic Forces (EMF), and it's one of the smallest. There are many people who are concerned about EMF. In Europe, it's taken seriously, and EMF sensitivity is recognized as an illness. Even MNN has written that more evidence shows electrical energy is harming our health.

radiationThe dangers of radiation. (Photo: Wellington Grey)

But those kids in the classroom are getting far more of it from the fluorescent tube transformers, computer power supplies and the cellphone towers and power transmission lines out in the neighborhood than they are from the router. And it's far, far less than the kids get while waiting for that pizza pocket to heat up in the microwave, let alone the TV the kids are probably parked in front of at home.

There has been some movement in the five years since the last anti-Wi-Fi uprising in Ontario. Most everyone quoted then was unequivocal in discounting the dangers of EMF and Wi-Fi, and now they're more careful how they say it. From the National Post:

“I don’t think most scientific experts would feel there is any kind of an established risk for children around Wi-Fi,” said Dr. Ray Copes, chief of environmental and occupational health with Public Health Ontario. “That’s very different than saying we have conclusively proven that nothing can ever happen to anyone…We’re not aware of any evidence that would suggest that the Wi-Fi exposures in schools are a major contributor to (radiofrequency) exposures overall,” he said. “Wherever we go we’re going to be exposed to some degree of radiation, and that’s everything from sunlight… to high-voltage electricity transmission.

Nobody, including me, is denying that there may be dangers from all the EMF we're bathing in. I've even complained that we shouldn't put powerful cellular transmitters on apartment buildings. But it's a different dose. The Wi-Fi router puts out such a tiny amount of radiation that it’s crazy to point to it. Those teachers would get less electromagnetic radiation if they turned off the lights.

And you should see what it's doing to trees — my best April Fools' post ever.

Lloyd Alter ( @lloydalter ) writes about smart (and dumb) tech with a side of design and a dash of boomer angst.