By Chuck Rairdan
I can certainly be counted among those who support the application of technology to improve learning conditions in our schools. With the rapid advance of new technologies and other innovations, however, there can also be unintended consequences or, in this case, health effects that are not always recognized or understood at the onset of these advances.
As our living, learning, and work spaces are becoming increasingly saturated with radio frequency and electromagnetic frequency (RF/EMF) emissions, there is an emerging body of independent research, literature, and personal testimony that is elucidating the effects of heightened RF/EMF exposures.
Children and adolescents are especially vulnerable to the effects of RF/EMF radiation on both their cognitive health and overall well-being. Likewise, there is an increasing number of adults who are being correctly diagnosed as suffering from excessive RF/EMF exposures or who become sensitive to their influence, similar to the way an allergy or food sensitivity develops.
With all the microwave/cell phone tower transmissions, Wi-Fi, cell phone, TV, appliance, and smart meter emissions, we are now living in a set of environmental conditions that didn’t exist at current levels 5-10 years ago and which are now increasing exponentially.
As the latest electronics go almost exclusively wireless, we are venturing into territory where the cumulative effects of RF/EMF emissions on human health have gone largely untested, or at least unrevealed.
Will we unwittingly participate in a movement that exhibits the potential to significantly impact the health of our children? Here is a link to a recent Forbes article that summarizes the published state of knowledge on this subject: http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertszczerba/2015/01/13/study-suggests-wi-fi-exposure-more-dangerous-to-kids-than-previously-thought/
While the determination and progress made by DJUSD to implement Wi-Fi throughout all school sites is admirable, it may be prudent at this point to pause until more is known about potential health effects of persistent RF/EMF exposures.
With the amount of time our kids spend on campus and with all the other sources of exposure, it is a question that warrants serious consideration. And with safety being the utmost concern, it would also be unfortunate from a fiscal standpoint if considerable resources were expended on infrastructure that ultimately proved to be untenable or in need of a major reconfiguration.
It may be that some high tech systems are best left hardwired or configured in a way that minimizes potential health impacts.
The French government is in the process of dismantling Wi-Fi in its public schools due to increasing awareness of the associated health risks. Belgium and India are also passing laws and taking steps to increase public awareness.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reclassified RF/EMF emissions as a 2B carcinogen, similar to lead, and has called for a fundamental reassessment of the current exposure standards.
The European Council has recommended the banning of cell phones and Wi-Fi in European Union schools until more is known about the health impacts of these technologies, particularly on children and adolescents.
If we are to consider ourselves a truly progressive society, shouldn’t we be taking steps to learn from those experiences and initiatives to avoid making similar mistakes?
Recent history has its share of cautionary tales where the momentum of innovations or modern conveniences has outpaced a clear understanding of the associated risks, sometimes with painful consequences.
I would recommend that we wade into this emerging issue with eyes fully open and do our best to get it right the first time around, wherever the evidence leads. DJUSD aspires to be a 21st century leader in education. Perhaps we have here an excellent opportunity to test those waters.
Chuck Rairdan is a Davis resident and ran for school board in November 2014.