By John Weigel
On the eve of Pope Francis’ historic visit to Ireland, a Fellow of the Irish Computer Society has asked the Pope to protect children in Catholic schools from exposure to wi-fi electromagnetic radiation in the classroom.
The expert, a ‘Certified Wireless Professional’ is a member of the Parents Association and former member of the ICT Group at a primary school in Co. Wicklow, located close to Ireland’s capital, Dublin. His wireless experience dates back to 2000 and in 2003 he founded Ireland’s first Certified Wireless Network Provider. The company specialized in deploying a managed wi-fi service to residential apartment complexes – the service was called Invisible Access. Invisible Access was a managed wi-fi broadband service offering download speeds eight times faster than existing landline broadband services and cost less than half the money.
Three years later he obtained the first European Test and Trial license for 70/80Ghz spectrum. After more than two years of working with the Irish Regulator, the National Broadcaster, the Department of Communications and other agencies he successfully completed the high-speed mm wave technologies now a reality in Ireland.
He cannot be named due to legal reasons, to protect his children and pending results of an investigation from the Irish government’s regulatory authority. The expert’s message is a volte face and a massive turnaround from being dubbed in 2004 by the Irish Times newspaper as a ‘Man on a Mission’ to bring high-speed wireless internet access to apartment complexes and housing estates across Ireland. In 2005 he secured the first European Test and Trial license from the Irish telecommunications regulator followed in 2006 by receiving the honor of Fellow from the Irish Computer Society for his contribution to the Irish wireless industry.
Pope Francis will visit Ireland this weekend, 25-26 August, for the World Meeting of Families 2018. Initiated by Pope John-Paul II, the meeting is held every three years.
Use of wi-fi in public schools became public policy following an initiative by labour Party Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn. He served as minister from 2011 to 2014 and moved the educational system from the influence of the Catholic Church and introduced wi-fi / iPads into the classroom saying, “This is how we do education.’’ While the use of wi-fi in the classroom remains optional in Catholic schools, the government provides financial incentives for schools to adopt electronic education.
The expert claims, based on manufacturer’s guidelines, that the school his children attend is vastly over-equipped and that one wi-fi transmitter can support between 80 – 256 laptops although the school only has 30 laptops computers. As currently configured, the school’s wi-fi system is capable of supporting between 1,840 – 5,888 laptops.
In a document entitled “Healthy Adoption of Technology: A policy for all Catholic Schools,” the expert begins by stating: “I am a parent of two school-children, a girl, aged 7, and a boy, aged 10. Their school recently introduced a school-wide wireless (wi-fi) network. Since it’s introduction, my children and others have complained of headaches and other symptoms associated with wireless radiation exposure.”
The expert cites the fact that in 2011, Ireland and 36 other countries, were warned by the Council of Europe, through Resolution 1815, about the dangers of electromagnetic fields and that children in particular were a high-risk group. “I am taking the opportunity of the Holy Father’s visit to Ireland to use his influence by calling on Catholic schools who are considering introducing technology, to implement a healthy adoption of technology policy,’” explained Brennan. “As a Catholic parent, I believe that the Catholic Church and his Holiness Pope Francis truly value the health and well-being of all children. I am aware that children in many countries are being afforded greater protection from wireless technology in school. I believe all catholic children must be afforded the same health and well-being protection whilst at school.”
The expert’s investigation of the wi-fi system in the school began in Sept./October 2017. As a member of the board’s ICT committee he had access to the school and all of the classrooms and as a wireless networking specialist is was second nature to investigate the school’s wi-fi system. What the expert found alarmed him and led to a two-pronged defense: dealing with the school board that approved the system and the official Irish government communications authority called ComReg.
In a departure from standard practice, rather than health concerns being monitored by the Health Services Executive, as noted by the Business Post newspaper in 2013, “It is difficult to imagine an organization as seemingly sedate as the Communications Regulator as being at the vanguard of health and safety management.” ComReg became responsible both for the health effects of wireless communications to the general public as well as employees.
The health effects of electricity and wireless have long been cited by scientists dating from before WWII in Germany, the U.S. Naval Medical Research Institute in 1972, and a stream of scientific papers citing adverse biological effects emerging on a nearly daily basis. To address these concerns, the international Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection was established in 1992 in Germany and what became known as the Precautionary Principle emerged in tandem with the common practice of the term ALARA (As low as reasonably achievable.)
‘On 24th November 2017, I had a meeting with the school board chairman,” the expert explained, “and expressed concern with regards to the levels of wi-fi exposure inside the classrooms. The chairman confirmed that he would instruct the company that installed the network to reduce the power on all wi-fi boxes. On 11th December, the chairman confirmed by email that the power had been reduced to it’s lowest level. My understanding is that all wi-fi boxes are the same make and model, so I expected to see similar readings for all wi-fi boxes.“
The expert’s investigation at the school revealed radiation levels were far in excess of what his experience told him were safe levels of exposure – especially for children who are considered more vulnerable – as well as teachers and staff. He found that the power emitted from the wi-fi box in the principal’s office to be the lowest. Power levels in other locations ranged from nine to 118 times higher that the readings in the principal’s office.
Of even greater concern was the presence of additional microwave signals, “The exposure levels for all children is twice what I had previously thought. The ComReg report shows that each classroom has two WiFi networks in operation. I had incorrectly assumed that the children were being exposed to one wi-fi network not two,” he said.
Alarmed at the presence of two signals and the levels of radiation he discovered, the expert contacted ComReg who reported back to him. “The ComReg report confirms that there are 23 wi-fi boxes in the school. I had incorrectly believed the school had purchased 22 WiFi boxes, not 23. The manufacturer (MERU) of the WiFi boxes, published a ‘WiFi for small schools’ document. This document shows installers how best to install their system in a school. In the document, the manufacturer recommends that in a 20-room school, where each classroom has 30 laptops. In such a school, the manufacturers advises installing 10 wi-fi boxes. 10 wi-fi boxes for 600 laptops. The school has 30 laptops and 23 wi-fi boxes. 23 wi-fi boxes for 30 laptops. I double-checked with the manufacturer. One wifi box can support between 80 – 256 laptops. the school has 30 laptops. The school’s wi-fi system is capable of supporting between 1,840 – 5,888 laptops.”
To support his contention that the environment at school is unsafe, the expert notes the following:
- In Ireland and around the world today, many schools are introducing wireless (Wi-Fi) technology to classrooms.
- In 2011, Wi-Fi signals were added to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) group of possible Carcinogens. In 2011, Diesel exhaust fumes and Chloroform were also in the same group of possible carcinogens (Group 2B).
- In 2011, Children were identified by the Council of Europe as a ‘high-risk’ group when it comes to radiation exposure from are Wi-Fi technologies.
- In Ireland and the world today, we have some schools exposing 4 and 5 year old children to continuous day-long wireless technology, even though none of the 4 and 5 year old children ever use the wireless technology.
- In Ireland and the world today, we have instances and examples of children complaining of headaches, following the introduction of wireless technologies.
- In Ireland and the world today, we have an Insurance Industry that considers wireless technology to be an unacceptable health risk and excludes it from cover.
- In Ireland today some school-children have been exposed to excessive-levels of wireless radiation.
- In France today, school-children are legally afforded greater protection from Wi-Fi radiation that school-children in Ireland. France is not alone in its protection of children.
Schools in countries such as Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Finland, Germany,
Italy, Russia & Switzerland are also afforded greater protection than children in Ireland.