(1) What is Wireless Communication?

Wireless Communication refers to the transfer of information (sound, video, data etc.) from one location to another without the use of wires or electrical conductors.  The distance between these locations may be short, ~1 meter, medium, 10s to 1000s of meters or long, for inter stellar space.  Communication may be “one way”, e.g. television or “two way”, e.g. mobile phone.  Electromagnetic Fields or EMFs are always involved in wireless communication. 

(2) What is an Electromagnetic Field (EMF)?

An electromagnetic field or wave is created by oscillating vibrations of electric charge, resulting in Electric and Magnetic field components that are perpendicular to each other.  The waves travel at the speed of light and are related to the frequency multiplied by the wavelength.  Electric field (in Volts/meter) is a simple measure of EMFs, i.e. the larger the voltage the larger will be the electric field.  Electromagnetic fields are present everywhere in our environment, but are totally invisible, cannot be touched, heard, smelled or felt. However, with the advent of modern technology, the background level of EMFs is gradually increasing.

(3) What are Microwaves?

Microwaves have wavelengths ranging from about 1 m down to a 1 mm with a frequency range between 300 MHz and 300 GHz.  Industrial/Scientific/Medical devices, microwave ovens, wi-fi, DECT phones, garage doors, Bluetooth etc. operate at the ~2.4 GHz frequency, whilst car anti-collision radar operate at 90 – 100 GHz. Transmission range drops broadly according to the inverse square law.  Microwaves are absorbed by molecules that have a dipole moment in liquids and in a microwave oven this effect is used to heat food.  Low intensity or non-heating microwaves are usually used in wireless communication.  The word “microwave” has negative connotation, i.e. used for heating, and therefore the telecommunication industry talk about radio waves instead, which is technically incorrect!  

(4) What are the health effects from exposure to LOW level EMFs?

Thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies, Bioinitiative report and this review paper show biological/health/physiological effects from EMF exposure far below the ICNIRP guidelines; with increased risk of cancer, depression, dementia, leukaemia, brain tumours, fertility problems, miscarriages and damage to DNA.

Research also shows that EMFs reduce body’s natural melatonin production, which is a potent antioxidant and a strong anti-cancer agent.  There are also other mechanisms; including increased permeability of blood-brain and blood-gut barrier, loss of calcium in cellsincreased cortisol (stress hormone) levels in saliva and reproduction effects of EMFs.  Could the 300% increase in Crohn’s disease be actually linked to EMFs?

Dr Andrew Goldsworthy, a retired lecturer from Imperial College spent years studying biological organisms are affected by EMFs.   

(5) Is there any evidence that children are more susceptible to EMF harm?

The following articles show that children are more susceptible to EMFs; L Morgan et. al. 2015Gandhi et. al. 2012Bakker et. al. 2010De Salles et. al. 2006.

WHO IARC Monograph 102, Page 71 states, “Children’s exposure is approximately a factor of two higher than that of adults due to the head shape bringing the phone geometrically closer.”

And page 74 states, “Exposure of regions within the brain of young children (e.g. hippocampus, hypothalamus, etc.) can be higher by 1.6–3-fold than that in adults. Exposure of children’s skull bone marrow can exceed that in adults by a factor of about 10, due to higher electrical conductivity. Exposure of children’s eyes is higher than that of adults. Regarding thermal effects, however, this does not present a problem as exposure to the eyes from mobile phones is very low, i.e. < 10% of the psSAR.  Because of the location relative to the ear, the brain region closer to the surface of the skull can exhibit large differences in exposure between adults and children. The cerebellum of children can show a psSAR that is > 2.5-fold that of local exposure of the cortex of adults. It should be noted that these differences are strongly dependent on the current distribution in the phone, i.e. on the phone design.” 

(6) What is the exposure level from ~30 tablet devices + wi-fi access points?

Using a tablet device on wi-fi alone can be similar to making a mobile phone call.  The radiofrequency radiation in a classroom with ~30 active tablets can be higher than a mobile phone mast 100 meters away and potentially radiating for an entire school day.

Public Health England (PHE) and therefore UK government policy is based on the data provided by this paper.  We believe this to be inappropriate, e.g. the data is:

(1) based on distances greater than 0.5 meter (most tablets/mobiles are in contact!),

(2) based on 1 laptop only (what about ~30 tablets in a typical classroom?),

(3) based on latops and not tablets/mobiles (tablets/mobiles can transmit higher power and the antenna is within the product case),

(4) based on low duty cycle or data traffic rate (in reality modern apps/games can produce considerably higher duty cycles),

(5) not based on industrial or more powerful WLAN access points – typical in most schools,

(6) not based on multiple access points – typical in most schools, and

(7) not based on cumulative effects from other EMF sources, e.g. mobile phone in bags/pockets, white board, other electronic devices etc.

But, most importantly, the article measured levels relative to the ICNIRP guidelines, which are based on thermal and not biological effects.

(7) What short terms symptoms should I look for?

Anyone can develop electrical sensitivity and at any age; it is impossible to predict.  We estimate that about 4% of the UK population suffer from EHS (Electromagnetic Hyper Sensitivity).  A good article on EHS can be found here,  whilst provocation studies demonstrate that the response to EMFs is physical and not psychosomatic. Symptoms include: concentration and memory problems, irritability, palpitations, dizziness, headaches, insomnia, depression, visual/auditory disturbance, nose bleeds, tremors, gritty sore dry eyes, sharp stabbing (neuropathic pain) and seizures.

Unfortunately, EHS is progressive and over time the sufferer may become sensitive to a wider range of frequencies and/or more severe leading to other health problems, or they may begin to react to chemicals or develop food allergies.

(8) If I have concerns or my child shows adverse affects, what should I do?

Get information on EHS: www.es-uk.info or helpline: 0845 643 9748.  Talk to the school head or teacher about your child’s EHS condition and ask for special dispensation, e.g. allow use of wired tablet/laptop, sit at least 2 metres away from router etc.  Ask your GP to write a letter to the school and show the GP letter written by Dr A Tresidder (ES-UK).

If this doesn’t help, then you can make a formal complaint to the Local Authority Safeguarding board; raise awareness in the local community; build up evidence of use in the school and evidence of effects/harm for the child.  A complaint could be made to the Children’s Commissioner.  Finally, legal action could be considered.  According to Ofsted, schools have a legal duty to safeguard children, which includes “preventing impairment of children’s and learners’ health or development”. 

(9) Why aren't governments, doctors/scientists and media concerned?

The government advised by Public Health England (PHE), may be influenced more by commercial interests and tax revenue than the well-being of their subjects.  The science that they base their judgement on is flawed – see Q6 above.  Plus, they do not consider biological effects of EMFs – it’s like saying the only way cigarettes can harm is by burning!

Unfortunately, there is also a lack of knowledge about EHS among GPs and public bodies despite the evidence, with reluctance to question official policies and the influence of commercial interests.  UK is lagging behind other countries, for example, in Sweden EHS is treated as a functional impairment and there are grants to adapt and shield Swedish homes.  The Council of Europe recommends that all states should establish “white zones” free of man-made electromagnetic radiation.

The French Parliament passed a new Law, addressing electromagnetic fields and electromagnetic hypersensitivity (it is in French, so you’ll have to right click the mouse and select translate).  Also, the Taiwanese government and Israeli parliament have followed suit.

(10) Can I use wi-fi and my smart phone safely?

No wireless technology can be regarded as totally “safe”.  RF exposure can be greatly reduced by selecting the airplane mode or by switching wi-fi off in both the device and at the router when active broadband communication is not required, e.g. at night, when using Office applications, playing pre-downloaded games/apps etc.  You should not sit too close to the router (allow at least 2 metres).

An alternative to wi-fi is to use the ethernet cable connected directly to the router or “dLAN data sockets” that send data around the house mains.

On your smart phone; switch the GSM option off, use hands-free (air tube) kit and speaker phone, try to keep calls short or preferably use text.

For men, avoid carrying mobiles in front pockets and for women carry mobiles in a bag/purse and avoid keeping them in your bra.

3G and 4G mobile phones generally work at a lower transmitted power than 2G/GSM.

You may also want to replace your home (DECT) with a low EMF type phone that can be set to turn its transmitters off between calls, e.g. Siemen’s GIGASET ECO range of phones, or preferably use a wired phone.

(11) Who is accountable if my child develops health problems at school?

The school or Council should always carry out a risk assessment when using products which have been classified as potentially harmful.  They should also obtain consent or make all the parents aware of such practice.

Lord Hill (Department of Education) wrote to SSITA, stating that the “…the decision to implement, or not implement, a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) is a local one”, i.e. the decision to enroll on a one iPad per child type schemes is made by the school and its Governors and not the Council.  But, according to the Solihull County Council (and other councils may have a similar view), accountability and Health and Safety responsibility lies equally between the Council, school and the Governors.

Your case would be stronger, if the school, Governors and Council have been provided with information on the potential health effects of EMFs, in advance.

We thank the seminar presenters for help in answering the above questions.

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