Going wire-free or Wi -Fi is fast becoming a more than a fad. The technology, which does away with the needs of wires or the need to be connected to a socket to access Internet, has spread to half of all primary schools and four fifths of all secondary schools across the UK.
Meanwhile, there has been the rising of dissenting voices. Teachers represented by the Teachers Union are asking for these wireless network communications to be tested for possible health hazards. This began after the incident of a teacher Michael Bevington taking sick after the introduction of Wi Fi in his school- Stowe School in Buckinghamshire -after 28 years of his employment there. Mr. Bevington, a classics teacher, suffered from nausea, headaches, and a lack of concentration.
AdvertisementFearing Wi Fi could be the 'asbestos' of the 21st century, the Professional Association of Teachers has written to Education Secretary Alan Johnson, demanding an inquiry into the effects of the technology.
The union's concerns are echoed by Sir William Stewart, chairman of the Health Protection Agency, and a former chief scientific adviser to the Government, who has chaired two official inquiries into the hazards of mobile phones.
According to British scientists there are fears that the networks could be doing untold damage to health. Campaigners claim the level of microwaves emitted by a wireless transmitter is comparable to that from a mobile phone mast. They also point out that little or no research has been carried out into the technology's side effects.
Those who use Wi-Fi systems frequently have already reported problems such as headaches and lapses in concentration. Some scientists fear they could also cause cancer and premature senility. They say that children are especially vulnerable to its effects.
According to Alasdair Philips, of campaign group Powerwatch, the radiation from wireless networks is partly to blame for the rise of behavioral problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.
Philips says: "I believe that rolling out wireless networks in schools should be a criminal offence without close monitoring of pupils' health.
"Being in a Wi-Fi classroom is similar to sitting in the main beam about 330 feet from a mobile phone mast. "The problems that many teachers are reporting, such as poor concentration, and the four-fold increase in ADHD in the last ten years are exactly the problems we would predict."
Says the Teachers Union's general secretary, Philip Parkin: "We are not saying that there is anything wrong with them (Wi Fi), but we are saying that there is enough concern to suggest that it merits looking into. "Clearly our concern was that if this is having effects on adults, what effect is it going to have on pupils? "We are concerned that Wi-Fi may become like asbestos in the past. Everybody thought it was safe for years and then we suddenly discovered that it wasn't."
This is not an isolated case of doubts being raised. Similar fears have been raised elsewhere in Europe. The Austrian Medical Association is lobbying its government not to introduce Wi-Fi networks in primary schools.
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