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Dear Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith, I am writing to you on an important issue regarding our children’s hea...

Friday, October 16, 2015

Is MCPS Wi-Fi Safe? Get the Facts and Decide for Yourself

The following video shows Takoma Park Middle School, Churchill and other MCPS school classrooms and how the access points mounted on their ceilings emit radiation constantly. The video also includes a few news clips about how schools worldwide are removing wireless networks.

In a September 21, 2015 MCPS Board of Education Meeting, MCPS Technology staff stated that MCPS did not need to take precautions right now (that clip is included). MCPS staff also cited Dr. Carpenter and so we included statements by Dr. Carpenter in this video.

We hope this video will result in parents asking questions about wireless technology issues in schools. (All sources are cited at the bottom of the Youtube video here).  We hope you will learn more and read more and fact check.

Please come to our information meeting October 20 at Bells Mill at 7pm!

Watching this video, many parents had the following questions:

Q: The video showed radiation readings at various schools.  Are those numbers safe?
A:  There is no scientific documentation that shows these numbers are safe.  No safe level has been identified for children. There is a shocking lack of federal oversight on this issue, because in the 80's the wireless companies basically got a free pass and did not have to premarket test their devices for safety, nor do post market surveillance. We do such safety testing for drugs and medications, but not for these rf-radiation emitting devices. "Safe levels" for children  have yet  to be determined. 

Please note the device measuring radiation was an Acousitmeter and the video simply shows the meter in action. We understand MCPS has done radiation readings with far more professional equipment but we are concerned about the lack of transparency on these measurements as parents were not allowed to witness such radiation readings. These reports usually look at average measurements, rather than peak levels and they usually state "it is FCC compliant" which leads people to erroneously assume safety. 

We anticipate MCPS will soon release their Radiation Measurement Report (They hired a company to take measurements in select schools.) Will it  include peak levels in classrooms with all Chromebooks in use and with all students in the class having cell phones powered on- the situation in  many MCPS high schools?  We should not be lured into a sense of safety if these measurements "meet federal law". 

We expect the report to state that radiation levels are too low to cause harm. Really? Is there a safe level of the neurotoxin lead?  Research shows neurological effects  from wireless that still "needs more research". It took decades for the neurotoxic effect of lead to be "proven". 

Where is the scientific documentation that such low levels are safe? Ask MCPS please.

Q:     The school system states that the radiation levels are "low" and that they "meet federal guidelines". Doesn't the US government have safety standards based on a scientific review of the evidence?
A:    The EPA and the FDA have never done a comprehensive scientific review of this radiation to set standards that protect human health. No "safe level" has been identified. the US government adopted "maximum permissible exposure" limits. Current exposure limits were developed in 1993 and last reviewed in 1996 when wireless technology was not in use as it is today.
Currently, the FCC is the agency that ensures compliance with radiofrequency exposure standards in this country. However, the FCC is not a medical nor science agency and in 2012 the FCC opened ET Docket No. 13-84 (Go To the FCC Docket herecalling for scientific comments in order to review the 18-year-old regulations. 
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics has called on the FCC to update the outdated standards stating that “Children are not little adults and are disproportionately impacted by all environmental exposures, including cell phone radiation. Current FCC standards do not account for the unique vulnerability and use patterns specific to pregnant women and children.” Read their letter here.
  • In February of 2014, the US Department of the Interior accused the US Federal government of employing outdated wireless radiation standards which could harm birds, stating, “the electromagnetic radiation standards used by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continue to be based on thermal heating, a criterion now nearly 30 years out of date and inapplicable today.” Read their letter here.
  • According to the EPA, “The FCC’s current exposure guidelines are thermally based and do not apply to chronic, non thermal exposure situations.” Wireless radiation in the classroom ischronic, non-thermal radiation for the 1080 hours a child is in school each year. Read the EPA letter here.
Q: What does the World Health Organization state?
A: According to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for the Research on Cancer (IARC)- RF radiation is grouped as a Class 2 B “possible” Human Carcinogen. This classification refers to the range of frequencies of  30 KHz  to 300 GHz (includes Wi-Fi).

“The IARC 2B classification implies an assurance of safety that cannot be offered—a particular concern, given the prospect that most of the world’s population will have lifelong exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.”

- Dr. Jonathan Samet, Chair of the World Health Organization’s IARC EMF Working Group 2011. This statement is from his 2014 Commentary calling for more research.

Q: Why are you talking about cell phones? WiFi routers are different. Right? 

A: Cell phones and  wifi systems both use RF radiation- radio frequency radiation- microwave radiation. All wireless devices have RF radiation emissions- The older phones used 900 Megahertz. New phones use several frequencies (including typical Wi-Fi) and have several antennas. MCPS wireless routers and access points use the frequencies of 2.45 GHz and 5GHz.

Cell phone research is the key to understanding the health risks of wireless. We did not have wifi ten years ago, but we did have cell phones. The early cell phone users and their disease history is the data used for the long term epidemiology research. All research in heavy users of wireless phone technology (with over ten years of use) shows increased brain tumors. Heavy use was defined as 30 minutes a day.

Scientists know that if cell phone radiation at 900 MgHZ causes a certain effect, it is most likely that the frequencies of 950 will as well and 1000 will have this effect. You can read Dr Bann, the WHO secretary detailing this understanding of how the WHO classification includes Wi-Fi clearly in his letter found here.  

Q:    What is the problem with current wireless exposure standards?
A:    There are several reasons that current FCC standards are considered inadequate by scientists:
  • They are out of date, having been set in 1993 on research from 30 years ago.
  • The guidelines were based solely on preventing thermal effects, i.e. heating. Yet numerous peer-reviewed, published studies report non-thermal effects indicating biological changes from exposure to non-thermal radiation levels.
  • The guidelines do not account for exposure to multiple sources and only consider 30 minutes of exposure from one device at a time.
  • The guidelines do not consider research showing that wireless can produce “hotspots” in live brains.
  • The guidelines were based on an adult male body’s absorption of radiation. Children’s smaller bodies and brains were not considered in the metrics.

The guidelines consider average exposures, not peak exposures. Research suggests our biology is affected by the erratic nature of the pulsed signal and that cells are effected by these short intense bursts of radiation. So, even if the average over time measurement seems low- the biological impact can be high because of the signal peaks.

As an example of the outdated nature of FCC guidelines please consider that on the FCC website, the FCC website directs people to Questions and Answers About Biological Effects Potential Hazards of Radio frequency Electromagnetic Fields---the  August 1999 edition. August 1999! Yup. Read the 1999 Q and A here. 

Q: What Federal Agencies are Concerned? 
A: The reality is that no federal agency is tasked with doing much of anything. The FCC is supposedly in charge but has not acted on their Docket which they put out in 2013. ( If you  think the FCC should take action then could you please contact the FCC Chair at Tom.Wheeler@fcc.gov and please cc your elected officials. Ask the FCC to take action and review the regulations). 

You may be interested to know this:

  • Linda S. Birnbaum, Director, USA National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program stated, “If some of the studies turn out to be harbingers of things to come, we may have major health consequences from the nearly ubiquitous presence of wireless equipment.” from the The Israeli Environmental Health Report 2014 page 90
  • Dr Chris Portier, recently retired CDC Director  Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease has officially called for invoking the precautionary principle at a conference June 2015.  He stated “a careful review of the scientific literature demonstrates there are potentially dangerous effects from RF“ He was a part of the World Health Organization EMF Working Group. Read about his call for precautionary action here

See below a picture from 2010 research the National Cancer Institute refers to as to research showing how a child's body absorbs laptop radiation. The research abstract concludes the radiation absorbed meets federal compliance. However, as we have detailed above, federal compliance does not equal safety. In addition, this research did not even consider radiation absorption to the heart and reproductive organs. In addition, this research did not consider a room of 30 children all using laptops resulting in multiple streams of radiation. 

Read details on Findlay RP, Dimbylow PJ. SAR in a child voxel phantom from exposure to wireless computer networks (Wi-Fi). Phys Med Biol. 2010 Aug 7;55(15):N405-11 and NCI's discussion of children and wireless here.

Safe Tech is of the opinion that in light of the lack of federal oversight and the lack of research assuring safety, then the prudent and logical course of action is precautionary.  We should reduce exposures when possible. MCPS and the Maryland Department of Education has a responsibility to ensure safety. Reliance on outdated 18 year old federal guidelines is irrelevant. 

One does not have to be a medical doctor to err on the side of safetyWe parents do it all the time. It is that simple. 

We parents are not making unfounded medical claims nor issuing our own medical reviews or our medical opinions. We are simply sharing what scientists in the field are stating and advocating for a precautionary approach as other governments are doing because of the inconclusive research and ongoing data gaps.

Read San Francisco Medicines Article on Wireless and Children HERE.
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