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Monday, April 18, 2016

Review of Report on Wi-Fi Radiation Measurements at Montgomery County Public Schools Finds "No Credible Guidance" Provided.

Harvard-trained physicist cites incorrect and non-optimal approaches to measurements and data analysis as the principal concerns.

Harvard trained physicist Ronald M. Powell Ph.D. has just released a 49 page Review detailing serious concerns about a Report used by Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to give safety assurances to parents concerned about classroom wireless radiation. Powell cites incorrect and non-optimal approaches to measurements and data analysis as his principal concerns.  

He concludes:
"It is my opinion that the AECOM Report is unable to provide credible guidance about whether the electromagnetic fields in the MCPS pose a health risk or not, no matter how good the intentions of those who prepared the Report.”

In June 2015, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) commissioned AECOM Environment to make Wi-Fi radiation measurements after parents raised concerns that the radiation from the Wi-Fi network and the wireless laptops in the schools could pose a health risk.  AECOM measured radiation levels in twelve of the MCPS schools, analyzed the resulting data, and compared the data to selected exposure limits.  The resulting AECOM Report concluded that the radiation levels were below those particular limits. The AECOM Report was presented as part of a webpage MCPS put together on Radiofrequency Radiation.
MCPS has relied on the AECOM Report to assure concerned parents that the radiation emissions from the county Wi-Fi equipment posed no health risk to students. A 2015 MCPS Memorandum to the Board cites the AECOM Report as verification stating “we are confident that we are not subjecting our students and staff to harmful radiation.”

However, in a 49-page review of the AECOM Report, Ronald M. Powell, Ph.D., a Harvard-trained physicist, expressed multiple concerns about the AECOM Report.  Among them were such serious concerns as “incorrect selection of measurement equipment (probes), incorrect or non‑optimal use of measurement equipment, and incorrect methods of data analysis”.
He observed:  “In my view, these concerns invalidate all of the analyzed data in the four tables that contain the principal results of the AECOM Report (Tables 7-2, 7-3, 7-4, and 7-5).  The result is the absence of valid analyzed data for comparison with any of the exposure limits, whatever the validity of the exposure limits themselves, some of which I also question.”
His overall conclusion was the following:  “For these reasons, it is my opinion that the AECOM Report is unable to provide credible guidance about whether the electromagnetic fields in the MCPS pose a health risk or not, no matter how good the intentions of those who prepared the Report.”
This is the second review that has come to such a conclusion about the AECOM Report.  Specifically, the earlier review concluded, just as Powell did, that “The data in this report cannot therefore be used to infer safety, or lack of safety, of children in any of the tested locations.”  That earlier Review was prepared by Cindy Sage, MA, co-editor of the BioInitiative Reports of 2007 and 2012, Prof. Trevor Marshall, Ph.D., Director of the Autoimmunity Research Foundation, and Senior Member of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), who holds a number of positions in biomedicine.

Powell recognizes the challenges facing the MCPS: “The MCPS is going to have to decide whom to believe.  For you who are MCPS managers, that decision requires at least some familiarity with the massive amount of biomedical research literature available on this topic. 

Powell advises: "If you find yourself in doubt about what to do, despite the overwhelming evidence of risk in the international biomedical research literature, I urge you to side with the safety of everyone in your schools by taking precautionary action now.  But whatever you do, resist the urge to use the outdated FCC exposure limits [called the Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) Limits] as an excuse for inaction.  Our Government doesn’t always get it right.  And, sadly for all of us, our Government is failing us terribly in this case.”
Powell explains further: “Despite assurances of safety from the FCC and the wireless industry, the international biomedical research community is showing, in study after study, that current exposure limits are not even close to being protective of living things.  The limitations of that guidance have been highlighted by other agencies of the U.S. Government and by medical organizations.”  He provides quotations from them reflective of their concerns about the inadequacy and outdated nature of the FCC exposure limits.

Powell illustrates the outdated nature of the FCC exposure limits with the following graph.  The graph was created from data provided by NIH’s PubMed Database.  PubMed is the largest index to the archival biomedical research literature in the world. That graph shows the publications per year listed in NIH's PubMed Database under the heading “EMF” (electromagnetic fields), which captures just a part of the biomedical research literature relevant to the interaction of electromagnetic fields with biological systems.  An arrow points to 1986, the year in which the basis for the current FCC exposure limit was developed, according to the FCC itself (as Powell documents in his Review).  Since 1986, PubMed has added 2198 publications under the heading “EMF”.  
Powell’s review urges the MCPS to rely on credible guidance which is “available from the sum total of thousands of biomedical research publications from the world’s leading scientists and doctors conducting research on the biological effects of electromagnetic fields."
He continues:  “That guidance indicates that precautionary action is needed now to protect human health from such electromagnetic radiation.  In light of this guidance, there is no scientific or ethical justification for continuing to force children, teachers, and staff to be exposed to electromagnetic radiation for which the outcome is already known to be tragic.”   

Powell closes by urging the MCPS to review two key documents to learn more about the concerns of the international biomedical research community about the biological effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields:  (1) The
BioInitiative Report of 2012 which states “Bioeffects are clearly established and occur at very low levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields and radiofrequency radiation."; and (2) The EMF Scientist Appeal signed by 220 scientists from 42 countries, calling on the United Nations and the World Health Organization to seek increased protection of the public from electromagnetic fields.  That appeal notes specifically:  “Numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines.  Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans.”
Powell urges responsive action by the MCPS:  “Please protect your students, teachers, and staff from the harm caused by the electromagnetic radiation from wireless devices.  Replace the current wireless connectivity in the MCPS schools with much safer wired connectivity as soon as possible and avoid introducing other wireless devices into your schools.”
Ronald M. Powell is a retired career U.S. Government scientist (Ph.D., Applied Physics, Harvard University, 1975).  He worked for the Executive Office of the President, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  At these organizations he addressed Federal research and development program evaluation, energy policy research, and measurement development in support of the electronics and electrical-equipment industries and the biomedical research community.  He currently interacts with other scientists and with physicians around the world on the impact of electromagnetic fields on human health.  

This Review supports the concerns raised by a parent advocacy group Safe Tech for Schools Maryland which has gathered over 15 letters from medical doctors and cancer researchers who have written MCPS warning the county that wireless systems are not safe and recommending hardwired internet systems. Parents are raising this issue nationally and most recently the Phoenicia New York  PTA wrote their school board calling for the wireless to be turned off.

Across the state of Maryland, parents have raised numerous health and safety concerns from privacy issues, to data mining, to screen related vision issues, to the potential health risks posed by the “industrial strength” wireless radiation.
"We are being sold a bill of goods by the technology educational kabal which will make millions...billions off Baltimore alone" stated a Baltimore County Board member last month in a heated Board meeting on technology safety.


"The Council, after review of available data, believes there is sufficient evidence to justify the development of health and safety guidelines for use of computers in school in schools in Maryland." 

Parents have organized large coalitions in the neighboring counties of Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore raising concerns about tech devices in the classroom. This year the Maryland legislature considered House Bill 1525 and Senate Bill 1150  which called for the development of health and safety guidelines for the use of computers by students in the classroom. This legislation was prompted by widespread concern about the use of screens in the classroom. The Maryland State  Children's Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council wrote a letter to in support of this legislation.
Quick Links
The Maryland State Children's Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council Letter in support of legislation for the development of health and safety guidelines for screens.

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