What is RM's view on the Health Risks of WiFi?
By Tim Pearson, RM's Chief Executive
Wifi in the classroom

Wifi in the classroomDiscussions about health risks are difficult for you who work in schools. It is hard to have an objective and calm debate when the health of our children is at stake. Pressures are on you, I know, from worried parents, pupils and governors and you have to assess the legal risks to the school. You also have to deal with your own conscience, to live with yourself, that you have taken the right decision for the young people in your care.

Following on from the Panorama programme on WiFi in schools you may be asked by concerned colleagues, parents, governors and pupils about the health risks of using WiFi in your school.

We take the health and safety of you and your pupils very seriously. For example a few years ago we decided at RM to spend more than 1m to upgrade CD drives we had shipped when we discovered they presented a potential danger. This was an industry-wide issue but to my knowledge no other manufacturer carried out a similar programme to guard against this fault. I hope that gives you some reassurance that we will treat such issues seriously and put you first. You have my personal guarantee of that.
 
With that background I'd like to give you our view and on the BBC story
Child using a Tablet PC  


Firstly, everything has some risk, this does not mean that we should ignore it. It's just that unless you are able to take a sensible look at the evidence the debate becomes emotional. I believe the level of risk is the only debate to be had.

Secondly, our own view has always been, and remains, that WiFi is very unlikely to carry significant risk, owing to three factors - (a) it is incredibly low power - much lower than the mobile phones that we all use (b) it is not normally in close contact to users, the difference between holding something a millimetre from your ear and 30 centimetres away is significant (c) WiFi and similar transmissions are used by all manner of different devices, so that any problems that do arise, are likely to be well reported - e.g. some baby monitors use similar frequency and power, most offices have WiFi, even some door bell systems use this sort of transmission these days.

Thirdly, the advice and information from the Health Protection Agency and the World Health Organisation looks pretty clear.

"On the basis of current evidence, the HPA does not consider there to be a problem with the safety of WLAN."

I have included links to these and other sources at the bottom of the article.

Obviously, each institution must make its own decision on the available health advice, but as your ICT partner I know many of you will ask our view. We will listen to your concerns and give you our current advice, we will also speak with Becta and give you an update in due course. If necessary we will directly employ a respected scientist to look at the data and share with you what he or she finds.

At present, neither my engineering staff, nor I have seen any credible scientific evidence at all, of risk to those using WiFi in normal classroom circumstances.

The one piece of health advice that seems a sensible precaution, in the meantime, is to ensure that pupils do not place WiFi active computers on their laps for any significant length of time. Working with the computer on a desk is much better (it's better for your back too!).

Tim Pearson  

      Links

      BBC new story: WiFi health fears are 'unproven'                BBC Panorama

      Health Protection Agency                                                 The Guardian 21st May

      World Health Organisation                                               The Guardian 26th May