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2011-10-12 at 9:00 AM

Is Wi-Fi safe? Peterborough schools restart debate after disconnecting

By Jeff Labine,
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Citing health concerns, a pair of schools in southern Ontario has pulled the plug on wireless networks. But as the Wi-Fi debate continues, schools in this area do not appear eager to disconnect. 

Wayside Academy in Peterborough, Ont., removed its Wi-Fi system Tuesday, a month after Pretty River Academy in Collingwood, Ont.  disabled its own. Both Wayside Academy and Pretty River Academy are private schools.

Wayside Academy has instead placed a hardwire Internet network in the school.  The school’s principal Adam Parker said they wanted to err on the side of caution.

“We had a number of parents approach us within our school and they had some concerns about the health risks around Wi-Fi,” Parker said. “We already had a no electronic policy in our school for our students so we went on step farther and air on the side of caution.”

Lakehead University didn't have a Wi-Fi network until Brian Stevenson became the school’s president in 2010.

Confederation College president Jim Madder said they didn’t have plans to disconnect their wireless Internet and added that removing Wi-Fi from the school would greatly hinder the ability to provide the best services for students.

“We had a number of people in health and wellness and experts in electromagnetic fields and they indicated in their view there wasn’t an issue,” Madder said. “There was an issue of course if you placed yourself directly beside a major source of this type of radiation. With any technology and typically the ones you can’t see it generates anxiety and a fair bit of speculation. I like to put it in the hands of people who know the affects.”

Madder added that if new evidence came up, he would revisit the issue.

Former LU president Fred Gilbert said he hasn’t moved on his opposition against Wi-Fi. Gilbert removed the university’s wireless network during his time in office also as a precautionary measure.

“The evidence continues to mount,” Gilbert said. “There’s vulnerability in that they have the potential to cause cancer, particularly in young people.”

Gilbert said he wasn’t surprised that the new Lakehead University president overturned his decision but suspected that sometime in the future LU may reverse their choice and again remove the network.

“I think the strongest evidence to move on the precautionary principle is in Europe right now,” he said. “There’s probably better understanding over there. France has pulled it out of its public libraries. I think, even though it’s an individual decision, a lot of schools and a lot of universities have started to pull it out as well.”


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Skogula says:
The idea that wireless network communications causes cancer is the same sort of fearmongering that causes people to not get their children vaccinated.

Wireless routers communicate using radio waves. These are the same radio waves you use to listen to the radio in your car, use a cordless telephone, or remotely turn on your television from another room.

Radio waves travel in a ring from the point of origin. The idea that by not having a wireless router in a school would stop them is just silly. There are so many radio wave sources all around, they don't "magically" steer around a property line because you have an objection to them.

I have yet to read a medial study that actually links radio waves to cancer. There's lots of conjecture, and some anecdotes but no scientifically verified numbers.

Banning something because it hasn't yet been proven "safe" is equally silly. If you look, there has never been a study proving that Water is safe for human consumption.
10/12/2011 9:29:27 AM
The Badger Mountain Hermit says:
I'm far, far more concerned about the ONGOING nuclear crisis and the future tragedy caused by Fukushima-1 in Japan.
10/12/2011 9:34:24 AM
chezhank says:
Why has the provincial government forced smart meters on us?The city of Thunder Bay should direct Thunder Bay Hydro to start removing smart meters from homes .
"Smart Grids are the new monitoring systems that were developed to help reduce the use of electricity durring peak hours. Some Smart Grid systems using Smart Meters have been designed to report data back to a mainframe that reviews the data. However in the process of communicating with the network, many of these systems were designed to use WIFI or WIMAX networks."
10/12/2011 10:02:15 AM
Sandwiches1123 says:
Is Wi-Fi safe? Are high voltage electricity lines safe? Are wind turbines safe?

10/12/2011 10:16:49 AM
hockeyskates says:
Wayside Academy is a private religious school. They have a about 60 students.

The school does not allow the students to have electronic devices.

The school does not allow the students to have lap tops.

The school does not allow the students to have cell phones.

The reason's for these restrictions pre-date their concern about Wi-Fi and are instead related to the potential influences of the outside world.

The reason they pulled the Wi-Fi was that a few of the parents pressured the school to do so. The school with only 60 students felt obliged to accommodate the parents.

I assume that Pretty River has a similar tale to tell.

Let me know when U of T, Western, Mac, Queens, McGill, shut down their Wi-Fi. I do know that the most common complaint by the students when Fred Gilbert was President concerned his archaic approach to Wi-Fi.

Incidently, most of you have a wireless signal in your home, even if you don't have the internet. Its from your neighbour's signal.
10/12/2011 10:36:24 AM
anon says:
The fact that there was "no Wi-fi at Lakehead" is a load. At almost any given location on campus there were protected Wi-fi signals floating through the air, so although the students didn't have Wi-fi, it was still there. There was even a network called "Fred Gilbert's Private Network" in the library - just a wee bit hypocritical...Even now, we hardly have internet access (the "Advanced Technology & Academic Center" doesn't have public Wi-fi yet. Very advanced), which can be a pretty big hassle considering many assignments, if not all of class, is done online nowadays.

And that is why I didn't vote for PC candidate Fred Gilbert.
10/13/2011 12:14:17 AM
tbayguy009 says:
Because you just couldn't bring yourself to carry around a short length of Cat 5 cable??? Oh, the horrors of that.


WiFi is insecure. If you don't know that, well.... Schools, hospitals and government agencies should NOT be transmitting to, or from their networks wirelessly period! If you want WiFi, get and wireless an account for some independant teleco carrier. Don't ask these bussiness to breach their security just to give you that luxury service for free. It you don't believe me, google the WASP wifi project, and how it's current development was shown at Def Con for a second year. If you don't know what I am talking about, you can play the victum on your own. Just saying is all.

Plug in a cable, and that would be the end of this discussion.

It is sad that people who have so little knowledge, have such BIG opinions.

Deer in the headlights. Bout all I can say.

And in an environment like post secondary institutions, you would defiately find some of the best of the best.
10/16/2011 9:14:51 AM
V says:
This isn't about sensitive data. If such data is to be transmitted through WiFi, a separate network would be put in place (as I am sure is the case). It may be simple to purchase a CAT cable, but this is not the point. Students should not be denied a resource because of paranoia. As many have said, all electronics emit electromagnetic waves. It is silly to choose one device and label it as lethal.
10/16/2011 10:56:28 PM
beached says:
With this logic we must first ban cell phones. They output ten times the power as WiFi and are far more ubiquitus.
10/12/2011 11:02:00 AM
westfort resident says:
Maybe TB residents should be more concerned about what's being spewed out of the Ab-Bowater mill and its long term effects.
10/12/2011 11:22:15 AM
TBDR says:
this all comes back to electromagnetic fields. All electronic devices give of some. My wireless router gives off 45 milligauss at 1 foot distance, but .01 at 2 feet. Elsewhere in the house, my mG numbers are negligible. On that same token, the subwoofer on my entertainment centre is 62 mG at 1 foot, and my microwave gives off an astounding 122 mG at 1 foot. Even with all three devices operating at the same time, the EMF fields in the middle of my house is .00 to .01.

Translation: this is a load of uneducated hype.
10/12/2011 11:55:50 AM
tbayguy009 says:
Be advised, a laptop is transmitting, while it is on your lap. And a cell phone is transmitting with is at the side of your head. The amount of power to get back to tower should be about equal to the amount to get to your personal device.

I noticed you avoided cell phone tests, at point blank range.
10/12/2011 4:20:38 PM
TBDR says:
not at all... cell phones and laptops leak emf... but not as high as a router. Routers leak more than a wireless adaptor by a long shot. Also you miss one important thing. The most reliable studies have shown no link to EMF causing cancer.
10/13/2011 12:44:46 AM
jubjub says:
It should be quite interesting when Shaw and other major isps launch their massive new wifi systems (). If these come to Thunder Bay Mr Gilbert will have to move quite far out of town or build some sort of tinfoil dome around his home. But seriously, with all of the unhealthy garbage food, smog filled air, lead toys, cancer causing sun, etc people are worried that wifi is a problem.
10/12/2011 12:10:28 PM
panzerIV says:
If you worry about everything that 'might' cause you distress then you'll never leave your house. I'd worry about the known dangers to one's health, like unhealthty eating habits, lack of exercise and polluting our environment.
10/12/2011 12:26:34 PM
deerhunting101 says:
Soon you won't be able to walk down the street as this will be hazardous to your health. Oh actually it is unsafe in Thunder Bay already. We better ban walking outside now.
10/12/2011 12:42:41 PM
SomeGuy says:
Maybe they should be giant Faraday cages around there buildings then.
10/12/2011 1:30:24 PM
RobertCGRO says:
OMG! The Earth has been bombarding humans with natural occuring radio or EMF signals for the millions of years that we've existed here. One lightening strike puts out more EMF than all the energy that humans have in the past 100 years. A hydrogen bomb is about as close as we can come to Mother Nature's power, and how many times have you been exposed to H-bomb EMF pulses? The last solar flare, that just glanced us, irradiated the Earth with enough energy to fry us all, if it wasn't for the Earth's magnetosphere. So, let's put a ban on lightening strikes and solar flares to go with the ban on Wifi. Because banning Wifi is about as futile.
10/12/2011 2:15:45 PM
RobertCGRO says:
OMG! The Earth has been bombarding humans with natural occuring radio or EMF signals for the millions of years that we've existed here. One lightening strike puts out more EMF than all the energy that humans have in the past 100 years. A hydrogen bomb is about as close as we can come to Mother Nature's power, and how many times have you been exposed to H-bomb EMF pulses? The last solar flare, that just glanced us, irradiated the Earth with enough energy to fry us all, if it wasn't for the Earth's magnetosphere. So, let's put a ban on lightening strikes and solar flares to go with the ban on Wifi. Because banning Wifi is about as futile.
10/12/2011 2:46:31 PM
wayne says:
EMF is generated from everything that either generates electricity or consumes electricity. The appliances in our homes, the wiring, computers, cell phones, WiFi etc. But there is no evidence to support health risks or directly link EMF to disease and injury. Our cars generate EMF fields, and so do overhead transmission lines, transformers, and numerous natural sources.

What irks me, is that those who oppose wind turbines for the fact that they generate EMF fields turn a blind eye to everything else around them that is in closer proximity to their bodies that exposes to them more of the 'dangerous' EMF fields.
10/12/2011 3:31:23 PM
tiredofit says:
just proves my point YET AGAIN Wayne, no matter what it is, you bring up and compare to Turbines.. unreal, I swear you must have a ton of money invested in Wind Turbines given your hatred for those who try and oppose them in any way shape or form.
I hear Santa's sled gives off toxic fumes that affect the elves, must the the fault of them darn anti-turbine folks out in South Neebing!
10/12/2011 9:04:53 PM
hubbabubba says:
Something is going to kill us.. Might as well die wifi happy.
10/12/2011 3:50:54 PM
Ranma says:
Can someone at tbnewswatch please tell us why you think this TRIPE is worthy of reporting? Next thing you know you will be posting stories about the dangers of going blind because one watches too much TV. If this is the type of story your editor finds newsworthy, then it is time to fire them and hire someone who has a functioning brain.
10/12/2011 4:40:00 PM
tsb says:
If you think Wifi is scary, you should google some of the chemicals in your food!!
10/12/2011 10:07:56 PM
Renegade120860 says:
Why give Fred Gilbert a soapbox to air his ideas on the safety of Wi-Fi?

Is this windbag planning to run for Council or the Mayor's chair in the next election???

Maybe he wants to run on a platform of ridding "Toonder Bay" of Wi-Fi!!??

Think the number of double-chins and girth sizes you see around town, indicate a more serious health problem in this city. And don't forget those people who cherish their "smokes" and their frequent "two-fours".

10/13/2011 7:19:25 AM
codvx87 says:
This article is a joke, why even upload it?
10/13/2011 9:23:26 AM
Grammy says:
This article is based on a few individuals paying for the private schools they fund, WiFi is the way of the future do we want our kids to be behind the rest of the country because of some idea of someone with too much money that they cant use the public school systems.
10/13/2011 9:45:51 AM
wayne says:
relax tiredofit, i posted my comment because it is relevant given the commonality of EMF 'fears'. Besides, I mentioned wind turbines because there was a previous comment questioning whether wind turbines are safe. scroll up and see for yourself. And how you come to the conclusion that I would blame everything else on the folks in South Neebing is ridiculous.
10/13/2011 6:17:53 PM
wayne says:
Fred Gilbert bases his false science on a thesis paper he wrote back in the late 60's about the effects of ionizing radiation on mammals. Fast forward 40 years and he deprived the student body access to WiFi during his tenure as president. He made LU the laughing stock of Maclean's University Rankings with that decision and others.

I wonder if he surfs the net at home reading comments about why he lost the election from a WiFi laptop that is perched upon his lap, just a couple of inches from his groin?
10/13/2011 10:26:35 PM
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