Teachers union in Ontario takes the ‘better safe than sorry’ approach to WiFi

Adam Jablonowski Contributor
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Wi-Fi has found its way into classrooms across Canada, and the Ontario English Catholic Teacher’s Association (OECTA) believes it “may present a potential health and safety risk or hazard in the workplace,” the National Post reported.

The union’s statement, released earlier this week, targets the increase of wireless devices such as iPads in primary education facilities. Wireless Internet has been made available in 81 school districts in Ontario over the past three years.

“The safety of this technology has not thoroughly been researched and therefore the precautionary principle and prudent avoidance of exposure should be practiced,” the statement read.

“We’re not saying rip them out of the building,” OECTA President Kevin O’Dwyer clarified. “My sense is that there’s enough doubt out there that we should hold off until there’s more research.”

The teachers association is “scare mongering,” according to Iain Martel, chair and spokesperson for the Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism. In an email to the National Post, he wrote that “the OECTA goes overboard in advocating an overly cautious approach to the use of Wi-Fi technology in schools. There is no plausible mechanism by which such technology could cause harm, and no good evidence of any harm.”

In May, the World Health Organization put radio frequency energy emitted from cellphones and other WiFi connections on the list of things that are possibly carcinogenic to humans. Also on that list are coffee, gasoline engine exhaust, night shift work and the pesticide DDT.

Una St. Clair, a concerned parent, said that “WiFi has been rolled out too fast for science to keep up.”

The Vancouver native moved her children into private schools in order to avoid exposure.

“The information [out there] is questionable,” O’Dwyer said. “It’s not definitive. If that’s true — if there’s an alternative to avoid [possible health risks] that is cost effective — why not go there?”

O’Dwyer says the group plans to take its concerns to individual school boards and the Ontario Labour and Education ministries.

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