Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

05 October 2016

Letter Addressed to the Geneva Department of Public Instruction on Digital Technology in Schools

Following is the letter addressed to Mrs. Marie-Claude Sawerschel, Secretary-General, Department of Public Instruction, Culture and Sport, from Association Romande Alerte, concerning the introduction of digital technology into primary and secondary schools in Geneva.

Click here for the original letter in French.

Morges, 3 October 2016

Dear Madam,

We are dismayed to learn from the Press that your Department intends to introduce tablets into primary schools and encourage pupils to bring their own devices in secondary schools. This plan is all the more shocking in that it will require the installation of Wi-Fi in classrooms, in flagrant contradiction of the precautionary principle to protect the health of our children.

In 2011, WHO declared that radiofrequencies, including Wi-Fi, are "possibly carcinogenic" to humans. No scientific study has yet established the safety of this radiation, while thousands of studies show alarming biological effects.  The body of a child is developing and consequently, more vulnerable to waves.  You claim that "school aims to offer each child the scholastic environment most suitable to allow maximizing of potential".  Currently, no study shows the assumed benefits of new technologies.  And if a child becomes ill following exposure to waves?  And what about teachers, especially pregnant women, are they not equally exposed?

The more research advances, the more one finds deleterious effects from chronic exposure to radiation. For example, the American government invested more than 25 million dollars over 10 years in a study (with partial results published in May 2016) to show the safety of waves from mobile phones but ended up by having to admit that chronic exposure causes cancer: cerebral and heart tumors.  Other recent studies show that non-ionizing radiation is indeed capable of breaking DNA, against scientific claims.

In 2003, Swisscom applied for a patent (WO2004075583) to reduce irradiation from Wi-Fi, mentioning the geno-toxicity of these waves: "The risk of damage to health through electrosmog has also become better understood [...] clear damage to hereditary material has been demonstrated and there have been indications of an increased cancer risk". Reinsurance companies (SwissRe, Lloyds, etc.) have refused for over 10 years to assume the risks related to exposure to electromagnetic waves. If these big companies have taken this position, it is because they are aware of the toxicity of these technologies and do now want to lose colossal sums. The OFSP, more answerable to industrial interests, recommends precautionary measures on their internet site:

  • Only switch your WLAN on when you need it. With laptops, in particular, it is a good idea to switch the WLAN off as otherwise the device will repeatedly try to connect to a network, leading to unnecessary radiation.
  • Don’t hold your laptop close to your body while it is connected to a WLAN.

The OFSP measures for reduction of exposure to radiation apply equally to mobile phones compatible with Wi-Fi. If this Office, which is reticent about officially recognizing the toxicity of electromagnetic radiation for economic reasons, prescribes these precautionary measures, it would
seem very risky to force scholastic establishments to equip themselves with a toxic technology. How will you apply these precautionary instructions in classrooms with pupils holding their devices very close to their bodies?

A large number of scientists and physicians who know the subject well are sounding the alarm in order that the authorities urgently revise the legal values of exposure and the precautionary principle be finally applied, while courts are beginning to recognize the causality of electromagnetic radiation in the degradation of health.  How will the school legally protect itself now that personal injury from electromagnetic radiation is excluded from insurance coverage for civil liability?

Moreover, the effectiveness of  learning by digital technology is called into question.  Over 200 peer-reviewed studies have noted concentration and attention deficit disorders, addiction to screens, increased aggression, depression, and anxiety tied to use of digital technology.  In addition, screens at school encourage pupils to play, consult social media, or send messages rather than concentrate on their work.

After installation of Wi-Fi in schools, teachers and children have often complained of headaches, nausea, dizziness, palpitations, nosebleeds, and other symptoms.  Sometimes schools use industrial-type Wi-Fi routers that are hundreds of times more powerful than home systems.  According to environmental medicine specialists in the United States, when these devices, serving hundreds of computers through thick walls, communicate with one another, children are exposed to very high levels of radiation.

As a precautionary measure, one should favor wired networks (fiber optic, for example) to avoid Wi-Fi.  Wired connections are faster, more reliable, safer, and less harmful to health.  Even tablets can be wired to the network through USB ports.  Your department should be attentive to this option in its policy to acquire tablets.  In addition, in computer classes, schools should teach the precautions to take to reduce exposure to waves.

In the name of the protection of the health of all children, I thank you for having read the above.

Yours truly,
(Member of the ARA Committee)

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