"Ostrich with its head in the sand": Mississauga mom demands Catholic school board accommodate son's Wi-Fi injury
by Marta Marychuk, Mississauga News, 13 June 2018
“It’s a bigger problem than people realize,” said Paulette Rende.
(Photo): Alex Rende and his mother Paulette Rende outside the Dufferin Peel Catholic Separate School Board offices on Matheson Boulevard West. The Rendes are contending that Wi-Fi signals in the schools are causing issues with his health. Jun 6, 2018. - Bryon Johnson/Metroland
A Mississauga mother says she is protesting the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB) so her son can go to school.
Paulette Rende’s goal is to raise awareness about electro-hypersensitivity (otherwise known as Wi-Fi injury) and the need for digital device safety in Ontario schools.
“It’s a bigger problem than people realize,” said Rende.
Her son Alex, 17, a student at St. Paul’s Secondary School in Mississauga, suffers from electro-hypersensitivity. She says he has a “broad spectrum of symptoms,” including: headaches, congestion, heart palpitations, anxiety and nausea.
“To the detriment of students and teachers, the provincial government has been that ostrich with its head in the sand, ignoring the glaring gaps in health and safety guidelines,” said Rende in a release.
According to Women’s College Hospital (WCH), electro-hypersensitivity is a condition that develops when people are exposed to non-ionizing radiation from electromagnetic fields, such as high-energy radio waves and microwaves.
Common sources include cellphones, baby monitors, cell towers, plasma televisions and Wi-Fi, says WCH. The hospital operates an Environmental Health Clinic (EHC), which is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, for people with chronic complex environmentally-linked conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivity and electromagnetic-hypersensitivity
Rende is hoping a change in provincial government will lead to changes in school policy. She says other school boards across the province are having the same issues with Wi-Fi injury.
“I’m here (protesting) at a local level,” Rende adds.
“We understand and are sensitive to the safety concerns some community members have regarding the use of wireless technology (Wi-Fi) in schools,” Bruce Campbell, the school board's manager of communications and community relations, said in an email.
“The health and safety of our students and staff is paramount to us. As with all public health issues, we take direction from our public health agencies,” he added
The board began Wi-Fi installations in late 2012, and since then have conducted yearly tests to measure radio frequencies using Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 standard, as a guide, said Campbell.
Currently, he said, tests indicate that the board's schools are measuring significantly less than one per cent of the minimum standard defined by Health Canada. This is 99.99 per cent safer than Health Canada’s defined minimum standard.
Campbell said the board will "continue to rely on the expertise and standards of organizations like Health Canada, Peel Public Health and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Health to guide our use of technology, from a health perspective, in our schools.
“We are well aware of the specific concerns of this parent and have offered and/or provided numerous accommodations to try to meet the needs of the family,” Campbell said.
“These have included online courses, and having a teacher come to the home. We continue to reach out to them and are currently in the process of trying to set up a meeting to review the results of environmental testing carried out specifically in relation to their concerns at the school.”
by Marta Marychuk
Marta Marychuk is a reporter with the Brampton Guardian. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow the Brampton Guardian on FacebookEmail: email@example.com