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

10 August 2016

Electromagnetic Fields in Schools: A Precautionary Approach

EMF in schools: a precautionary approach
by Jo Williams, Educator, Coach, Speaker, linkedin.com,
28 July 2016

Concern over children’s chronic exposure to electric and magnetic fields (EMF) is increasing alongside the rapid rise of technology, the prolific use of wireless devices by very young children both at home and school, and new environmental illnesses that are emerging. Despite wireless computer networks (WiFi) being used in schools for years, it was only in 2010 that the first study of its health effects were published. Technological development has outpaced scientific knowledge. This is why we need to take a precautionary approach when implementing BYOD practices (bring your own device) and WiFi technology in the classroom: anything else would be highly hazardous.

What is WiFi and how can it affect us?

WiFi is a registered trademark owned by the WiFi Alliance, a nonprofit international association formed in 1999. They define WiFi as any “wireless local area network (WLAN) products that are based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) 802.11 standards. Instead of using wires to transmit data through the air, WiFi uses radio frequency (RF) which is a type of EMF.

While there is limited research on EMF in schools, many studies have determined that there are health risks. A recent study found EMF exposures can cause genotoxicity because it can break single and double strand DNAs in our body, which indicates that future generations may be affected. And the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified RF radiation as a possible carcinogen.

Science also tells us that radiation from wireless technology affects the blood, the heart, and the autonomic nervous system which can result in headaches, difficulty concentrating, weakness, and heart palpitations. We also know that EMF disrupt the blood brain barrier (BBB). This is something for parents and educators to consider given the rise in chronic illnesses amongst small children, PANDAS, and other infections that cross the BBB. Another environmental condition that has arisen is electrical hypersensitivity (EHS). This is a an extreme sensitivity to EMF such as computer screens, florescent lighting and microwaves resulting in a range of symptoms.

Leading scientists emphasise that this condition is becoming more prevalent. They are so concerned that they wrote a Common International Declaration to WHO requesting official recognition of EHS as a disease. Olle Johansson, associate professor from the Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Sweden warns educators that non-ionizing radiation emissions very likely are hazardous and unsafe for students, staff and teachers. Dr. Martin Blank, leading EMF researcher at Columbia University, cautions us about the health crisis we are facing due to increasing levels of EMF. And Ronald Powell (Ph.D., Applied Physics, Harvard University, 1975), a retired government scientist urges us tolook into the health impact of the RF radiation produced by wireless devices in schools.

From my own perspective, I’m concerned about the combined effects of WiFi and mycotoxins in water damaged classrooms because research suggests that EMF induce mold growth. These studies and reports can inform schools about the potential risks of radiation exposure and the need for a precautionary approach, especially with little children.

What can schools do?

There are several ways that schools can limit radiation exposure and develop safe practices by:

  • removing WiFi in schools and replacing it with a wired infrastructure; 
  • having the school’s magnetic field measurements taken to determine how the school compares to others; 
  • teaching students to turn off their devices or use “airplane mode” when not in use; 
  • encouraging students to use WiFi only when needed; 
  • ensuring that students use their mobile device on a solid surface; 
  • directing students to view their screens at a minimum of 12 inches; 
  • enabling wired devices; 
  • replacing WiFi devices with wired devices; 
  • turning off the WiFi router when not in use; 
  • installing on/off switches for Wi­Fi routers; 
  • developing safe practice policies; 
  • ensuring small children only use iPads in flight mode; 
  • restricting internet usage to 3 hours per week; 
  • minimizing the number of apps on devices; 
  • disabling unnecessary background services on devices; 
  • formally teaching the students about EMF health precautions as part of their internet citizenship lessons. 

While there are still big gaps of knowledge about the impact of WiFi and EMF in schools, it’s vital that we take a precautionary approach and protect our teachers and students by combining science with judgement.

If you are implementing safe EMF practices in your school, please share below in the comments.

Find out more here:


Chiang, H., G. D. Yao, Q. S. Fang, K. Q. Wang, D. Z. Lu, and Y. K. Zhou. “Health effects of environmental electromagnetic fields.” Journal of Bioelectricity 8, no. 1 (1989): 127-131.

Hadjiloucas, S., Chahal, M. S., & Bowen, J. W. (2002). Preliminary results on the non-thermal effects of 200–350 GHz radiation on the growth rate of S. cerevisiae cells in microcolonies. Physics in medicine and biology, 47(21), 3831.

Havas, M. (2013). Radiation from wireless technology affects the blood, the heart, and the autonomic nervous system1). Reviews on environmental health, 28(2-3), 75-84.

Redmayne, M. (2016). International policy and advisory response regarding children’s exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF). Electromagnetic biology and medicine, 35(2), 176-185.

Ruediger, H. W. (2009). Genotoxic effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. Pathophysiology, 16(2), 89-102.

Voĭchuk, S. I., Podgorskiĭ, V. S., & Gromozova, E. N. (2003). [Effect of radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation on physiological features of Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain UCM Y-517]. Mikrobiolohichnyi zhurnal (Kiev, Ukraine: 1993), 66(3), 51-57.

Dr. Martin Blank explains the health crisis we are facing due to increasing levels of environmental pollution. He has 30 years of experience conducting EMF research at Columbia University and is a past president of the International Bioelectromagnetics Society
WiFi in schools


Olle Johansson, associate professor: Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute: non-ionizing radiation emissions very likely are hazardous and unsafe for students, staff and teachers.

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