The Association of Chronic and/or Environmental Diseases and Poisoning in Italy has been protesting for more than 10 years to reduce the limits on exposure to electromagnetic fields. “Putting WiFi in schools could be social suicide,” says Francesca Romana Orlando, vice president of the campaign.
Schools are facing immense health issues due to the wireless routers plugged in and around, supposedly for the education of children. The classrooms of primary schools that have WiFi is highly debated upon, and parents with worries about the radiation emitted are making up campaigns to request for internet cables to be used instead of wireless routers. This took place in Civitanova Marche a month ago, when the Councillor for education herself deactivated the modem signal and switched to the cable connection in the primary school classrooms.
“Scientific evidence says that exposure to wi-fi is a potential health risk,” says Francesca Romana Orlando. “They say that under the limits set by law, there is no danger, but that’s not the case: the legal limits don’t protect health. This is the biggest obstacle for citizens, for example if they want to sue mobile phone transmitters. There are known biological effects from wireless and mobile signals 10 times below the limits set by Italian law, which only protects from acute and thermal effects. Biologists, however, know that cells have internal electro-magnetic sensors that are affected by external magnetic fields, even very weak ones, without being heated.”
In the meantime, a huge number of schools in Italy have applied for financing for WiFi. There were 2,074 applications submitted by the middle schools, and of that, 1,554 have been sanctioned by the Ministry of Education. For 2013 and 2014, it has put aside €15 million for WiFi in schools. But for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, that amount apparently does not suffice: they say that at least double the sum of it is needed, to bring Italy in the front row with other countries, such as Britain. The OECD encouraged Italy to find funding, even in the private sector.
But this is not agreed upon by activists. “We are carrying out a measurement campaign in schools and libraries where there is WiFi in various cities. So far we haven’t found any violation of the legal limits – but that doesn’t mean there are no biological effects. The limits of the law, in fact, refer to the peaks of exposure and not to the occupied bandwidth, which in the case of WiFi is quite wide, because it carries data.” The president of the AC/EDP goes on, “Other studies also give cause for concern. In 2011, we met researchers from the department of biomagnetism at the University of Athens. They did a study that showed that mice exposed to wi-fi signals suffered memory loss and spatial confusion: these are the same symptoms seen in ‘electro-sensitive’ people.”
The organisation is mostly campaigning to educate the public on electro-sensitivity. Orlando says: “Over the past two years, we have been contacted by several people who were healthy, then after the arrival of WiFi in their place of work, they suddenly began to suffer headaches, insomnia, confusion and a sense of disorientation. It’s not easy to quantify and objectify these symptoms but their collective effect is a loss in the quality of life. There are psychological and physical reactions to the exposure to electromagnetic fields from mobile phones and other wireless technologies, such as WiFi. Instead of removing WiFi as a precautionary measure, we are installing even more WiFi in libraries and schools – learning environments where people need to feel well. In 2011, even the plenary assembly of the Council of Europe warned on the need to reduce the use of WiFi, reminding us that radio waves have been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ to humans.”