Could Wi-Fi be making your child sick?
That’s what the parents of one child who attends a private school in Massachusetts are saying. In a lawsuit they’ve brought against Southborough’s Fay School, the couple allege that the school’s wireless signal has caused their son’s illness. They’re asking for $250,000 in damages as well as the reduction of the signal strength in their son’s classroom, although the school already paid last year to have its electromagnetic emissions analyzed by a safety consultation company, which found that the school’s signal strength was 0.000001 of the safe threshold (and yes, that is the correct number of zeroes).
As a parent, it would certainly be understandable if reading about health concerns like these had you second-guessing your own household Internet setup. And many a parent is likely reading this family’s viral story and wondering if they should follow suit. So what’s the deal?
Before you chuck your wireless router into the trash, let’s look at the facts.
It’s normal for parents like those suing the Fay School to be worried about a child’s health. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity — the perceived reaction to wireless signals — is thought to involve headaches, nausea and nosebleeds. Imagine if your 12-year-old child was suffering unexplained symptoms like these! It’s a scary thought, and when medical answers aren’t forthcoming, many parents start looking elsewhere for help.
The people who believe they’re suffering from electromagnetic sensitivity are obviously dealing with real symptoms, and they have real concerns that should be taken seriously, but according to the World Health Organization, “The majority of studies indicate that electromagnetic hypersensitivity individuals cannot detect electromagnetic field exposure any more accurately than non-electromagnetic hypersensitivity individuals.”
This should also make parents feel better: Study after study has shown that kids aren’t in danger from the sort of electromagnetic radiation emitted by cellphones or wireless routers. For one thing, people exposed to fake wireless devices are just as likely to report symptoms of electromagnetic hypersensitivity as those exposed to the real things. For another thing, the majority of studies find no relationship between wireless exposure and illness. And the few studies that did turn up a relationship? They turned out to either be totally un-reproducible (which is science-ese for “no bueno”), or worse yet, the “meaningful” differences between experimental groups turned out to be the result of a little statistical jiggery-pokery. If you have to stand on your hand and squint at the numbers to make it look like electromagnetic hypersensitivity exists, then it probably doesn’t.
Wi-Fi is omnipresent in our kids’ lives, and it behooves parents to read up on all the facts before deciding whether they want it around their kids.