On November 29, an article appeared in the Flensburg Tageblatt about Hamburg, Germany removing WiFi from six schools because of health concerns. A customer requested that we translate it, and we are posting the translation here.
November, 29 2014
From the editors of the Flensburg Tageblatt
HAMBURG | The school authorities announced that, after the summer holidays, they will equip three city district schools and three high schools with tablets and notebooks. This has been put on ice for the time being. The reason is that the wireless Internet access of the devices should be enabled by the wireless network WLAN. Both the potential health effects as well as the legal framework are not clear.
“Six schools replace chalk board, textbooks, notebooks and pencils with laptops and tablet in class,” it said in May in a statement presented by school senator Ties Rabe. During the two-year project up to 1,300 students, which is about 30 percent of children were supposed to participate. Now the school authorities are “backing off”. “We are currently investigating whether there are data privacy protection or other legal problems,” admitted a spokesman Peter Albrecht.
The project made big waves because of the non-party representative Walter Scheuerl who is trying to bring down the project with two requests from local citizens and various reports stating that the transmission of data over wireless networks happens through extremely high microwave frequencies.
In fact, some doctors criticized recently the introduction of tablets, smartphones, and WLAN as as “an uncritical acceptance of progress hype”. In an open letter 20 doctors from “Doctors Working Group Digital Media in Stuttgart” criticize that concerns coming from science and medicine in regards to the use of wireless technologies are being ignored. “The correlation of the increase of overwork, headaches, ADHD and mental illness with the growing use of digital media is worrying,” said Ulmer psychiatrist and brain researcher Prof. Manfred Spitzer. According to the latest state of science the negative health effects are clear. The amount of radiation could lead to impaired concentration, in addition to sperm damage, DNA strand breaks and thus cancer. Manufacturers, as well as the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, is already warning not to use wireless devices in close proximity to the body. Neither school board nor health authority of the Hanseatic city could respond to such warnings.
Dirk Petersen, environmental expert at Consumer agency Hamburg, relativized: “In our view there is no reliable information, that it is harmful.” The radiation was simply too small, said the expert. Ellen Kruse, a spokeswoman for the AG Electrosmog of the BUND Hamburg, however, criticized: “There are a lot of neutral studies showing that Wi-Fi is very harmful.” She calls for independent experts who educate in schools. Especially the combined use of wireless devices in classes with up to 30 students are questionable, so Kruse. The World Health Organization warns that use of wireless networks could possibly be carcinogenic. “We are for a precautionary approach,” she said. However, the Bund is not hostile to progress and plead for a wired internet access in schools.
In its requests to the Senate Scheuerl also addressed the subject of privacy statements and whether the legal guardian, adult students as well as teachers have a way of accepting them and what would happen if they would not sign them. The school board admitted now, to check this. Scheuerl said: “The Authority had previously not carefully prepared for that.” However, the use of WLAN is from his point of view ok if they would agree to it. “The use of the schools for the Internet research is important, but it is also about information literacy,” said Scheuerl. He also called for a general education about pedagogic and psychological consequences, liability risks, copyright issues and risks.