Brock University staff get Wi-Fi warning

Staff at Brock University in St. Catharines are being warned to be wary of Wi-Fi by a former member of the school's joint health and safety committee.

Employees of Brock University in St. Catharines are being warned to be wary of Wi-Fi by a former member of the school's joint health and safety committee.

Wi-Fi is convenient for students, but some worry the electromagnetic radiation may be harmful. ((iStock))
Prof. David Fancy, head of the drama department, took the unusual step of issuing a news release to warn staff about Wi-Fi dangers.

"There have been some, what I consider to be false and misleading statements made by public health officials recently about wireless and the fact that they don't cause a public health risk, and I think that that's incorrect," Fancy said in an interview with CBC News.

Last year, Fancy sat on a Brock sub-committee that looked into health issues involving electromagnetic safety, and came away with deep concerns.

"We came to the conclusion that unlike Health Canada's assertion that says that Canada's safety code protects us, we felt that there was more evidence out there to suggest that this isn't necessarily correct."

In response to concerns about radiation from wireless internet connections, Health Canada issued a statement on Aug. 18 dismissing suggestions the electromagnetic radiation could be harmful.

"Based on scientific evidence, Health Canada has determined that exposure to low-level radiofrequency energy, such as that from Wi-Fi systems, is not dangerous to the public," the department said.

But many are unconvinced, including a British scientist who spoke on the issue in Toronto last week. Barrie Trower, a microwave expert during the Cold War era, maintains that the level of microwave radiation emitted by dozens of computers accessing Wi-Fi is enough to damage the health of humans.

"When I saw Wi-Fis being put in schools at the same powers and the same levels that were used in the 1960s for experiments, I knew straight away that there were hidden dangers to the young children," Trower said in a recent interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

Scientist Barry Trower is concerned that using several wireless computers in a classroom elevates the amount of electromagnetic radiation to harmful levels. ((iStock))
With schools, colleges and universities beginning classes soon, Wi-Fi has become a hot-button issue. Earlier this month a school in Simcoe, Ont., refused to turn off its Wi-Fi system, despite demands from a parents group.

The parents believed the Wi-Fi system was making their children sick.

Trower says it's the amassed radiation of several computers operating at the same time the boosts the level of radiation.

"With Wi-Fi you have 20 to 30 sets in a classroom, they are exposed for a long time, and probably in the next classroom and the next classroom. It's like taking a microwave transmitter outside the school for mobile phones and putting it inside the classroom."

Public health officials adamantly deny there is any danger from Wi-Fi. 

However, Fancy said he believes there are enough questions to merit a public warning about W-Fi at Brock.

"It's not necessarily up to me to say that they cause harm," he said. "I think there's a lot of evidence to suggest that they do. But we certainly can't say with any conclusive level that they're safe."