Israel’s Ministry of Education has issued a new set of guidelines which will prevent wireless networks being installed in classrooms prior to the first grade and limit the amount of Wi-Fi use between first and third grades.
The new policy that will go into effect in August 2013 also requires that all Wi-Fi equipment be tested for compliance with safety limits before and after installation in an Israeli school and that desktop computers and power supplies be kept at least 20 cm from students.
To limit unnecessary exposure teachers will be required to turn off all radio frequency emitting devices such as mobile phones and Wi-Fi routers when they are not in use for educational purposes.
In the first grade students will be limited to use Wi-Fi to study for one hour per day and no more than three days per week. Between the first and third grades students will be limited to use Wi-Fi up to two hours per day for no more than four days per week.
In August 2012 a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court to ban Wi-Fi in schools prompted a court order for the Israeli Government to find out how many children in the country claimed to suffer from hypersensitivity to radio waves.
In May 2011 an international workshop of 150 experts on the radiation emitted by mobile phones and Wi-Fi concluded the current safe exposure guidelines set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) adequately protect children.
“The purpose of the meeting was to determine if our guidelines are adequate to protect children – who are different in terms of physiology, anatomy, and lifestyle,” Dr Paolo Vecchia the then chairman of ICNIRP said in a press conference following the conference.
“From the scientific results of the workshop, we can conclude that our guidance is adequate.”
Concerns were raised about the possibility of greater vulnerability for children because of an increased susceptibility to health risks during developmental stages and because young people will use Wi-Fi for most of their lives. However, the international safety guidelines have taken these concerns and potential risks into account when setting safe exposure limits the workshop found. The Health Council of the Netherlands has come to a similar conclusion.
“For UV radiation, we do know that people are at risk and now we have even more evidence for this position. In contrast, for EMF, and mobiles in particular, there is no evidence that children are at special risk,” Dr Vecchia said.
In late 2011 the Canadian government conducted a study to determine the level of exposure to Wi-Fi signals in a simulated classroom setting in response to community concerns about the widespread use of wireless internet technology in schools.
The Industry Canada study (pdf) found exposure levels to radio frequency radiation from multiple laptop computers and Wi-Fi antennas were considerably below international safety limits, even when devices were set to operate at higher than normal power.