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Wi-Fi in schools: how safe is it?

By Shannon Williams, Wed 8 Jul 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Wi-Fi uses low-power radio signals to connect computers and mobile devices to a network. 

Wi-Fi networks are used in the home, school or office, and more and more Wi-Fi hot spots are popping up across cities around the world. Including New Zealand. 

With Wi-Fi becoming a standard, questions are raised on the health implications of wireless networks. 

In 2013, the Ministry of Education sought guidance on the safety of Wi-Fi in schools from the Ministry of Health. 

The Ministry of Health released its view that exposures to radiofrequency fields from Wi-Fi equipment in schools did not pose a health risk to staff or students. 

“Wi-Fi signals won’t harm your health,” the Ministry states on its website. 

“Exposures to Wi-Fi signals in New Zealand schools, both from the access points and devices, are very low. On this basis Wi-Fi in schools does not pose a health risk to children or staff. “

The Ministry says measurements in New Zealand and overseas show that exposures are tiny fractions of the public exposure limit. This limit is set out in the radiofrequency field exposure standard. 

The highest exposures found in two New Zealand schools were 4000 times below the limit, and generally exposures were more than 10,000 times below the limit. 

The Ministry says that while there are steps that can be taken to reduce exposure to Wi-Fi signals, there’s no evidence that people need to take these precautions. 

Currently, over 90% of New Zealand schools us wireless networking to connect to the internet. 

In February 2014, the Ministry of Education funded a report Exposures to radiofrequency fields from Wi-Fi in New Zealand schools, which found that the highest exposures found in two schools were 4,000 times below the limit, with typical exposures more than 10,000 times below the limit.

The World Health Organisation concluded that current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields, including Wi-Fi.

Research in this area is extensive. According to the Ministry of Education, there are over 5,000 articles published worldwide on biological effects and medical applications of non-ionising radiation (such as Wi-Fi) over the past 30 years.

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