It has been a while, but the threat that mobile phones can pose to your health has never gone away. In the flush of success that smartphones have been enjoying, we haven’t heard a whole lot of news about how dangerous they can be. But today a European Committee has called for mobile devices an WiFi networks to be banned in schools, throwing the subject back into harsh relief. There have been headlines out there proclaiming that the “EU” wants to ban mobile phones… but that’s really not true.
What’s the story?
Ok, so it’s true that a ban has been called for. Let’s take a look at that. The Council of Europe has published a report called “the potential dangers of electromagnetic fields and their effect on the environment“. The report is only indirectly about mobile phones – because these devices are the most common generators of low frequency electromagnetic fields, along with WiFi networks and power lines.
Basically, the Council of Europe wants European nations to recognize that there is a potential health risk from these fields, and to take action on it. The report name-checks the eventual legislation that had to be created surrounding asbestos, leaded petrol and tobacco – all of which were widely reported to be hazardous LONG before anyone got around to legislating for that.
The Council claims that while there is still a lot of debate and scientific research to take place on the topic of electromagnetic fields and their dangers, there is nevertheless a sufficient body of evidence to suggest that steps need to be taken. It claims that there is good reason to believe that there are potentially harmful effects for humans here… but, more importantly, that these effects have been known of since at least 2009.
You can see the full report here: http://assembly.coe.int/main.asp?Link=/documents/workingdocs/doc11/edoc12608.htm
What we think?
First of all, it’s important to state that this report has nothing to do with the EU. It has come from a committee within the Council of Europe, which is a separate organization, not an EU body. It has been around since the 40s, and promotes cooperation between European countries on areas like human rights, legal standards, etc. Today’s report comes from the Council of Europe’s Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs. It really is just a suggestion – this doesn’t represent a European Union move towards banning electromagnetic fields.
The larger questions is, of course, should mobile devices and WiFi networks be banned in schools? And my feeling is yes, of course they should. If there is a reasonable body of evidence to suggest that these technologies are harmful to children, then you must seriously consider removing them. The reason I’m so certain on this is that neither WiFi networks nor mobile phones are actually necessary in a school. They are both easily replaceable. If a parent wishes to get an urgent message to their child during school hours, they can ring the school office and get the message passed along. And WiFi isn’t necessary for an internet connection – you can run that through cables. It doesn’t need a wireless network.