'Dirty electricty' out of bounds for students

May 18, 2006
Serena Willoughby,
Staff Writer

They're closing hallways, moving the basketball net and putting up fences at St. Monica Catholic School in Markham, all to protect students from a threat federal and provincial health authorities aren't sure exists.

An independent test ordered by the York Catholic District School Board found EMF levels as high as 10 milligauss near a transformer at St. Monica.

Some research links prolonged exposure to "dirty electricity" at levels higher than two to leukemia, as well as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and attention deficit disorder.

But other research on EMFs, which are created wherever electricity is generated such as in cellphones, computers and power lines, indicated the link to health problems is unsubstantiated.

The board fenced off the transformer and closed other areas with high EMF readings at St. Monica, although spokesperson Chris Cable wouldn't speculate on whether similar precautions would be taken at other schools.

"Regardless of whether you believe (the research) or not, we at the board are following a precautionary principle," Ms Cable said.

Dr. Magda Havas, a professor of Environmental Sciences at Trent University, believes EMFs in schools are a major problem because schools use several kinds of equipment that emit EMFs such as older model computers, fluorescent lighting and public address systems.

Children are particularly susceptible to the effects of EMFs, she said.

But Gloria Rachamin, a toxicologist with the public health division of the Ontario Ministry of Health, denied the connection in a report to York public health, the school board and parents.

"Overall, the scientific evidence does not support casual association between EMF exposure and human health risks," she said.

"According to Health Canada . . . . there is no conclusive evidence of any harm caused by exposures."

At levels normally found in Canadian living and working environments. It further indicates that, at present, there are no Canadian government guidelines for exposure to EMF at extremely low frequencies since the scientific evidence is not strong enough to conclude that typical exposures cause health problems."

© Copyright York Region Newspaper Group



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