24
Apr
2007

Health fears over city's wireless network

DAN GRIMMER
24 April 2007 09:35

Fresh fears have emerged over the safety of the city's pioneering wireless network after it was revealed the country's health protection watchdog is investigating whether the technology can damage health.

Sir William Stewart, the chairman of the Health Protection Agency, is understood to want a probe into whether WiFi networks - which emit radiation - are affecting the health of schoolchildren.

Meanwhile, it is believed the Professional Association of Teachers will this week write to Education Secretary Alan Johnson to demand an official inquiry because of its own concerns.

Norwich is one of the first places in the country to have a free WiFi service, with more than 200 aerials attached to lampposts providing coverage so people can log on to the internet through laptops anywhere in the city.

Dr Ian Gibson, Norwich North MP, today said he was delighted Sir William, who has chaired two official inquiries into mobile phone safety, was looking into WiFi.

He said: “We need to look at whether or not the radiation from these systems is a threat to health. As with mobile phone masts, the more research that can be done into it the better.”

The £1.1m Norfolk OpenLink project was launched in the city in August last year. The two-year pilot project managed by Norfolk County Council and funded by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) provides people with free broadband internet access. Each antenna creates a “hotspot” which receives the radio waves which power wireless networking.

By putting up so many antennae a mesh network has been created in Norwich, creating seamless coverage around the city centre.

It covers most of the city centre, as well as key sites such as the University of East Anglia, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and Norwich Science Park.

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: “OpenLink has been a tremendous success so far, benefiting many within the city - residents, visitors and businesses, including health agencies. The partnership would not have installed WiFi if there were any proven risk. The Department of Health has given no guidance that WiFi is unsafe.”

The networks are banned in Salzburg in Austria, while Stowe School, in Buckinghamshire, removed WiFi from part of its buildings after a teacher developed headaches and nausea.

Last November Dr Gibson, a long-time supporter of the Evening News Put Masts On Hold campaign and a cancer expert, said he wanted more research to be done on wireless technology after some schools elsewhere in the county ditched their wireless networks. Our Put Masts On Hold campaign has called for mobile phone masts not to be put up near schools or homes until it is proved they are safe, drawing on Sir William's own research into the health effects from the masts.

The latest mobile phone mast research:

New research has added weight to claims that mobile phone masts are a danger to health, meanwhile one mast is being pulled down after so many people claimed it was making them ill.

Parents of children at St Edward's Roman Catholic Primary School in Coleshill, Warwickshire said youngsters had suffered from insomnia, headaches, nosebleeds and numbness.

At the next-door Woodlands special school seven of the 30-strong staff have developed tumours while at least 31 people who live near the mast are suffering from cancer or have already died of it.

Many have pinned the blame on the 27m-high mast and O2, which owns the mast, have agreed to move it, although they insist this was not due to health grounds.

Meanwhile, Dr John Walker, a scientist who helped compile the cluster study in Warwickshire has also identified clusters around masts in Devon, Lincolnshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands.

In 2002, as part of the Keep Masts on Hold campaign, the Evening News reported how families living in Furze Road, Thorpe St Andrew, said they thought the mobile phone mast installed near them was harming their health.

Do you know of a school that has banned WiFi or are you a parent campaigning to get it removed from your child's school? Contact Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

Copyright © 2007 Archant Regional. All rights reserved.

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