by Alison Despathy
On October 10, VTDigger published an article, entitled, “Central Vermont Schools add Wi-Fi to buses–a model for the nation, says FCC chair.” A picture of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Jessica Rosenworcel and US Senator Peter Welch aboard a Williamstown school bus about to go live with a Wi-Fi connection accompanied this article and provided a positive spin. Despite marketing this move as ‘revolutionary and educational,’ this decision will ultimately place Vermont children at further risk with increased wireless radiation exposure.
FCC Chair Rosenworcel specifically stated, “We understand that there are students who don’t have internet access at home—and a lot of those kids are in rural America.” “And in rural America, kids spend an awful lot of time on school buses. So, we can turn that ride time into connected time for homework.”
So long daydreams, naps, reading a book, talking with friends and human interaction. Do most children not have enough screen time already? Are they really going to do homework? Is all homework online these days? Is Wi-Fi even safe for children? There is no opt out of wireless radiation exposure on buses and in schools. For some this may not matter; technology rules and full embrace regardless of harm is the current trend.
Apparently Rosenworcel and Welch missed the memo or maybe ignored it? Wi-Fi is under heavy scrutiny for safety and health concerns, especially in children. Jessica Rosenworcel should know better; On August 16, 2021, Environmental Health Trust (EHT) won a landmark case resulting in a federal court ordering the FCC to explain why it ignored scientific evidence showing harm from wireless radiation. It is highly unlikely Rosenworcel missed this ruling and if she did, shame on her and Senator Welsh for that matter. This reflects a lack of due diligence on behalf of Vermont children.
As explained by Environmental Health Trust lead attorney, Edward Myers: “The court granted the petitions for review because, contrary to the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, the commission failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its assertion that its guidelines adequately protect against the harmful effects of exposure to radio frequency radiation.”
The lawsuit was filed based on the fact that the FCC ignored multiple organizations, scientists and doctors who demanded updates on wireless radiation limits based on recent scientific evidence. The petitioners claimed that the FCC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency responsible for assuring the safety of products that emit radiation, failed to address research on the impacts of long-term wireless exposure, wireless radiation on children, the personal testimony of people injured by wireless radiation, as well as negative effects on wildlife, the environment, developing brains and the reproductive system.
Dr. Jerome Paulson, former American Academy of Pediatrics Environmental Health Council Chair and current professor Emeritus of Pediatrics and Environmental and Occupational Health at George Washington School of Medicine stated, “It is very important that the court ruled that the FCC must address the impacts of radiofrequency radiation on the health of children amassed since 1996.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also requested that the FCC review the safety limits for children and pregnant women. The AAP has regularly voiced concerns that US regulations are based on a 220-pound grown male not a child’s developing brain and skull. The AAP has urged the FCC to adopt radiation standards that, “Protect children’s health and well-being.”
On their website, Environmental Health Trust provides links to a significant collection of scientific research documenting the health effects of wireless radiation. This information has been submitted to the FCC and depicts the need for an in-depth analysis of wireless radiation in the promotion of thyroid cancer, tumor risk, adverse health impacts to the central nervous and cardiovascular systems, memory, sperm and testosterone levels as well as its identification as a human carcinogen. Further evidence identifies risks to trees, wildlife and birds in particular.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences published the National Toxicology Program (2) study which assessed tumors and heart damage in rats due to radiofrequency radiation. They concluded that the FCC limits should be strengthened up to 200-400 times the current level in order to protect children. One of the most comprehensive reports on health concerns resulting from wireless, radiofrequency and 5G radiation came out of New Hampshire’s Legislative Commission on The Environmental and Health Effects of Evolving 5G Technology.
Italy, China, Russia, India and several other European countries require more stringent cell tower radiation emission limits than the USA. France went a step further and honored the precautionary principle. In 2015, France passed legislation to reduce exposure of wireless radiation to children and provide transparency and education for consumers based on recent and evolving research.
-Banned Wi-Fi and wireless devices in nursery schools-
-Reduced Wi-Fi in schools for children up to the age of 11. A ruling was issued to turn off Wi-Fi routers when not in use for educational purposes.
-Guaranteed that school boards are informed when new tech equipment is installed at schools
-Legally must verify cell tower radiation emission compliance
-Provides citizens ongoing access to radiation measurements near living spaces
-Offers current and regularly updated cell antennae maps for each town
-Established the National Radio Frequency Agency to evaluate ongoing research on health effects from radiation and ensure compliance
-Must include the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) on cell phone labels.
-Must clearly Label Wi-Fi Hotspots.
-Requires that marketing and advertising for cell phones must include recommendations for reducing radiation exposure to the brain, including a violation fee of 75,000 Euros.
-Requires protection for cell phone purchases for children under 14 when requested.
For years, EHT has demanded that the health agencies create thresholds and guidelines for safety that prevent negative health effects. They have advocated for policy that encourages wired rather than wireless communications to protect the public. This recent court ruling is a vital first step in the right direction to protect people, the environment and especially children. Instead of continuing to blanket people and the environment in more wireless radiation and risk, implementation of protections and precautions should be prioritized to prevent harm and ensure a safe environment.
Unfortunately, both the growth in Wi-Fi prevalence and the FCC and other agencies’ continued reluctance to ensure thorough reviews of the ongoing research on harms related to wireless frequencies should not be surprising. In 2015, Harvard University’s Edmund J Safra’s Center for Ethics published Norm Alster’s book, “Captured Agency: How the Federal Communications Commission is dominated by the industries it presumably regulates.” This book details rampant conflict of interest, revolving door issues and funding concerns –all typical of a captured agency and currently common themes within the federal regulating agencies including the FDA and EPA. For decades, legislation that attempts to prevent these captured agency issues has been ignored and unsuccessful.
The book’s primary message can be summarized in this statement,
“The FCC sits at the core of a network that has allowed powerful moneyed interests with limitless access a variety of ways to shape its policies, often at the expense of the fundamental public interests.”
Theodora Scarato, Executive Director of Environmental Heath Trust and a petitioner in the lawsuit raised key points and problematic history related to the wireless industry. Regarding Environmental Health Trust’s successful lawsuit, she stated,
“This is a win for our children, our future, and our environment. The court’s decision should be a wakeup call worldwide. There was no premarket safety testing for cell phones or wireless networks before they came up on the market decades ago. As the court points out in the ruling, silence from federal health and environmental agencies does not constitute a reasoned explanation for the commission’s decision. This ruling highlights how there has been no scientific review of the full body of scientific research to ensure people and the environment are protected. No federal agency has reviewed science indicating impacts to the brain, reproduction, trees or wildlife, not the Food and Drug Administration, not the Center for Disease Control, not the National Cancer Institute, not the Environmental Protection Agency. For decades, each of these agencies has downplayed the health effected of wireless radiation on their public websites. A telecom-financed scientist drafted web pages to be put online by our federal government. When people try to stop a cell tower from being built in front of their homes, they are told by their elected leaders that they cannot consider the issue of health effects due to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This has to stop.”
With federal regulating agencies failing the public and the large body of evidence indicating harm to humans and the environment from wireless radiation, Vermont Department of Health, school boards, parents and concerned citizens must consider the information at hand and take independent action in the best interest of Vermonters and our environment. When it comes to our children, the precautionary principle is a safe and worthy guide. Taking risks with children in order to keep with trends, appease children or parents, offer convenience or promise homework time is irresponsible, ill-informed and hazardous to their health.
The author is a clinical nutritionist in St. Johnsbury.
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