POTOMAC, Md. (WUSA9) -- An issue of growing concern around the world has hit suburban DC: WiFi radiation and its potential impact on children exposed to it every day, through school wireless routers.
Consider this: In Los Angeles, the Unified School District dramatically limited student exposure to WiFi radiation to 10,000 times below our government standard.
France recently banned WiFi in nursery schools. Schools in Germany, Austria, Israel and Australia have pulled the plug on WiFi altogether.
"As a parent, I think that it's my job to ask questions. So, I asked a lot of questions and I didn't get any answers," said Thea Scarato.
"While I'm concerned about the wifi radiation, I'm a little more concerned that the County's not concerned," said Lisa Cline.
Fifteen parents with children at seven different Montgomery County Public Schools all share the same concerns. They're worried about the potential health risks of the WiFi installed in their children's schools last summer and the radiation that comes with it.
"I just don't see the benefit that they get by being irradiated for 30 hours a week at school," said Laura Simon.
Using Maryland's Public Information Act, some of the parents obtained records detailing the number of wireless routers installed in the ceilings. For example, they indicate Bells Mill Elementary in Potomac has 30. Nearby Churchill High School has close to 100.
"We know that microwave radiation, which is what wireless is, at certain doses can cause damage. There's no debate about it. The question is, is the level of microwave radiation that kids are being exposed to in school a problem? And the answer is we don't know," said Dr. Devra Davis of the Environmental Health Trust (http://ehtrust.org).
Radiation tests conducted by MCPS at two local schools indicate levels that meet FCC guidelines. But parents and scientists argue those guidelines were issued 19 years ago, were never specific to the impact on children and are therefore, irrelevant.
"The routers you're finding in schools, they're not your Mom and Pop little routers we have in our homes, which are very low powered. These can cost thousands of dollars and they can emit much more powerful signals," explained Dr. Davis,
That's disconcerting and unacceptable to many parents.
"Our pediatrician in Rockville has said not a good idea for kids to be around this stuff," said Cline.
"We do not believe there is any present cause for concern," said MCPS Chief Technology Officer Sherwin Collette. He insisted the WiFi technology is safe, and the school system is committed to keeping it that way.
"We'll even go so far as to bring in independent third party entities to help verify and validate what those emission levels are," said Collette.
"It doesn't have to be proven. Because it might take years for it to be proven. Why would we wait years because you can't go back in time with your kids?" said Scarato.
Many parents would like the school system to opt for hardwired computers instead of wireless technology. They say it's faster and safer, and without any health concerns. But the school system said to keep learning innovative, you need to be mobile, which is why they'll stick with WiFi.
Written by Andrea McCarren, WUSA9