Investigation of Anti-WiFi Activism in Canada COMPLETE

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Project Complete

This project ended in December and the committee has produced a comprehensive analysis of the claims made by the Anti-Wifi activists in Canada.  They also uncovered some disturbing conflicts of interest with activists in the movement. Please click on the link below to read the full report:

BSW Anti-WiFi 2012 Position Paper UPDATED Jan 27 2013

Bad Science Watch would like to thank the dedicated members of the committee for all of their hard work on this project.

Correction: We have received more detailed information about the decisions of the Greater Victoria School District (GVSD) in regards to elementary schools in Saanich, British Columbia.  We stated in the position paper that WiFi had been removed from all elementary schools in Saanich, BC, but this was not completely correct.  The GVSD, which encompasses the municipalities of Saanich, Victoria, and Oak Bay,  has put a moratorium on new WiFi installations in the district, after pressure from anti-WiFi activists.  Existing WiFi installations have not been removed and still exist in all high schools and all but a few elementary schools.  Special thanks to the editor of the Saanich News, Edward Hill, for this information.  We apologize for any misunderstanding. In the latest update, we made some minor typsetting corrections and a citation correction on page 6.

Background

Across Canada anti-WiFi activists are spreading misinformation about wireless networking (WiFi) and related technologies. Many activists blame WiFi networks’ low level radio signals for a broad variety of medical problems, from mild headaches and fatigue to chest pain and heart palpitations, claiming those who suffer from them have ‘Electromagnetic-Hypersensitivity’, or EHS.

These claims are not substantiated by the scientific literature and have little acceptance from medical professionals and the scientific community. This activism therefore amounts to nothing more than fear-mongering by misguided special interest groups who are attempting to have these networks removed.

Nevertheless, the media has been all too willing to fan the flames of controversy and has contributed to a growing false uncertainty over the safety of WiFi. As a result many school boards, libraries, and town councils across Canada have been called on by concerned citizens to limit or remove WiFi networks.

Those who stand to suffer from these efforts the most are students (especially from low-income families) who rely on wireless networks for access to the Internet and education resources, and taxpayers who will have to pay for the expensive reversion to wired networks. In addition, families are being been misled into believing that their children are suffering from EHS and may miss an opportunity for early diagnosis of real and serious health problems in their children.

Of great concern to Bad Science Watch are the activists with financial motives and people who follow the activists to meetings and forums to profit from the fear-mongering by offering products to ‘block’ WiFi signals. Examples of such products include electromagnetic field shielding curtains and screens, wallpaper, clothing, even 21st century equivalents of tin-foil hats. Particularly disturbing are the people promoting quack diagnoses and treatments for EHS.

Project Goals

The goals of this research project are to:

1. Identify those groups and individuals promoting misinformation and bad science about WiFi and EHS.

2. Investigate the motivations, funding sources, agendas, and any conflicts of interest of said groups and individuals.

3. Produce a summary document outlining the state of the science regarding the claims these groups and individuals make.

Volunteers Required

This project is currently fully staffed.

Committee Members

Gem Newman, B.Sc., chair

Gem  is the organizer of the Winnipeg Skeptics and one of the hosts of the Life, the Universe & Everything Else podcast. He graduated with distinction from the University of Manitoba with a B.Sc. in Computer Science, specializing in artificial intelligence. He is the lead developer at Invenia Technical Computing.

Catrina Duffy, B.Sc, P.Ag

Catrina has been working as an environmental consultant in Edmonton, Alberta for the past 5 years. She has participated in a number of research projects throughout her academic and professional career and enjoys the importance of science within the environmental industry. Catrina volunteers for the Edmonton Science Outreach Network by participating in classroom science presentations pertinent to her area of expertise, where she enjoys sharing the excitement of science with school children.

Ryan Gray, B.Sc.

Adrian Powell, B.Sc.

Adrian has a BSc from the University of Alberta and works as a software contractor in Vancouver, BC. His past clients have included retail giants, health care insurers, financial analysts and an aerospace company. He currently volunteers for Bad Science Watch to help improve the culture and quality of life of Canadians.

Further Information

Project Announcement Press Release
Critical Investigation of Anti-WiFi Activism Launched by Independent Watchdog