Families need to wake up to the dangers of wireless technology being frequently used in the city's schools, a Rotorua father says.

However, local principals say schools are simply following government guidelines, which state the technology is not a health risk to children.

Paul Milliken, who has a PhD in mechanical engineering, said he was shocked to find out his two children at St Mary's Catholic School would be given electronic Chromebook laptops to use.

Mr Milliken held a public meeting last week where he presented studies on the implications of exposure to wireless technology at a young age.


"There have been studies which show high exposure to wireless technology can cause brain tumours, DNA damage, leakage of the blood-brain barrier, and acoustic neuroma [rare growth in the brain]."

In 2013 the parents of Ethan Wyman, who died 11 months after being diagnosed with two brain tumours, petitioned for WiFi to be removed from classrooms at a Kapiti Coast school. After surveying parents, the school turned off WiFi in its junior classrooms.

The controversy prompted the Ministry of Health to restate its position that electromagnetic fields from wireless technology did not pose a health risk.

On its website the Ministry of Education said it would continue to monitor New Zealand standards, international standards and credible research on WiFi and radio frequency electromagnetic fields as it became available.

The Ministry of Health commissioned a report earlier this year that said all exposures (in schools) were very low compared with the public exposure limit in New Zealand.

But Mr Milliken said the Ministry of Health report was based on faulty logic.

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18 Nov, 2014 10:00am
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"The report was done by Martin Glenhill who justified his conclusion by comparing measured radiation levels to New Zealand Standard 2772. However, that standard protects only against acute burns and electric shocks, ignoring biological effects such as cancer."

He told the Rotorua Daily Post the public was largely in the dark about the issue. People would be concerned if they were aware of the potential biological harm WiFi had on young children, he said.

"All parents have the right to protect their children's health and I feel like if they read the scientific evidence out there, they would be much more reluctant to allow their children to have access to wireless devices."

Mr Milliken said there was a disconnect between what scientists were saying and the lack of caution around wireless use in New Zealand schools.

"There is an increasing body of scientific research showing negative health effects due to electro-magnetic radiation from wireless devices but as the evidence mounts, wireless networks are being increasingly used in schools."

Mr Milliken said he and his wife had not yet decided whether they would move their children to another school but were looking at options.

"We're not expecting to find a school that does not have any WiFi at all, but it's one thing when a teacher uses a wireless laptop in class and another when 30 kids are given a wireless device."

Earlier this month Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye announced funding of $5.4million to enable upgrades to improve wireless connectivity for more than 400 schools around the country.

St Mary's Catholic School principal Dave MacMillan said he had been in contact with Mr Milliken in regards to pupils using Chromebooks.

"The school has had wireless technology in classrooms since 2009 so it is not a new thing," the principal said.

Mr MacMillan said the school was following the guidelines set by the Ministry of Education.

"It wouldn't be ideal in a classroom to have 30 cords lying around from wired technology for children to trip over so we will continue to have WiFi in classrooms."

Otonga Rd Primary School principal Linda Woon said transferring a class from wireless to wired technology was "not as easy as it sounds".

After safety concerns were raised, the school had looked at what it would take to change the classrooms over and it proved to be too difficult, she said.

"A classroom has at most, eight power outlets, so there is no way we could get a class of 32 pupils connected to wired devices, it's just not practical."

Ms Woon said her school followed Ministry of Education guidelines which were based on Ministry of Health research.

"All schools can do is follow the guidelines set out for them. Having wireless technology is now standard practice in schools across New Zealand and we need our kids to be linked to their schools and the world."