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Updated: 7th January 2019 06:00

Parents debate Wi-Fi in Calgary schools

The benefits of wireless internet outweigh any potential health risks to students, say some Calgary parents.

The benefits of wireless internet outweigh any potential health risks to students, say some Calgary parents.

Edmonton's public school board is taking a second look at the safety of Wi-Fi after a report by the World Health Organization that reclassified electromagnetic fields from wireless internet and cell phones as possible causes of cancer.

In Calgary, the Catholic school board is undertaking a five year plan to make all its schools wireless.

Spokeswoman Janet Corsten said all schools fall well below Health Canada's limit for low-level radio frequency energy.

"Really we're hearing more that parents want that capability for their children within the schools," she said.

Trina Hurdman, a spokeswoman for a Calgary parent lobby group who unsuccessfully ran for trustee spot in the last election, said she heard concerns about Wi-Fi when she campaigned door-to-door.

"They said all the research so far has been just on adults and they were really concerned that Wi-Fi was not necessary in schools and should be taken out."

Hurdman says while the concerns shouldn't be ignored, in this case the benefits outweigh the potential risks.

"It's a matter of prioritizing your risks and I think there are a lot more benefits to having Wi-Fi in schools than there are risks associated with it," she said.

"I just did a quick search on my own computer. How many wireless signals can I pick up? And there were 20. As I said, [in] my neighborhood community of Hawkwood, they blanket the entire community with Wi-Fi so the entire community has access to free Wi-Fi."

A judge recently dismissed a request from parents to remove Wi-Fi from Edmonton schools.

Last year, professor Magda Havas of Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., who does research on the health effects of electromagnetic radiation, issued an open letter to Ontario parents and boards saying she is "increasingly concerned" about Wi-Fi and cellphone use at schools.

But Health Canada states on its website that parents shouldn't be worried about Wi-Fi in schools, which falls under the organization's safety guidelines.

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