The private Fay School in Massachusetts, pictured, is being sued by parents of a 12-year-old boy over the strength of its Wi-Fi, which is allegedly making the student sick. (Photo: Flickr)
The parents of a 12-year-old boy in Massachusetts are suing his school, the private Fay School in Southborough, claiming the strength of its Wi-Fi signal is making their son sick.
The boy, who, along with his parents, remains anonymous in the lawsuit, has been diagnosed with electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome (EHS). That’s when electromagnetic radiation — emitted from wireless technology including Wi-Fi, cellphones, and cell towers — is the apparent cause of nosebleeds, nausea, headaches, dizziness, memory loss, tremors, exhaustion, and heart and thyroid problems.
While EHS is not universally recognized among medical professionals, the World Health Organization has acknowledged it since 2005. And the boy’s family and environmental health physician, Jeanne Hubbuch, says she has found no other explanation for the boy’s symptoms.
“It is known that exposure to Wi-Fi can have cellular effects. The complete extent of these effects on people is still unknown,” Hubbuch wrote in a letter to the school, according to the Telegram & Gazette. (Yahoo Parenting was unable to reach the doctor for comment.) “But it is clear that children and pregnant women are at the highest risk. This is due to the brain tissue being more absorbent, their skulls are thinner and their relative size is small.”
The boy’s diagnosis came after the school installed a new, more powerful wireless system in 2013, according to the Telegram & Gazette.
But the school maintains that its radiation output falls well within safe levels. A statement provided to Yahoo Parenting by the administration notes that when the parents first raised their concern in 2014, “Fay School addressed the parents’ concern as it would any parental concern.” It hired radio-signal measurement company Isotrope, experts recommended by the boy’s parents.
“Isotrope’s assessment was completed in January 2015 and found that the combined levels of access point emissions, broadcast radio and television signals, and other RFE emissions on campus ‘were substantially less than one ten-thousandth (1/10,000th) of the applicable safety limits (federal and state),’” the statement reports. “Despite Isotrope’s findings, the family that raised the issue about the School’s Wi-Fi system recently filed a lawsuit against the School and its Head of School.”
In addition to Fay’s statement, head of school Rob Gustavson posted a copy of a letter sent to parents to the school’s website on Tuesday, reiterating the report’s findings and adding, “As I stated when I shared these findings with all Fay parents in late January, the School will continue to comply with applicable guidelines from relevant regulatory agencies and will adapt our policies and protocols, if need be, in order to comply with any revisions to such guidelines and regulations.”
The lawsuit reportedly asks for a U.S. District Court injunction that would require the Fay School to either switch to Ethernet cable, lower the Wi-Fi signal in the boy’s classroom, or make another suitable accommodation — or else the boy will have to leave the school. It also seeks $250,000 in damages.
John J.E. Markham, II, the Boston lawyer representing the family, did not immediately return a call from Yahoo Parenting seeking comment. But he told the Telegram & Gazette that the top priority now is for the boy to be able to attend school when it resumes on Sept. 9. “We’re trying to work with the school,” he said. “We’re still hoping to reach a resolution that will allow him to safely be in those classrooms.”
Similar suits have been filed within recent years, including one against an Oregon school district in 2012, and another calling for a ban of Wi-Fi at schools in Israel — which, led by attorney and EHS activist Dafna Tachover, recently went to the Israeli Supreme Court. None have been victorious, and many of the fights have been called moot by critics, since radiation is everywhere.
But “that’s precisely why they have to sue the school,” Arthur Firstenberg, a leading anti-electromagnetic health activist, tells Yahoo Parenting. “Imagine if this was a toxic chemical, and the school suddenly decided to spray the chemical throughout the school just because other schools were doing it. Don’t people have a responsibility for what they do, regardless of whether others are doing it, too?”
Firstenberg founded the New Mexico-based Cellular Phone Task Force — an information clearinghouse and support network for those with EHS — back in 1996 “in response to the health and environmental threats posed by the launch of the wireless revolution in the United States.” He points out that scientists have been studying electromagnetic-field health risks since the 1960s and 1970s.
“It has a whole history behind it. It’s not a simple subject at all,” he says, adding that the idea of EHS in the medical community “is not taken seriously enough in any country.” The reasons, he believes, are both political and economic. “If [wireless technology] is once admitted to be dangerous at all, the economy of the whole Earth is at stake, and no judge wants to do that.” But Firstenberg is hopeful that the awareness is growing, and points to a recent appeal for protection from “non-ionizing electromagnetic field exposure,” signed by nearly 200 scientists in the field, that was submitted to the United Nations.
In the meantime, said Markham regarding the boy’s case, “We’re trying to work with the school. We’re still hoping to reach a resolution that will allow him to safely be in those classrooms.”