There are many benefits to studying at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont. Ubiquitous wireless Internet access, however, isn’t one of them. That’s because president Fred Gilbert won’t allow it until he’s satisfied EMF (electric and magnetic fields) exposure doesn’t pose a health risk, particularly to young people.
Gilbert says he based his decision on scientific literature that indicates the potential for “some fairly significant” health consequences.
“These are particularly relevant in younger people (who have) fast-growing tissues, and most of our student body are late teenagers and still growing, so it’s just a matter of taking precautions and providing an environment that doesn’t have a potential risk associated risk,” he said.
Gilbert cited studies done by scientists for the California Public Utilities Commission, whose findings boil down to the fact that while there is no proven link between EMFs exposure and diseases such as leukemia and brain tumours, the possible risk warrants further investigation. He also said Canadian regulation allows for a higher minimum degree of exposure to EMFs than do some other countries.
“All I’m saying is while the jury’s out on this one, I’m not going to put in place what is potential chronic exposure for our students,” he said. Gilbert added he believes there are many environmental impacts that are not manifest for 30 to 40 years after exposure. “Second-hand tobacco exposure is a case in point,” he said. “We’re just finding out now what some of those impacts are. Asbestos is another example.”
Lakehead has some wireless access, but only where the university’s fibre optic network doesn’t reach. There are plenty of computers around campus where students can access the Internet 24 hours a day, so it’s not like they’re cut off, Gilbert said.