Introduction: This appeal began in February 2014 and has grown out of national and international concern about the dangers to human beings from electromagnetic radiation. This appeal focuses on children and invites children's organisation to learn about the dangers to children and then become champions to fight to protect them.
Interconnections is a small organisation with other important aspects to its work and must keep this appeal within the time and resources it has available. The work mostly involves e-mail correspondence with occasional reports posted into the public domain on the teamaroundthechild.com website. Our computers are wired rather than wi-fi and we use landline telephones rather than mobiles. We do not use cordless (DECT) phones.
Report: 'No one tells me this radiation is safe for children!'
Why is this appeal necessary?
The reasons include:
1.There are no studies showing long-term exposure to radiation from mobile phones, iPads, wi-fi laptops and other gadgets is safe for children.
2. There is mounting international evidence suggesting it is not.
3. Nurseries are giving toddlers iPads to play with and most schools expose children to wi-fi. Many family homes do the same.
4. Pregnant women at work in offices and other settings are exposing their baby to this radiation from wi-fi laptops and other gadgets.
5. The telecommunications industry spends vast sums advertising their wares and does not mention dangers.
6. There are no government agencies in England advising parents and schools on possible dangers to health from electromagnetic radiation.
7. Similarly, no other children's organisation that I know of is standing up for children on this issue.
So what can this appeal achieve?
It is a journey that has no predetermined long-term destination. Its aim at the beginning is to alert children's organisations to the growing evidence about dangers so that they can fully explore the issue for themselves and arrive at their own organisational statement about electromagnetic radiation effects on children.
Once they have come to a view, it will influence their health and safety policies to protect children in their settings. Similarly, it will influence their health and safety policies for women in their own workplaces.
Children's organisations which come to the view that children should be offered protection from this radiation will become a valuable support for anxious parents and older children and, collectively, a strong national force standing up for children's right to healthy homes and schools.
Why are children's organisations the target for this appeal?
All of these organisations, directly or indirectly, promote children's health and wellbeing. All, to a greater or lesser extent campaign for children's rights. All would support the principle of children being informed about dangers. All would argue that children should be listened to. All, to a greater or lesser extent seek out, promote and disseminate new knowledge. All, to some extent, feel that part of their role is to inform and influence the government. All understand that children's families should be informed, involved, listen to and supported when they have anxieties and concerns about their children.
In my view, this appeal about the dangers of electromagnetic radiation fits perfectly with their present aims and objectives. It does not ask them to do anything new or unusual or foreign to their current good practice. It asks them to become a refuge, a support and a champion to children and families in the face of a massive threat. It asks them in the first instance only to allocate proper staff time to reading the international research. It does not ask them to automatically adopt my perception of the ill-effects on children of electromagnetic radiation exposure.
While the Interconnections appeal is addressed to twenty chief executives (CEOs) I am also aware I am corresponding with real people who have a life outside their organisation with friends and families. I like to imagine that these executives would not be comfortable seeing toddlers in their family playing with iPads, or knowing that their children sit in classrooms underneath wi-fi routers, or having pregnant friends and relatives sitting behind wi-fi laptops hour after hour. These concerns I am raising in this appeal cross the barriers between home and work.
What has been done so far in this appeal?
Early in February I posted an open letter on the teamaroundthechild.com website entitled 'NCB & England's children's organisations – editor's open letter to you about protecting children from microwave radiation'. You can see this letter here. I featured this letter in Interconnections TAC Bulletins Issue 133 (mid-February) and 134 (early March).
In the period between the last week of February and the first week of April I wrote to the CEOs of 20 children's organisations in England. Usually, I rang their office first to confirm the name of the current CEO and to ask for the e-mail address and name of the CEO's personal assistant (PA). In some cases I was given the CEO's e-mail address.
This first letter outlined my concerns, gave a link to the open letter and made my appeal that the CEO allocate staff time to explore the issue fully. The skeleton version of this first letter is appended to this report. When my letter received a response I replied to it with the aim of beginning a constructive discussion. When my letter did not receive a response I wrote again and the skeleton version of that second letter is appended to this report.
There are three organisations I originally included in my list of twenty but have since excluded and replaced with others to keep the total. The first of these was the office of Children's Commissioner (OCC) for England which I had already contacted on this subject a couple of years before. In response to my first letter in February this year Maggie Atkinson told me she had read my previous correspondence and that her position on the subject remains unchanged. I wrote back to enquire what the possibilities were for influencing OCC in the future but have had no reply.
I have probably got off on the wrong foot with OCC but my reason for taking it off my list of twenty is that it is a government agency and almost certainly does not have the same room to move as the other children's organisation on the list. I imagine it would be very different if an army of young children wrote to OCC for protection from electromagnetic radiation and perhaps that can happen one day after children have been alerted to the dangers. At the moment in England children are left vulnerable to the seductive advertisements from the telecommunications industry. That is the only information available to them.
The second organisation I removed from my original list was Save the Children, UK. My first letter to Justin Forsyth has so far not brought a reply but I decided it was atypical of the group of twenty because it largely works to support children in other countries. Good luck to them in their important work.
The third organisation I have now removed from my list is Guide Dogs which I wrongly assumed had absorbed NBCS (National Blind Children's Society). In writing this report I realise this was a wrong assumption and that the two organisations are working in partnership. NBCS will replace Guide Dogs in the rest of the Interconnections appeal.
The list of twenty organisations follows in alphabetical order. To each I have added a phrase from and a link to their website:
Action for Children with CEO Tony Hawkhead. 'Action for Children can meet the needs of all sorts of children and young people. The staff aim to find out the problems in a child or family's life and eliminate them by working alongside them.'
Barnardos with CEO Peter Brook. 'We believe in the abused, the most vulnerable, the forgotten and the neglected. We will support them, stand up for them and bring out the best in each and every child.'
Children's Society with CEO Matthew Read. 'Justice is love in action – putting right what is not right in personal, social and political affairs.'
CLIC Sargent with CEO Lorraine Clifton. 'We influence – We work with elected representatives and policy-makers to help shape key policy and other issues which affect children and young people.'
Contact a Family with CEO Paul Soames. 'We are in a much better place thanks to Contact a Family. If we go to them with a problem they are always happy to help and never turn us away.' (Quote from a user.)
DSA (Down's Syndrome Association) with CEO Carol Boys. 'Our policy team works to inform and influence policies that affect people with Down's Syndrome'.
Fragile X Society with CEO Tim Potter. 'We want families to have the opportunity of support from others who know the problems, and to have access to full information about the syndrome, including the latest medical, psychological and educational research findings.'
NBCS (National Blind Children's Society) with CEO Carolyn Fullard. Yet to be contacted – see note above.
Kids with CEO Caroline Stevens. 'We work with children and young people...who are disabled; that is they have a physical, sensory or mental impairment...which in interaction with social, attitudinal and environmental constraints creates barriers which hinder their full and equal participation in society.'
Mencap with CEO Jan Tregelles. 'Our values [include this fifth one] - Being brave and developing new ideas.'
NAS (National Autistic Society) with CEO Mark Lever. 'The causes of autism are still being investigated. The National Autistic Society (NAS) welcomes research into all areas which may further our understanding of autism.'
NCB (National Children's Bureau) with CEO Hilary Emery. 'We work with children and for children, to influence government policy, be a strong voice for young people and practitioners, and provide creative solutions on a range of social issues.'
NDCS (National Deaf Children's Society) with CEO Susan Daniels. 'Whether challenging key decision makers or working collaboratively with other organisations, we will adopt whatever approach is required to achieve our mission - To remove the barriers to the achievement of deaf children throughout the world'.
NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) with CEO Peter Wanless. 'Everything we do protects children, prevents abuse and transforms society so it's safer for all children.'
Sense with CEO Gillian Morby. 'Our vision - A world in which all deafblind children and adults can be full and active members of society.'
Shine Charity with CEO Jackie Bland. 'We will become a force for change to address the many challenging issues that our members face.'
WellChild with CEO Colin Dyer. 'We've invested more than £20 million in ground-breaking children's health research over the past 30 years.'
Young Epilepsy with CEO Lisa Farmer. 'Our mission - To enable children and young people with epilepsy and associated conditions to develop their full potential through: ...being at the forefront of research into epilepsy... influencing policy and thought.'
Young Minds with CEO Sarah Brennan. '850,000 children and young people in the UK have a mental health problem - and that's just the ones who have been diagnosed.'
Thinking aloud about possible attitudes of CEOs
The encouraging news is that no CEO responded to tell me they feel long-term exposure to electromagnetic radiation is safe for foetuses, children and teenagers. No one told me my concerns are rubbish. The most dismissive reply was 'This is not a concern for us' and the most encouraging was 'I found this a very helpful wake up call to look into this further...' I am treating each reply to my first or second letter as an opportunity for a constructive dialogue.
I have wondered how a CEO might feel on reading my appeal letters. Obviously I am pleased that no one asserted they feel this radiation is safe for children. I imagine a small number of CEOs have never thought about this issue and saw my letter as entirely new information. Others will have witnessed or been active in fights against mobile phone masts or against wi-fi in schools in their own local communities and might have become aware then of some of the concerns. Some might have been approached by female staff seeking a safe working environment.
I am sure that some CEOs will already have real concerns but have not yet addressed the issues in their work because they have other pressures or feel this issue about protecting children falls outside their organisation's remit (about learning disability, sensory impairment or whatever). My feeling on this is that if the radiation damages children then it damages deaf children and children with cerebral palsy as much as any other. Disabled children do not deserve the additional complications that electromagnetic radiation might bring and they deserve protection from it. Please see the tailpiece story.
I can imagine some CEOs feeling the issue is just too much of a hot potato, too big a fight to take on. It certainly is a massive challenge (and that is an understatement), but outside these major children's organisations, there is no one to take on the fight to protect children – no one to offer support and advocacy to concerned children and families. No one – not the NHS, not the Department for Education, not the judicial system and not, apparently, OCC.
It is probable that some CEOs are realistically aware of losing some funding if they take the issues on. This must be strange feeling for a CEO having to put the interests of the organisation in the scales against the interest of children. This is not a place I would like to be in.
Anyway, I am not asking any CEO to man the barricades. My appeal now is only that they will allocate staff time to properly assess the dangers to children from prolonged exposure to electromagnetic radiation. Given the mounting international concern I see proper exploration of the issue as the only responsible course of action. Putting one's head in the sand, no matter how many justifications there might be for it, will not protect children.
Responses so far
I am dividing the twenty children's organisation into three groups for the purposes of this report. The following information is correct to the best of my knowledge at the time of writing. The three groups are as follows:
Group 1. Those that have made contact that is potentially, in my view, the beginning of a constructive conversation: The organisations in this group are Shine Charity, Fragile X Society, WellChild, Scope, Sense, CLIC Sargent, Mencap and YoungMinds.
Group 2. Those that have sent so far only an acknowledgement of my first or second letter: The organisations in this group are: Action for Children, Young Epilepsy, Contact a Family, NSPCC and Barnardos.
Group 3. Those that have so far not found time to send an acknowledgement or a reply: The organisations in this group are: Kids, DSA, NAS, NDCS, Children's Society and NCB. (Guide Dogs is in this group bringing the total to twenty.)
I am aware that the fact that an organisation has not responded (Group 3) does not automatically mean the issue is of no concern to them or that they are not exploring it. I assume that if any of the twenty organisations are exploring the issue, they will want to disseminate their findings – perhaps in this forum.
Some organisations are referring my letter to their Health & Safety officers. I anticipate the outcome of that will merely be reference to government legislation and guidance – which will assert there is no problem. CEOs who decide to wait for government policy to catch up on the research will miss an opportunity to be proactive in this issue and to be part of the effort to influence government thinking. It is worth repeating here the observation made in the open letter that pressure from below has persuaded past governments to legislate or offer guidance on smoking, asbestos, exhaust fumes, lead in paint, etc.
What has the appeal achieved so far?
These twenty CEOs are an important and influential group of people. The Interconnections appeal has brought the issue of the dangers to children of prolonged exposure to EMR to their attention and invited them to consider both the effects on children their organisation supports and on pregnant and would-be pregnant staff in their offices. This report and its links show what information they were given or directed to.
No CEO so far has told me they intend to allocate serious staff time to explore the dangers but, on the other hand, no CEO has written to me to assert the radiation brings no dangers to children. I am encouraged by the responses I have received and look forward to seeing what develops. I want to thank the CEOs, PAs and other staff who have given this appeal their time.
I offer this story as a tailpiece. It comes from a service manager in England who chooses to remain anonymous.
I read with interest your (open) letter about wi-fi radiation, and its potential effect on children.
My daughter has Down syndrome and is blessed with many of the behavioural attributes that are often associated with children with this condition. In particular she has found sleeping difficult throughout her life. At age of nine she still greets us at any time of the night with loud and disruptive behaviour, and is not yet able to settle herself back to sleep.
About a year ago I was discussing with the carer of a young man with autism the possibility of turning off the home wi-fi system in order to prevent the young person in question from being disturbed by friends messaging him during the night. This worked so well that, having seen some of the articles you have previously included in your bulletin, I thought I would try this myself. The effect was instantaneous and almost magical.
Our wi-fi router is positioned in a room directly below my daughter's bed, and is on a high shelf in order to prevent her from fiddling with the equipment. By using a timer plug to simply turn the router off between 11pm and 7am we have been able to almost completely turn around her sleep patterns from nightly multiple disturbances to approximately once per week.
The interesting part of this story, however, concerns a night a few weeks ago when we had friends round and, in order to continue to listen to music while we chatted, I removed the timer plug. The following week we saw my little girl every single night, and, having forgotten about the time plug, were so driven to desperation we asked the local nursing team to start a sleep study. After one week of insomnia-hell I realised what had happened and reinstated the timer plug. As you may expect, sleep patterns returned to their previous levels instantly.
As you have indicated in your open letter, any time this has been mentioned in any medical review the practitioner has met this 'evidence' with no more than a raised eyebrow and a shrug. The need for your campaign to raise awareness among professionals, carers and parents is as important as earlier campaigns to limit exposure to second-hand smoke and I will closely follow your efforts.
Date: April 23rd, 2014
End of Report
Appendix 1: Format of first letter
To CEO (Name of organisation)
Re: Keeping children safe from microwave radiation (This evolved into 'Keeping children and female staff safe from microwave radiation')
The mounting evidence about health dangers from mobile phones, wi-fi laptops, iPads, etc. convinces me that the issue should now be seriously addressed by organisations in England that work in some capacity in support of children. We have faced serious pollution issues before, for example with asbestos, smoking and passive smoking, and we have learned repeatedly that government attitudes can lag far behind scientific and public concern.
I have stated my concern and views in an open letter which you can read here*. Perhaps you already have your own concerns about prolonged exposure to microwave radiation in your work or family. Many people I speak to seem to feel instinctively it is harmful but accept it as a part of modern life. Children, of course, are subject to the environments we create for them and have very little choice.
I am not asking you to quickly accept or reject my concerns but to allocate serious staff time to exploring the international evidence referred to in my open letter – and then to make known the considered views of (name of organisation). If you seek and accept only the advice of government agencies on this you will be given bland reassurances that will not help you to be proactive in protecting children in England.
My perception, which I would like you to explore for yourself, is that:
The research shows that we are all vulnerable regardless of age or sex but this message is particularly about children who are most vulnerable and are kept powerless if we do not inform them of the potential dangers.
- children your organisation supports, directly or indirectly, can suffer debilitating conditions and serious and sometimes fatal illness from prolonged exposure to this radiation
- there can be dire consequences for staff in your offices who are pregnant or intend one day becoming pregnant.
I have suggested in my open letter that children's organisations in England will be more powerful if they group together to explore and then work to protect babies, children and teenagers. It seems to me that (name of organisation) is ideally placed to be at the core of this effort.
I very much hope you will explore the mounting evidence and then formulate policies to protect children and staff. Perhaps this message will be the beginning of a constructive dialogue.
I hope to hear from you and, if not, will write again in ten days or so to see if I can support your efforts in any way. Perhaps you feel this important topic falls outside you remit as CEO. If so, please let me know the contact details for (name of organisation's) board of management, committee of trustees or other employing body.
Appendix 2: Format of second letter
To CEO (Name of organisation)
Re: Keeping children and female staff safe from microwave radiation
I sent you an e-mail recently (see below) to alert you to the mounting international evidence and concern about health dangers from mobile phones, wi-fi laptops, iPads, etc. to children and foetuses.
As I have not heard from you, I am writing again to draw this to your attention. I do understand that you must be very busy but I ask you now to give this correspondence your attention. You will see a detailed account of my concern and links to research and relevant websites here.
My request is that you allocate proper staff time to exploring the international evidence referred to in my open letter and then to make known the considered views of (name of organisation). I ask you to do this out of concern for children who are supported directly or indirectly by your organisation and for your female staff who are pregnant or who intend becoming pregnant.
Taking a wider view, the considered views of your organisation will contribute to the national and international debate about the safety of this technology for children. Though our government considers it to be safe, there is a repeated history, for example with smoking and passive smoking, of valid scientific and public concern preceding government guidance and legislation.
I look forward to hearing from you.