EXPERTS are calling for a halt in the roll-out of wi-fi technology in Scotland’s classrooms.
Pupils as young as five are being encouraged to bring smartphones and tablets into lessons as part of a Government education strategy.
However, new research has concluded that wireless signals are “not completely safe near the human body” after finding that young rats exposed to the waves suffered brain tissue damage.
In several countries across Europe, authorities are already putting curbs on wi-fi in primary and nursery classes.
Now campaigners believe a moratorium on the gadgetry should be in place in Scottish schools too until further safety studies have taken place.
Neuroscientist Dr Sarah Starkey, of the information group wifiinschools.org.uk, claims the latest study should give education authorities cause to pause. She said: “This is one study in rats, but added to the others that have described changes in animals or associations in humans, it supports concerns that wi-fi can adversely affect development.
“From conception to their early twenties, the bodies and brains of children are developing which, according to some studies, makes them vulnerable to the effects of radiofrequency signals even within current safety limits.
“The Cyprus government advises pregnant women to keep wireless devices away from their unborn child and to use wired connections for their computers meanwhile studies from Sweden found that young people who first used a cordless phone under the age of 20 had higher risks of developing a tumour than adults.
“Most people trust official advice and do not question it but in Scotland the public and our decision-makers have not been accurately informed about the possible harmful effects of wireless signals.
“Children have the right to a safe environment and I think this means adapting technology in schools to wired-only connections and restricting mobile devices.”
The latest study by a team of biologists at the Tunisian universities of Carthage and Jendouba tested the effect of wi-fi radiation in an experiment involving 10 pregnant rats.
Half were exposed to waves from the antennae of a wireless modem – of a type used in schools – at a distance of 25cm for two hours a day.
And, after birth, their pups were monitored for six weeks under the same conditions.
The wi-fi didn’t interfere with the pregnancies and all the youngsters were born healthy. And though it didn’t affect their emotional behaviour or movements at later stages, the academics noticed that pups exposed to wireless emissions were slower to develop.
Tests also discovered that their brain tissue suffered from significantly elevated levels of oxidative stress – a process which causes damage to cells and can trigger cancer – though this trend was partially corrected as time went on.
The study held that wi-fi signal is not completely safe at home near the animal or human body.
Although these studies have raised the alarm, there is no evidence to say whether children are affected because it would be unethical to run experiments on them.
The Scottish Government’s classroom wi-fi strategy is based on a 2013 report commissioned from chief scientific adviser Professor Muffy Calder.
The Wi-fi Alliance – the industry group that represents companies selling wi-fi primed technology, including Apple, Microsoft and Nokia – failed to respond to a request for comment.