A Kapiti Coast school is surveying parents about plans for classroom wi-fi after a young pupil died from brain cancer.
The parents of Ethan Wyman, who died 11 months after being diagnosed with two brain tumours, want wi-fi removed from classrooms at Te Horo School.
The board of trustees has now sent out a survey to all parents, after the Wymans expressed fears that the radiation effect of wi-fi could be linked to cancer.
But the Ministry of Education, which has been at community meetings held by the school alongside the Ministry of Health, says research shows wi-fi is safe.
Damon Wyman, who still has two children at the school, says Ethan was diagnosed with the tumours four months after he was given a wi-fi-connected iPod.
His parents later discovered he had been falling asleep with it under his pillow. Even though it was on standby, it was still emitting bursts of radiation as it tried to connect to the router, Mr Wyman said.
Doctors who saw Ethan said the tumours appeared to be about three months old, Mr Wyman said. He died, aged 10, less than a year after diagnosis last August.
"We're not saying that caused it, but it seems like a bit of a coincidence. Most people would be very cautious about giving their 5-year-old a cellphone - well, this is 30 kids in a classroom [being exposed] to the same thing."
Research showed it was worth taking a precautionary approach to wi-fi. A group of parents had offered to fund cable internet as an alternative. "To me it's a no- brainer, but as we'd be the first school in New Zealand to remove wi-fi, it's a big deal for the board."
Board chairman Steve Joss said the school was taking concerns seriously. "The board hasn't made any decisions on what to do, we're just working through the process of getting information."
The survey was delivered yesterday, and a decision would be made on December 28.
Ministry deputy secretary for education Andrew Hampton said it was working with the school to give information about wi-fi.
The Ministry of Health recently restated its position that exposure to electromagnetic fields from wi- fi equipment in schools did not pose a health risk, he said.
"The health and safety of children in our schools is critical, and the ministry will continue to work with the Ministry of Health to monitor New Zealand standards, international standards and credible research on wi-fi and radio frequency electromagnetic fields."
Although the ministry offered schools a wireless network option, it was up to boards whether they took it up.
Electromagnetic fields consultant Martin Gledhill said exposures to radio frequency fields from wi- fi gear were low, at just a tiny fraction of the public exposure limit.
- The Dominion Post
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