No proof B.C. boy’s migraines caused by Wi-Fi, tribunal rules

Family had asked for an order designating 25% of Saanich school as Wi-Fi free

Bethany Lindsay · CBC News · 

There is no scientific evidence linking Wi-Fi to a cluster of non-specific symptoms known as EHS. (Nathan Lambrecht/Canadian Press)

By the time class let out for the summer in 2016, a Vancouver Island preteen was spending almost all of every school day alone in an empty room, away from his friends.

The arrangement left the Grade 6 student feeling “upset, frustrated and angry,” his grandmother told the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

But the reason the boy was isolated was that his mother and grandmother insisted he needed to be kept away from the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) generated by Wi-Fi, cellphones and other electronics.

Last week, the tribunal dismissed the family’s complaint against the Saanich School District, saying there was no proof that EMFs caused the boy’s migraines, nausea, insomnia and night terrors. The family had called for 25 per cent of the boy’s middle school to be designated as Wi-Fi free.

In its decision, the tribunal sympathizes with the predicament of the child, who is referred to only as T in order to protect his identity.

“This is a very unfortunate case, where a young boy has been isolated from his peers at school even though his caregivers claim that he wants to be among his peers and learning in a school environment,” tribunal member Walter Rilkoff wrote.

He urged the family to consult with objective medical professionals to determine the cause of the boy’s symptoms.

“He is now of an age where he should be able to provide his own history and undergo provocation and more probing examinations about the triggers for his symptoms without the filters of his grandmother and mother,” Rilkoff said.

No scientific evidence

According to his family members, T has a condition called electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), a bundle of non-specific symptoms that they attribute to EMF exposure.

But there is no scientific evidence linking those symptoms to EMFs.

In fact, in studies where EHS sufferers have been intentionally exposed to EMFs, they did not exhibit symptoms of the condition or even detect they were being exposed, according to Health Canada.

Nonetheless, T’s family insists the boy was profoundly affected by the EMFs at his school — a condition his mother believes began while she was still pregnant and living within 100 metres of a cell tower, according to the decision.

Grade 6 was T’s first experience in a school that had Wi-Fi. (Yvette Brend/CBC News)

The tribunal document paints a picture of the gradual segregation of a child by the adults who are trying to protect him.

At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, T’s daily routine appears to have been almost identical to that of his classmates.

But within just a week, he developed a migraine, and his family blamed the cellphones in the school library. He was  barred from the library, and would be sent to a separate room to work when wireless technology was used in class.

That was just the beginning.

T continued to have severe headaches and episodes of vomiting throughout the fall, and his family began to suspect the amplification system his teachers used to help students with hearing impairments, according to the decision.

In January, a new plan was put into action. T was pulled out of his homeroom and placed in a separate space, alone, for nearly all his classes.

‘There is no explanation’

But even that wasn’t enough, according to the decision.

T’s family complained he developed a headache one day after staying inside for recess. In an appeal to the school board, his family said it happened because, “as you know, the RF [radio frequency] does penetrate the room he is in when the children are moving around the school with their cellphones on at recess and lunch.”

That anecdote, according to Rilkoff, “illustrates many of the issues with the complainants’ contention.”

He said that while students may have turned on their cellphones at lunch and recess, “There is no explanation about what T was doing at lunchtime and recess on other days where he did not get a headache.”