The Education Ministry has instructed all schools to perform radiation tests in accordance with the Environmental Protection Ministry said Noam Koriat, director of the Organization, Development and Knowledge Management Department at the Education Ministry on Wednesday.
He made these remarks at a Knesset Education Committee meeting convened to discuss the issue of radiation in schools following complaints by parents and parent organizations.
According to Koriat pre-schools and kindergartens have banned the use of wireless networks and in second and third grade classes use of the internet is restricted to one hour per day. Furthermore, in classes where teachers use computers as part of their lessons, a direct cable connection is encouraged as opposed to a wireless connection.
He also added that currently schools are in the process of converting their wireless infrastructure to cable connections.
Sam Kaplan, director of ICT infrastructure and scientific technologies added that the Environmental Protection Ministry will perform random checks of schools as part of its responsibilities and as a regulator.
"I am pleased the Environmental Protection Ministry responded positively to our appeal. We will implement a budget transfer and begin to perform the tests to correct deficiencies," he said.
When asked by committee chair MK Amram Mitzna regarding an end date for all the inspections, Kaplan replied he did not foresee an end to the tests and said they would be carried out periodically. He further said it was all a question of budget and said he was unaware how much the Education Ministry would decide to allocate to this issue.
Parents who participated in the discussion complained that they believe their children are exposed to radiation on a daily basis from wireless computer networks in school, electricity, cellular antennas. The explained that their children suffer from frequent headaches, tingling feelings in the body, and skin rashes. They argued that these symptoms fade when their children are on vacation.
A mother of a 12 year old girl from Tel Aviv said her daughter suffers from headaches and needs to take painkillers on a daily basis.
“The Education Ministry is willing to sacrifice the health of our children for pedagogical flexibility,” she said.
A representative of MALRAZ - Council for the Prevention of Noise and Air Pollution in Israel told the committee that according to the organization’s estimates, in order to conduct radiation inspections in 1000 schools next year, approximately a fourth of all educational institutions in Israel, would cost around NIS 250,000.
Parent organizations called upon the Electric Company to return to the community a portion of its profits towards these inspections.
The parent representatives also said that their appeals to the local authorities were not answered and said they felt they were not in any rush to conduct the inspections and fix these problems.
In response, Ziv Bar from the Union of Local Authorities in Israel said, "We are happy to do what we can as the Union of Local Authorities to find solutions to the problems raised." Though he said this required coordination between the planning bodies and the finance bodies.
Mitzna said in the closing remarks of the committee meeting that “Radiation prevention in schools falls under the responsibility of the local authority just like a broken floor in the school yard. This of course does not preclude the participation of relevant ministries such as education, health, environmental protection, in budgeting the activities and writing appropriate procedures and regulations.”
He added that the committee will follow up on the issue in three months to check on any progress made.