Samantha Boutet did not plan on becoming something of an expert on electromagnetic radiation.
In fact, when her daughter became ill in 2009, electromagnetic radiation (EMR) was the last thing she considered.
Her daughter, Amelia, nine at the time, began getting headaches and migraines every day. The family, which was living in the Lower Mainland at the time, had everything they could think of checked out – her eyes, her neck – but the doctor couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
They realized the only time the headache vanished was for three or four days when the family went camping.
“She continued to get worse and worse and worse at school,” says Boutet, explaining that along with the headaches, her daughter began experiencing heart palpitations, dizziness and an inability to concentrate.
Boutet, a naturopath, began getting calls from the school, and teachers suggested perhaps it was anxiety. She was skeptical because her daughter hadn’t been showing any signs of anxiety at home.
They eventually went to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, but a pediatrician there couldn’t explain the migraines.
Then, by chance, Boutet was at a Halloween party where some parents were talking about a documentary on Wi-Fi in schools and how the electromagnetic radiation was making some children sick.
Boutet watched the program and saw how children in Ontario and on Vancouver Island were being affected – and their symptoms matched her daughter’s.
Boutet went to the classroom where her daughter had spent the previous year and saw there was a Wi-Fi router on the wall, about 20 feet away from where she had been sitting.
Routers were also on the walls of the hallways, where her daughter’s dizziness was worse. Boutet said the signal in the school had to be stronger than usual because there was so much cement to navigate.
A trip to the school board generated no result, so Boutet eventually decided to take both her daughters out of school.
“After two weeks, there was quite a good improvement… All symptoms decreased dramatically once we took her out of school.”
She noted that the process for the school board was to register the complaint with their health and safety officer, who checks with Health Canada. Health Canada says Wi-Fi is safe, so the safety officer reports that to the school board.
Boutet notes that the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as Group 2B, ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans.’
She likens the issue to that of tobacco in earlier days.
There were no precautionary warnings on cigarette smoking until court cases forced the issue, she says. Meanwhile, regulatory bodies had been relying on research on cigarettes funded by the tobacco industry.
Similarly, she says, the World Health Organization’s research comes from Motorola.
Boutet has faced her share of skeptics, and she urges them to do independent research.
“I ask them to think critically about the industry itself, think about tobacco, and I also ask them to think about their compassion.”
Boutet notes people have strong emotional reaction to the suggestion that the proliferation of electromagnetic radiation might not be good for them. She suspects that’s because the addiction to technology is so widespread and people don’t like the idea of having to change their lifestyles. She says change would be healthier overall, particularly when there’s a connection between EMR and colony collapse in bees.
“The right to have a clean environment is being taken away from us and we can’t really realize it.”
Boutet took her convictions to a recent all-candidates meeting on microwave radiation, where she was asked to speak of her experiences.
Her family moved away from the Lower Mainland to escape all the pollution from cell phone towers and Wi-Fi that spills nearly everywhere because of the density there. Her husband had to stay, though, in order to make a living.
After several moves, Boutet’s family is living in the Shuswap. She was pleasantly surprised to find people here who take the issue seriously and whose homes are accessible and welcoming.
“This is a better place for us as we have people who understand.”