The Green Party’s candidate in the U.S. presidential elections, Jill Stein, declared that kids should be kept away from Wi-Fi signals because such things may damage developing brains. Her comments appear to endorse a myth that wireless internet may cause brain cancer, and is just the latest public health controversy surrounding the candidate.
In response to a question about the use of Wi-Fi in schools and its effect on kids, Stein insinuated dangers to children’s health from exposure to wireless internet signals.
“We should not be subjecting kids’ brains especially to that … and we don’t follow this issue in our country, but in Europe where they do, you know, they have good precautions about wireless. Maybe not good enough, you know. It’s very hard to study this stuff. You know, we make guinea pigs out of whole populations and then we discover how many die. And this is the paradigm for how public health works in this country.”
This was one of several controversial answers Stein gives in the video, which was published to YouTube in March but seems to be gaining wide viewership only in the last few hours.
The comments seem to reflect a viral internet myth that Wi-Fi can cause brain cancer. While the myth is an older one, it gained renewed attention last year after a Saudi survey of several studies sponsored by the Saudi Society of Microscopes went viral. That story concluded, “The risk to children and adolescent from exposure to microwave radiating devices is considerable. Adults have a smaller but very real risk, as well.” Additionally, the report continued, “Wireless devices are radio transmitters, not toys. Selling toys that use them should be banned.”
That story caused a firestorm across the web in early 2015, earning a slew of counterattacks from experts.
“It purports to be a review of some sort on microwave radiation (MWR) exposure in children. It is nothing of the sort. It’s not even written like a scientific paper,” wrote Steven Salzberg, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, and Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University, in Forbes last year. “Essentially, the article is a series of claims, most of them unrelated to one another, about the effects of MWR and other topics. The authors have cherry-picked several dozen studies that they believe support their hypothesis, which they cite without any explanatory details, while ignoring hundreds of studies that contradict their claims.”
“Instead of science journalism, Catalyst aired a misleading program, which followed the views of a few individuals in arguing that radiofrequency emissions from wireless devices were harmful,” wrote Rodney Croft, Director of National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia’s Centre for Research Excellence in Electromagnetic Energy, in Stuff earlier this year. “In fact, the scientific consensus is strong, and is that there is no substantiated evidence that the low levels of radiofrequency emissions encountered by mobile telecommunications can cause any harm.”
The candidate has been receiving renewed attention as a possible third option by disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters who are loathe to support Donald Trump and do not want to support Hillary Clinton. That spotlight has shone on controversial positions Stein espouses.
Stein, who is a licensed physician, has found herself under attack in recent weeks for other controversial public health positions. While Jill Stein’s platform is anti-GMO (genetically modified organism) products, an open letter by 100 Nobel laureates in June urged Greenpeace to drop its position against GMOs and decried advocates who wanted to label such products, saying the idea is “damaging and is anti-science.” She has also been accused of pandering to the anti-vaccination movement, including deleting a tweet that explicitly endorsed the theory that vaccines cause autism.
In the video, Stein also attacks the increased use of computer monitors, which she said were being pushed by business interests for use in schools.
“We should be moving away from screens at all levels of education, not moving into them. And this is another corporate ruse. This is another gimmick to try to make a buck. To make big bucks in fact. And education, and teachers, and communities suffer. So we need to stand up to that.”