Citizens’ group brings science to politics

Wi-Fi review in Victoria schools prompted members to form group

Local politics has a new voice that wants decision makers to value science over ballots.

Scientific Victoria was a notable presence at the recent Capital Regional District board meeting where, for four hours, emotional presentations were heard about the safety of tanning beds for people under the age of 18.

“Our goal is to encourage, or to advocate for, the consideration of science in local decision-making,” said David Bratzer, founder of Scientific Victoria, a recently formed citizens’ group that wants local political boards to base their votes on peer-reviewed medical research.

Bratzer, who is also secretary for the Quadra-Cedar Hill Community Association, launched scientificvictoria.org two weeks ago. The organization’s first issue was supporting the bylaw banning underage indoor tanning.

Founding members of the two-pronged group include Karen Dearborn, president of the Quadra-Cedar Hill Community Association. She’ll serve as a strategic advisory board member. Dominic Bergeron, Camosun College biology department chair, holds a doctorate in molecular biology and will sit on the scientific advisory board. 

Bratzer is recruiting qualified members of all stripes for both boards, including people with master’s degrees or higher in sciences to join the scientific advisory team as he begins to speak publicly on Scientific Victoria’s second cause, also related to radiation. 

“There was credible medical evidence, suggesting that young people are more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation, but the opposite is true with Wi-Fi,” he said. “There is no credible, peer-reviewed evidence showing that long-term exposure to Wi-Fi causes harm.”

Bratzer, who works in law enforcement, said his motivations for founding the non-partisan organization stem from the Greater Victoria School District’s decision to form a committee devoted to investigating potential health risks of Wi-Fi. The technology had already been deemed safe by an internal review in the spring. 

The prospect of completely banning Wi-Fi from schools is both unlikely and potentially very expensive, said school board chair Tom Ferris, who also sits on the Wi-Fi committee.

“I think the fact that someone’s relative is ill is a motivation for wanting to investigate the issue, but it’s not necessarily a reason for (changes to be made),” Ferris said.

Ferris calls the issue, as with any debate involving children, “very difficult,” adding that the board will likely be most interested in scientific studies during its decision-making processes.

Karen Weiss, whose teenaged son has “electromagnetic hypersensitivity,” spoke on Jan. 24 to the school board’s committee on Wi-Fi.

She wants Wi-Fi replaced with hardwired alternatives. Plenty of research confirms the risks of Wi-Fi, she said, adding that her son’s symptoms, including headaches that come on when he’s near cellular towers, speak for themselves.

Bratzer, quoting potential costs associated with replacing the technology, became genuinely concerned that Wi-Fi may be banned throughout the district – even though agencies such as the World Health Organization, Health Canada and every provincial medical health officer have stated there is no empirical evidence that Wi-Fi poses a risk. 

nnorth@saanichnews.com