In June of 2015 Renee Adams* of Maple Ridge, British Columbia was awakened by the sound of heavy trucks and workers affixing microcell broadcast antennas to a telephone pole 100 feet from her front door.
Surprised by the lack of warning and concerned about possible health effects, the single mother of two autistic boys asked for an explanation, but was told by workers that it was “none of her business” and ordered out of the construction zone. Finding no government department at any level willing to listen to her concerns, she appealed to city council. Council, however, was unaware of the plan to deploy the antennas, confused about responsibilities, and uncertain of dangers.
As the wireless industry rapidly unleashes new technologies onto a public unaware of potential consequences, should we be concerned? As with tobacco and asbestos, once promoted by health authorities as “safe,” is it not prudent for citizens to ask about the potential for harm? I set out to find answers, but quickly found that the many available “answers” depend upon whom you ask and can be as confusing as the technology itself.
Questions on the topic raise eyebrows, sometimes resulting in hints of “anti-technology zealotry” or “resistance to progress.” On the other hand, a number of self-organized volunteer citizen groups and independent scientists seem obsessed with pointing out a mountain of “evidence” and potentially lethal dangers. Who’s telling the truth here?
On one hand, wireless companies and government agencies provide seemingly convincing reassurances of safety. But on further examination, it becomes clear that no actual proof of safety is offered, or available. Further questions on the topic raise eyebrows, sometimes resulting in hints of “anti-technology zealotry” or “resistance to progress.” On the other hand, a number of self-organized volunteer citizen groups and independent scientists seem obsessed with pointing out a veritable mountain of “evidence” and potentially lethal dangers. Who’s telling the truth here?
Microwave radiation – the type emitted by microwave ovens, smart meters, wifi, cell towers, and cell phones – is difficult to understand, or even conceive of. We can’t see, hear, smell, touch, or taste it, and the cell tower at the end of the street appears to sit inert and lifeless. But turn on your cell phone, even in remote locations, and you’ll almost always get an instant connection. That’s because the air around us has been ‘leased’ to telecom companies, which fill it with silent and invisible microwave radiation. Vibrating atoms at billions of times per second, microwave radiation penetrates the walls of most buildings and can’t be compared to other substances we are wary of such as tobacco or asbestos. The best way to conceive of it may be as a silent energetic environmental pollutant.
Health Canada sets human exposure limits for microwave radiation with Safety Code 6 (SC6). Though it sounds reassuringly official, it turns out that SC6 is not actually a law, but rather a guideline. It was originally drafted 40 years ago primarily to protect workers from antenna burns at radar sites, before cell towers even existed. But how does it rate in protecting us against low-level, near universal, 24/7/365 non-ionizing microwave exposures? It doesn’t.
SC6’s outdated test of “danger” is a radiation source (like a cell phone or tower) that raises the temperature of a liquid-filled mannequin more than 1°C in a 6 minute period. If the device being tested doesn’t do that, it’s deemed “safe” and given the official stamp of approval. The problem is that literally thousands of scientific studies have demonstrated potentially harmful effects from far lower exposures. SC6 conveniently ignores all these studies, as well as recent ones showing substantial increases in cancer mortality near cell towers. The effect of this SC6 loophole is that it allows the wireless industry to expose unsuspecting citizens to a potentially lethal environmental toxin with no fear of legal repercussions.
Health Canada’s Andrew Adams recently admitted that there are studies showing harm below Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 guidelines. These studies include links to cancer, sperm damage, brain/nervous system impacts and developmental or learning disabilities.
I asked Frank Clegg, ex-Microsoft Canada president and current CEO of the national volunteer group Canadians for Safe Technology if citizens should be concerned about living near cell towers or telephone pole mounted transmitters. Clegg had this to say:
“Citizens should be concerned. In May 2011, the World Health Organization classified exposure to wireless radiation a Class 2B possible carcinogen. Since that decision, there has been a call from many experts to upgrade the classification to Class 2A, probable carcinogen. Potential carcinogens (including lead and DDT) are placed on the 2B list so that we pay attention and reduce our exposure to it. Health Canada’s Andrew Adams recently admitted that there are studies showing harm below Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 guidelines. These studies include links to cancer, sperm damage, brain/nervous system impacts and developmental or learning disabilities.
“Over forty MDs from across Canada signed a declaration calling for Health Canada to develop and support strategies to raise awareness about microwave radiation impacts and to minimize prolonged exposure to microwave radiation in schools and other places where children are regularly exposed.”
Clegg went on to say that the best protection from harm is to stay as far away as possible from wireless radiation sources, and to reduce your cumulative exposure time to the minimum possible.
Researching this article recalled the history of other public health failures related to thalidomide, DDT, tobacco, lead, asbestos, depleted uranium, and others. I was left with the impression that “wireless” may be just one more painful addition to the list.
(*Not her real name)
Ron Gordon (pen name) is a Vancouver area businessperson, freelance writer, and brain tumor survivor active in raising awareness of wireless health effects.