You can’t see it, you can’t smell it, you can’t touch it, but it is a real danger nonetheless.
City council heard pleas, facts and personal histories focusing on this message Thursday night from residents of Salmon Arm and as far afield as the North Shuswap and West Kelowna.
Council chambers were filled to overflowing Jan. 29 as about 120 citizens gathered to provide information and opinions on cell phone tower placement, cell phones and Wi-Fi – and urged council to protect citizens.
Donalda and Ruth McLaren of Tappen used their five-minute-each allotments of time to show a video clip of U.S. lawyer Jimmy Gonzalez testifying in 2012 to Florida’s Pembroke Pines Commission about the health risks of cell phone radiation.
He said he has no doubt “cell phones cause cancer,” and showed the scars on his left hand and left ear where he underwent surgery to remove cancerous tumours. He explained that as a lawyer he spent many hours from 2001 to 2011 on his phone. When not talking on it he stored it in an inside breast pocket of his suit. He developed another tumour specifically at that site.
He said the booklets that come with some cell phones state somewhere in the vast amount of text written that the phones emit non-ionized radiation into the body, which the booklets prefer to term ‘radio frequency’ and ‘specific absorption rate.’
He said cell phones should never be placed next to the body, and points out the cell phone booklets, which almost no one reads, state the phones should be held or carried at least 10 millimeters or about an inch away from the body.
The city of Pembroke Pines then adopted a resolution warning the public about the potential health effects of cell phone radiation. Gonzalez died in November last year at age 42.
Mike Testart from Canoe noted that microwave oven users are aware of the risks when cooking food, but don’t realize other devices, such as baby monitors, usually placed near a baby’s head, emit the same frequency.
Testart pointed to statistics from the Canadian Wireless Association that tallies more than 28 million wireless subscribers in Canada in 2014.
He said risks from devices disappear when ordinary fibre optics are used with cables plugged in.
A video was shown of Conservative MP Terence Young from Oakville, Ontario who has introduced a Private Member’s Bill C-648, an Act for prevention of potential health risks from radio frequency electromagnetic radiation or, in short form, the Warning Labels for Radio Apparatus Act.
Regarding the siting of cell phone towers, speakers pointed out that the Township of Langley adopted a telecommunication tower policy compelling cell phone companies to poll residents within a 500-metre radius of a proposed tower. The companies must get an 80 per cent ‘yes’ vote to proceed.
They stated the city of Colwood on Vancouver Island has a similar policy.
Speakers also referred to a judgment handed down in May 2014 by the Quebec Court of Appeal, which ruled in favour of the City of Châteauguay in Quebec regarding its domain over implementation of telecommunications towers.
“Precedents have been set,” said Salmon Arm resident Shelley Corbin, noting Salmon Arm has the right to develop its own safe antenna location policy.
Council has so far foregone a local policy on cell towers, instead going with Industry Canada protocols because of the contention that Industry Canada and Health Canada ultimately have jurisdiction over cell towers and health standards.
A few times during the evening Mayor Nancy Cooper interjected that council was not considering a motion, simply listening to citizens.
Eva Tavares of Sorrento was among those describing debilitating effects from Wi-Fi.
A few years ago she arrived at the University of British Columbia, ready to pursue her education. However, she said she became ill with all kinds of severe symptoms she hadn’t experienced before – nausea, headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations and insomnia.
When she came home, her symptoms disappeared within a few days.
Returning to UBC, they came back. She discovered a Wi-Fi router on the opposite side of her bedroom wall. After months of illness, she was medically diagnosed in 2011 with electrohypersensitivity.
Now she must constantly check her surroundings for Wi-Fi routers and cell towers.
She said while she appears to be in the minority, many others may be affected and don’t know the cause.
“I am a young adult, yet I am not free by any stretch of the imagination,” she said.
Several speakers referred to the inadequacy of Safety Code 6, Health Canada’s radio frequency exposure guidelines, noting that standards in Europe, for example, are 10,000 times more strict than Canada.
Several people also spoke to the effects on young people, whose brains and bodies are more sensitive than adults. A video interview was played of Dr. Jacqueline Mcclaran of McGill University Health Centre, who said Safety Code 6 is not even being applied in its current form.
“I expect more from Health Canada.”
She went on: “It’s very shocking how proud we are when we install Wi-Fi in our schools,” noting that children are more sensitive to the continuous assault from Wi-Fi.
“We all like the functions (of Wi-Fi) but not the side effects.”
Resident Lori Onsorge said she knows some children who are severely affected by electromagnetic radiation.
She gave the example of a child with peanut allergies in a school classroom. The whole class is asked not to bring peanuts in order to preserve the child’s health – which is not what happens in the case of electromagnetic radiation sensitivities.
When resident Eric Hansen spoke, he complimented speakers about the information they were imparting.
“I’m proud to say I don’t see any zealots, I don’t see any crackpots, I don’t see any weirdos. What I see are my neighbours…,” he said.
At the end of the three-hour meeting, Cooper thanked people for sharing their views.
“You can give me all the experts in the world, but the people who came up and told their personal stories, they meant the most to me.”