Impacts on Health

There is enough evidence that cell towers cause
biological damage to urge a precautionary approach

— Sir William Stewart, Chairman, Health Protection Agency of the UK,
formerly Chief Scientific Adviser to Margaret Thatcher, then called upon by Tony Blair’s government in 2000 to examine mobile phones, masts and their impact on our health

Microwave Radiation or High Frequency EMFs
(also known as Radiofrequency Radiation / Electromagnetic Frequency Radiation, or RF/EMFs)

The antennas on cell phone towers radiate high frequency EMFs, or microwaves.
This radiation can cover a radius of a few metres or several kilometres. How far depends on the height of the tower, the number of antennas, the power of the antennas, the direction of the antennas, the uptilt or downtilt of the antennas, the local geography, etc.

The following image shows where on the spectrum the microwaves fall.

emf spectrum
Source: Citizens for Safe Technology (C4ST) PowerPoint presentation.

Do EMFs Pose Health Problems?

Human beings are bioelectrical systems. Our hearts and brains are regulated by internal bioelectrical signals. Environmental exposures to artificial EMFs can interact with fundamental biological processes in the human body. We have good evidence these exposures can damage our health, or that of children of the future who will be born to parents now immersed in wireless exposures.” – The BioInitiative Report 2012

“The human species has changed its electromagnetic background more than any other aspect of the environment. For example, the density of radio waves around us is now 100 million or 200 million times the natural level reaching us from the sun.”
– Dr. Robert O. Becker
Twice nominated for a Nobel prize in medicine
State University of New York (in “The Body Electric” 1985)

The answer is YES. For many years we have known that x-rays (ionizing radiation) are known to be biologically harmful.  Now, many scientists are realizing that our exposure to microwaves (non-ionizing radiation) is also biologically harmful, even at very low levels.

Now that wireless communications are so closely integrated into our daily lives, microwaves are all around us.  Cities are perpetually shrouded in an invisible electrosmog, a sea of microwaves which we swim in day and night.  Microwaves are emitted by:

  • Cell phones
  • Cordless phones
  • Cell tower antennas
  • Wi-Fi access points (hotspots)
  • Wi-Fi enabled devices (iPads, tablets, PDAs, etc)
  • Baby monitors
  • WiFi routers
  • Smart meters

Cell towers and smart meters are being installed everywhere, despite health concerns of experts and enormous public resistance. They produce spikes of pulsed radiofrequency radiation 24/7. Note: Smart meters can produce RFR exposure levels similar to that within the first 100 feet to 600 feet of a cell tower.

Most people are unaware of the potential harm, yet are more and more dependent on technology. 

Growing body of scientific research worldwide associates microwave radiation with many serious diseases

“Chronic exposure to wireless radiofrequency radiation is a preventable environmental hazard that is sufficiently well documented to warrant immediate preventative public health action….. existing US FCC guidelines for RF safety that have been used to justify installation of “smart meters” only look at thermal tissue damage and are obsolete, since many modern studies show metabolic and genomic damage from RF and ELF exposures below the level of intensity which heats tissues.”

American Academy of Environmental Medicine position based on the “scientific assessment of the current medical literature” 2012

Up until recently, researchers were only examining the thermal effects of microwave radiation on humans, meaning the heating effects on tissue. However, while low levels of exposure to microwave radiation is not enough to cook you, more and more scientific research worldwide is proving that they can cause a biological response, including cellular change, disrupting DNA, and a long list of diseases:

  • Cancer (including brain and auditory nerve cancers)
  • Childhood leukaemia and brain cancer
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • ALS
  • Parkinson’s
  • Genetic damage
  • Reproductive defects
  • Neurological degeneration and nervous system dysfunction
  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Cognitive effects
  • Protein and peptide damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Developmental effects
  • Autistic spectrum disorder

Not to mention the immediate effects experienced by many:

  • Headaches
  • Sleep problems
  • Memory problems
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • And more
  • EMFs and Melatonin: When it is dark, the pineal gland of the brain produces melatonin – an absolutely vital hormone.  However, the brain cannot distinguish between electromagnetic waves and light waves.  Therefore, in the presence of EMFs, the brain is tricked into thinking that it is never dark and stops producing melatonin. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant, and has been found to aid in the prevention of Alzheimer’s, depression, cardiovascular diseases, insomnia, mood disorders, tinnitus and various cancers.
  • Tamoxifen: the most common drug given to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer loses its effectiveness when the patient is exposed to EMFs. – Source: Breast Cancer Options website
  • Electrosensitivity: Electrosensitivity is a a syndrome of intolerance to electromagnetic fields, recognized by the World Health Organization. The symptoms vary a lot and can include the following, among others: sleep disturbance, depression, headaches, irritability, forgetfulness, frequent infections, blood pressure changes, limb and joint pains, numbness or tingling sensations, tinnitus, hearing loss, impaired balance and eye problems.  Worldwide, it is estimated that at least 3% of the population suffers from electrosensitivity, but to date Sweden is the only country providing compensation.

Click here for links to research studies.

The most conclusive evidence came from a study by University Hospital, Sweden, entitled “Epidemiological evidence for an association between use of wireless phones and tumor diseases,” published by the medical journal Pathophysiology by Elsevier.  Over 2000 people were followed from the early 1990s.  This study concluded that there was a definite increased risk of cancer after more than 10 years of cell phone and cordless phone use.  It also confirmed that initial studies had too short a latency period and were based on too low numbers.

Because of the growing number of such studies, in 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (World Health Organization) reclassified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (a class 2B carcinogen in the same category as DDT and lead).  Many people report very debilitating health symptoms as a result of living near cell phone towers. More and more cancer clusters are being identified around these towers.

While a small number of people are electrosensitive, they are like the canaries in the mine.  However, at the cellular level, 100% of people are being affected.

Who Sets the Standards for Safe Exposure Levels?

“I think it’s irresponsible to just set standards using a thermal effect. If you just set it based on a thermal effect, you’re neglecting a large amount of data.”

– Dr. Henry Lai, Bioelectromagnetics Research Laboratory, Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

BBC: “Is ICNIRP right to set their guidelines only according to thermal effects?”

Prof. Olle Johansson: “Oh no, no, no, that’s just rubbish I would say. You cannot put any emphasis on such guidelines.”

– Prof. Olle Johansson, Associate Professor and Head of Department, Experimental Dermatology Unit, Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet;  Professor, Swedish Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

Currently, the internationally accepted guidelines for safe exposure levels are set by the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).  These standards have been designed to limit exposure to levels that are safely below those that can heat up tissue, i.e., between 28 and 61 volts per metre (V/m) depending on frequency. Meaning that they only look at the thermal effect.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been relying on ICNIRP when making their recommendations.  And governments around the world, including Canada and the USA, have been following these recommendations.

The WHO states that “there are no adverse health effects from low level long-term exposure”.

“I think they are wrong because there IS evidence. They’ve got to review the statement that they’re making. I think it is not an accurate reflection.”

— Sir William Stewart, Chairman, Health Protection Agency of the UK

formerly Chief Scientific Adviser to Margaret Thatcher, then called upon by Tony Blair’s government in 2000 to examine mobile phones, towers and their impact on our health.

Now that there are close to 2000 studies showing serious biological effects (such as cancer) at levels far lower (as low as 0.06 V/m) than what ICNIRP deems safe, many are wondering why ICNIRP and the WHO continue to ignore these studies.

Some go as far as to imply that ICNIRP is too closely tied to industry.

Whatever the reason, we continue to see misleading statements designed to imply that there is currently no published evidence showing a link to adverse health effects, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

“The global conversation on why public safety limits for electromagnetic and radiofrequency fields remain thousands of time higher than exposure levels that health studies consistently show to be associated with serious health impacts, has intensified since 2007.  Roughly, 1800 new studies have been published in the last five years reporting effects at exposure levels ten to hundreds or thousands of times lower than allowed under safety limits in most countries of the world.  Yet, no government has instituted comprehensive reforms.” – The BioInitiative Report 2012

What Other Countries and Leading Organizations Are Saying…

  • The Stewart Report (2000),  Health Protection Agency of the UK: After examining mobile phones, towers and their impact on health for over a year, this independent group of experts stated that there is enough evidence that cell towers cause biological damage to urge a precautionary approach.  Called upon by Tony Blair’s government to conduct this study, Sir William Stewart, formerly Chief Scientific Adviser to Margaret Thatcher, and now Chairman of the UK Health Protection Agency, stresses the urgency of reviewing our guidelines.
  • The BioInitiative Report 2012 (prepared by an international working group of 29 scientists, researchers and public health policy professionals from ten countries): “Bioeffects are clearly established to occur with very low exposure levels (non-thermal levels) to electromagnetic fields and radiofrequency radiation exposures.” Recommends a precautionary limit equal to 1% of Canada’s limit but suggests it should be eventually as low as 3000 uW/m2 (or 0.6 V/m) even at 500 meters away from an antenna. Antennas should never be closer than 500 meters from a residence, according to that report.
  • American Academy of Environmental Medicine: Issued a position paper in 2012 based on the “scientific assessment of the current medical literature”, and stating that: “Chronic exposure to wireless radiofrequency radiation is a preventable environmental hazard that is sufficiently well documented to warrant immediate preventative public health action. Existing guidelines for RF safety that have been used to justify installation of “smart meters” only look at thermal tissue damage and are obsolete, since many modern studies show metabolic and genomic damage from RF and ELF exposures below the level of intensity which heats tissues.”
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)/WHO: In 2011, classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B – same category as DDT and lead).
  • The European Parliament, representing all the member nations of the European Union: “Concerned about the continuing uncertainties about possible health risks concerning magnetic radiation,” adopted a report on April 2, 2009, by a vote of 559 to 22 providing that “the placement of antennas, mobile phone masts and high-voltage power lines be negotiated between industry actors, public authorities and residents’ associations in order to minimize health risks and legal-action cases. This will also ensure that EMF-transmitting devices are kept clear of schools, crèches, retirement homes and health-care institutions.
  • The Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, issued a press release on Feb 3, 2011:“Scientists Urge Halt of Wireless Rollout and Call for New Safety Standards: Warning Issued on Risks to Children and Pregnant Women”
  • Government of Sweden: As of 2003, recognizes electrohypersensitivity as an illness, and provides compensation to sufferers. 3% of the population is currently receiving compensation.
  • Government of Switzerland: In 2010, in collaboration with Swisscom, its largest telcom provider, offered fibre-optic wiring to schools for free for conversion from Wi-Fi to hardwiring networks.
  • Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection: Passed a resolution in 2011 to protect children, teenagers and pregnant women and recommended that children under the age of 18 and pregnant women not use mobile phones due to the current body of evidence indicating adverse health effects. http://iemfa.org/images/pdf/RNCNIRP_Resolution_2011.pdf
  • Switzerland, China, Hungary and Poland all have stricter guidelines than Canada & the US – guidelines that are not solely being based on heating of the body, but consider biological effects, such as changes in the permeability of the bloodbrain barrier and damage to DNA.

 

Sadly, This is Not an Area Where Canada Is a Leader.

“I’ll be polite.  I think they’re behind in evaluating the science.
And industry confuses the data, hires people to attack the science.”
– Frank Clegg, former President of Microsoft Canada,
on Health Canada’s position regarding RF emissions

Health Canada’s position on RF/EMF emissions is based on a policy called Safety Code 6 which states that human exposure to microwave energy is safe, as long as it ranges from 3 kHz to 300 GHz, with exposure to the upper limit for an average of six minutes.

Health Canada does not consider anything except thermal effects despite the thousands of studies that demonstrate that there are serious biological effects on human health at very low radiation levels.

Using these standards, cell towers are deemed safe.  Because of this, Industry Canada will not accept health concerns as an argument against cell towers.

Safety Code 6 was developed in the 1980s and has not been significantly updated to reflect the increasing scientific research from around the world warning that exposure can cause cellular change in humans.

Health Canada admits that more research is needed, but continues to use these standards while countries such as Italy, Russia, China and Switzerland all have regulations 100 times more stringent than Safety Code 6.

  • Those countries allow 100,000 microwatts per square metre
  • Canada allows 10 million microwatts per square metre (100 times more)

Toronto Public Health has urged Health Canada to take a more conservative approach and reduce the limit to 100 times below current guidelines.

Health Canada reviews the code every few years but continues to dismiss the evidence of biological effects, while acknowledging that “some (limited) data exist that suggest radio-frequency energy might cause cancer”.

Last year, Health Canada asked the Royal Society of Canada to do an independent expert assessment of Safety Code 6, which was to be released last fall. “But the panel will not be looking at any non-thermal (i.e. biological) adverse health effects.” – Sara Lauer, spokesperson for Health Canada, The Toronto Star (June 17, 2013).

The publication of the Expert Panel report on Safety Code 6 has been postponed to Spring 2014 due to “unforeseen delays”. The chair of the panel, Daniel Krewski, resigned in July amidst concerns revealing an undisclosed conflict of interest, according to a Canadian Medical Association Journal report. A second member is now under review concerning a similar undisclosed conflict of interest.

“It is important to remember that, perhaps expectedly, interpretations of findings in this area of investigation are shrouded in controversy, particularly because special interests may influence some of the research.”
— Scientific American (April 24, 2006)

Precautionary Approach Urged

A growing number of advocacy groups say it is time Safety Code 6 is updated to include non-thermal, biological effects.

In the meantime, we recommend the adoption of the following principles:

  • The precautionary principle, which states that, when an activity poses potential harm to human health or to the environment, precautionary measures to reduce exposure should be taken even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.
  • Pollution prevention, acknowledging that it is less expensive and more effective to prevent environmental and human health damage than to manage or cure it.
  • Communities’ right to know about health and environmental risks and to be consulted and participate in making the decisions affecting their health.

 

Indeed, this is the tradition of public health, a tradition which in Canada, through the Supreme Court, has given municipalities the authority to ban pesticides .

In other words: Better safe than sorry!

Cell towers should not be anywhere near homes, schools, hospitals or workplaces.

“I have great concern regarding the current levels of microwave radiation in North America. Instead of promoting wireless technology, we should be promoting wired

technology and reserving wireless for situations where wired in not possible.

We need to recognize that microwaves are harmful and we cannot use this technology in a frivolous manner. With more frequencies being used, with the levels of radiation increasing, and with so little research on the long-term, low-level effects of this technology we are creating a potential time bomb.”

– Magda Havas, BSc, PhD



Frank Clegg, was president of Microsoft Canada for 15 years and is currently the CEO of Citizens 4 Safe Technology (C4ST) who have been fighting against cellphone towers.

Ashbury FD, Sullivan T. Review of Misconceptions About The Causes of Cancer. Chronic Dis Can 2004;25:152-53.