Residents doubt safety of cellphone tower
To Rogers Communications, it’s about improving service; to neighbours of the proposed cellphone tower, it’s about their health.
On Tuesday, the communications company held an open house to highlight five new possible locations for a cellphone tower. Originally, Rogers wanted to build a 29.5-metre tower on provincial land on the grassy median between Highway 1 and its westbound Taylor Way off-ramp. The proposal, which is also backed by Telus, quickly met with opposition in the community and Rogers promised to work with the municipality to come up with alternatives.
All the options are in, or beside, residential neighbourhoods, but the proposed cellphone tower falls below the Health Canada safety code for radiofrequencies (RF), Rogers’s spokesperson Nicola Lambrechts said. In an information package, Rogers says the national code is based on tens of thousands of international studies. If you stood right next to the tower, the RF would be 141 times weaker than Health Canada’s safety standard.
Health Canada’s safety code doesn’t mean anything because it doesn’t target the right radiation, said Jim Waugh, a North Vancouver resident who wrote a book on the subject. Health Canada’s guidelines only deal with the thermal effects of radiation and ignore lower-level radiofrequency, he said.
“This radiation is dangerous. The health effects from a tower like this will take many years [to show], just like cigarettes,” Waugh said.
In May, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a World Health Organization agency, classified the electromagnetic fields produced by cellphones as possibly carcinogenic. This, and the WHO’s recommendation to promote research for radiofrequency fields and health to fill in knowledge gaps, are reasons why West Vancouver shouldn’t allow the tower in a residential neighbourhood, said Milt Bowling, president of Risk Management Solutions.
Health Canada standards have not been updated, he said. They still deal with the heating of tissue rather than harm done to cell membranes by the pulse sent out by RF. There is a way to limit the effects of the RF pulse by masking it with a random signal, Bowling said, noting the U.S. military did this during the Gulf War to protect its soldier.
West Vancouver resident Mareen Giefins questioned the need for the tower and why it couldn’t be hidden up the mountain.
“I have a Telus phone and I have never dropped a call,” she said, noting her neighbours with Rogers phones are in the same boat.
British Properties resident Kathleen Carbert said the sites still focus on the Taylor Way entrance to the British Properties.
“I am concerned about the main strip. Families take their family photos there,” she noted.
The tower is needed to address holes in coverage, Lambrechts said. Smart devices like iPhones, iPads and BlackBerries have placed an increased demand on the Rogers wireless network.
“We are thrilled that residents have come out,” Lambrechts said of the open house.
The community has until June 29 to comment on the proposal. The information will be collected and shared with the District of West Vancouver. At that point Rogers will have a better understanding of the project’s direction, Lambrechts said.