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It’s 2021, and the electromagnetic waves emitted by wireless technology have caused a world-wide plague called Nerve Attenuation Syndrome that takes over people’s nervous systems, causing “the black shakes.”
That dystopian future described in the 1995 sci-fi film Johnny Mnemonic hasn’t yet come to pass, but a lesser version of that disease is now come to the fore. It’s called electromagnetic hypersensitivity, and for some people it means the devices that have made our lives so much more convenient have, according to some, made their lives hell.
On Monday, city council will consider a proposal to allow 15-metre-tall stand-alone cell towers in public right-of-ways. A second proposal would allow smaller antennas to be mounted on top of hydro poles around the city.
People affected by electromagnetic hypersensitivity say the electromagnetic radiation caused by cellphones and Wi-Fi permeates the air, giving them headaches, sleep loss, rashes, depression and memory loss.
Not everyone is so sensitive, but activists claim there’s increasing scientific evidence of a link between these waves and serious health conditions including cancer, ADHD and fertility loss.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified such waves emitted from cellphones as a Class 2B carcinogen, meaning there’s a possible, but not a probable, link to cancer in humans.
The proposals to put more cellphone antennas up around Toronto have some experts worrying.
“When you deliver a potential carcinogen over a wide area in the environment, you expose numerous people and you may increase risk to a small proportion, but you can’t identify who they are. But that doesn’t mean there’s no harm, and as you increase the dosage, as you increase the number of radiofrequency fields in our environment, you will in fact increase the hazard,” said Dr. Anthony Miller, professor emeritus in cancer epidemiology at U of T, when he gave a deputation before the city public works committee last month.
“If you approve this, you are setting the scene for increasing cancer risks, probably brain tumours (and) several other cancers that you will not be able to identify for 10 to 15 years,” he said.
In 2008, Toronto City Council adopted a “prudent avoidance” policy to keep radiofrequency emissions 100 times below the safe limit as defined by Health Canada.
“We’re leading the way in North America. No other town that we’ve found has this level of protection,” said Frank Clegg, CEO of Canadians for Safe Technology.
While Clegg applauds new rules requiring notice for the construction of any new antennas and yearly inspections of existing ones, he is urging city councillors to vote against allowing stand-alone poles.
“Let’s not put new cellphone towers in new areas. You’ve got a good contract for existing towers, an opportunity to use best practices on hydro towers, let’s do that. Let’s not put this technology in brand new areas, because we don’t know what levels are safe,” he said.
Clegg hopes that if council confirms the new rules and keeps the prudent avoidance policy, it will put pressure on Health Canada to lower the wireless radiation limit for all electronic devices — a rule that hasn’t been revised since the 1980s, he says.