11
Nov
2005

Riding the (micro)waves

By Christina Toth

JUNE 6 - 2002 Headaches, buzzing and clicking in the ears, insomnia, weak muscles, gas and nausea - technology seems to be making some people sick. Mission resident Bob Riedlinger is crusading against the erection of telecommunications towers after he became ill while living near one in Harrison Hot Springs. Now living in Silverdale, the retired construction contractor gave Mission's councillors thick packets of paper with data from his six years of research to back up his concerns, which include unexplained illnesses, head noise, increased incidences of childhood cancers, dementia, depression and other hard-to-pinpoint complaints. A pragmatic man who enjoyed robust health during his working career, Riedlinger hopes people don't simply brush off his warnings as those of an unhinged hypochondriac. "I had to change my life completely because of this," he said. "I shouldn't have to be doing this, I should be out fishing. People should listen to what I'm saying." Riedlinger says he knows people so sensitized to telecommunication radio waves, they desperately seek peace in regions with no such activity. Some have taken their own lives to attain that peace, he says. "I know people are suffering like hell. It's an invisible pollution and it's causing chaos and people need to know about it." After seeing cell phone towers moving into his Silverdale neighbourhood, Riedlinger began a petition to halt the operation of a Bell Mobility tower recently erected on Canadian Pacific Rail right-of-way just west of the Mission RCMP detachment. "I want to stop this from going any further - perhaps to prevent the one that just went up from being used. I had to flee my home before and I won't flee again," he said. Mission council has invited someone from Industry Canada to respond to its questions and concerns about telecommunications radio waves. Robert Ross, Mission's community development officer, said that since the telecommunications industry is under federal regulation, city bylaws don't have enough legal clout to deny erection of towers. Industry Canada expects telecommunications firms to "consult" with city governments and communities to determine where their towers can go, Ross said Wednesday. In Abbotsford, telecommunications firms are asked to acquire a building permit, present a report to council and notify residents within a one-kilometre range, said Grant Acheson, director of development services. "Practically speaking, Industry Canada would not support a carrier's application if the carrier was not supported by the local council," Acheson said. In fact, strong opposition from Bradner residents blocked the erection of a Bell Mobility tower there last year and the company has yet to reapply for a west Abbotsford location. Mission's newly adopted community plan will require companies to notify neighbours within a 152-metre radius of a new tower or six times the height of the tower radius, and preferably in non-residential areas and away from schools, Ross said. Towers in Mission are currently atop Bear Mountain, at the public works yard and at the RCMP station, but there could be dozens more on rail lines, power poles and rooftops, he said. Since there are few scientific Canadian studies showing negative health effects, Ross would like to see Health Canada and Industry Canada devote their energy to definitive studies on health effects from the towers. The studies would be timely as towers proliferate in urban areas, he said. "We're starting to get an awful lot of interest for these telecommunications towers, on a weekly basis. We need more clarity on this issue from Industry Canada," he said, adding council would like a little more control over what comes into its territory. "I think any council would like to have a say about where (the towers) can be located. No municipality likes the federal government telling them what to do, especially when there is uncertain science attached to the health risks," Ross said. Riedlinger agrees. "Local government has the authority to protect water, to stop barking dogs, to maintain roads," Riedlinger said. "Why haven't they got the right to protect what's being sent through the air, against something that makes us ill?" Anyone interested in signing his petition can contact Riedlinger at 604-826-6791.

//www.abbotsfordtimes.com/071202/news/071202nn5.html


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