8
Jun
2006

Man says cellphone tower near home is making him and neighbours sick

Tower of anger

Samantha Craggs - SIMCOE REFORMER
Friday June 02, 2006

The Simcoe Reformer — Since February, Dan Currie hasn’t felt quite himself. An accountant by trade, ordinarily quick thinking and alert, Currie couldn’t concentrate. He lost his train of thought midway through sentences. Then came the dizziness, nausea, and a tingle that seemed to stretch from one side of his brain to the other. Currie worked every day in his newly-renovated century home under the looming shadow of the Union Street water tower, which since fall has had a Rogers cell phone antennae on top of it. His family was due to move into the home earlier this year. Instead, he packed his office and worked out of the family’s temporary apartment on Evergreen Hill Road. At first, Currie was skeptical that the tower could cause his illness. His wife had heard about the potential problems of radiation exposure. He thought it might be the power of suggestion. But the more he looked into it, the more neighbours he encountered with similar health problems, some of whom didn’t even know the antennae was there. He gets ill when he is near the tower. Each time he walks away, it takes longer to recover. He has had blood tests, an ultrasound and a CAT scan. No doctor seems to know what is wrong with him. Currie knows evidence of the health effects of such antennae is inconclusive. He knows Norfolk County followed Health Canada guidelines when leasing the space at the top of the water tower. But if there is even a chance that it is making him and others sick, he wants it moved. “I am mad. I am angry,” he said. “I may have to put a for sale sign on my home. And how could I in good conscience let someone else move in?” He will also not move his three children, aged seven to 14, into the home that has been in his family for more than 20 years. Some research suggests the effects can be more serious for children, including higher incidence of childhood leukemia. The tower is also near two elementary schools, a hospital and a nursing home. Reports say Elgin Avenue Public School is more than 100 metres from the tower. At recess, though, children play on the grassy slope that nearly reaches the tower’s base. On Tuesday night, with a staff report in hand, Norfolk councillors will vote on whether to move the antennae. The report, submitted by public works manager Eric D’Hondt and Glen Steen from the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s healthy environmental team, recommends leaving it there. It also says the county has no escape clause in its lease agreement with Rogers Wireless. The best it could do is ask Rogers to voluntarily move it, which Rogers has said it will not do. Requesting Rogers to remove the equipment, the report says, could impact “not only other telecommunications equipment installations on the Simcoe water tower but also the telecommunications equipment installed on other county water towers.” These leases mean revenue for the water and wastewater division. The health unit has also concluded that there is no conclusive evidence such towers, by current standards, are health hazards. Currie said it is the health unit’s responsibility to consider the people who are already ill, and to err on the side of caution. “I still have faith in council and that councillors will do the right thing,” he said. “All we’re asking is to not take the chance with me and my kids.”

* * * *

Currie and David Cole, a Simcoe Composite School law teacher who has been using the issue as a lesson in grassroots activism for his students, now have a chart. The names are cut off so as not to reveal individual identities, but along the top are symptoms. Abdominal pain. Itching and burning. Mood swings and depression. Floaters and spots on the eyes. Underneath is a check mark for each Simcoe resident experiencing the ailments since the antennae has been installed. Fatigue: three. Nausea: three. Headaches: nine. “We’ve talked to everybody,” Cole said. “I’ve spent time on porches and in living rooms, listening to the symptoms. It was remarkable how many people repeated similar things.” The team has an ally in Magda Havas, Trent University professor and expert in cell phone tower radiation effects. She likens cell phone tower radiation to asbestos. “In the future,” she said, “we’re going to look back at this era and say ‘why did we ignore that data?’” Health Canada regulations have been followed in the Simcoe case, but Health Canada regulations are lax, she said. “Our guidelines aren’t there to protect us from prolonged exposure, they’re there to protect flesh from heating up in the microwave,” she said. “They’re based on dead meat, not living people.” Regulations and research are lacking because it is a highly political issue with money and modern conveniences at stake. “A lot needs to be done,” she said.

* * * *

Health Canada has reviewed and re-reviewed its regulation, which is Safety Code 6. In 1996, The Royal Society Panel looked hard at it, then updated its findings in 2001. The conclusion is the same – when it comes to knowing for sure the health affects, there is no conclusion. Simcoe councillor Peter Black will chair Tuesday’s meeting. He does not fault staff or the health department, and will keep an open mind. “The health department has to rely on the factual scientific evidence out there,” he said. “Our authority says we are within regulatory standards. I guess it’s up to us as councillors to look at the anecdotal evidence and see if that’s enough to employ the precautionary principle.” Representatives from Rogers and the health unit were not available yesterday. Rogers confirmed that a representative will be at Tuesday’s meeting.

Samantha Craggs
(519) 426-5710 ext. 136
scraggs@bowesnet.com

© 2006 Simcoe Reformer

//www.simcoereformer.ca/story.php?id=234062


Informant: Martin Weatherall



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