#487: Cellphone tower moved because of illness complaints
From Sue Fusco (Canada)
Simcoe cellphone tower to be moved; Neighbours complaint of illness
Wednesday, June 07, 2006 – 01:00
Local News – Norfolk councillors have decided to get rid of a cellphone tower in the centre of Simcoe that residents say is a health risk.
After hearing from more than 20 people in an often emotional five-hour debate Tuesday, council voted to move recently installed Rogers Wireless Inc. antennae on the Simcoe water tower – even though it could cost the county an estimated $300,000.
“I’m proud to be a resident of Norfolk County,” said Dan Currie, who first raised the issue in February, shortly after the antennae were installed.
“Council was receptive and concerned about the welfare of its citizens,” said Currie, who has been unable to live in his century home on Union Street because of symptoms such as nausea, headaches, fatigue and dizziness that he says are caused by the cell tower.
“I was fine before the antennae went up and I’m fine when I’m not at home,” he told council.
Students in the senior law class at Simcoe Composite School did a survey of residents in the area – which is close to Elgin Avenue School and Norfolk General Hospital – and discovered several more residents with similar symptoms.
To date, 17 people have reported recurring illnesses since the cell tower was installed.
Staff said there’s no conclusive evidence linking radio frequency waves with illness. And they noted that the cell tower meets federal health and safety regulations in regard to exposure levels.
But Mayor Rita Kalmbach said she’d rather err on the side of caution when it comes to people’s health.
“When I hear people say they only get sick at home, when they’re close to the tower, I have to believe there’s something to this,” she said.
“I believe we have to do what is right and good. But it is going to cost all the people of Norfolk County considerable money.”
Just how much money isn’t clear. When Kalmbach asked a Rogers representative about the possibility of getting out of the lease before the March 31, 2008, expiry date, Jack Hills said that will be up to the company’s lawyers to decide.
He was also non-committal about the possibility that Rogers might voluntarily move its cell tower to another site.
“It’s not our policy,” he said, adding that the tower is operating within guidelines set by Health Canada and Industry Canada.
“The alleged fear can be mitigated by the guidelines.”
Hills also noted that Rogers has many other telecommunications towers that are close to hospitals and schools. Some, in fact, are on top of schools.
However, Magna Havas, an environmental scientist at Trent University, told council that Canada’s guidelines aren’t as stringent as those in other countries. She cited studies that show an increased risk of cancer, as well as symptoms such as headaches, insomnia and nausea, when people live within 400 metres of a cell tower.
“I think there’s enough evidence to cause a concern. I recommend not allowing antennae within 400 metres of schools, homes or buildings where people work.”
Havas said she is particularly concerned about the risk to students at Elgin because children are more vulnerable to developing cancer than adults.
Council directed staff to begin negotiating a way out of the lease agreement as soon as possible. County manager Bill Allcock said that process will begin this week but he’s not sure how long it will take before the cell tower finds a new home – or what the cost will be to taxpayers. He said Rogers will have to find an alternate location before the antennae can be removed.
Coun. Roger Geysens voted in favour of moving the cell tower but he warned that this might be the start of similar requests from other county residents who live near cell towers.
“I certainly don’t want to put children at risk but there’s not very many places in Norfolk County where you’re not gong to be within 400 metres of some residents.
“I think we’re asking for some very difficult times.”