At any one time, billions of cells in a human body are replicating, each one creating a new strand of DNA, each one obeying a message transmitted with the help of an electrical impulse.
This is how our bodies renew and repair themselves. It’s when the replicating gets off track that cancers form, babies are born with genital deformities, and behavioural problems can develop.
One of today’s big questions is: Can these electrical impulses be thrown off track by electromagnetic interference?
The electromagnetic spectrum contains everything from nuclear and X-ray radiation down to the electromagnetic fields generated by household appliances. It includes ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light, and it also contains a group of radio frequencies emanating from radar, microwave ovens, household radios, and cell phone transmissions.
The City of Toronto Board of Health has become increasingly concerned about cell phone transmissions. There are thousands of transmitter antennas in the city, each of which can send radio frequencies 10 to 20 kilometres.
Since they transmit non-stop, Torontonians are being bombarded on every side by their frequencies, day and night. And that’s in addition to the electromagnetic impulses they receive from household appliances, power lines, computers, fluorescent lights, and power equipment.
There’s no proof positive that cell phone radio frequencies cause health problems, but neither is there proof positive that they don’t. However, there are enough warning signs that the Board of Health wants to lower by 100 times the permissible level of exposure. It calls this a « prudent avoidance policy.’’
The board acknowledges that Toronto has no power to regulate cell phone transmissions. Jurisdiction lies solely with Industry Canada. However, two years ago the board recommended that the city’s Telecommunications Steering Committee negotiate with Industry Canada and cell phone companies to set a standard for exposure 100 times lower than the current regulation.
Here are some of the warning signs that concern the board:
• It has long been established that brain wave patterns are altered by low-frequency electromagnetic fields.
• Melatonin governs the level of estrogen in humans. Melatonin’s production, in turn, is determined by exposure to light frequencies. However, it can also be reduced by electromagnetic frequencies inside homes. This raises the possibility that estrogen-sensitive breast cancer might be stimulated by electromagnetic interference, since estrogen rises when melatonin falls.
• At an international conference on cell phone transmissions a year ago in Austria, 19 of 21 members of a panel of experts in public health and research declared that, « There is no threshold below which there are no effects of radio frequencies on human health.’’
• The flow of calcium, potassium, and sodium ions through cell membranes is important for various cell functions and for the transmission of messages. Yet low-frequency electromagnetic fields can change the rate at which calcium moves in and out of cells.
• Radio frequency therapy has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for chronic psycho-physiological insomnia. The Royal Society of Canada, in a review of Canadian regulations, says this therapy provides strong evidence that radio frequencies below permissible levels can have a biological impact.
If you want more information, visit www.city.toronto.on.ca/health. Choose the a-z index item and click on « e’’ to get « environment.’’ Then follow the links to « publications’’ and then to « radiation.’’
The board claims that lowering the exposure limit by 100 times would create no difficulties because on-the-ground exposures are more than 100 times lower than existing limits. However, Industry Canada said it wanted to check actual exposure rates before entering any discussions.
That was a year and a half ago, and Industry Canada has still not come back to the table with data. It has been dragging its feet — and in the meantime, more cell phone transmission antennas have gone up, and plans are afoot to add more powerful transmissions that will extend radio frequencies well beyond the existing 10-to-20 kilometre reach.
Torontonians have a right to be outraged by the delay.
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