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A time for tinfoil hats

At the risk of sounding like a lunatic, sometimes you have to listen to the tinfoil hat crowd. Sometimes conspiracy theories are just theories — insane, irrational theories — and sometimes there’s a real conspiracy.

At the risk of sounding like a lunatic, sometimes you have to listen to the tinfoil hat crowd. Sometimes conspiracy theories are just theories — insane, irrational theories — and sometimes there’s a real conspiracy.

Governments and corporations have lied to us in the past, and are probably lying to us about all kinds of things right now. Of course, at that level they’re not called “lies”, but “spin” — a report could find that a chemical causes every single disease but cancer, and the headline will be “Study proves no link between chemical X and cancer.”

I digress, but that’s what we tinfoil hat-wearers do.

In recent years, a growing number of people are protesting the installation of cell phone towers and other wireless transmitters on the basis that being subjected to high levels of electromagnetic energy poses a risk to our health and development. Some residents in Ontario and British Columbia are attempting to block the installation of new cell towers in their communities, as well as residents in California (tinfoil hat central), New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois and North Dakota. It’s already a major issue in Europe.

According to reporter Stan Cox of Alternet, this is just the beginning. A growing number of studies have found a connection between exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and childhood leukemia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), breast cancer, brain cancer, immune-system dysfunction, and low sperm counts. One trio of epidemiologists hired by the state of California to investigate EMFs found that they were “inclined to believe that EMFs can cause some degree of increased risk of childhood leukemia, adult brain cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease and miscarriage.” They also raised the possibility of increased risk of adult leukemia and, strangely, suicide.

Other studies have found short-term effects like thyroid gland malfunctioning and even developmental brain damage in rats that were exposed to EMFs at the age equivalent of human teenagers.

According to several studies, proximity matters — the closer you live or work to a tower, the more likely you are to become ill. Many school districts have already banned the installation of towers on school buildings, based on the limited amount of evidence collected to date. If you use a cell phone, you’re constantly poking your head into an EM field.

Last year at the International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety in Italy, 42 scientists from 16 countries signed a resolution arguing for much stricter regulations for EM fields created by wireless communication.

So why isn’t this news? Why aren’t people burning their cell phones in public square and attacking cell towers with torches and pitchforks?

This is where the tinfoil hat comes in. The telecommunications industry has funded several studies that found little or no impact from EMFs, and industry gets more respect from government and the media than a tinfoil hat.

But how can you expect the industry to be objective when literally billions of dollars have been invested and trillions of dollars are at stake?

According to Cox, an article in Environmental Health Perspectives gets to the root of the problem. After reviewing the titles of hundreds of EMF studies, they found that most industry-funded studies are either negative or neutral, meaning that exposure has no effect, little effect, or no proven effect on health. None of the titles were positive, suggesting there is a correlation between various illnesses and EMFs.

Looking at it from the other side, about 46 per cent of papers published by public or non-profit groups have positive titles that suggest a correlation between EMFs and health issues, compared to just 18 per cent negative titles.

Published studies on the possible impact on DNA from communication-frequency EM fields show a similar pattern. Only three out of 35 studies published by the telecommunications industry and military found any effect, compared to 32 out of 37 publicly funded studies.

Cox’s article didn’t mention it, but another study published this year suggested that EMFs may be responsible for the widespread death of bee colonies, vital for pollinating the world’s crops. The study suggested that the fields interfered with worker bees’ innate homing mechanism, and as a result they were unable to find their way home with the nectar they collected. Ergo, the other bees starve.

It takes a long time for health issues to manifest themselves — we used DDT for 50 years — and cell towers are still relatively new at the density of coverage that we’re seeing today. Whistler already has several cell towers, huge wireless zones in the village and in buildings and hotels, and coverage is only going to increase as the Olympics approach.

Should we be having a serious local conversation about EMFs? Or do I need to get my tinfoil hat?


Website of the Week

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