The price of progress?

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Mahoney

There’s al­ways some­thing. Ev­ery form of progress has a price, ev­i­dently. Thus, in­evitably, the prom­ise of faster In­ter­net and im­proved cell phone cov­er­age in the Far East of On­tario is tem­pered by the po­ten­tial health prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with elec­tronic de­vices.

“5G in­stal­la­tion with no in­formed con­sent: Faster Wi-Fi but with im­pli­ca­tions for the health of plants, live­stock, insects and peo­ple” is the ti­tle of a talk Dr. Magda Havas, a pro­fes­sor at Peter­bor­ough’s Trent Univer­sity, will give at an in­for­ma­tion ses­sion to be held Au­gust 6 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Char-Lan Re­cre­ation Cen­tre in Wil­liamstown.

The meet­ing is or­ga­nized by Mart­in­town busi­ness­woman Kath­leen Szirtes who notes that cer­tain peo­ple are af­fected by In­ter­net tower sig­nals and in­stal­la­tions can have ad­verse im­pacts on prop­erty val­ues.

Be­fore you roll your eyes at what seems to be just an­other “Not In My Back Yard” whine, try to keep an open mind.

On her bio page on the Trent web page, Dr. Havas says, “My re­search deals with the health ef­fects of non-ion­iz­ing elec­tro­mag­netic en­ergy at the ex­tremely low fre­quency range as­so­ci­ated with elec­tric­ity (60 Hertz) and at the ra­dio fre­quency range com­monly as­so­ci­ated with wire­less telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

Not­ing that since chil­dren are more sensitive than adults to the po­ten­tially harm­ful ef­fects of EMFs, “I have been try­ing to en­cour­age school boards to mea­sure mag­netic fields within their schools as part of their health and safety pro­gram. I also pro­vide in­for­ma­tion to peo­ple who are con­cerned about an­ten­nas, power lines or transforme­rs be­ing built near their res­i­dence and am cur­rently try­ing to help with a Pri­vate Mem­ber's Mo­tion that will es­tab­lish guide­lines and stan­dards that re

flect re­cent sci­en­tific stud­ies and will truly pro­tect pub­lic health.”

On the other hand, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion ob­serves that, “Con­sid­er­ing the very low exposure lev­els and re­search re­sults col­lected to date, there is no con­vinc­ing sci­en­tific ev­i­dence that the weak RF sig­nals from base sta­tions and wire­less net­works cause ad­verse health ef­fects.”

Some of these fears are fanned by bo­gus “sci­ence.” The WHO points out, “Some peo­ple per­ceive risks from ra­diofre­quency exposure as likely and even pos­si­bly se­vere. Sev­eral rea­sons for pub­lic fear in­clude me­dia an­nounce­ments of new and un­con­firmed sci­en­tific stud­ies, lead­ing to a feel­ing of un­cer­tainty and a per­cep­tion that there may be un­known or undis­cov­ered haz­ards.”

Other fac­tors are “aes­thetic con­cerns and a feel­ing of a lack of con­trol or in­put to the process of de­ter­min­ing the lo­ca­tion of new base sta­tions.”

Ed­u­ca­tion and ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tions and involvemen­t of the pub­lic and other stake­hold­ers at ap­pro­pri­ate stages of the de­ci­sion process be­fore in­stalling RF sources can en­hance pub­lic con­fi­dence and ac­cept­abil­ity, the WHO says.

As long as they are not close to any homes, new com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­stal­la­tions would be easy to sell in a re­gion that has lagged be­hind ur­ban cen­tres for decades when it comes to ser­vices.

But it is never a bad idea to be vig­i­lant and to ob­tain as much in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble on any is­sue that in­volves our health. Besides, no knowl­edge is ever wasted.

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