Toronto Cell Tower Meeting, Feb 7, 2000 (Havas)


9 February 2000

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 20:03:47 -0600 (CST)
From: "Roy L. Beavers" <>
To: emfguru <>
Subject: Toronto Cell Tower Meeting, Feb 7, 2000

........Many thanks to Dr. Havas for this thorough and (looks to me like) objective report......

I hope you will carefully read all the way down..... Guru offers some observations at the end of the report.....


Roy Beavers (EMFguru)

It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness

People are more important than profits!!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2000 17:09:57 -0400
From: Magda Havas <>
Subject: Toronto Cell Tower Meeting, Feb 7, 2000


Here is my recollection of the meeting in Toronto organized by Toronto Public Health, Feb. 7, 2000.  I am working from memory since I did not take extensive notes  so if I misrepresented anyone by my comments I apologize. Other people on your EMF list also attended the meeting and I would encourage them to share their assessment of what happened and their reaction to the meeting.

There were five speakers, Dr. Robert Bradley (Health Canada), Ms. Mary McBride (representing the Royal Society of Canada), Dr. Henry Lai (Washington State University), Dr. Magda Havas (Trent University), Mr. Ronald Macfarlane (Toronto Public Health).

Dr. Sheela Basrur, Medical Officer of Health, introduced the meeting and the reason for having it, which related to Toronto Public Health recommending a 100 fold greater safety factor than the federal standard as stated by Safety Code 6 for siting of cell phone towers and antennas.  Much of what she said was in the information flyer about the meeting and I've reproduced it below:

In 1998, City Council requested that the Medical Officer of Health consider the adoption of a prudent avoidance policy on the siting of cell phone towers.  This request was prompted by reports of potential health effects of the radio frequency emissions from cell phone towers.

In December 1999, the Board of Health gave their support to a prudent avoidance policy which recommended that the levels of radio frequencies from cell phone towers in the City of Toronto be kept 100 times below the Canadian federal guidelines. The Board of Health asked the Telecommunications Steering Committee to incorporate this policy of prudent avoidance in the proposed Planning Protocol for the siting of cell towers.

The Telecommunications Steering Committee set up a working group to develop a protocol in collaboration with industry and citizens, and to report to the Committee in May 2000. This protocol will set the guidelines that determine where cell phone towers can be situated within the City and still meet the radio frequency emission levels as set out in the prudent avoidance policy.  The working group will forward the protocol to the Policy and Finance Committee and City Council for their consideration.

At its meeting in October, the Telecommunications Steering Committee requested that Toronto Public Health invite experts to provide information to the Committee on the health impact of cell phone towers.  The February 7th panel discussion will provide councillors and the public an opportunity to:

Understand better the uncertainty that exists on the potential impact of low levels of radio frequency emissions from cell phone towers, and Discuss the appropriate response to this uncertainty.


Introduction: Dr. Sheela Basrur, Medical Officer of Health

Panel presentations:

Dr. R. Bradley, Health Canada
Ms. Mary McBride, Member of the Royal Society of
Canada Expert Panel
Dr H. Lai, University of Washington
Dr. M. Havas, Trent University
Mr. R. Macfarlane, Toronto Public Health

Question Period

Closing Remarks: Councillor John Adams

For more information, please contact:
Ronald Macfarlane, Research Consultant
Health Promotion and Environmental Protection
Toronto Public Health
Tel: (416) 392 1560 ext. 87012
Fax: (416) 393 7418

Panel Presentation (my notes):


Dr. Bradley maintained that Safety Code 6 (SC 6) with 1 mW/cm2 and SAR of 0.08 W/kg for public exposure is "safe".  He acknowledged that this was based on thermal effects.   His Department is following developments and will update standards "up or down" based on the evidence. He welcomed the report by the Royal Society of Canada.  One area that Health Canada is investigating are effects on eyes in occupational settings, which was recommended by the Royal Society.  He also stated epidemiological studies were necessary.  He was asked some tough questions by well informed members of the audience about prudent avoidance and the ethics of epidemiological testing (which suggests that the public becomes the test organism).


Ms. Mary McBride read out the conclusions of the Royal Society stating that SC 6 was adequate and that more research was needed in selected areas.  One of these areas was epidemiology (her area of specialization), another was thermal effects on eyes.  She agreed that non-thermal biological effects have been documented but pointed out that "biological effects are not the same as health effects."  Dr. Bradley repeated this as well during questioning.  She also stated that what we needed were studies showing a strong "causal" information rather than just an "association".  She didn't bother to point out that epidemiological studies (which she advocated) may demonstrate "association" but don't demonstrate "causation".  Other types of research are needed for this.

She questioned the none-linearity of responses (i.e. no obvious dose/response relationship for some tests) and stated that a large number of studies were negative.  This concept of dose/response was challenged by both Drs. Lai and Havas and by a member of the audience.  Dr. Allan Frey thinks the classical toxicology model may not be appropriate for EMFs and that the analogy of a radio  (that elicits a response only when it is tuned to a specific frequencies and intensity) may be a more appropriate model for electromagnetic bioeffects.  Dr. Lai commented that many biological activities don't follow a linear dose/response model and that was not a good reason to reject the experiments.


Dr. Lai talked about his research and those of others looking at cellular level biological responses, including DNA damage at low intensity exposure. He was questioned about the appropriateness of studies with mice & rats and the difficult extrapolating to humans and was asked to explain SAR (specific absorption rate).

He was particularly effective at answering  questions about the results and their interpretation and about the way science is done.  He used the analogy of scientists piecing together parts of a jigsaw puzzle.  He differentiated between reproducibility and robustness of experiments and stated that  "reproducibility" was possible only in the same lab with the same equipment under identical conditions and this was next to impossible to achieve in other labs using different frequencies, and different protocol.  It is difficult getting funding to repeat some one else's experiments.   Instead of reproducibility what we should be focusing on is "robustness". Are the results, of different experiments, with different organisms pointing in the same direction and presenting the same story? In response to a question he stated that he would not live within 100 m of a cell tower with multiple antennas.


Dr. Havas talked about the differences between standards, limits and guidelines [standards and limits are enforceable while guidelines are not]. She presented some examples of the conflicts regarding siting of cell phones and how local councils are dealing with this issue globally (Vancouver, Chicago, NY, California, Latvia, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the UK).  She presented weaknesses of the Toronto Public Health Report (i.e.  that industry should NOT be doing the monitoring and that areas "other than those where people are concerned" should also be monitored). She presented some of the biological effects that have been documented well below safety code 6 for both exposure and absorption (SAR) and stated that Health Canada was NOT doing enough to protect public safety against radio frequency radiation.  She summarized the difficulties in setting standards but noted that standards set in the 1970s in the former USSR, Poland and Czech were much lower than those in either Canada or the United States. Her final conclusion was that siting of cell phone towers was the "tip of the iceberg" and that other sources of radio frequency radiation (TV broadcasting, satellites, radar, medical exposure etc.) had to be looked at very carefully by our regulating bodies.


Ronald Macfarlane gave the rational for Toronto Public Health's Proposal for the 100 fold lower guideline than Safety Code 6. He discussed the process that this proposal will be exposed to and that we could expect a decision by late spring 2000.

Members of the Canadian Wireless Association were represented in the audience as were members of various other stakeholders and interest groups.

I think all of the Panelists presented their perspective sincerely.  They were exposed to much of the same information, so it wasn't as though someone had some earth shattering result that was novel and not previously published.  Basically panelists differed in their interpretation of the data.  Using the scattered jigsaw puzzle as the analogy, two panelists (Lai and Havas) believe they can see a picture emerging and two (McBride and Bradley) think that some of the pieces may be part of an unrelated puzzle.

Time will tell.

Dr. Magda Havas
Environmental & Resource Studies,
Trent University,
Peterborough Ontario, K9J 7B8

(705) 748-1232 phone
(705) 748-1569 fax email

Guru Comments:

First point:

It is most discouraging to hear (see) again the identical refrain from the nay-sayers (in this case Bradley and McBride) that has been the theme espoused by the nay-sayers at virtually every EMF "science" forum I have attended since the very first that I attended in the fall of 1993 in Savannah, Georgia....  Namely: that, yes, we ARE finding non-thermal biological effects (in abundance!), but that does not PROVE adverse health consequences......

It is the refrain heard with certain historical predictability from the vested interests -- not only in this EMF scenario -- but, in the lead, asbestos, tobacco, dioxin ... you name it ... health hazard cases as well.....

OF COURSE ... that is a "truism" when STANDING BY ITSELF......  But -- the fact is ... it isn't standing by itself.......!!

To pass judgment, to decide public health policy, on that superficial a rationale alone ... is to ignore ALL the other evidence -- particularly the epidemiological evidence.....!!!

I don't believe the nay-sayers should be allowed to get away with that!!!

When are we going to start demanding that the nay-sayers provide evidence that is something more substantial than that cop out excuse ... if their view is to be allowed to continue to set the "height of the bar" in this EMF debate???

The public deserves a more honest defense of the public's needs than that....

Second point:

I was pleased to see that Dr. Havas raised the entire "Blue World" issue -- though she did not call it that (which is all right) -- when she pointed out that this issue should not be examined merely in terms of one antenna (in a neighborhood) or a few antennas (in a community).  That's but the "tip of an iceberg" she pointed out.....!! What about all the other electromagnetic radiation  that is there in that environment....??

I have always said, I can not get terribly exercised in my OWN rural community about one (or two) cell phone towers in a woods or farmers field well separated from residents -- where that is virtually all the (external) electromagnetic radiation we experience (excepting the power lines and the satellites).....

But, my rural environment is very different than the FOREST of antennas of all kinds and descriptions, plus many other EMF emitting sources, that I see in some urban neighborhoods.....

It's pretty hard to fight ONE single cell phone antenna (IF you can hold them to that!) in a rural environment.  Whereas, in an urban environment, its a  different ball game.  In many urban neighborhoods, you start to measure your exposure intensities from an already much more contaminated "Blue World" of exposure......

Henry Lai was onto this same aspect when he said what he was quoted as saying at the Toronto meeting:  "He would not live within 100 meters of a cell tower with multiple antennas."

I agree with Henry.......  That ought to be a good beginning standard.....


Roy Beavers (EMFguru)
February 9, 2000
Lebanon, Missouri, USA

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