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Critics argue against proposed Aldergrove cell tower

Jane Deglint (far left), Petrina Arnason and Patricia Tallman all believe a new cell tower proposed to be built on 240 Street near 58A Avenue will have negative effects on the surrounding ecosystem, including the Salmon River that runs through the area.  - Miranda Gathercole/Langley Times
Jane Deglint (far left), Petrina Arnason and Patricia Tallman all believe a new cell tower proposed to be built on 240 Street near 58A Avenue will have negative effects on the surrounding ecosystem, including the Salmon River that runs through the area.
— image credit: Miranda Gathercole/Langley Times

Cell towers do not belong near wildlife-rich areas, say three concerned Langley residents.

Petrina Arnason, Patricia Tallman and Jane Deglint believe the environmental impacts of a new cell tower proposed for Aldergrove are too severe for it to be built.

Cascadia Tower has put forward a plan to build a new cell tower on a private property on 240 Street near 58A Avenue that backs onto a large ravine where the Salmon River runs.

Although not recognized by Health Canada, the three residents say there are many studies that show the radio frequency (RF) energy emitted by cell towers harms animals and humans.

Tallman, a former instructor of civil and environmental engineering at McMaster University and an environmental/animal rights activist, believes it is the smaller organisms in that ecological area that will be impacted most.

“They’ve noticed deformities in frogs, birds mating behaviours are disrupted and their eggs are damaged. It’s affecting their DNA and also weakens their immune system. With bees they have found that if they put cell phones in the bee hives they lose their navigational skills and can’t find their way back,” she said.

Tallman points to a recent study directed by Dr. Asad Rahmani for the Ministry of Environment and Forests in India titled “Reports on Possible Impacts of Communication Towers on Wildlife including Birds and Bees.”

According to this report, reliable bio-indicators such as birds, bees and amphibians have all shown negative effects from the energy given off by cell towers.

“Electromagnetic radiation can exert an aversive behavioural response in rats, bats and birds such as sparrows. Therefore, microwave and radiofrequency pollution constitutes a potential cause for the decline of animal populations and deterioration of health of plants living near phone masts,” the report states.

The number of Canadians using cellphones has dramatically increased over the past 15 years, from 100,000 users in 1987 to 24 million in 2010. Cell phone providers are now facing the challenge of building new towers to keep up with the increasing consumer demand for wireless services.

When it comes to human impacts, Health Canada says the rate of RF energy emitted from the towers is too low to have negative effects on human health.

The radiofrequncy fields emitted from cell phones and cell phone towers is non-ionizing radiation, similar to AM/FM radio and TV broadcast signals. This type of energy cannot break chemical bonds in human bodies, unlike ionizing radiation which is given off by X-ray machines.

According to a statement on the Health Canada website: “Health concerns are sometimes expressed by people who live or work near cellphone tower antennas located on towers, poles, water tanks or rooftops. Yet, the consensus of the scientific community is that RF energy from cell phone towers is too low to cause adverse health effects in humans. In fact, RF exposures from cellphone towers are typically well below Health Canada’s exposure standards.”

But for Tallman, Arnason and Deglint, it is the smaller animals they fear are at the greatest risk.

“Health Canada is only concerned with the thermal impacts of the electromagnetic radiation (EMR) on humans. We’re much bigger, so we are not going to see the impacts,” Tallman said.

“But what they are finding is that it is non-thermal effects that are causing destruction to the DNA of biological organisms. And of course these non-thermal effects are occurring at lower frequencies. So Health Canada does not recognize that because they only look at thermal effects on humans. All these things are happening at much lower frequencies so smaller mammals are not on their radar,” Tallman said.

“It’s like a canary in a mine,” said Arnason, daughter of former Township councillor Muriel Arnason.

“I think this is something that is really getting to a critical point because more and more people have smart phones and all these new devices. The more you encourage urbanization, the more demand it is going to bring. And if you are looking towards how to service your customers, policy needs to be there.”

A public hearing will be held before any final decisions on the project are made.

“Our focus is to bring awareness that there is a cellphone tower that is going to be put in the middle of a very rich ecosystem,”  Tallman said.

“This is a gem. It’s unthinkable to put something here like that. Look at this place.”

More information on the project is available at http://cascadiatower.com/site-list.

For more on cellphone towers visit the Health Canada website.

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