Protesters Say Cell Towers Harmful

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It’s become a common refrain among critics in Southwestern Ontario: stretching higher than city skyscrapers, the towers are blights on the landscape and health hazards to nearby residents.

Only, this time, the targets aren’t giant wind turbines but cellphone towers.

On Monday, a group of Grand Bend-area residents appealed to Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MP Bev Shipley for a moratorium on cell towers — two of which are set to be built in that area.

Opponents of wind turbines want them stopped until Health Canada finishes a health study next year. There’s no similar study on cell towers; Health Canada calls them safe.

Skeptics include Melissa Chambers, who lives near Port Franks, and others who have signed a petition calling for a tower-free “sanctuary.”

“I have become electro-sensitive,” said Chambers, a commercial airline pilot who flew around the world until her illness became debilitating in March.

Now her world is limited mostly to cell-free areas around her home — a result, she says, of an extreme reaction to cellphone radiation.

Chalmers fled London for Port Franks after a specialist in Toronto diagnosed her vertigo, nausea, tinnitus and memory loss as an over-­sensitivity to those waves.

She says she can feel it through her skin when she is around cellphones, cell towers, WiFi hotspots and cordless phones.

“It feels like a rippling, prickling sensation.”

Low-level radio-frequency fields emitted by cellphones and cell towers are similar to those emitted by AM/FM radios and televisions, Health Canada says.

Shipley said Industry Canada and Health Canada regulations govern the safety of phone towers and, unless compelling evidence comes forward, he’s content with the rules as they stand.

But even the demonstration couldn’t change the use of cellphones.

Protester Arthur Lake of Southcott Pines said cellphone radiation contributed to his wife’s death from a brain tumour. Nonetheless, he continues to use one and carry it on his hip.

Residents are critical of the process that has enabled Bell Canada to build a bigger cell tower near a playground and homes in the Southcott Pines subdivision of Grand Bend. Another tower is planned for Port Franks.

The group gave Shipley a sheaf of papers with studies they say prove the harm cell towers can pose. They have also carpeted the community with flyers and a petition.

Laureen Maurizio, an organizer of the protest, said, “We want to choose what we live around.”

Canadians in 2010 were packing 24 million cellphones and there’s no sign of stopping.

Chalmers admitted that halting all tower construction could result in “a lot of pushback . . . There are a lot of people that don’t want to believe it because they want their devices.”

A spokesperson for Bell Canada couldn’t be reached for comment. In the past, the company has said its towers are safe and meet Industry Canada standards.

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