Wireless Battles Radiate Across Canada

In my final update, I just wanted to point out some of the conflicts between the public and technology that have ensued since the Simcoe County, Ontario, as well as discuss a couple of studies that did not get a lot of attention but were interesting, none the less.

WiFi and Cell Phone Towers

Since the release of the report from HESA last fall, CASS has been approached by branch leaders and members to supply our brief on cell phones and WiFi to a few communities who were approached by public groups to block or change plans for the deployment of various telecom equipment.  The first request came from Melanie and Dennis Stoiber, who created the SkepParents.org blog, out in Maple Ridge B.C.

Maple Ridge, located in the Lower Mainland of B.C., east of Port Coquitlam and Burnaby, was the site for local NDP MLA Michael Sather’s public form on WiFi, held on March 9th.  Thanks to the Stoibers, CFI Vancouver, CASS and others were able to represent science and reason at the forum, which was heavily populated by those promoting the unfounded “dangers” of wireless technology, like that twit Curtis Bennet.

The response to the skeptics at the meaning was telling, as detailed by Westcoast Guy in the comments the Levitt and Lai post, here.  When they cannot represent the science properly, they resort to ad hominem attacks, something not unfamiliar to readers of Skeptic North.

Thankfully, wireless tech in the schools in Maple Ridge was not removed, the school board citing Health Canada’s Saftey Code 6 as the proper source for guidance on their telecom installations.

This has not stopped attempts down the road from Maple Ridge, in Port Coquitlam, from succeeding.  Local residents as well as the Port Coquitlam school board opposed the placement of new cell phone towers near an elementary school and managed to put enough pressure to have the tower placement reconsidered by Rogers Communications Inc.   Similar efforts are also happening in Surrey B.C., just down the road, and I expect similar events will result.

The Orillia City Council was approached by a similar group wanting to halt the installation of WiFi networks in a new library being built there.  We submitted a brief to them but have not heard back.

Finally, a group in Havas’s home town is opposing efforts there to limit WiFi distribution in Peterborough and surrounding communities by the school board. We were informed that not only are IT professionals part of the opposition group, but it also involves colleagues of Prof. Havas from Trent University who are fed up with her non-scientific and fear-based antics (source for this is all personal communications).

These and other efforts across Canada are part of a growing mis-informed movement of such groups like stayonthetruth.com, the Wireless Radiation Safety Council and citizensforsafetechnology.org . The commonality between all of them is a severe mis-trust of governmental health policy and a collection of anecdotal stories detailing various symptoms misattributed to wireless and cell phone technology.  There are no organised efforts to counter these groups in most places, and it does not take much cajoling to get 500 people to sign a petition to oppose the building of a cell tower in a community (who here has not vilified Rogers, Bell, or Telus at some point, really; not that difficult to hate.) Along the same line, efforts to oppose Smart Meters, which use wireless technology to communicate energy usage back to the utility, are being opposed by these groups as well.

Skeptics and wireless professionals concerned that the hysteria is unfounded have tried various measures to confront these groups but they are well supported and have fear on their side.  If you need support in your own jurisdiction to represent the science, let us at CASS or your local CFI branch know, and we will provide you with scientific and well-reasoned arguments you can present to your own local city council or school board.  Science does not seem to be winning the battle in Canada, and it will take a diversity of reasonable voices to stand up to this mis-representation and pseudo-scientific fear-mongering.

New Science

Back in April, hot on the heals of the Volkow et al paper I reviewed here, was this obscure paper published in arXiv, from a theoretical biologist from Los Alamos National Laboratory in the U.S.. As reported here in April, the paper tries to link photon stacking as a cause of altering chemical bonds in a molecule within the cell.  Bill Bruno, the study’s author, equated such interactions with an optical tweezer, a fascinating device used to manipulate very small objects through radiation pressure of the photons.

Bernard Leikind, who has a PhD in physics and who authored these articles on cell phone dangers, used the above link to the Standford site on optical tweezers to illustrate the absurdity of Bruno’s assertion about cell phones (personal communication April 2011):

First look at the paragraph Modern Optical Tweezers that is between Fig. 2 and Fig. 3. You will notice that it is hard and requires great technical and scientific skill to create these effects. Put another way, optical tweezers are nothing like the radiation from a cell phone or a WiFi unit, (except that both are forms of electromagnetic energy).

Next look at and study Fig. 1 and the explanation. Everything in this figure has to do with the relative size of the illuminating radiation, the distance over which the intensity of the radiation varies, and the size of the object that they plan to move. (In the first paragraph, “forces in the pN-range” refers to pico-Newtons. A “pico” anything is 10-12 of it. If you hold a 1 kg mass, keeping it from falling, you exert about 10 Newtons upward. So a pico-Newton is a tiny force, but researchers are moving tiny objects too. A nm is a nanometer, 10-9 meters.) They are talking about infrared radiation. The wavelength is around 1000 nm = 1 micron. The wavelength of cell phone (or WiFi) radiation is around 10 cm = 100 mm = 100,000 microns = 100,000,000 nm. One hundred million nanometers is bigger than one thousand nanometers. Cell phone radiation or WiFi, even if it were coherent as in a laser, could not be focused to a tiny enough spot or to produce a change of intensity over a small enough region to produce a relevant force on any molecule or other cell-sized object.

It is pretty clear: getting the photons from the cell phone all to stack up coherently on that one chemical bond is nearly impossible and as such this idea will remain theoretical and implausible.  It is important to note that no one has ever shown microwave radiation from cell phones to be a cause of cancer and the evidence for DNA damage is slim to none, as outlined by Lorne Trottier in this recent review of the studies to date, on his site www.emfandhealth.com.

Recently, SciCurious from the Neurotic Physiology blog reviewed this study about cell phones and sperm, and the large flaws in the study, and this study about bees and cell phones.  I will not go on about these two studies as she has done a fabulous job of reviewing them.  The bee study showed a possible effect of cell phones on bees, and SciCurious originally accepted the study as a good science that suggested a possible cause to collony-collapse disorder. In science, opinion rarely stays put and later that week something amazing happened: Sci changed her mind!

Of course, this is how science works, we follow the evidence and revise our opinion based on new data, and that is just what Sci did.  She spoke with the experts, looked at the data in its entirety and came to a different conclusion:  CCD is probably not caused by cell phones.  It is too bad those cherry picking the science to prove their own point are unaware of this fact.

Conclusion

This is just a short piece today; a sort of clean-up of all of the things on my desktop.  No doubt there will be more vitriol posted on this site about us “skeptos” and our immovable opinions and my attempts to call EHS “psycho-somatic” (which I did not.)  Let them post it, and other more rational readers will no doubt counter these ramblings with their own reasoned opinion.  I will leave this topic for a while but we at CASS will continue to be a resource to those endeavoring to counter bad science and dubious claims in the public form.

bee photo by Severnsjc and used under Wikipedia Commons licence

 

10 Responses to “Wireless Battles Radiate Across Canada”

  1. Bryan says:

    Nice post. I did not know laser tweezers were being used as an example off how “microwaves” could cause cancer. As someone whose used laser tweezers in my own research I find that incredibly humorous. We use IR laser largely because they do not interact in harmful ways with the cells we are experimenting on. I can position particles, even tug on cells, with our tweezers setup – all without any chemical/radiation damage to the cell itself. They are a cool tool, a real PITA to use, but hardly a source or evidence of cancer-causing microwaves.

    But hey, being off by a factor of 100,000X is more accurate than most of these anti-science get. Maybe we should buy them a congratulatory ribbon, or trophy, or something.

  2. deever says:

    Silly remarks, Bryan; and crummy topical post as usual, Michael.
    I’ll leave the non-incurious with a very good article, from an Australian perspective, on the “science” disaster we face, esp. re RF, http://www.pandora-foundation.eu/downloads/maisch-don_a-machiavellian-spin_2011.pdf . “A Machiavellian Spin:
    Political and corporate involvement with cell phone research in Australia”.

    Michael, I detect some unease in your position of having gotten too close to the likes of Trottier on this. I’d like to see your, NDP-er’s and all, response to the corporate-centred corruption of your “science” that article speaks to.

    Bye for now.

  3. Art Tricque says:

    Ms. Havas continues to stir the point in Peterborough, with cell phone towers as well: http://www.thepeterboroughexaminer.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3157762 . Her arguments continue to descend in scientific quality. She has started to repeat the mantra that towers should not be sited within a {certain distance in hundreds of metres that varies} of {an appeal to emotion} location like a home, school, nursery, seniors’ home, etc. In the link, Ms. Havas is quoted as saying “within 120 metres of residential areas doesn’t go far enough to protect residents’ health” and “The safe distance is probably in the order of 300 to 400 metres.” Notice how she “knows” the former but only “probably” infers the latter? I’ll make a deal with her. I will install a typical urban cell phone transmitter site 120 metres from house A and a 100,000

  4. Art Tricque says:

    Oops. Continuing on from “…and a 100,000…” watt microwave transmitter with a high-gain focused dish antenna 400 metres from house B. One house can be her own. The other can be that of anyone else of her choosing. They will be randomly assigned as House A and House B. If she agrees to such an experiment, I will believe her that she is sincere in advocating 300 to 400 metre setbacks in residential areas. But I’m not holding my breath. Because both I and she know that distance is nonsense as a regulatory standard. I (along with and every health regulatory agency responsible for EMF standards on the planet) am forthright enough to say so. She — repeatedly, and to an unsuspecting and unschooled-in-the-topic public — is not. Her descent into pseudo-scientific argument madness continues.

  5. Ian says:

    Saw this linked on Reddit. Thanks for making an informative post!

  6. Chris says:

    C’mon, James (aka Art Trique)…aren’t you tired of making lame scientific ‘deals’?! Please refrain from printing all of your slanderous attacks all over the web under various ‘pseudonyms’. People are really getting tired of reading your inane drivel – especially in Peterborough. You can spot it a mile away. Go out and get a real job and quit pretending you actually know something about the biological effects of EMF when you know s**t.

    • Erik Davis says:

      Well at least we’re avoiding slanderous attacks.

    • Michael Kruse says:

      Perhaps “Chris”, you should learn the difference between slander and libel – the former, by definition, is not in print…and you have not shown us that you know anything about the biological effects of EMF either…

      pot, meet kettle.

  7. Mariette says:

    If you read the science by real experts in this field you’d understand the underlying science and the factors that have corrupted research. You would also then have cause for concern rather than ridicule (provided you are of a rational mind). The people who are seriously concerned about this issue have good reason to be so. If you don’t understand this, you should be seeking to understand the basis of their concerns rather than dismissing something because you don’t have the capacity to understand scientific reasoning. You’re doing a diservice to the issue and more importantly to the public. If you wish to exercise skepticism intelligently, you might want to apply it to the issue of why we don’t have biological standards despite the vast amount of evidence supporting the need for them.

    Good day. I assure you, smarter minds than your own have found concern in this issue.

  8. Composer99 says:

    I assure you, smarter minds than your own have found concern in this issue.

    Somehow, I very much doubt this is the case.

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  • Michael Kruse

    Michael is an advanced-care paramedic in York Region, just north of Toronto, Ontario. A semi-retired theatrical lighting designer as well, he re-trained in 2005 as an EMT-PS at the University of Iowa and as an ACP at Durham College, and is currently working towards a B.Sc at the University of Toronto. Michael is a founder and the chair of the board of directors of Bad Science Watch. He is also the recipient of the first annual Barry Beyerstein Award for Skepticism. Follow Michael on twitter @anxiousmedic. Michael's musings are his own and do not necessarily represent those of his employer or Bad Science Watch.