Rachel's Precaution Reporter #75

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, January 31, 2007..........Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

Tony Blair Renews Call for Precaution for Global Warming
  "The fact is, just on the precautionary principle, it'd be sensible
  to act. And the truth is, if we don't act, and in a way that binds the
  main countries in... longterm prospects are bleak at best, and
  potentially disastrous." -- Tony Blair
British Anti-nuke Activists Urge Precaution for Power Plants
  Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, said:
  "No-one can foresee what will happen in the future and, in line with
  the precautionary principle, we should not allow the building of any
  more nuclear power stations on our coast."
California Bans Dirty Power Sources
  California bans purchase of energy from coal-burning power plants,
  taking precautionary action without mentioning precaution. "It
  represents a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to address
  the challenge of climate change," said Michael Peevey, president of
  the Public Utilities Commission.
Part 2: Regulatory Failure in the Great Lakes
  Scientists studying the Great Lakes have recently learned that
  chemicals are taking a far greater toll on humans and wildlife than
  previously realized. But the corporate polluters are organizing to
  maintain business as usual.
Canadian Cities Warned: Watch for Wi-Fi Health Risks
  A conference on municipal wireless networks revives the debate
  around radiation coming out of Wi-Fi hotspots. Experts consider
  whether the industry is ignoring another "inconvenient truth."
Wi-Fi Advocate Ridicules Precautionary Principle
  As the evidence increases linking electromagnetic radiation to
  cancer and other harm, some people in the wireless computer networking
  industry are starting to sound desperate, denying the evidence and
  attacking anyone who advocates a precautionary approach.


From: Associated Press, Jan. 26, 2007
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By John Daniszewski, Associated Press

Davos, Switzerland -- Making his third and last appearance at the
annual World Economic Forum here as Britain's prime minister, Tony
Blair says he has come because it is important for the world to act
collectively to tackle problems -- and he does not mind the criticism
at home.

In an interview with The Associated Press, he highlighted themes he
would like to be remembered for: Africa, climate change and world
trade. And he warned that the world must not shirk from its commitment
to achieve success in Iraq, nor be discouraged by the "terrible
pictures" it sees of violence in the country.

He backed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government in Iraq and
President Bush 's immediate plans to increase troops there. He said he
believes the Iraqi prime minister can meet the benchmarks the United
States has set.

Blair was interviewed fresh from a speech appealing for greater help
for Africa -- a session where his friend and political ally U2
Bono also appeared. Seated in an easy chair, he was chatting with
Microsoft Corp. chairman and co-founder Bill Gates when reporters

His official spokesman had said earlier in the day that Blair's main
goals for the conference were to rally momentum on the long-stalled
Doha round of World Trade Organization talks and seek progress toward
an agreement on a climate stabilization goal ahead of June's Group of
Eight summit in Germany.

In an interview for the GMTV Sunday program on Friday, a Labour former
minister, Frank Dobson, said Blair's influence is on the wane and
there was no point in his going to Davos.

Blair chuckled when he heard about the criticism, and leaned in toward
his questioner.

He missed seeing David Cameron, the youthful British opposition
Conservative leader seeking to oust Blair's Labour Party from office.
Cameron left Davos Friday having attended two sessions. Brown was also
at Davos on Friday, but it was not clear if he and Blair had met.

Blair, who has said he will leave office this year, said that the
world is already in a climate crisis and that he expects progress on
global trade talks. "It'd be a fantastic thing for poor countries, but
also good for us."

"The fact is, just on the precautionary principle, it'd be sensible to
act. And the truth is, if we don't act, and in a way that binds the
main countries in... longterm prospects are bleak at best, and
potentially disastrous."

"The values that underpin all of these issues are the same values,
which are about protecting our environment and justice for people,
making sure that we create a world that is open and free for people to
create the prosperity that they want and that is prepared to work with
each other to take on global challenges. And that is my message really
-- that we work in an interdependent world."

Blair said that the world shares certain values, "and the key thing is
to turn that intent and purpose into action."

On trade talks, Blair said he was cautiously optimistic, because of
the hard work that has been done in the last few weeks in discussions
with Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

"I think we are prepared to move to make the compromises necessary to
get this done in the greater good of all of us," he said.

An agreement on trade would be "fantastic" for the poorest nations, he
said. "But it would also be a great thing for us, for the wealthy
countries, because it would open new markets to our goods and

In Iraq, Blair said the important thing now is to support the Iraqi
government in its fight against the violence, "which is being
perpetrated by a small number of people against the wishes and the
will of the majority."

He disputed that the violence there is a civil war "with blocs of
people fighting each other. This is a small minority... often
bolstered by outside extremists."

"The one thing that was very clear when I was in Iraq before Christmas
was that if you talk to not just Iraqi leaders there, but,
interestingly, talking to my own soldiers and people we have in Iraq,
they will tell you the majority of people there want to live a
peaceful life."

In any case, "What mustn't happen is a situation where as a result of
terrorist activity designed to kill innocent people and the impact
those terrible pictures make, that we lose our determination to stand
up to these people and defeat them."

Asked whether Britain had offered only faint support for Bush's plan
to increase troop strength in and around Baghdad, Blair replied, "No,
we've got a very strong support of what we're doing in Iraq because
it's essential to sustain the government. It is the first democratic
government in Iraq, elected by 12 million people."

Blair would not say what he intends to do when he leaves office. "Do
you think even if I had decided I would tell you? Actually, I am just
getting on with the job as a matter of fact. The thing about this job
is that there are new challenges and new decisions you have to face up
to everyday so it is quite enough to keep you occupied."

His future is "something that will take care of itself in time," he
said. "The thing is to make sure that in the time I am prime minister
that I can get progress on the issues that I am passionate about, of
which Africa, climate change and world trade are three."

-- -- -- --

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From: EADT24, Jan. 26, 2007
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By David Green

British Energy insisted yesterday that the Sizewell nuclear [power
plant] site is defensible against the sea -- despite a Met office
forecast that "surge" levels could rise by 1.7 metres on the Suffolk
coast by the end of the century.

According to an interim report in a study of the impact of climate
change on the UK's nuclear sites, the sea level is likely to rise
higher at Sizewell than at any other site.

However, British Energy said yesterday that the study was a "worst
scenario" and that the situation would continue to be monitored for
Sizewell B and taken into account for any future Sizewell C.

The Met Office findings are based on a range of scenarios, including
continuing high global carbon dioxide emissions, daily average
temperatures 5-6C higher than at present, rainfall increases of 30-35%
in winter (but 40-60% lower in summer) and winds 10% stronger in

The highest predicted increase in sea surge levels in the UK was a 1.7
metre rise at Sizewell while the lowest was a 0.9 metre rise at
Hinkley Point in Somerset.

The findings are the first stage of a study which will now move on to
a further assessment of coastal vulnerability -- by an engineering

David Norfolk, a member of British Energy's strategy team, said the
situation at Sizewell B had been regularly monitored by a multi-agency
"framework" group since consent was given for the power station and
this would continue to be the case.

Mr Norfolk said the impact of global warming on sea level rise would
continue to be assessed and, if necessary, the defences in front of
the nuclear site could be strengthened.

If a Sizewell C was proposed, the sea defence situation would be
assessed at that time but, even under the worst scenario studied by
the Met office, the power station could be designed with sea level
rise in mind and successfully defended.

"We understand the importance of climate change, and we're committed
to environmental responsibility," Mr Norfolk said.

"That is why this study is important in keeping our knowledge of the
potential impacts on our sites fully up to date.

"Although considerable rises in sea level are predicted by the end of
the century in the most severe scenario, a mix of measures including
coastal defences, flood protection and plant design would ensure our
sites are well-protected from the effects of sea level rises."

He added: "We work in consultation with a number of agencies with an
interest in sea defences across the UK to develop a long-term strategy
for these sites that would take us forward into the decommissioning
phase, as well as into potential new build."

Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, said:
"No-one can foresee what will happen in the future and, in line with
the precautionary principle, we should not allow the building of any
more nuclear power stations on our coast."

The full report into the impact of climate change on nuclear sites is
expected to published by British Energy in February.

Copyright 2007 Archant Regional

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From: Associated Press, Jan. 25, 2007
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By Terence Chea

San Francisco (AP) -- California regulators on Thursday banned the
three companies that supply most of the state's power from buying
electricity from high-polluting sources, including most coal-burning

The rules are aimed at reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases
linked to global warming. While there are almost no coal-fired plants
in California, about 20 percent of the state's electricity comes from
coal plants in other Western states.

"It represents a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to
address the challenge of climate change," said Michael Peevey,
president of the Public Utilities Commission.

But the three investor-owned utilities regulated by the commission say
that little of their electricity supply now comes from coal, and that
they support the new emissions standard.

Coal makes up only 1 percent of electricity at Pacific Gas & Electric
Co. in San Francisco, 7 percent at Southern California Edison in
Rosemead and 3 percent at San Diego Gas and Electric, which is owned
by Sempra Energy.

The Public Utilities Commission voted 4-0 to prohibit the utilities
from entering into long-term contracts with sources that emit more
carbon dioxide than a modern natural gas plant.

California's municipal utilities are not regulated by the commission
and will not be directly affected by its decision. Those utilities
supply less of California's power, but a greater share of their
electricity comes from out-of-state coal plants.

The California Energy Commission, which regulates those utilities, is
drawing up similar rules expected to be issued by July.

Municipal utilities in Anaheim, Los Angeles, Pasadena and Truckee ran
into strong opposition when they tried to secure long-term contracts
with out-of-state coal plants before the emissions standard takes

The new standard is aimed at encouraging investment in cleaner energy
sources such as wind and solar, while discouraging the use of coal and
other high-polluting fuels.

Coal is cheap and plentiful but releases high levels of carbon
dioxide, a gas blamed for trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere and
raising temperatures worldwide.

The rule is expected to take effect Feb. 1.

Landmark global warming legislation Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed
into law last year required the commission to adopt emissions
standards for utilities.

Environmentalists praised the decision, saying it could encourage
other states to adopt similar rules.

"Other states may look at it and decide that they also want to
transition from dirty coal power to cleaner, green power," said Jim
Metropulos of the Sierra Club.

Luke Popovich of the Washington-based National Mining Association said
restricting emissions would drive up energy costs and have little
effect on global warming unless other countries adopt similar limits.

"We don't think it makes sense for the United States to unilaterally
deny itself use of its most abundant energy source, which is coal,"
Popovich said.

Copyright The Associated Press

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From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #891, Jan. 25, 2007
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By Peter Montague

Last week we began describing a new report from the International
Joint Commission (IJC) that says regulation of toxic chemicals has
failed in the Great Lakes, and a precautionary approach is needed. The
IJC is the bi-national (U.S.-Canada) governmental body responsible for
water quality in the Great Lakes. Here we continue describing the
IJC's report (6 Mbyte PDF), especially chapter 5 ("Human Health").
[In our text, numbers inside parentheses refer to pages in the IJC
report. Words inside square brackets represent our clarifications or

1. Harm to Great Lakes wildlife is very widespread and fundamental

A 1991 basinwide assessment of the health of herring gulls nesting in
11 colonies representing all five Great Lakes, relative to two
reference colonies outside of the basin, revealed widespread DNA
damage and chronic... inflammation of the liver and... inflammation of
the kidney. (pg. 117)

"Great Lakes gulls suffered from hypothyroidism [insufficient thyroid
hormone] and had enlarged hyperplastic thyroid glands [meaning thyroid
glands with growths or nodules]. These toxipathic responses were most
frequently associated with PCBs.

"Studies of pre-fledgling herring gulls in 1994-1999 in lakes Huron,
Erie, and Ontario revealed marked suppression of T-cell-mediated
immune function and altered antibody production.

"Studies of herring gulls in colonies in the Detroit River, western
Lake Erie and Lake Ontario 2001-2004 revealed that biochemical,
thyroid, and immune effects still persist. In addition, there were
effects on corticosterone secretion and, at some sites, the plasma of
males contained vitellogenin, suggesting they were exposed to
biologically significant concentrations of estrogens. Similar
biochemical effects were seen in male snapping turtles, and thyroid
effects were seen in snapping turtles and fish. Vitellogenin was also
found in the plasma of male fish and snapping turtles. (pg. 117)

Comment: insufficient thyroid hormone is a serious problem for
wildlife, as it is for humans. Thyroid hormone controls an animal's
metabolism, and is crucial in early development of the nervous system.
The immune system of course protects against infectious diseases and
cancers. The presence of vitellogenin in male fish and turtles
indicates that the males are being turned into females by exposure to
the waters of the Great Lakes. Obviously, these are all signs of
widespread serious trouble.

2. Living near a contaminated site can cause human illness and death

In the early 1990s, the IJC identified 43 "areas of concern" (AOCs)
in the Great Lakes. These are harbors or rivers or discharge points
that are severely contaminated. These areas were supposed to be
cleaned up rapidly during the 1990s, but that did not happen.

Now we learn that simply living near one of these areas can make
people sick -- even if they eat no fish from the Great Lakes:

"In 1998, Health Canada [roughly the Canadian equivalent of U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency] reported on retrospective
epidemiological evidence for each of the 17 Canadian AOCs. They used
mortality, hospital admissions/separations, and cancer data for
1986-1992 to calculate morbidity, mortality, and incidence rates. The
data suggested that there was increased morbidity and mortality for a
variety of health effects associated with residence in these AOCs
relative to the Province of Ontario as a whole. Also, residence in a
particular location was found to adversely affect health independent
of whether Great Lakes fish is consumed." (pg. 120)

"The Health Canada studies for the various Canadian AOCs found
increased incidence of genital-tract disorders, thyroid disease,
diabetes, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease, and asthma." (pg. 120)

"These findings led investigators at the Institute for Health and the
Environment at the University of Albany to test a series of hypotheses
based on the assumption that these health end points are associated
with place of residence. Using a variety of available health data
collected in the 1990s, they tested these hypotheses for individuals
living near the nearly 900 contaminated sites identified in New York
state, including AOCs.

"They found convincing evidence that a number of chronic and acute
diseases occur more commonly in patients who reside near hazardous
waste sites and AOCs containing priority pollutants, especially
persistent organic pollutants such as PCBs. The elevated incidence is
not accounted for by socio-economic status or lifestyle factors such
as smoking, diet, or exercise. These findings imply that inhalation is
a major route of exposure." (pg. 120)

Got that? Inhalation is a MAJOR route of exposure. This is new

The IJC report goes on: "Effects documented include adverse impacts on
reproduction and development, metabolism, and endocrine and immune
functions. In addition, studies suggest that increased risks of heart
disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes are
associated with residence near AOCs and hazardous waste sites.

"A recently published study has also shown a strong association
between ambient air pollution and respiratory hospitalization in the
Windsor [Ontario] AOC.

"Inhalation can be a major route of exposure. The health of large
numbers of people in many communities in the Great Lakes basin may be
compromised by multi-media exposure to the contaminants in their
environment," the IJC report concludes. (pg. 120)

Comment: For a second time the IJC report says inhalation can be a
MAJOR route of exposure.

3. Basic Toxicity Information is Missing for Many Chemicals

"Derek Muir described his search strategy to identify potential
chemicals of concern among the approximately 100,000 chemicals in
commerce, approximately 70,000 of which are on the Toxic Substances
Control Act list created in 1976, and 5,200 that exceed a production
volume of 1,000 tonnes/year [2.2 million pounds per year] according to
the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Of these
5,200 chemicals, 43 percent had no toxicity data available as of
2004." (pg. 123)

Furthermore, "... less than 10 percent of high-volume industrial
chemicals have been evaluated regarding their bioaccumulation,
environmental fate, and toxicity." (pg. 125)

4. Mixtures of Chemicals Have Potent Effects

"It is known that the combined effects of a mixture of dioxin-like
compounds are additive when adjusted for potency.... Recently,
investigators discovered that the same holds true for estrogenic
chemicals [meaning industrial chemicals that mimic the female sex
hormone, estrogen]. Crofton et al. (2005) dosed young rats with a
mixture of two dioxins, four dibenzofurans and twelve PCBs. The
mixture was formulated to reflect typical concentrations measured in
breast milk, and in fish and other foods. None of the concentrations
in any of the doses exceeded the LOELs [lowest observed effect levels]
for the constituent chemicals. The mixture reduced serum thyroxine
[thyroid hormone] levels at concentrations that were at least an order
of magnitude [a factor of 10] below their LOELs. The effects on
thyroxine were cumulative (additive) at low doses and synergistic at
higher doses. (pg. 124)

This is extraordinarily important information. The IJC is saying that
the researcher (Kevin M. Crofton) was able to diminish thyroid
hormone levels in the blood of laboratory animals by exposing them to
very lox levels of a combination of chemicals. The individual
chemicals were administered at levels at least 10 times as low as the
amount that is known to cause effects in exposed animals, and the
levels of exposures were selected to mimic levels that a human baby
would receive from breast milk. The COMBINED exposure caused thyroid
hormone levels to decline in the exposed animals. In human babies,
sufficient thyroid hormone is essential for early brain development.

5. Summary

The IJC report sums up the new information that has come to light in
the last few years:

1. Legacy chemicals are not declining rapidly, if at all, and they are
still present at levels that make Great lakes fish unsafe to eat:

"In this biennial cycle [in the last two years] it became clear that
our understanding of health hazards associated with 'legacy'
contaminants has increased much more rapidly than their levels are
currently decreasing. PCB and mercury levels in fish are many times
greater than values protective of human health. PCB concentrations in
fillets of some large lake trout from Lake Michigan exceed by 40 fold
the level which would allow unrestricted consumption." (pg. 128)

2. Fish consumption advisories don't work:

"Despite consumption advisories, many individuals are exposed
unnecessarily, and often unconsciously, to toxic contaminants through
their diet." (pg. 128)

3. People are being exposed and harmed by breathing the air:

"We have also learned that air transport is an important pathway of
exposure and that living near highly contaminated areas increases
one's exposure." (pg. 128)

4. A new set of toxic chemicals is now being measured in the Lakes:

"In addition, we have become aware of 'emerging' chemicals that were
not previously detected." (pg. 128)

5. Exposure to Mixtures of Chemicals is Harmful:

"There is also a growing awareness of a larger range of developmental
and functional health impacts associated with exposure to mixtures of
chemicals, including the persistent 'legacy' contaminants and the
'emerging' chemicals." (pg. 128) [The term 'functional health impacts'
includes things like kids struggling to keep up in school, or, in the
case of fish at least, males taking on some of the characteristics of

"Many 'emerging' chemicals affect the same target organs and/or
systems as the 'legacy' chemicals and will contribute to the
cumulative toxicity." (pg. 128)

6. A single chemical can have many effects on many parts of the body

"It is now clear that a single chemical can have an impact on
multiple-organ systems via several exposure pathways and a number of
modes of action, and that those impacts can be expressed in multiple
ways." (pg. 128) [Comment: In the good old days (the entire 20th
century) a chemical was accused of simply causing cancer or harming
the liver or contributing to heart disease, but modern science now
reveals that this old view was hopelessly inadequate for describing
the how a single chemical (not to mention mixtures) can affect many
different bodily systems in many different ways. In a sense, our
knowledge has grown rapidly but what has grown most rapidly is our
understanding of how little we actually understand about the complex
interactions between chemicals, health and behavior.]

The Great Lakes are extraordinarily important because they contain 20%
of the world's fresh surface water and 80% of the fresh surface water
in North America. That we have contaminated the lakes so thoroughly is
an astonishing feat of industrial hubris and stupidity.

The authors of the IJC report understand that only the people who live
around the Great Lakes can make the necessary changes to save
themselves from an unfolding health disaster. The report asks,

"What evidence of human-health effects will be sufficient to create
the political will to clean up the areas that continue to make major
contributions to system contamination?" (pg. 128)

And, the report says, "If sufficient resources to support remediation
and required protection efforts are to be committed, Great Lakes
citizens must understand the risks and demand accountability under the
[Great Lakes Water Quality] Agreement for long-term progress and
implementation strategies that are protective of human and wildlife
The Great Lakes are extraordinarily important because they contain 20%
of the world's fresh surface water and 80% of the fresh surface water
in North America. That we have contaminated the lakes so thoroughly is
an astonishing feat of industrial hubris and stupidity. health and 20%
of the world's fresh surface water." (pg. 128)

So there you have it. Basically, to save the Great Lakes from
continued decline, citizens have to develop enough clout to overwhelm
the political influence of corporate polluters, to force government to
adopt a precautionary approach to protect the Lakes.

Last December, citizen groups from around the Great lakes published a
report outlining what needs to be done. They agree with the IJC
report, that chemical regulation has failed and the proper remedy is
to implement a precautionary approach.

However, the Council of Great Lakes Industries, which represents
chemical companies and coal-burning utilities, has staked out its
position, claiming that even the weak current system is burdensome,
oppressive and nightmarish for industrial polluters. The Council
says it "fears a more aggressive water quality pact will bring costly
new regulations and stifle the regional economy." Furthermore, the
Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement has already "created a bureaucracy
and a governance nightmare that is very difficult to maneuver around."

We are wondering if some communities around the Great Lakes might want
to consider a new strategy, directly challenging the "rights" of
corporations to continue destroying this national treasure.

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From: ITbusiness.ca, Jan. 25, 2007
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By Kathleen Sibley

Toronto -- Instead of trumpeting free Wi-Fi zones, municipalities
should post signs advising citizens of the locations of Wi-Fi-free
zones, said the president of Lakehead University at this week's
Wireless Cities Summit.

"People should be given a choice," said Fred Gilbert. "We're talking
about ubiquitous deployment of wireless. We're talking about exposure
whether you want it or not."

Gilbert spoke on the panel with a Trent University professor, a Health
Canada director and a supervisor from Toronto Public Health on a topic
that differed radically from other presentations at the summit, most
of which focused on how to build and fund municipal wireless networks,
how to maximize political support for them and how to ensure a return
on investment.

He warned there are other considerations beyond convenience and cost
to take into account when contemplating implementing a municipal
wireless network.

"There is the potential for future class action suits against the
municipalities that have made the decision to deploy a technology that
may in the future be determined to have detrimental biological
consequences," said Gilbert. "All we need to do is look at the
analogues (such as smoking and asbestos exposure) and you understand
what that means both to the politicians that have made those decisions
and to the (companies) with which they have made those decisions.

"My advice is the cities that are deploying Wi-Fi should at a minimum
acknowledge that there is a reference base related to potential health
effects and provide Wi-Fi-free zones. Such areas should be posted and
the hotspots identified. This is the only way to give freedom of

Gilbert's name made the news across Canada and around the world last
year when he responded to a student's queries as to why Lakehead would
not offer wireless on campus. His answer then was the same as it is
now: because it's not necessary, and exposure to electrical and
magnetic fields could pose a health risk to students and staff. And
until there's conclusive evidence stating otherwise -- or mitigating
technologies emerge -- that's the way it will stay.

Lakehead, he said, is a highly advanced institution when it comes to
technology. It was among the first to deploy voice over IP and still
serves as an alpha site for Nortel, he said. It's home to an enhanced
learning environment with a virtual reality lab, and is connected to
Ontario's high-speed research networks via fibre optics.

"Our students have over 8,000 access points that allow them to connect
to that pipe," he said. "There are issues with security, speed and
cost with going to a wireless network, but we felt the overriding
component of this was because there are potential health impacts we
felt we should be employing a precautionary principle with respect to
this technology on our campus. We view the technology as a
convenience, not a necessity on our campus."

His viewpoint was backed up by Magda Havas, an associate professor in
Trent's environmental and resource sciences, who outlined a host of
studies conducted over the years that point to at the very least
increased electrical sensitivity among people exposed to electrical
emissions, particularly those generated by cell phones and cell
towers, and brain tumours and birth defects at the other end of the
impact spectrum.

Referring to Al Gore's recent documentary on global warming titled An
Inconvenient Truth, Havas said research points to "another
inconvenient truth and it's about our exposure to radiation. I think
if there's any myth, it's that this technology is completely safe."

Humans have been exposed to radio frequency emissions since the early
1900s, she said. "When radar was first invented in World War ll we
found many radar workers came down with radar sickness, which is what
we would now classify as electrosensitivity."

Havas also argued Canadian standards determining safe levels of
exposure to electrical and magnetic fields are too lax.

But Robert Bradley, director of consumer and clinical radiation
protection at Health Canada, disagreed.

"The documents we've produced are well founded," he said. "They deal
with the full body of research that goes back quite a number of years.

"The bottom line is at this point in time, the body of science does
not support the issue of health effects related to wireless
communication devices, and as long as the networks and the devices
respect the standards of Industry Canada, there should be no negative

At the same time, though, he said, "Where there are suspicions or
ongoing research it is prudent to keep an eye on them. You don't want
to put anyone at undue risk, so where you have choices, apply them."

That's the City of Toronto's policy, said Ronald Macfarlane,
supervisor, environmental health assessment and policy in Toronto
Public Health. Macfarlane said the city has had a policy of prudent
avoidance with respect to cell phone towers since 1999.

TPH was asked when Toronto Hydro announced its plans to build a Wi-Fi
network in downtown Toronto whether or not the public health body
would have a concern, he said. Its research indicated that would not
be an issue.

"We feel it is not necessary to take additional measures to limit
exposures," said Macfarlane. "I hoped to have a report finished that
could have addressed Wi-Fi specifically because we have been asked to
do that and also to report back on the community impact. We are in the
process of reviewing the health evidence since 1999 when we developed
the policy of prudent avoidance, and we have also been asked to
consider the increased exposure due to the proliferation of wireless

"It is true when we look at overall exposures radio and TV are still
the biggest exposures in our community, but the others are becoming
more and more important."

Despite Havas' litany of research pointing to the evils of electrical
fields exposure, audience members weren't so easily convinced. Given
that all the research was related to exposure to cell phones, rather
than wireless networks, asked one audience member, shouldn't the
concerns be focused on the health impacts of cell phone use?

"I don't think anyone's going to deny the difference in the strength
of radiation, but the critical thing is not that there's 100 times
difference between the two," said Gilbert. "The critical thing is the
biological effects -- that doesn't mean there isn't a biological
effect with Wi-Fi."

Havas agreed. "There has been very little research on the effects of
Wi-Fi because it hasn't been around long enough, so we have to look at
technology that is similar to give us the answers as to how concerned
we should be about the effects of this technology," she said.

At the same, time, though, she added, she's not advocating banning the
technology -- just limiting on its uses.

"When we first discovered X-rays... they were also used to discover
whether a child's shoes fit properly," she said. "That was a very
inappropriate use. What I'm suggesting is this technology is not going
to go away. I'm recommending we use it for essential uses for things
like police and ambulance services, but not to have young children
sitting for hours on wireless computers or cell phones."

Copyright 2007 Transcontinental Media Inc.

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From: Wi-Fi Network News, Jan. 26, 2007
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By Glenn Fleishman

The president of Lakehead University spreads poor information
disguised as prudence: In Toronto, at the Wireless Cities Summit,
Lakehead president Fred Gilbert repeated the bad science that led him
to block wireless networks from being used at his university. On the
panel with him was Magda Havas, who is an associate professor at Trent
University, and another person who plays fast and loose with microwave
studies. Gilbert is quoted as saying, "there are potential health
impacts we felt we should be employing a precautionary principle with
respect to this technology on our campus." Which is fine if there were
a shred of evidence to back that view.

To see how specious Havas's reasoning is, here's her explanation of an
earlier problem with microwaves: "When radar was first invented in
World War ll we found many radar workers came down with radar
sickness, which is what we would now classify as electrosensitivity."
Which is totally incorrect. Electrosensitivity, which one study
recently showed was non-existent in their testing, has been
primarily used to refer to a reaction that some individuals have to
electromagnetic fields that contain energy far below the threshold of
affecting human tissues or nerves.

Radar sickness -- I can't find citations for this precise term related
to WWII -- could have been the result of exposure to massive amounts
of microwave radiation, which is a known problem. In fact, I advise
that no one stand near active Wi-Fi or wireless transmitters that use
high- gain antennas. These are typically mounted on towers and
rooftops, and there's a body of research that shows that at certain
thresholds, you can get cellular disruption and long-term health
problems. But those levels are well characterized and several orders
of magnitude above Wi-Fi and cell phone output. The only study I could
find looked at Korean War radar technicians, who had below-average
mortality compared to control subjects. (Another reference to radar
sickness I find refers to illnesses caused by handling or being near
radioactive elements used in Cold War radar installations.)

Havas later compares Wi-Fi use to the use of X-rays to determine a
child's shoe fitting as an analogy -- the radiation type is vastly
different in effect -- but it shows her intent to conflate.

Gilbert demonstrated more specious, non-empirical logic when asked by
an audience member why, if the studies are all about cell phones,
shouldn't the focus be on cell phones? Gilbert responded that "the
critical thing is not that there's 100 times difference between the
two. The critical thing is the biological effects." Which would mean
he believes that there's a magical, perhaps homeopathic property in
electromagnetic radiation that affects people regardless of whether
the energy passing through someone is below the level necessary to
shunt electrons out of their paths.

Havas backs up Gilbert by noting, "There has been very little research
on the effects of Wi-Fi because it hasn't been around long enough, so
we have to look at technology that is similar to give us the answers
as to how concerned we should be about the effects of this
technology." Right. And we can extrapolate based on two facts: First,
that there are no credible cell phone studies that show long-term or
short-term health effects; and second, that Wi-Fi operates at levels
far below cell phones, and at greater distances, further reducing any
potential effect.

Now before you say -- wait, what about that new glioma study that
was covered today? Let me stop you. That study, which involved
subjects with particular cancers matched against control subjects, and
relying on retrospective data (relying on recollection, to boot) can't
hold a candle to the other recent study that looked at actual cell
phone bills for calling behavior, and had 425,000 subjects with 56,000
using a cell phone for 10 years or more.

As noted in other studies, relying on recollections for sidedness in
cell phone use is invariably biased by the subject, suffering from
cancer as they are, being more likely to associate the side with the
tumor with the side they formerly favored.

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