Wireless Concerns at Lakehead University

February 2010. Lakehead University hosted a public lecture during their ‘Research and Innovation Week’ and invited Drs. Henry Lai (University of Washington), David Fancy (Brock University) and Magda Havas (Trent University) to address the Thunder Bay audience about wireless exposure and the possible health effects. Read what Thunder Bay News Watch has to say about the event.

Dr. Lai spoke about the “Biological effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields” and mentioned studies showing genetic and molecular effects, changes in the blood brain barrier, changes in calcium flux. He said electromagnetic energy can affect the nervous system, the cardiovascular system, the immune system, as well as hormones and reproduction, and it can generate behavioural changes and subjective symptoms. He showed that radio frequency radiation induces oxidative stress in cells by way of the Fenton Reaction that involves iron, hydrogen peroxide and the production of hydroxy free radicals leading to cellular damage. The free radicals can lead to functional changes, cell death, or cancer. These are some of the mechanisms leading to the symptoms described in the literature.

Drs. Lai and Singh were the first to show DNA damage in rats exposed to cell phone radiation. The comet assay is one of the most sensitive tests that shows fragmentation of DNA. The fragments resemble a comet and hence the name.

At least 60 peer-reviewed papers report biological effects at very low intensities of radio frequency radiation but these are all of short exposure. Long-term exposure data are scarce. What these long-term studies show are the following:
1. effects differ based on exposure duration.
2. some effects occur only after either prolonged or repeated exposure but not after short-term exposure.
3. some effects disappear after prolonged or repeated exposure (due to habituation).
4. an organism becomes more sensitive after repeated exposure.

Dr. Lai reviewed the scientific literature dealing with the biological effects of cell phone radiation. He found that results were dependent on source of funding. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of the non-industry funded studies showed an effect of cell phone radiation while only (28%) of the studies funded by industry reported similar results. Huss et al. 2007 came to the same conclusion and stated that “The interpretation of the results from existing and future studies of the health effects of [radio frequency] radiation should take sponsorship into account.”

Dr. David Fancy spoke about “Electrosensitivity: a first person perspective”. Dr. Fancy’s sensitivity lead him on a journey that took him through periods of great illness to good health. He now provides information to those with sensitivity on how to cope and how to recover their health. David Fancy is an inspiration to those who suffer from electrohypersensitivity because he found a way, not only, to desensitize his body but also to improve his health. Dr. Fancy comments on the role of the WHO and other government agencies regarding EHS. Click here to down load his presentation as a pdf.

Dr. Magda Havas spoke about “Electrosmog and Electrosensitivity” and presentation some of her studies showing how radio frequency radiation can affect the heart (rapid or irregular heart rate) and the blood (rouleaux formation blood cell stick together like a stack of coins); how exposure to compact fluorescent lighting can cause skin rashes; and how dirty electricity may conribute to higher blood sugar among diabetics and tremors among those with multiple sclerosis.

Based on an estimate of 3% of the population with severe sensitivity and another 35% with moderate to mild sensitivity, as many as 1 million people in Canada may be severely affected by electrosmog and another 12 million may have mild to moderate symptoms when exposed to this type of radiation. If these values are even close to the real values, we have an emerging human health crisis that is escalenting according to Hallberg and Oberfeld (2006), who state that the prevalence of electrohypersenstivity (based on self-diagnosis) may reach 50% of the population by 2017.

While not all students at Lakehead are pleased with the decision to limit WiFi on campus (yes limit as some places, like the student pub, are allowed to have WiFi), students at other institutions would welcome studying in a wireless-free zone. Dr. Havas quoted from an email sent to her in November 2009 from a student at Carleton College in Northfield Minnesota who experiences seizures on campus after extended exposure to WiFi. He would like to know how to convince his college to remove WiFi.

The organizers of this event invited industry representatives, scientists affiliated with other universities who hold different views on this subject, as well as scientists from Health Canada to give presentations but all invitations were declined. Why are these people unwilling to appear in public to present their perspective on this issue? How can we have an open debate if one side is not willing to participate. Isn’t this what we value about democracy and isn’t this one of the important roles of a university to provide a forum for free and open discussions about things that matter?

Dr. Fred Gilbert, President of Lakehead University, has taken an unpopular stance regarding wireless technology because he does not think it is as safe as some would like us to believe. He has provided fibre optic connections in place of wireless routers for student and staff access to the internet. The National Library in France has done the same thing.

Interestingly, fibre optics provide much faster and more secure service than wireless and may very well be the ideal form of interconnectivity in places where there is a high volume of traffic and where security and speed are important. See Google offers alternative to WiMax. Fibre optics also has the advantage of not contributing to electrosmog and not making people ill. Here we have an example where the best technical solution (fibre optics) is also the best for our health. It doesn’t get better than this.