B.C. villagers petition for cellphone ban
Published Tuesday, August 28, 2007 9:02PM EDT
NEW DENVER, B.C. - To some residents of New Denver, the greatest threat to their way of life is not terrorism, but cellphones.
Citing concerns over health and a change of culture, about 250 people -- roughly half the population of the southeastern B.C. village -- are petitioning against Telus's plan to install an antenna and bring cellphone service to the community.
"People come here because in New Denver it feels like you're living 50 years ago and we would lose that if we had an influx of cellphones. Our teenagers would all start using them,'' said Julia Greenlaw, chairwoman of the Healthy Housing Society.
She said one cafe owner vows to block cellphone usage at his business to avoid people having loud one-way conversations.
"That's another big concern is the way it invades your community and the lack of privacy and peacefulness that's taken away by cellphones.''
But annoying ring tones and loud talkers aside, Greenlaw has forwarded petitions to local and provincial politicians about the matter. She said that her group has reviewed more than 300 scientific studies that show adverse health effects related to radiation from cellphone towers.
But Telus spokesman Shawn Hall said the company is simply responding to demand for cell service.
Hall said Telus has 125 cellphone clients in New Denver despite the lack of cell service. He explained that they understand there is sincere concern over adverse health effects but their signal is going to be well below the safe levels set by Health Canada.
"Canada is actually home to some of the world's leading experts in this field of science. Based on all of the research that's out -- not just the research that suits their perspective -- they've determined a level that they believe is safe and they've set a code at two per cent of that level so 50 times under that level and said this is your maximum emissions,'' said Hall.
"In fact, we'll put out a signal several thousand times under that which is allowed which is already two per cent of the level that they determine is safe.''
Part of the residents' concern lies with the location of the antenna above an existing CBC radio tower in the middle of town. They believe that it is too close and that despite the safety code, that it may have microcellular effects on people.
"They're not confident with the safety code six that Health Canada is giving us to measure damage from electromagnetic radiation. Safety code six only measures full body heating,'' said Greenlaw. "The smaller the organism, the more effect.''
"You absorb more radiation sleeping beside a clock radio than sleeping under a cell tower,'' he said.
The village asked that the antenna be located away from a residential area.
"What we oppose is it being within 500 metres of residences. We also took exception to the fact that under federal regulations, telephone companies don't need our permission to put in transmission towers in a residential area,'' said Mayor Gary Wright.
Although some people in the community -- including business owners and emergency service personnel -- are happy to see cell service in the area, there are others who would like to pursue a campaign to market the community as a cellphone-free zone.
"I had the chance to talk with people on Vancouver Island and also people from Edmonton and Calgary and these are people who are part of the wired world but they were uniformly struck by the attraction of being able to go to a place for a holiday knowing that they weren't going to be contactable by cellphone,'' said Bill Roberts, a member of the Economic Development Commission.
"When I asked them the direct question `would the absence of cellphone signals be a deciding factor in your choosing Slocan Valley as a vacation destination' they said a very emphatic Yes.''
Greenlaw said that the antenna is supposed to be in place by the end of September.
She said some people are not opposed to physically getting in the way of the antenna's installation.
Even if the cell service goes ahead as scheduled, the signal is only available where you can see it so the rural areas north of Crescent Valley and outside New Denver will still be cellphone free.