New transmitters prompt health worries for Chemainus family

Rick Biggar is concerned about his family’s health and his home’s property values after Telus recently mounted a micro-cell transmitter

Rick Biggar is concerned about his family’s health and his home’s property values after Telus recently mounted a micro-cell transmitter on a utility pole the communications company owns less than 15 metres from his bedroom in Chemainus.

He said he didn’t agree to having what he describes as a “radiation-emitting devise” placed in front of his home, especially considering his wife has a compromised immune system and her health could be adversely impacted by the transmitter.

Biggar said he believes that with the micro-cell transmitters located so close to the ground and the general public in the community, the radiation they emit is increased substantially compared to the larger cell towers located in a distant location.

He pointed to a recently concluded 10-year study in Germany in which the majority of the 700 trees located near mobile-phone stations that were in the study showed damage to the leaves and branches.

Telus had sent a letter to the residents of Chemainus informing the public that the company is installing wireless “small cell” transmitters, which are approximately one-square foot in size, on a number of utility poles in the community.

The letter states that the use of wireless technology through smartphones, tablets and other devices has increased substantially in the area, and Telus is putting up the new transmitters to help ensure its customers receive reliable high-speed wireless service.

A spokesman for Telus said the electronic emissions from the transmitters are well within safety limits.

Biggar said he has sent a letter to the Municipality of North Cowichan asking that it establish an antenna-consultation policy so that the public will be informed before communication companies like Telus can set up transmitters in the community again.

In response, the municipality informed Biggar that it has no such policy currently in place and that Telus has no responsibility to ask North Cowichan for permission to install the transmitters.

“Notwithstanding the health concerns I have for my wife, what about my property’s market value?” Biggar asked.

“In other jurisdictions throughout Canada and the U.S., buyers are turning away from properties for sale where a micro-cell transmitter is located directly in front of a house.”

Telus spokesman Richard Gilhooley said when the company is looking to enhance wireless service in a community, its first preference is to place the transmitter equipment on a piece of existing infrastructure as opposed to constructing a new wireless tower.

He said that by using space on utility poles, Telus is able to boost coverage with a minimal impact on the landscape.

Gilhooley said the transmitters are “very low powered” and pose no health risks.

“All electronic emissions in Canada are governed by Safety Code 6, one of the strictest codes in the developed world, which is overseen by Industry Canada and Health Canada,” he said.

“All Telus wireless sites, regardless of size, emit a RF signal that falls below safe levels as determined by this code. In fact, most Telus wireless sites come hundreds, if not thousands, of times below safe levels.”