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British Columbia

LETTER – There is nothing to fear from cell towers

Dear editor,

It is with sinking and discouraging dismay that I read Suzanne Schiller’s letter on the pseudoscientific and unfounded fears of harm associated with radio frequency electromagnetic radiation from cell phone towers and other radio frequency transmission sources (RF EMR radiation from cell phone towers is a concern for Comox residents).

Here, I thought, is another person who has fallen victim to fringe ideas and is suffering needless grief over it.

Having worked informally in the field of public understanding of science for nearly 30 years, I can attest to the fact that Ms. Schiller’s letter is all too typical of such unnecessary fears shamelessly promoted by people who, despite having genuine scientific credentials, are nonetheless genuine fringe figures.

With practice, you can learn to spot scientific claims on the edge. When people tell you that there are peer-reviewed studies supporting this or that claim, start looking it up. Does such research really exist? If so, was it considered valid and persuasive by relevant experts? Has the named person actually published on the subject in question or on another topic? For example, Ms. Schiller cited several people, some with science or medical degrees, as examples of those who published such research. I decided to check some of their sources.

For example, I couldn’t find any peer-reviewed articles on the adverse effects of cell phone RF exposure by Dr. Find Devra Davis. Instead, she wrote a book (taking her ideas to the court of public opinion, not her scientific peers) and founded an organization called the Environmental Health Trust, which publishes screeds on the subject but no peer-reviewed articles. In fact, one of the other people that Frau Schiller names is Dr. Anthony Miller, member of the same organization. That’s a big red flag.

dr Martin Pall, another person cited by Ms. Schiller, is considered a specialist in this area and has published a paper on the subject. The Wikipedia article about him says the following:

Wi-Fi Is a Significant Threat to Human Health,” Environmental Research, Vol. 164, July 2018, pp. 405–416. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2018.01.035. This is an example of his work that received a comment for its low scientific quality: “Comments on ‘Wi-Fi is an important threat to human health'”, Environmental Research, Vol. 168, January 2019, p. 514– 515 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2018.07.026.

The important lesson here is to follow up on such papers. His colleagues did not think much of his research.

Whenever reference is made to people rather than research and facts, rest assured that you are facing a fallacy of logic known as the “argument from authority.” In this case it has to be valid and true because someone with scientific qualifications is saying it. no Unless there is evidence to support the claims, scientific references are meaningless. We do not accept Einstein’s theory of relativity because he was the great and powerful Albert Einstein. We accept it because actual evidence backs it up.

The fact is that there is no known mechanism for non-ionizing radiation, i.e. radio waves, to damage DNA or cause cancer. There is evidence (and theoretical explanation) for tissue heating when exposed to a sufficiently strong RF energy source. Cell towers would require you to be at antenna level and within 20 or 30 feet for such effects to occur. The mobile phone in the trouser pocket emits so little electricity that such effects cannot be seen. Ms. Schiller, there is nothing to fear from mobile phone masts.

scott goodman,


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