Town Hall Report
Town Hall Report - October 31, 2007
There will be a series of Town Hall Meetings related to the pool issue, which will probably start in January. But, more information will hopefully be made available in November. If it isn't, it will be made available in January, but the process certainly will carry through the early part of 2008.
WiFi has been, as I think a lot of people are aware, an issue on our campus throughout the past few years - simply because we do have a policy that has meant that we are not an open WiFi zone. The policy has been that there will be no use of WiFi in those areas of the University that are already served adequately by hard-wire. Until such time that the potential health effects have been scientifically rebutted, or there are adequate protective measures that can be taken, the policy will remain in effect.
We feel that we, as a university, are very well connected. We have a fibre-optic backbone, and all of our buildings are connected to that fibre-optic backbone. We've made connectivity available both in public and private places throughout the campus. We are linked, in terms of broadband, with two primary trunks, one being Orion and the other being CA Net. We are also backed up by a commercial network if we have to go to it. There are over 8,000 connectivity points on this campus. So, we're well connected with high-speed interfaces. There are lots of issues that are important when you're looking at going WiFi; some are related to security, speed, and cost. However, it is the potential health impacts that have caused us to invoke the precautionary principle at Lakehead University. The precautionary principle is essentially what it indicates; until you have adequate information upon which to make a definitive decision, you err on the side of caution. As this particular technology is one of convenience rather than one of necessity, we feel that we're on pretty sound ground to have taken the policy stance that we have because of the information that is available, some of which I will share with you today.
The concern about WiFi health hazards is not isolated to Lakehead University. The concern is now global. One of the elements of that concern has been expressed in the Benevento resolution, which was signed by 31 international scientists. They are simply indicating what we're indicating; that there is knowledge that there are biological effects occurring at low-frequency levels in the range of WiFi systems, cell phones, and PDA devices. There is concern that should be expressed, and concern that the current guidelines - in place at national and international levels - are not protecting the population.
This is just to give you some idea of where the radiation range is. Below this line you're looking at ionizing radiation, the type of radiation used in X-ray devices and CAT scans. Above non-ionizing radiation is radiation that you'll find in TV, radio, and WiFi and cellular system transmissions. The general thinking was that non-ionizing radiations had no effect on biological systems because of the nature of the radiation itself. But, they've found that there are in fact biological effects. They are a function of a host of factors. Not surprisingly, in biological systems they are related to factors such as genotype, gender, physiology, and cell density. In terms of the electromagnetic forces themselves, they are related to the frequency, the modulation intermittence, the time of exposure, the distance that you are from the field, the amount of energy within the field that you're exposed to, and the power density. Because there's a great deal of uncertainty out there, we have a tremendous range of international EMF standards at this point in time. Ranging from highs in the United Kingdom, where there is a tremendous amount of controversy under way right now, and North America where they are at the second highest, to the very low value that the city of Salzburg has put in place.
International standards vary, North American standards are among the highest, and more importantly, they are based on thermal effects. As you know, microwaves are used for the purpose of molecular agitation, which is a heating process. So, microwave ovens are designed to increase the temperature of any substance that is put inside them. As a result, the agitation results from the amount of exposure to the microwaves. North American standards are based on the amount of heating it takes to raise the temperature in a portion of tissue, the human body in this case. The issue is really about the non-thermal effects, which are not part-and-parcel of any of these standards, except some of the low standards like the Russian standards and the Salzburg standards.
We have a situation that is analogous to the cell towers that provide the connectivity for cell phones, wireless personal communication devices, and in the antennas and the routers of the systems that are used to generate an environment - such as the one that now exists at the Outpost - to provide you connectivity to wireless. Some of the early biological effects that were shown were free radical creation. Some of you who are into the healthy food agenda will know that the free radicals are the precursors to problems within different biological systems; they cause chemical reactions that can lead to and result in such things as carcinomas. You have general toxicity as a potential impact that has been demonstrated. You also have increased permeability of membranes, and the mode of action of that is interesting. These frequency ranges are very close to those biological systems that are us. They interact at the cellular level and cause change in the ions that compose the cell membrane. The calcium and potassium balances in terms of the cell membrane change, and hence the permeability or what can get into the cell also changes. You have lysing activities which are cell destructive activities that can occur as a result of the penetration of things that normally would be prevented from entering the cell.
This is just a snapshot of the studies that were done during the 14-year period from 1990 to 2003. So-called positive studies are studies that showed biological effects. The negative studies are ones that showed no effects. There are also a number of studies that have been addressed, but are not applicable because they were either poorly designed or they were not relevant.
Chronic exposure, as indicated in that list of variables, is the length of the time that cells are exposed. Fifty-one out of 69 studies indicate impacts, and impacts that vary. The same thing applies with nervous system effects, immune function changes, and the blood/brain barrier studies that have been done.
The next set of slides will give you some terms of reference for what has been done, and reference points in terms of those international standards or guidelines they give us. These standards supposedly tell us what levels we are safe to operate within, compared to some of the demonstrable biological effects that have occurred.
Operating StandardsANSI is the American National Standards Institute. IEEE is the Institute of Electrical Electronics Engineers. These are the operating standards. The most important one is the one for public exposure, which is at 1000 w/cm2. I'll give you some idea what some of the background levels are that we're operating with right now. Remember, this upper chart is standards, and the lower one has some of the ambient conditions. In cities in Sweden, it averages out to about .05 w/cm2. The background level of some U.S. cities in the suburbs in the 1990s changed dramatically. In the subsequent decade, levels were around .003 w/cm2. In fact, if you're driving along Highway 401 right now, you're getting a higher exposure level than the .05 w/cm2 that's indicated here. Obviously, if you're within the ambient radio frequency exposure range of a cell or personal communication device antenna ray, you're up around 0.1 w/cm2 or as much as 10 w/cm2.
Now that you have that background, here is where you start to see some of the biological effects. When as low as .0006 w/cm2, you see behavioural effects including fatigue, depressive tendencies, sleeping disorders, difficulty concentrating, and cardiovascular problems. A lot of this work has been done in relation to cell phone devices. They are just now starting to take a serious look at WiFi issues. Cortex in the brain - 60 w/kg. Changes in immune system - 100 w/kg. Drop in testosterone after certain periods of exposure - 100 w/kg. Pathological change of blood/brain barrier - 120 w/kg. 500 w/kg - a five per cent drop in testosterone. Also at 500 w/kg - change in calcium levels within epithelial cells, which are the cells that line your gut.
All right, let's go back to the standards. The standard, uncontrolled environment is .08 w/kg. Whole body exposure in a standard, controlled environment is 0.4 w/kg. Remember what we saw in the last slides? Let's go forward and take a look at what we're getting now. Exposure is down to .00006 w/kg and is showing behavioural responses. Calcium ion movement, as I indicated previously, is at very low levels. You also see changes in cell cycle and cell proliferation.
Now, let's take a look at the recorded biological effects of the SAR, which is a heating term. I'm not going to go into every one of these, but what I'm showing you are those that are consistently below the levels of exposure, of the given standard - supposedly to protect us.
There are scientific studies out there - sound, scientific studies that clearly demonstrate biological effects. There are correlative studies that are starting to emerge as there has now been a long enough exposure, particularly for cell phone use, that show there is in fact linkage between certain types of cancers and the use of cell phones.
This fairly complicated diagram is intended to show you how these effects play themselves out in the biological system. And again, I won't go through the details, but a lot of those previous slides simply relate to some of the information on this slide.
Where are we now? We're at a point where society generally embraced the technology that carries with it some potential health impacts. If you want to look at analogues, there are lots of them out there, because over the term of commercial history, human society has been exposed to cigarettes, asbestos, heavy metal accumulation, and chemical carcinogens and their consequences - all of which we discovered after the exposures had taken place and the correlations started to become undeniable in terms of the cause and effect relationships.
In each of these previous cases, concerns started with less scientific information and data in place than what currently exists for EMFs. The obvious question is: How do you stop a runaway truck, or do you? You don't do it by throwing yourself in front of the runaway truck, but by taking advantage of the knowledge base that's out there. By viewing that information as valid, you limit your exposure and you limit your risk. The policy at Lakehead University sets up a system of technology use that limits the risk for all of us who work in this environment. It also gives you the element of choice. Part of that choice is the Outpost. If you want to take advantage of the convenience that wireless connectivity provides you, you can go to the Outpost and use it there. It's an area that's controlled by the students, and we've said that as long as that non-ionizing radiation is kept within the Outpost, we have no concerns. We've tested it and it is indeed limited to the Outpost.
What are some of the consequences of exposure that are starting to show themselves? One of them is increased electro-sensitivity in the population. There is also decreased productivity due to those behavioural effects that we talked about earlier. We're also starting to see the first class- action suits playing themselves out against municipalities, manufacturers, and in some case against the governing bodies that have allowed WiFi exposure. The City of Toronto, for example, could be involved in a class-action suit at some point because they have set up ubiquitous WiFi within the core of the city; if you work there and you live there, you have no choice. You are exposed to the radiation on a 24-hour basis.
Remember an earlier slide that showed the highest ambient exposure levels occurred in the cities of Sweden? That was a few years back, and Sweden now has one of the highest percentages of electrical hyper-sensitivity in the population. It's in the 5 percent range, and it is sufficiently high now that they have clearly integrated it into their health system. In other words, you can be considered functionally impaired if you are hyper-sensitive, and all of the welfare systems can plug-in. This relates to contact with the EMF sources. We've seen cellular and neuronal modification in these individuals, so what they are experiencing is real. Their sensitivities are real, they are not psychosomatic.
One of the interesting things when we look at the literature is that in 1973, Queen's University scientists warned the Federal Government that there were some real issues associated with microwave radiation, and that the Federal Government should proceed with caution before it made licenses available in some of these ranges, and before it made this technology fully available to the public. That was another report that was ignored.
Again this is theoretical, but here are some hypotheses and potential links that connect this exposure to the increase that we're seeing in Alzheimers disease and in autism. These could be related to that change in the blood/brain barrier, the ability for mercury and heavy metals to penetrate across that barrier and affect our brain cells. Many vaccines that are now used on children do have a mercury carrier, and they would have in utero exposure with the immunization shots for the mother and mercury in her blood. The mercury could be the result of amalgam fillings, which means there could in fact be a real linkage between Alzheimers, autism, and exposure to EMFs.
This is a recent study: If you make a 90-second call on your cell phone, you see changes in your red blood cells. Instead of the cells being separate from one another, they clump. Clumping reduces the surface of these cells, and the cells are important in terms of the haemoglobin that they carry and their ability to carry oxygen within the vascular system. So, you reduce your ability to oxygenate these cells, which has an effect on reducing oxygen to the brain, and is shown to reduce memory. This is only a minute and a half exposure, so it only takes a 90 second telephone call to produce a reaction that takes almost an hour to get back to normal.
We're starting to have sufficiently long enough exposure to things like cell phone usage to start to play out some of the correlative relationships that exist. If you have been a consistent mobile phone user for 10 years or more, you are 40 percent more likely to develop tumours formed from glial cells in the central nervous system. Interestingly enough, these tend to occur on the side of the head that you use the most with your cell phone. Lots of very powerful journals and well-respected scientists are now starting to show this linkage.
I indicated that exposure to the radiation around the towers was important. Evidence is now starting to surface that this type of exposure, which was shown on the non-ionizing range slide that I showed you earlier, could be resulting in cancer clusters. There are a number of these cases around the world that are being investigated. One of the more recent ones concerned the Australian Broadcasting Commission. On the top floor of its building, directly below all of its transmitting equipment, a large number of women who worked there developed breast and other forms of cancer. In an environment where the ambient levels of exposure are very high, they were below the guidelines in Australia and they said it wasn't a problem. But they still haven't explained why this particular cancer cluster occurred, nor have they explained the occurrence of some of the others clusters that have a very direct relationship to EMF exposure.
If you're deploying WiFi, it has some of the same elements from the studies that have been done with regard to cell phone usage. It's a question of the amount of exposure and whether you have your connection point, which may happen to be a laptop, actually sitting on your lap, or whether it's sitting on a desk a couple of feet away from you. That makes a difference. But, we are in a situation where people should have the choice, as they do with other carcinogenic agents, to make the determination whether they want to be exposed or not.
In September, Germany's Department of Environment issued a warning - to avoid using WiFi internet connections whenever possible. The United Kingdom is now initiating a study to get measurements of ambient conditions in school rooms where students are now operating wireless systems. There is tremendous pressure from parents to shut down these wireless systems and go to wired systems because it is growing human tissue that is most vulnerable to the effects of EMFs.
If you really want to delve into this topic yourself and get a sense of the mass of literature that is available, this report, which also came out this September, has an analysis of all the work that has ever been done. It is objective, and it has scientific basis for presenting the information and the recommendations it provides. The recommendations are really precautionary. We need to look at the standards. We need to reduce the standards, and we need to acknowledge that there are potential health effects taking place. You can get this report by visiting www.bioinitiative.org, where there are about 1200 pages of information - all of it relevant.
So, at the end of the day should we have WiFi? Lakehead University has said no. Until those elements in the policy have clearly demonstrated that we can avoid the problems of exposure, or that exposure itself is not a problem, then the policy will remain in effect. Are there any questions?
Unknown: I'm just curious. If there is such a large block of literature and such concern, I'm wondering why we haven't heard anything coming from organizations like the Canadian Council for Universities or University's Collective Reassurance Program, a body that focuses on risk management.
Unknown: If all this research is showing that wireless can cause various forms of cancer, and the policy states that we're supposed to reduce as much wireless use possible, why were education students forced to purchase clickers this year? These devices use wireless technology, there is great opposition to this, and they were never used before.
Orillia: I don't have a question, but think you may want to know that we can access wireless here on campus because of the tenants who live upstairs, so we are exposed to this radiation. One other thing is that occasionally, students in classes are able to tap into the system and are actually looking at their email and Facebook during class time, and we're spending some time shutting that down. I'm really quite curious about the student who figures that the education is being limited because of lack of access.
Matt Granville (MG): As this is now a policy of the University and has been for some time, and as a representative of students on campus, I just seek reassurance from Administration that while use within the campus is prohibited, unless there is a demonstrable need, that Administration will not actively seek-out or take any measures against students who are tenants within our Residence system and are operating private wireless routers within their residences.
We are very close to completing a revised proposal for the law school. A Senate committee has been working diligently all summer and early this fall to put curriculum and admission requirements in place, which will be part of the proposal. When this is completed during the week of November 5, the document will not only be shared with the Law Society of Upper Canada, the body to which we have made the application, but will also be shared with Senate. At that point, Senate can start to take action related to the academic support for the proposed curriculum. I need to tell you that now that we're closer to the finish line, some opposition has surfaced from some of the other law schools in the province, and we hope to deal with that. Nonetheless, we are grandparented into the Law Society. They have said, unequivocally, that they will review our proposal, but will not review any other proposal. Laurier now has one in place, McMaster is putting one together, and Laurentian is being pressured to submit an application for a law school - and this was all precipitated by the fact that Lakehead made its application. We're still hoping that the first class of the Lakehead Faculty of Law will be admitted in the fall of 2009.
The proposal is to transfer 16 acres of University land to the school board in exchange for PACI. There are a number of caveats that will be applied to any contractual arrangement that is made with the school board, a couple of which will ensure that we have some control over any development that takes place on that land. If nothing happens within a given period of time, then the University will reacquire that property.
FG: The pool - we already talked about. There will be a lot more talk about this in a little while.
PERMANENT ORILLIA CAMPUS
FG: We are starting to develop the budget for the next fiscal year. The good news is that we have met our enrolment targets this fall. We have substantially grown graduate student numbers at Lakehead University. We now have over 300 head-count students at Orillia, and all in all, we're now at a critical juncture in terms of being positioned to grow this institution with graduate, undergraduate, and research activity at both campuses. So, the future does look bright.
That is my presentation. Any of us would be happy to take questions at this time.