Amidst acts of violence against cell towers in Canada, spurred by conspiracy theories linking 5G to COVID-19, a parliamentary health committee is sponsoring a petition that towers and wireless technology pose a threat to children. The Globe and Mail reported the petition has been gaining signatures since late February and is supported by groups opposed to 5G.
The chair of the Commons standing committee on health, MP Ron McKinnon, authorized the petition, asking the government to set new restrictions on the proximity of towers to schools and playgrounds. In a statement, McKinnon said, “While I do not personally believe that cell phone towers pose a risk to human health, a number of my constituents have expressed interest in this petition, and I wanted to ensure their views are heard.”
The petition cites a 2014 paper that concludes exposure to microwave radiation from wireless devices might cause cancer in children and adolescents. According to The Globe and Mail, since its publication, the paper has faced heavy criticism.
Steven Salzberg, a professor of Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, and Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University, said after reading the paper, he judged it as “perhaps the worst scientific paper” he had encountered in years. Salzberg added that the paper strings together a “series of claims” where authors have “cherry-picked” studies to support their hypothesis “while ignoring hundreds of studies that contradict their claims.” Of the petition, he noted, “Attacking cell towers in a mistaken belief that they have health consequences is really misguided.”
The Globe and Mail reported the Liberal Party proposing the petition and the government, “repeatedly emphasize a commitment to evidence-based decision-making.” However, Jonathan Jarry, a science communicator with McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, questions this statement. Jarry commented on the, “rich body of scientific literature on cell phone radiation” and how, “no good evidence” exists “that microwaves and radio signals harm people.” He added, “If we want to hold our members of Parliament accountable for not basing their decisions on good, robust science, then this petition is particularly frustrating because it’s based on fear-mongering. It’s based on long-disproved arguments and ultimately on bad science that really flies in the face of the scientific consensus on this issue.”
The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association voiced its disappointment with the petition. “While MPs have a role to play in presenting petitions on behalf of their constituents, it’s also important for MPs to base their decisions on evidence-based research and science. This petition is based on neither, and relies solely on a discredited study,” the industry group said in a statement.