Updates to antenna tower placement requirements
In response to some of these concerns, the Minister of Industry has announced changes to Industry Canada’s policy on the placement of antenna towers. These changes aim in particular to improve the public consultation process for the placement of these towers.
The proposed amendments include changes to Industry Canada’s Client Procedures Circular CPC-2-0-03, last updated in 2008, which outlines the requirements to be met and the process to be followed by companies seeking to install new antenna towers. Industry Canada has proposed the following amendments:
- The circular will apply to all antenna towers used by broadcasting and telecommunications companies, rather than only to antenna towers 15 metres or higher, as is currently the case. (Towers under 15 metres that are not used by broadcasting or telecommunications companies will continue to be exempt from the policy.)
- Companies will have a maximum of three years to install an antenna tower after having consulted with the community.
- Citizens in affected neighbourhoods will be better informed of companies’ plans to install new antenna towers and of the consultations to be held: the proponent will be required to deliver a notice clearly indicating its intention to each residence in the surrounding area.
These changes are similar to the proposal put forward by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (209 kB, 35 pages), published on 28 February 2013.
As part of a public consultation process on the proposed amendments conducted by Industry Canada, respondents were given until 31 March 2014 to submit comments.
The department has published the feedback on its website. Both the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association have stated that they view the proposed changes favourably. However, some of their members and other stakeholders have said that they have reservations about some of the proposed amendments.
Potential health effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation
CPC-2-0-03 does not address the possible effects of RF-EMR on health. The circular simply states that telecommunications and broadcasting companies must comply with the exposure limits outlined in Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 (SC6). The Code sets recommended limits for safe human exposure to RF electromagnetic fields in the frequency range of 3 kilohertz to 300 gigahertz.
Health Canada regularly reviews SC6, which was first published in 1991, to ensure that it reflects the most up-to-date scientific evidence and international standards regarding the potential adverse health effects of RF-EMR. In 2013, the department commissioned the Royal Society of Canada to establish an expert panel to examine proposed changes to the most recent version of SC6 (revised in 2009). The proposed RF-EMR exposure limits in the revised version of SC6, referred to as SC6 (2013), are more restrictive than the limits in the 2009 version of SC6.
In its March 2014 report (2.6 MB, 165 pages), the panel concluded that current scientific evidence does not indicate that there would be negative health effects resulting from exposure to RF-EMR below the limits prescribed in SC6 (2013).
Specifically, with respect to the risk of cancer, the panel found that while a causal association between cancer and exposure to RF-EMR is possible, current scientific evidence to support this association remains weak. This finding is in line with the conclusions of the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (251 kB, 6 pages).
In addition, the panel indicated that scientific evidence suggests that any potential health risks associated with exposure to RF-EMR, including its possible links with cancer, are more likely to be associated with prolonged mobile phone use than with exposure to antenna towers. The reason is that mobile phones used for prolonged periods expose users to much higher levels of RF-EMR.
For these reasons, the expert panel recommended that Health Canada pursue scientific research aimed at clarifying any causal connection between RF-EMR and cancer. It also recommended that the department provide Canadians with additional information on RF-EMR and its use in different devices, and on practical measures Canadians can take to reduce their exposure to RF-EMR when using mobile phones.
Health Canada has indicated that it intends to undertake public consultations as part of its review of SC6 (2013). The results of these consultations, along with the recommendations made by the Royal Society of Canada’s expert panel, will then be used to develop a final revised version of SC6.
Alexandre Lavoie, Karin Phillips
Legal and Social Affairs Division
7 May 2014