Friday, June 6, 2008

Norfolk hospital asked to remove paging system

Board told roof-top device emitting microwave radiation unsafe for patients

The Norfolk General Hospital board of directors has been asked to consider removing a paging service from its roof because of the microwave radiation it emits.

"I'm sure other locations could be found in the community that could be safer," Anca Gaston said during a presentation to the board this week. "My recommendation would be to have it moved."


Gaston, a masters student at Brock University, was appearing on behalf of Norfolk resident Frank Woodcock, who wrote the board with concerns about the paging system on top of the hospital. When the board replied in a letter that the system meets Health Canada's Safety Code 6, Woodcock asked to present something to the board.

Gaston's presentation was similar to one she had given at Norfolk County council several months ago when residents asked the county to remove the cellphone antenna on top of the Union Street water tower.

Gaston said that last June Industry Canada measured the pager system at the hospital and found it was emitting up to about 300 microWatts per square meter.

"It is actually more powerful, according to Industry Canada, than the cell phone antennae located atop the Union Street water tower," she said.

She presented several studies, including the Bio Initiative Report released last August. She said the hospital should be particularly concerned about the issues surrounding electromagnetic sensitivity.

"It's also a place where individuals are recovering from illness," Gaston said. "(Their) exposure to pollutants, including those we can't see or smell, should be minimized as much as possible."

NGH president and CEO Bill Lewis said the pager system was placed on the hospital because a previous system wasn't working effectively and staff members were missing pages, even if they were inside the hospital.

Board members said they appreciated the information, but weren't sure they needed to move the pager system.

"The issue isn't the paging system. The issue is Safety Code 6," Peter Hellyer said.


Gaston said this was an opportunity to stand up and tell Health Canada that something needs to be done about the standard.

"You're in a position where you can say yes, Safety Code 6 is outdated," she said, noting it came into effect in 1999. "Everyone is suffering from this, whether Health Canada wants to admit it or not."

Dr. Mickel Macauley said he is "a little bit skeptical" because much of the information provided by Gaston was not from peer-reviewed articles. He said the "top of the line, peer-reviewed, scientific data" was missing.

"I am very skeptical. I think it is almost a political movement as much as a scientific one," he said. But, he added that there was enough information to make them question the location of the paging system.

"I would suggest we seriously think about moving it."

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