One Man's Crusade
From The Herald, Newfoundland.
Gerry Higgins is relentless. He admits it. In fact, he practically introduces each telephone call with an apology, excusing his persistence. His diligence is admirable and, at times, annoying. At one point his endless phone calls sparked a verbal exchange with this columnist. "Sorry if I'm being a nuisance," he offers, "but I'm not going away." I'm glad he didn't.
Higgins is a 53-year-old widower. Just before Christmas in 2005, his wife Margaret, just 45, lost her five year battle with cancer. He wears the pain on his face like a mask and, in some ways, refuses to let her go, realizing that too many questions remain unanswered. Higgins is confident, if not convinced, that electrical transformers played a role in his wife's death, and he's advocating for a local study into the effects of overexposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) since his wife was initially diagnosed almost a decade ago.
Just after exchanging wedding vows in 1980, the young couple settled down in a small bungalow in Norris Arm and started a family. That little nest, though, was enclosed by heavy power lines, which Higgins believes possibly played a role in her death. As reported in an interview with The Independent several years ago, he discovered that out of the 62 transformers in his town, there were incidents of cancer located close to 60.
That's a heavy statement considering the modern world is powered by electrical transformers, and Higgins realizes he has many detractors, some who quietly wonder if his motives are financially-driven. "I don't want a nickel from this; I want a study," he says. Higgins, who's spoken to thousands of cancer victims, has support from scientists all over the globe, some of whom have been conducting research into the health effects of EMFs for decades. Trent University professor Magda Havas, who has spent years examining the issue, is one of Higgins' loudest supporters, noting he should receive a medal for his "tenacity and his desire to prevent others from experiencing the death of a loved one from cancer."
She notes there is significant scientific evidence that the magnetic field from power lines and other sources is associated with breast cancer. "Epidemiological studies," she says, "show that magnetic field exposure, in a number of occupations, increases the risk of breast cancer in both men and women. This is especially true for women under the age of 50 with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer."
Plus, studies with human breast cancer cells show that magnetic fields increase the growth of breast cancer and reduce the effectiveness of melatonin and tamoxifen. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the human body that is "oncostatic" — which means it reduces the growth of cancers. Tamoxifen is a drug given to breast cancer patients to reduce the growth of breast cancer cells.
"I don't know if Gerry's wife used this treatment but if she did the drug would not be as effective if she remained in a high magnetic field environment."
Margaret Higgins did take the drug.
Lastly, according to Havas, studies with mice show that breast cancer, induced with a chemical carcinogen, appears earlier and grows more quickly when exposed to high magnetic fields.
"Since 1 in 9 women in Canada is likely to develop breast cancer in her lifetime, anything that promotes the growth of breast cancer, even slightly, becomes a very serious health concern," she says. Simply put, Havas suggests moving transformers away from homes and making certain that people don't live near power lines would be a step in the right direction.
Gerry Higgins won't quit. I guarantee it. He vividly remembers the shock on his wife's face and the tears in her eyes when her doctor confirmed she had breast cancer in 2000. He watched her die, but truly believes others can be helped.
He is calling for a study in this province, conducted by an independent body, to answer the question — Does living near a transformer and power lines increase your likelihood of developing cancer?
"Surely this is a valid question and the government of Newfoundland and Labrador is in the position to answer it," says Havas. By funding an independent study, the government could put this question to rest, and hopefully give Gerry Higgins the answer he's looking for.
Mark Dwyer, The Herald's managing editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Australia to build $30 bln broadband network
By ROHAN SULLIVAN
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
SYDNEY -- The government launched an ambitious plan Tuesday to make Australia one of the world's most wired countries, shunning private bids and announcing that a new state-controlled company would build a 43 billion Australian dollar ($30 billion) network from scratch.
The decision stunned observers, who said the plan was far more ambitious in scope and capacity than had previously been signaled, and could reshape Australia's telecommunications landscape.
Announcing the plan, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said it would deliver broadband speeds of 100 megabits per second to 90 percent of Australian homes, schools and businesses within eight years through fiber-optic cables connected directly to buildings. The other 10 percent of people would get a wireless upgrade.
The new speeds are 100 times faster than most Australians currently get - enough to watch multiple high-quality downloads of movies or television shows at once from the same connection.
A handful of countries - South Korea, Japan, France and Germany among then - currently have comparable speeds.
"This new super fast national broadband network ... is the most ambitious, far-reaching and long-term nation-building infrastructure project ever undertaken by an Australian government," Rudd told a news conference the national capital, Canberra.
A yet-to-be named company would build the network, funded by government money with private companies invited to invest and provide technical expertise and resources. Private sector ownership would be capped at 49 percent.
The network will cost up to AU$43 billion ($30 billion) to build over eight years with the rollout slated to begin next year. The government will start with a AU$4.7 billion ($3.4 billion) initial investment, with the rest to come from private companies and the issuing of government bonds.
The government would sell its stake in the company in the five years after the network is completed if conditions allow, Rudd said.
Critics said the plan could fail if the desired level of private investment was not reached, leaving the public to pay the whole cost through higher prices for Internet access.
"The government has provided no evidence that there will be sufficient demand for this service at prices that enable the network to deliver a commercial return," Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull said. "Without a commercial return there is no prospect whatsoever of the private sector investing."
Replacing Australia's ad-hoc, technologically antiquated broadband services has proved a difficult task for successive governments, in part because of Australia's geography - cities clustered on the coast and separated by vast distances of the sparsely populated Outback.
Rudd promised a comprehensive network as part of his successful 2007 election campaign, and subsequently invited companies to bid for the project.
But Rudd said Tuesday none of the tenders - which came from providers including the Optus unit of Singapore Telecommunications and Canada's Axia NetMedia - offered value for money, in part because of the global financial downturn.
All companies were invited to invest in the new company, he said.
Rudd said the network it was essential to boosting long-term economic growth in Australia and would increase the country's productivity and competitiveness long-term.
Access to the fiber optic network would be offered wholesale to all service providers, a move welcomed Tuesday by smaller companies who complain that Telstra, the country's largest telecommunications company, has a near monopoly over the existing copper wire network.
Telstra Chairman Donald McGuachie said the company welcomed the new plan and looked forward to "constructive discussions" with the government soon.
Senior Optus executive Maha Krishnapillai said the plan was a "highly attractive" investment opportunity.
"It's been a visionary and big step forward that will lift Australia from the broadband laggards where we are today into what we see as being a world leading broadband future," he said.
Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde said the plan was a complete surprise. It would take time and careful execution, but was forward-thinking and the open network approach would likely make end-user products affordable, he said.
- European Commission - Brussels "Workshop on EMF and Health: Science and Policy" (High Definition 16/9)
- EHS Tv News: EEA (European Environment Agency) David GEE
"EMF: Evaluating Evidence and Use of the Precautionary Principle"
-All Next-up News:
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