Environmental Health Trust was joined by several experts in writing a letter to the Ontario Minister of Education Honourable Stephen Lecce regarding cell towers at schools. The letter was also sent to William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute Principal Cynthia Nguyen , the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) President Michelle Teixeira, OSSTF Executive Officer Hayssam Hulays and the Toronto District School Board Trustee Alexandra Lulka Rotman in light of the Toronto teacher work refusal due to concerns about radiation from a nearby cell tower.  

The Scientific Evidence To Support Restrictions on Cell Towers On Or Near School Property 

November 13, 2023

Dear Minister of Education, Honourable Stephen Lecce: 

Today, we are writing to advise you of the scientific grounds for enacting strong school policy to mitigate student, teacher and staff exposures to the non-ionizing electromagnetic field emissions from cell towers. Wireless radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic (EMF) radiation and magnetic field/extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMF) are a relatively new and rapidly increasing environmental exposure in classrooms today. Significant sources include cell towers, cell boosters and 5G/4G networks on and near school property. 

Extensive published scientific evidence indicates that radiofrequency radiation at levels compliant with federal government limits can cause cancer, increased oxidative stress, genetic damage, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, memory deficits, behavioral problems, and neurological impacts. We consider radiofrequency radiation (RFR) to be a human carcinogen based on the current body of evidence. Many of these effects could be irreversible with grave consequences for our children’s future.

We recommend policies to reduce human exposure to RF, especially in schools. 

As an example of the research indicating federal regulations are inadequate to protect health, refer to a publication titled “Evidence for a health risk by RF on humans living around mobile phone base stations: From radiofrequency sickness to cancer by Balmori (2022). This publication reviewed the existing scientific literature on cell tower radiation and found associations with radiofrequency sickness, cancer and changes in biochemical parameters. We have attached this study for your review. 

A review paper by Pearce 2020 titled “Limiting liability with positioning to minimize negative health effects of cellular phone towers” reviewed the “large and growing body of evidence that human exposure to RFR from cellular phone base stations causes negative health effects.” The authors recommend restricting antennas near homes and within 500 meters of schools and hospitals to protect companies from future liability. 

Studies on people living near cell antennas have found increases in molecular markers in the blood that predict cancer. Zothansiama et al, 2017 evaluated effects in the human blood of individuals living near mobile phone base stations (for study purposes, they chose a distance of 80 meters) compared with healthy controls living more than 300 meters from a base station. The study measured higher RFR levels in the homes of people living in homes within 80 meters from the cell antennas (documenting the impact of increased RFR radiation from the antenna installations) and found statistically significant differences in their blood. The group living closer to the antennas had statistically significant higher frequency of micronuclei and a rise in lipid peroxidation in their blood; these changes are considered biomarkers predictive of cancer. 

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Please note the following scientific publications regarding cell towers and cell phone radiation: 

  • In 2011, radiofrequency radiation was classified as a Class 2B possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Between then and now, the published peer-reviewed scientific evidence has significantly increased. Now, many scientists are of the opinion that the weight of current peer-reviewed evidence supports the conclusion that radiofrequency radiation should be regarded as a human carcinogen (Hardell and Carlberg 2017, Peleg et al, 2018, Miller et al 2018). 
  • The U.S. National Toxicology Program $25 million animal study on long-term exposure to radiofrequency radiation found DNA Damage, heart damage, increased brain tumors, and increased heart tumors deemed “clear evidence of cancer.” Researchers with the renowned Ramazzini Institute in Italy then published findings that lab animals exposed to levels of RFR comparable to cell tower base stations’ networks developed the same types of cancers as the US National Toxicology Program found in its large-scale animal study.  
  • An Australian study looked at RFR levels to which kindergarten children were exposed, depending on how close their school was to base stations/cell towers. Researchers equipped the children with RFR measuring devices. Researchers found that kindergartens located nearby base stations/cell towers (closer than 300 meters or approximately 330 yards) had total exposure to radiofrequency radiation (RFR or RF-EMF) more than 3 times higher than children at schools where base stations were further away than 300 meters.  
  • A review by Yakymenko 2015 found that in 93 out of 100 studies, RFR exposure caused oxidative stress. Many well-known carcinogens (such as asbestos and arsenic) are understood to induce oxidative stress. Schuermann et al., 2021 again confirmed non-ionizing radiation has oxidative effects in the majority of animal and cell studies. 


  • The International Association of Firefighters has officially opposed cell towers on their stations since 2004 after a study found neurological damage in firefighters with antennas on their fire station. In 2017, when 5G “small cells” were coming to California via a 5G streamlining bill (SB 649), firefighter organizations came out in strong opposition to the bill and requested that towers not be installed on firehouses. They were successful and SB649 was amended to exempt their stations from the deployment due to their health concerns.
  • A study by Meo et al., 2019  of students in schools near cell towers found their higher RF exposure was associated with impacts on motor skills, memory, and attention. Examples of other health issues associated with cell towers in research studies include neuropsychiatric problems, diabetes, headaches, sleep problems, and genetic damage. Such research continues to accumulate after the 2010 landmark review study on 56 studies that reported biological effects found at very low intensities of wireless radiation, including impacts on reproduction, permeability of the blood-brain barrier, behavior, cellular changes and metabolic changes, and increases in cancer risk (Lai and Levitt 2010). 
  • The International EMF Scientist Appeal was submitted to the United Nations urging immediate protective policy action in light of the scientific evidence that has found adverse biological effects from electromagnetic radiation, including radiofrequency radiation, and, as of July 2023, this Appeal is signed by 259 scientists from 44 nations; these are scientists who have published peer-reviewed articles about electromagnetic fields. They state, “numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines. Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being.” 
  • The European Parliament Study Service “Health Impact of 5G” report concludes that the electromagnetic field emission frequencies of 450 to 6,000 MHz “are probably carcinogenic for humans, in particular related to gliomas and acoustic neuromas” and in regards to reproductive developmental effects “these frequencies clearly affect male fertility and possibly female fertility too. They may have possible adverse effects on the development of embryos, fetuses and newborns.” 
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The exposure limits of Canada and the U.S. are outdated and do not protect the health of the public, especially not the health of children and staff exposed every school day. This is why the New Hampshire State Commission on 5G and Santa Clara Medical Association recommend restricting cell towers near schools.  

Please note that in several countries such, governments have set policies to protect children, pregnant women and medically fragile persons by classifying areas with homes, hospitals and schools as “sensitive areas.” These countries reduce exposure in “sensitive” areas and have strict oversight and compliance measures in place. 

Our position is that children require special protections from radiofrequency radiation and their exposures should be reduced to as low as possible. Teachers and staff should work in a healthy environment. We strongly recommend mitigating RFR exposure at schools. 

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EHT has been joined by other experts and organizations in writing to you and offering expertise to support the development of protective measures. Please see the attached resources with additional documentation. We are available to meet and present more about how to reduce and mitigate RF risks and answer any questions.  

Thank you for your consideration and action on this important issue.


Devra Davis, PhD, MPH

President and Founder, Environmental Health Trust


Anthony B. Miller, MD 

Professor Emeritus at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto 

Senior Advisor to Environmental Health Trust 

Theodora Scarato, MSW

Executive Director, Environmental Health Trust 

David O. Carpenter, MD

Director, Institute for Health and the Environment

A Collaborating Center of the World Health Organization

University at Albany, New York

Alfonso Balmori, BSc, Biologist 

Master in Environmental Education, Independent researcher

Kent Chamberlin, PhD

Professor & Chair Emeritus

Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering 

University of New Hampshire

Paul Héroux, PhD     

Professor of Toxicology and Health Effects of Electromagnetism

McGill University Medicine

Department of Surgery, McGill University Health Centre

Meg Sears, PhD

Chair, Prevent Cancer Now

Senior Research Associate, Ottawa Hospital Research Associate

Frank Clegg

CEO, Canadians for Safe Technology 

Shelley Wright, BA, BEd

Director, Canadian Educators for Safe Technology

Barbara Payne 

President, Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation

Download the letter here. Download the letter with references. 

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