Safety Code 6 is taken from the title of Health Canada’s official publication that outlines the regulation of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation exposure from cell phones and other mobile devices. The placement of the associated infrastructure – antennas and towers – is overseen by Industry Canada. The combination of the two regulatory regimes results in concentrations of towers and antennas on only some buildings and my project, primarily photographic, aims to make this visible.
My work on this began in mid-2015 when I began to notice this accumulation of cell towers and antennas on the rooftops of certain buildings in my own mid-town Toronto neighbourhood. As I began to photograph and research the buildings with the densest clusters of towers on their roofs, a pattern began to emerge. While many towers can also be found on commercial office buildings, a significant number were sited on the tops of three types of buildings where people live – private apartment buildings, seniors’ homes and publicly subsidized housing. What the three types of sites have in common is that the residents are generally not consulted about initial or subsequent placements of antennas. This appears to be in contrast to condominium towers, on top of which a cell tower is rarely, if ever, seen. Condominium boards, made up of unit owners, make choices and very few seem to choose cell towers in spite of the financial incentives. One wonders why.