Kent First Selectman
Ruth Epstein believes establishing a cellular tower in Kent is a
matter of public safety, but the preponderance of testimony given by
panelists in Cornwall last weekend suggests that the technology is
more dangerous than the emergencies it might avert.
forum, "Responsible Tower Siting, It's More Than Aesthetics," was
held Saturday at the Cornwall Town Hall and featured presentations
by science journalist B. Blake Levitt, former federal prosecutor
Whitney North Seymour, Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Council
president Starr Childs, and Columbia University professor of
physiology and cellular biophysics Martin Blank.
author of "Electromagnetic Fields, A Consumer's Guide to the Issues
and How to Protect Ourselves," and the editor of "Cell Towers,
Wireless Convenience or Environmental Hazard?" led off the
presentations with a rapid-fire indictment of an industry that she
has covered in-depth for many years.
She said that Saturday's
forum had been condemned in an area newspaper by persons who
believed the goal was to stop all cellular towers. That, she said,
was not her intent. "This is about safer siting than we have now,"
she said. "There are significant things communities can do to
She and her fellow panelists reported that
there is much to be protected from. "People say providing more
towers is a safety issue," she said. "Everyone has heard about lives
that were saved because of cell phones, but cell phones cause more
accidents than they help."
Drivers using cell phones, even with
headphones and hands-free sets, have driving skills comparable to
drunk drivers, she asserted. Short-term memory is disrupted for at
least 15 minutes following a phone call, studies show, and drivers
are less likely to move smoothly with the flow of traffic.
there is a false sense of security," she said. "People are more
likely to start out on icy roads."
Beyond the danger on the
roads, she said there are real environmental and health concerns
associated with the burgeoning wireless technology. Most people
believe that cell tower transmissions have been studied and found
safe, she said, but that this is not the case. Federal agencies have
taken into account no studies done after 1986. "Therefore, although
the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] claims to keep track of
the subject, the standards currently in place are outdated by two
decades of new research," she said. "Towers have not been studied
and found safe."
Further, she asserted, the FCC has traditionally
adopted safety recommendations from the American National Standards
Institute [ANSI], an industry-based organization representing
diverse business interests. To create standards for
radiofrequency/microwave radiation [RF/MW] used in
telecommunications and other such activities, ANSI relied on a
subcommittee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics
Engineers responsible for making recommendations about exposure
levels. That subcommittee is currently drafting a proposal to relax
standards even further, even though the U.S. is already among the
most lenient of the industrialized countries.
Both Ms. Levitt and
Dr. Blank noted that the standards have been set by engineers and
not by scientists conducting biological studies.
While the FCC
relies on studies done in the 1980s, European and Asian countries
are taking fresh, hard looks at wireless technologies, she said, and
many are backing away from the creation of the "electrosmog" that
affects humans and animals alike.
Because the human body is "an
electrochemical instrument of exquisite sensitivity," according to
Dr. G. J. Hyland of the University of Warwick in England, it is
sensitive to the microwaves pulses modern technology broadcasts two
to 24 times per second. This pulsing is in the frequency range of
human brain waves and can cause them to speed up or slow down, Ms.
Levitt reports. This changes the level of consciousness, as
demonstrated by electroencephalograms.
Multiple studies have
found that the microwave exposure can result in headaches,
depression, sleep deprivation, disruption of REM sleep, short-term
memory loss, reduced problem-solving skills, mood swings and more.
While the industry argues that frequencies are low and unlikely
to cause problems, she reported, "Some frequencies may be trouble at
Wireless technologies are becoming increasingly
prevalent and cell phones are not the only culprits. "Wi-Fi and
wireless routers are like inviting a cell tower into your home," she
said. "No safe level has been determined for radio frequency
pollution. Whole cities are going wi-fi, which forces 24/7
involuntary ambient exposure and background levels of exposure are
increasing. RF can and does damage DNA."
Wireless computers are
held close to the body and some medical experts now recommend that
women of childbearing age not hold them in their laps.
exposures are everywhere, she said, from the microchips implanted in
pets to the high-definition televisions in our living rooms.
they are rarely considered when patients present themselves with a
variety of health complaints. "Most doctors are clueless. They don't
even consider low-level radiation exposure. No one is protected from
the 'electrosmog.' The companies are experimenting on people without
their consent," she said, adding that the effects seem to be
"There's not much difference between a cell phone
and an x-ray," she added.
At the same time that wireless
technology is booming, federal oversight is slipping away, she
reported. As with other federal agencies, the Environmental
Protection Agency's budget has been slashed dramatically, to the
point that the bio-electronic lab is "funded at the level of
one-half of one salary." And, while the FCC says that it monitors
towers, she asserts there is no monitoring at the local
Local communities were largely stripped of their ability
to oppose cell tower placements by the Telecommunications Act of
1996, Section 704, which removed local control and the ability to
object to towers based on environmental effects.
wiped out the reason to have zoning in the first place," she said,
and urged her listeners to contact U.S Congressman Chris Murphy, who
has vowed to do what he can to get Section 704 removed from the
She concluded that an unbiased federal agency is needed. "We
need government oversight," she said, "and not a private
entrepreneur to rewrite the FCC standards."
Dr. Martin Blank, who
said he is not an activist, nevertheless supported Ms. Levitt's
report. "I'm a scientist [studying] how the body reacts to
electro-magnetic fields," he said.
He said that some of the
standards used to determine the safety of radio and microwaves
bombarding the populace "are pointless." The FCC has used the
thermal effect of microwaves on tissue to determine safety levels:
if there is no detectable increase in heat, there is no damage.
"Thermal data doesn't mean anything because it doesn't tell us
anything about biology," he said, noting that electromagnetic
radiation can cause cell damage even before there is any heating.
"We are looking at cell damage that occurs well below the safety
limits," he reported, commenting that people are often exposed to
more than one source at any one time. "You could get simultaneous
exposure from the cell phone and the wire over your head."
research tells the story," he reported. "The biological research is
clear: electromagnetic fields causes DNA damage." He referred his
listeners to the Bioinitiative Report released last August,
available at bioinitiative.org, which was developed by an
international group of scientists, researchers and public health
policy professionals, that documents serious scientific concerns
about current regulatory limits for how much EMF is allowable from
power lines, cell phones and many other sources of exposure in daily
life. The report concludes that existing standards for public safety
Dr. Blank said that cell responses to stress are
specific and that these "defense responses are stimulated by ELF and
"DNA changes-which you probably know as mutation-are
believed to lead to cancer," he said.
Cancer resulting from
exposure would seem bad enough, but he also reported that the waves
reduce the efficacy of melatomin and taxmoxifen, substances known to
inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. The rate of growth of
these cancer cells when ELF is present is the same as without
melatomin and taxmoxifen.
He listed health concerns identified
with exposure to electrosmog-lymphomas found in mice, blood brain
barrier leaks, micronuclei founf in blood, acoustic neuromas and an
increase in carotid cancers. "Radio waves are bombarding us," he
said. "Every place you can get a transmission on your radio, you are
getting exposure. If you can get a signal from 15 bands, you are
getting exposure from all 15 bands."
He said the issue is even
more problematic for children and that exposure has been linked with
"I started by telling you that I am not an activist,' he
concluded. "What I have been telling you is what the data are
telling you. What they are telling you is that we should learn the
lesson early. Practice prudent avoidance and aim for as low a level
of exposure as you can get."
Starr Childs of Norfolk, a
conservationist and adjunct professor at Yale, spoke from an
environmentalist's point of view, saying "the empty space in the air
is literally up for sale."
"Government intervention on behalf of
the telecommunications industry has let this technology move ahead
rapidly," he said, adding that most of the current research is being
carried on in Germany, Belgium and Spain and is being ignored in the
He said that the earth is bathed in natural
radiation, but that "unnatural frequencies" seem to be taking a
toll, including a 20 percent increase in the mortality of migratory
birds that fly into towers.
Birds, he explained, use the earth's
natural electromagnetic fields to find their way during migration.
"It is the concept of the air as habitat," he said. Birds "see"
magnetic fields through their eyes and can become disoriented near
telecommunication towers, frequently colliding with them.
Conservative estimates suggest 2 to 4 million birds die this way
each year and Childs said the number could be 10 times that
He said that European studies on Zebra finches, showed
that half of their brain cells showed "neuroma activity" when they
were exposed to the same level of radio frequencies used in cell
phones. "It should make you think twice about giving your kid a cell
phone no matter how much they beg," he quipped.
also remarked nest failures and abandonment near cell towers and
birds with plumage problems. "The common house sparrow, the most
tolerant of species for living in human environments, is
disappearing," he said. "The number of house sparrows is negatively
correlated to the number of cell towers."
Grassland birds are
also disappearing, but their numbers are not considered by the
Siting Council when considering placement of towers, he
Mammals are also affected. He said an experiment in Greece
showed that caged mice exposed to electro-magnetic fields had fewer
and fewer offspring in each generation. "After six months, there
were no offspring," he said, "which might be OK if you have mice in
your house. But in Sweden, a 2003 study documented nerve cell
problems in mammalian brains, irreparable damage that may not be
seen until later. Cell phones may be doing more damage to teenage
brains than to middle age people."
A 1998 study showed that milk
cows produced less milk near towers and another study showed that
amphibians are disappearing, probably as a result of exposure.
"Spring may be more silent than you think someday," he said,
referring to the ground-breaking book, "Silent Spring," by Rachel
Carson, which brought about the ban on DDT.
worrisome is the effect on honeybees, which are responsible for
pollinating most of the plants that feed the world. Honeybees are
abandoning hives at an alarming rate and researchers fear that
"electrosmog" may be the cause. Mr. Childs told of one experiment
that exposed one set of hives to electromagnetic pollution, while
another set was sheltered from exposure. The bees were taken 800
meters from their hives and released.
Two-thirds of the sheltered
bees made it back to their hives, the first-comers within 10
minutes. Only one of the exposed hives had any bees that returned
and over much longer periods of time.
Mr. Childs recommended that
as a compromise towers be sited midway up hillsides, away from the
viewshed, paths of migratory birds and the habitats of humans and
Whitney North Seymour took the podium to give ideas
of ways to prevent tower placements. "The co-founder of the Natural
Resources Defense Council, he and his daughter, Gabriel, helped to
delay and ultimately kill a proposal to put cellular antennae on an
existing CL&P tower in Falls Village.
"We must educate
ourselves, the do-gooders and our elected officials," he said. "We
must stand up and punch our state agencies in the nose. There are
many good-hearted people out there who are ignorant of these
He mentioned the Audubon Society and his failure to
elicit interest from it when he contacted its officials. "Their
attitude was, 'Don't call us; we'll call you,'" he said, adding that
he recently made some progress in bringing the issue before the
"The Appalachian Trail Club must make this a priority,"
he continued. "There are endangered species along the trail and they
are the ones most threatened by this technology. The Appalachian
Trail must be a safe haven for all these species. We have to knock
on the doors of the do-gooder groups and make sure they
He said activists should be ready for resistance.
"Very intelligent, very successful people will refuse to hear you,"
he said. He indicted the news media for not getting the message out
and excoriated elected representatives "who were bought and paid for
by the telecommunications companies."
However, because those
representatives are elected, they are most vulnerable to voter
pressure, he said. "The telecomm industry doesn't go into the voting
booth-you go into the booth and your representatives will listen if
enough of you go in and educate them."
He said the Siting council
was set up to protect the environment but that, because its members
are paid by the telecommunication companies, "there is something
very wrong and undemocratic about this agency." Individuals can see
the decisions made about towers in each town by going to the
Council's Web Site and, if they wish, can file for a declaratory
judgment against proposals. "That gives you a chance for a hearing,"
he said, "which the Siting Council will dismiss-but then you can
He said that in Falls Village just such an action
delayed a project long enough for Nextel to withdraw the