Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

23 June 2014

Massachusetts: Why the Hilltowns Need to Regulate Antenna Placement

This text, originally published in the West County Independent, Shelburne Falls, was written by Jonathan Mirin, whose wife, Godeliève, is electro-hypersensitive.  AT&T is proposing to erect a 100-foot cell tower on the road where they live. The tower could have an impact on the health of Shelburne residents, which include elderly people and children living about 75 meters from the tower. The sharpest spike in health effects, such as the cancer clusters which have been documented around the world, tend to occur within 500 meters. 

We have been "attacked" by the pro-tower comment below, requesting us to remove the beautiful photograph of the Bridge of Flowers. Obviously, this person has no conception of the very real health risks of electromagnetic radiation, to which we are all susceptible and what it is like to be electro-hypersensitive.

Why the Hilltowns Need to Regulate Antenna Placement or All I Really Need to Know I Learned After My Wife Got Sick
by Jonathan Mirin, West County Independent, 19 June 2014

"Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy."
- Tobacco executive internal memo, 1969

History was never my favorite subject. I preferred English, theatre, religion — subjects where the imagination seemed unrestricted by the weight of historical facts. Of course, I had heard the truism about not being able to understand the present without knowing the past. I appreciated the idea intellectually. But it wasn't until my wife became sick in spring of 2010 and we came to understand, after three torturous years, in the fall of 2012, that the root of her suffering was that she was sensitive to "RF" (radio-frequency) wireless radiation of the sort emitted by cell towers, cell phones, computers trying to pick up Wi-fi, Wi-fi enabled routers, cordless phones, tablets, our electric meter, etc. etc. etc.

This was the first time I became an avid student of history. We began reading books, articles, Web sites. We watched documentaries. We spoke with activists. It took me several months to completely accept that this was what had derailed our lives and stolen time and energy from our now three-year-old son. Members of our family and friends quietly confided their belief to me that this must be a mental problem. In a way, I wished they were right. How would we live? How would she survive? Sometimes at four in the morning after another sleepless night when we were deciding whether or not to go to the emergency room, it seemed like death was a possible final outcome. Luckily, we found a solution for our home that has allowed her to sleep well again and begin to heal. She still can't leave the house for more than a few hours at a time.

One of my many layers of resistance to accepting that electromagnetic pollution or "electrosmog" was what had destroyed her health was a simple, naive faith in the regulatory powers of the U.S. government. This radiation is literally everywhere. If it could be so dangerous, how could it be allowed on such a massive scale? But after I found the startling analogy between RF and asbestos and cigarettes laid out on more than one advocacy group site, things began to click.

While the tobacco industry manipulated the science and the U.S. court system for over 50 years, a Japanese researcher definitively established the link between cancer and second hand smoke. Every year that passed added to the death toll in America. Why the lag time? One reason was that the tobacco industry had hired "product defense firms" that specialized in one product: doubt. If you can define the parameters of a scientific study that you pay for, it turns out there is quite a good chance the scientists you have hired will reach a conclusion that supports your position that there is "no problem." Cell phone companies have hired, literally, some of the same supporting cast used by the tobacco industry.

Last month, "tobacco scientist" Peter Valberg testified in Worcester about the safety of National Grid's smart meter pilot program. Smart meters are two-way RF transmission devices that the Massachusetts of Department of Public Utilities issued an order for utility companies to install on June 12, 2014. But our electric meters, which have already been "upgraded" to pulse RF radiation every couple of seconds from the meter to the street and now are slated to start pulsing into the home and offer a continual real-time snapshot of which appliance you are using when, deserve their own column at a later date.

Between 1994 and 1998, telecom companies made nearly $12 million in campaign contributions to members of Congress. In 1996, they helped write the Telecommunications Act, which stipulates that "no state or local government . . . may regulate the placement, construction and modification of personal wireless facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the [Federal Communication Commission's] regulations concerning such emissions."

This provision stripped Shelburne's Zoning Board of Appeals, not to mention every U.S. individual, local and state government, of the ability to say “no” to a cell tower proposal on the basis of health concerns. The result is that although the now more than 6,000 independent studies demonstrating health risks may be mentioned during the hearing process, the tower AT&T is proposing on Colrain-Shelburne Road has to be denied on some other grounds, like it's proximity to Route 2 which has been designated a Scenic Byway or perhaps the average of 15 percent drop in property value for those unfortunate enough to live next to it.

Despite this ridiculously lopsided playing field, telecom companies want more. On the state level, Senate Bill 2183 has been passed by the House and is now being considered by the Senate. The bill would essentially strip all local authorites of any ability to regulate antenna placement - they could be placed on homes, schools, etc. with no local control. Concerned citizens are urged to call their State Senator and tell them to oppose S. 2183 and any attempt to pre-empt local control in the Senate's economic development bill.

Of course, cell companies have become adept at hiding their antennas and AT&T would like to stash this one in an oversized barn silo. This is just the question local business owners who rely on tourists in the summer want their customers to be asking, "Gee, honey, I wonder if that's a hilltown barn silo or an AT&T barn silo?"

Unfortunately, hiding the tower will do nothing to change the health impacts to Shelburne residents, which include elderly people and children living about 75 meters from the tower. The sharpest spike in health effects, such as the cancer clusters which have been documented around the world, tend to occur within 500 meters.

It might seem, at first glance, that people like my wife should just be shipped off to an island so that the rest of the "un-sensitive" population can enjoy their wireless lives. Although countries are establishing radiation free zones for people like her, everyone is electro-sensitive. Everyone's melatonin production (the substance which cleans up cancer-causing free radicals, among other things, while we sleep) is inhibited when exposed to levels of RF currently deemed "safe." Human beings are electrical beings composed of cells that have been proven damaged by much, much lower levels of RF than you would experience in your typical coffee shop — or your typical elementary school. What if we somehow figured out how to protect ourselves? What if we all put on our shielding material in the morning before heading out to another busy day? The bees, the bats, the butterflies, the migratory birds — no wild species has yet been fitted for a Faraday cage — but they have been shown to be damaged from RF.

One last key historical moment concerns the Federal Communication Commission standards themselves. Back in 1953, a researcher named Herman Schwan who had come from Germany in 1949 to work for the U.S. Navy, suggested a thermal exposure limit based on heating effects he had noted when radar operators cooked hot dogs in their microwave beams. Later it became difficult to lower the limit without risking legal liability and thermal it has stayed, despite the U.S. military documenting biological effects of RF starting in the 1940s. This standard is so high that cell companies have had no incentive to engineer anything that might be even a little bit safer. Isn't it every person's right to stream an HD movie on his/her phone while waiting in line at the Post Office? How about two at time? How about 16? Biological effects start at .1 microwatts per square meter. The current allowed levels run from 2-10 million microwatts per square meter. That is not a typo — the allowed levels are millions of times higher than what is considered biologically safe.

Nothing like the changes in federal policy that are needed have ever come as an initiative from the corporations or government. It has only happened, as Ralph Nader recently reminded us, because people came together in the common wish for a place where people can drink clean water, breathe clean air, share the same rights as other citizens and, in this case, be able to live their lives without having their health damaged in the "safety" of their own homes.

One of the ironies of the RF radiation puzzle is that there are many straightforward steps that can be taken by individuals, governments and corporations to reduce this multiple source 24/7 exposure. But AT&T, Verizon and the gang are in a terrible spot. Like the tobacco companies, they have to keep denying the existence of a problem or face major legal and financial repercussions. WMECO and National Grid, after having installed RF-emitting transmitters on our homes, are in the same bind. So you can bet no corporate movement will be made towards protecting the public until we create a financial incentive for them — or they have no choice. That is, if history has anything to teach us.

Independent research supporting the above statements and other RF resources, including info on the current MA Senate bill and can be found at www.ptco.org/emf.  The first hearing on AT&T's proposal was held Tuesday, June 17. The "balloon test" where they will float a balloon at the height of the tower will be Saturday, June 21st from 9 - 4. The follow up hearing will be Tuesday, July 29th at 7 pm. Letters can be submitted to zoning@townofshelburne.com. For more about Jonathan Mirin and Godeliève Richard's "Innocenzo" english/french theatre production inspired by Godeliève's experience with EHS, visit www.ptco.org/innocenzo

The above text, published in the West County Independent, was sent to the Editor of this blog by Jonathan Mirin.

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