by Jonathan Mirin, published September 18, 2014 in the West County Independent (Viewpoint Column), Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts
Jonathan Mirin and his wife Godeliève Richard are the co-founding Artistic Directors of Piti Theatre Company based in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts and Les Ponts-de-Martel, Switzerland. Their next production for all ages, titled "Innocenzo*", is inspired by Godeliève's experience of becoming electro-hypersensitive and will begin U.S. touring in spring, 2015. The french version will be performed at the Centre de Prévention et Santé in Colombier, Switzerland on Nov. 26, 2014. http://www.ptco.org/innocenzo
Ashfield Select Board Chair Thomas Carter has been quoted as saying that at some point, Ashfield residents have to be for, versus against, something. It would seem that the select board and town Technology Committee are eager to “get on with it” and allow resident Christopher Gray to install one or several antennas on Town Hall that will send a signal to repeaters, which will send it further and potentially provide up to one-third of Ashfield's residents with wireless internet service. “Internet” and “local entrepreneur” are words that sound great together after being at the mercy of mega-corporations like Comcast and Verizon and their smaller satellite colleagues Blue Sky and Hughes Net since the dawn of the Internet in the hilltowns.
Fortunately, “Internet” and “wireless” are not synonyms. In more populated areas, people enjoy all the benefits the Internet has to offer courtesy of wired connections which are faster and more secure than wireless ones. Wired fiber-optic Internet connections will be delivered to every home in Ashfield . . .eventually. Mr. Carter estimates the town is three to five years away, or longer. Mr. Gray is offering free wired service to Ashfield Town Hall, and thus town offices, in exchange for putting up his antennas — the same carrot he's offering to Shelburne in exchange for putting an antenna on the Mt. Massaemet fire tower.
However, Ashfield's homes are full of people who moved to the town (or stayed there) for other reasons than a great Internet connection. Quality of life might be a reasonable assumption, or even a healthy environment in which to raise children, retire, farm or just plain old live. If you are a regular reader of the Independent, you have already read my wife's story — how she became electro-hypersensitive (EHS) in 2010 and how she is essentially house-bound in the face of increasingly high levels of electromagnetic radiation (RF) anywhere she might want to go unless she wants alone time in a forest, reasonably far from any cell towers. I will not go deeply into her experience again but it is available on the Web page below. She is one of thousands of people around the world who have become collateral damage to the massive buildout of wireless infrastructure in the last 15 years. These people live in their cars, in the woods, in caves, at home with the electricity turned off (as we did for a time) or wherever they can get away from wireless signal. While their numbers are rising, the rest of us are fine . . .right? Unfortunately, no.
In 2011, the World Health Organization classified RF from cell phones as a Class2B "probable human carcinogen" in the same category as lead and car exhaust. Sweden was the first country with a wireless infrastructure and, as a result, it is now the first to study the effects of wireless exposure over a 20-year period. The results? Based on the Hardell Group's findings, exposure to RF from cell phones should now be classified as a Class 1, known human carcinogen, in the same category as tobacco and asbestos (Hardell, et al 2013). Needless to say, with a multi-trillion-dollar industry on the line, this classification, no matter how much evidence is gathered, may never happen. Why?
There are also studies being published, funded by the wireless communication industry, that repeatedly show there is "nothing to worry about." We live in an age where public policy is largely dictated by science and in which science can be purchased, if your pockets are deep enough (see global warming, fracking, plastics, the "smart grid,” etc.). The purchase and distribution of what has been described as "trash science" is facilitated by a shadow industry, increasingly being revealed, known as the product-defense industry. These companies have leap-frogged from cigarettes to asbestos, global warming, plastics, lead and RF, making it easy for local, state and federal leaders to describe sticks-in-the-mud like myself as alarmist or ultra-precautionary The products change, but the words stay the same.
Some of the braver sticks-in-the-mud are ready to risk their lives (Occupy Wall Street, Greenpeace) or just be harassed (one family fighting a cell tower in Buckland had her their garage broken into and signs taken down) to point out that trading environmental health for financial gain — whether it's selling a few more houses in Ashfield to young families looking for connectivity or installing a natural gas pipeline and making billions — is not okay. And in this case, even the short-term financial gain is questionable; real estate values have been show to decrease 15 percent around cell towers and one would imagine being next to a "repeater" would create the same concerns, particularly once everyone has a wired connection (Bond and Hughe, 2004).
It is interesting to note that the major health concern for Ashfield's humans and non-humans (setting aside the importance of standing in solidarity with the communities being poisoned where the drilling will take place) is if there is a leak or explosion with the proposed gas pipeline. We can see here that the Precautionary Principle is alive and well. There is no “if” with the Hilltown Networks' proposal. The leak will be 24/7 for anyone unfortunate enough to live close enough to a repeater, antenna or receiver. How close is close enough? This is one of the many questions that will not have been answered when Ashfield's residents vote on Sept. 22. The sharpest spike in health effects occurs within 1,500 feet of cell towers (Dode et al, 2011).
The Hilltown Networks' Web site describes its services as "low latency." Of course, most people, including myself, would not really be sure what this benefit describes. And since there is no phone number on the site, I can't pick up the phone and ask. However it does suggest that Mr. Gray is aware that there may be a problem if his wireless network were "high latency." He is not the only wireless provider aware of health concerns. Look at the very fine print in the back of your cell phone manual and you will find the manufacturer's little known, FCC-required, and often impractical suggestions about the minimum distance the phone should be kept from your body — and your brain.
A more typical way the word “latency” is used when speaking about RF has to do with the time lapse between exposure and the development of cancer. Most cancers take at least 10 years to develop. Consequently, in five years, when it's likely everyone in Ashfield and Shelburne will have wired hi-speed connections, there will probably be no one who has developed cancer as a result of proximity to antennas installed five years ago. Mr. Carter, in the same article referenced above, suggests signing a five-year contract "while waiting for broadband." But when those five years are past, which select board member is going to demand that all Hilltown Networks' services cease because there are only five more years until the cancer rates rise? In fact, with tobacco, there is no statistically significant difference between smokers and non-smokers after 10 years. But after 20 years . . .look out.
Other questions which will not be answered by Sept. 22: what kind of exposure limits does the select board feel comfortable with? How about when combined with other sources like cell towers, smart meters and wi-fi at school? How far away do the repeaters need to be placed from residences? From beehives? Will there be a distinction in this safe distance between residences that contain children or where someone is pregnant? How about wetlands? How about migratory birds? Native bees? Who is going to be liable if someone who lives near a repeater or the Town Hall antenna develops cancer or gives birth to a child with autism? Or if a child "develops" ADD? (Aldad et al, 2012). Authors of the Web site babysafeproject.org write, "Twenty years ago, a review of the scientific literature on radiofrequency/microwave radiation conducted by the U. S. Air Force Materiel Command (Bolen 1994) concluded that 'behavior may be the most sensitive biological component to RF/Microwave radiation.'” The truth lurking behind this conclusion is what has driven thousands of strung-out teachers to demand an end to wi-fi in their classrooms.
But why be beholden to immoral scientists or ranting activists? Conducting your own experiment and using your own intuition and deductive powers is not a big leap when it comes to RF. Try a three day “wireless fast" at home (if your don't have too many wi-fi networks from neighbors) or go camping. Any changes in chronic conditions? In your child's behavior? In your behavior? Similarly, try sleeping next to the wireless router one night. Or with your cell phone next to your head . . .actually don't do this; just try the healthy version. If you live in Ashfield, you still have a few days until the vote to make your own conclusion. And when you do stand up and are counted, it might be interesting to remember that the most vulnerable groups will not be voting that evening: children, migratory birds, bees, butterflies, elderly people unable to attend, people whose immune systems are too damaged to attend, and the citizens of Ashfield (and Shelburne) to come.
For links to research, resources, and letter templates for Comcast and the Mass Broadband Institute demanding complete wired service for partially wired towns and a petition to Shelburne selectmen, visit http://www.ptco.org/hilltownemf