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

03 August 2018

Health Exemption for Firefighters sends a Message to the World

RE-POSTED 3 August 2018

UPDATE (6 July 2017): View this ABC News clip "LA Firefighters Halt Cell Towers on Fire Stations Due to Radiation Concerns"

Guest Blog: ‘Health Exemption for Firefighters sends a Message to the World’ by Susan Foster
posted on Between a Rock and a Hard Place,
26 June 2017

Below is the next in a series of Guest Blogs on BRHP. The opinions expressed in this Guest Blog are of Susan Foster herself. Publication of these opinions in BRHP does not imply that BRHP automatically agrees with or endorses these opinions. Publication of this, and other guest blogs, facilitates an open debate and free exchange of opinions on wireless technology and health.

Susan Foster is a medical writer who has worked with firefighters on health, safety and policy with respect to cell towers on their stations since 2000. She organized a brain study of California firefighters in 2004 and was the original author of Resolution 15 passed by the IAFF in 2004. She is an Honorary Firefighters with the San Diego Fire Department.

This Guest Blog is longer than usual blogs on BRHP. Comments box and social media buttons are at the end of the post


by Susan Foster

Trends often start in California, spread across the U.S. and frequently around the world. And so it is with wireless technology and the policy advancing the now unchecked expansion of wireless infrastructure throughout our communities. The next few days may signal a policy shift tipping point from which there is no return, and firefighters – forever on the front lines when it comes to health and safety – have a message for all of us through their proactive stance.

A bill is pending in the California Assembly that will be heard in two separate committees on Wednesday, June 28th. If it passes and becomes law effective January 1, 2018, nearly all cell towers may be sited by telecom carriers without any local control. In a flex of corporate power and influence over the legislature, an amendment was added to the bill at the 11th hour to grant a pass to macro towers, allowing cell towers of multiple shapes and sizes to be sited without cities or local residents having any say in the matter. For all the connectivity people have come to wish for, no one wants to wake up with a tower beaming at or looming over their home.

Prior to this expansive amendment, taking the proposed legislation from bad to Orwellian, Senate Bill 649 was designed to allow for rapid deployment of small cell towers to be placed every 5 to 10 homes without the local zoning procedures that have been guaranteed for 20 years by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This expansion is part of the coming 5G — the 5th Generation of wireless technology –infrastructure build out.

5G is a millimeter wave, minimally tested on humans, and never in a 24/7 capacity which is what small cells outside homes, schools, hospitals and places of work are designed for. Engineers have found ways to amplify and target 5G technology allowing it to penetrate previous barriers with greater ease. 5G will operate on very high frequencies, requiring towers or antennas that are close together. We still don’t know exactly what 5G will do, but in general terms think driverless cars, “Internet of Things” where all your appliances are communicating with each other, and home routers that will become cell sites. That is great if you are in love with tech.

Yet there is a groundswell of concern about unknown health effects of the millimeter wave and the placement of so many towers so close together. Local control has previously been able to give citizens a say, albeit a limited one, in the tower citing process.

Now the well-funded industry lobbying campaign to fast track this infrastructure by taking away local control has many cities and health advocates deeply concerned. Telecom lobbyists have paved the way for passage by targeting members of key legislative committees with financial gifts. Some gifts are direct, while others are cleverly indirect, like the $25,000 check from AT&T to SB 649 sponsor Senator Ben Hueso from the San Diego area.

In 2015 local papers carried a picture of Sen. Hueso proudly holding an oversized check for his favorite charity PIQE – Parent Institute for Quality Education. AT&T was the donor, and Sen. Hueso was all smiles as AT&T’s generosity to his constituents was a reflection on him. This pattern is repeated over and over again until telecom has the “yes” votes it needs to pass legislation taking away control from local planning boards and handing a blank check to the industry itself to place their towers virtually wherever they want. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/california-wireless-legislation-paid-for-by-att-et_us_591a0001e4b0f31b03fb9e0e This groundwork is being laid in multiple states throughout the U.S.

The industry-friendly California legislature may claim they know nothing about health concerns, but in fact they do. The legislature granted an exemption from SB 649 to the firefighters who requested it for health reasons. Throughout California firefighters have long complained of often disabling symptoms from cell towers on their stations. Cities frequently rent out space on fire stations to add to city revenue. Firefighters live and sleep in the stations when on duty, and have experienced significant RF radiation exposure.

Symptoms experienced by the firefighters have included neurological impairment including severe headache, confusion, inability to focus, lethargy, inability to sleep, and inability to wake up for 911 emergency calls. Firefighters have reported getting lost on 911 calls in the same community they grew up in, and one veteran medic forgot where he was in the midst of basic CPR on a cardiac victim and couldn’t recall how to start the procedure over again. Prior to the installation of the tower on his station, this medic had not made a single mistake in 20 years. A pilot study (2004) of California firefighters showed brain abnormalities, cognitive impairment, delayed reaction time, and lack of impulse control in all 6 firefighters tested (https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/7022117660.pdf). This study led to the overwhelming passage of Resolution 15 by the International Association of Firefighters in Boston in August 2004. Res. 15 called for further study and was amended to impose a moratorium on the placement of cell towers on fire stations throughout the US and Canada. http://emrpolicy.org/news/headlines/iaff_position.PDF

The IAFF failed to fund further study, and the U.S. Telecommunications Act of 1996 as well as equivalent legislation in Canada trumped the moratorium. Section 704 of the Telecom Act states environmental concerns cannot be taken into consideration, and the courts have interpreted this as health concerns. Thus the SB 649 exemption of California fire stations is noteworthy, and long overdue. Cell towers on fire stations are, in many instances, challenging the cognitive and physical capability of our firefighters. As the spirit of Resolution 15 contended in 2004 and the firefighters of California are demanding in 2017, if the first responders are disabled, society is at risk.

Since the State acknowledged there is a health risk for firefighters, this begs the obvious question: What about the rest of us? We should all be allowed to retain local control and have as much say as possible – albeit a limited one – to protect our communities and our families. Because firefighters must pass rigorous physical and cognitive exams before being admitted to any fire department, only the best and brightest are selected. Therefore the vast majority of the rest of the population of California is inherently more vulnerable and more likely to suffer even greater harm as a result of this unfettered cell tower intrusion into our neighborhoods, schools, parks, hospitals, places of worship and places of work.

The firefighters are far from alone in their concern. In 2011 IARC, the World Health Organization’s cancer committee, classified RF (wireless) radiation as a 2b or possible human carcinogen, putting it in the same category as Chlordane, diesel fuel and lead. http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2011/pdfs/pr208_E.pdf

The U.S. National Toxicology Program issued a press release in May of 2016, not awaiting the conclusion of their $25,000,000 study, because of their unexpected findings of two tumor types in the rats exposed to RFR, malignant gliomas in the brain and schwannomas of the heart. http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2016/05/26/055699

In 2015, the International EMF Scientist Appeal was initially signed by 190 scientists from 39 nations and submitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Director-General of the World Health Organization and U.N. Member Nations. http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20150511005200/en/International-Scientists-Appeal-U.N.-Protect-Humans-Wildlife. The appeal urged the development of more protective EMF guidelines, encouraged precautionary measures, and called for education of the public about health risks, particularly risks to children and fetal development.

The advisors to the International EMF Scientist Appeal subsequently submitted a letter to the FCC opposing proposed changes in FCC rules that would allow rapid deployment of 5G wireless infrastructure throughout the nation.

These efforts have fallen on deaf ears. Before his departure, outgoing FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced 5G “redefines network connectivity for years to come.” When asked about health concerns, Wheeler’s response seemed more that of the head of the powerful CTIA, the wireless lobby he headed before be taking over as Chairman of the FCC. Wheeler said there was not time to study 5G because there was billions in infrastructure waiting to be made. In short, 5G is a moneymaker and health be damned.

The firefighters fought for and justifiably earned the health exemption that will protect them. They are the guardians of society. They deserve to be protected. Yet so does the population they protect.

The only way justice can be done now is through a revamping of SB 649, or its defeat. And the message to the rest of the U.S. and truly the entire world is in the California firefighters’ actions. They have aggressively lobbied to protect themselves so they may better protect all of us.

There is an expression often heard in firefighting: “First to get there, last to leave.” The firefighters of California risked having radioactive isotopes injected into their bloodstreams and underwent brain scans so we could learn what happened to their brains when they were exposed to cell towers adjacent to their stations. They risked the ire of their chiefs and some IAFF union bosses. They risked losing promotions, and in their lobbying in recent years against the monstrous FirstNET telecommunications towers on their buildings, they risked millions of dollars they raised through union dues. They achieved what no one else has done. They got an exemption on health from the California legislature. They are the first to get there in this fight for health rights in the face of RF radiation-emitting cell towers. They are paving the way for the rest of us. Now it is up to us to advocate for ourselves.

What starts in California doesn’t stay in California. It spreads across the country, and then the world. And this trend, unfortunately, is happening in warp speed.



  1. Our schools are also a battleground for the health of our children. More civilized countries like Switzerland have had the Wi-Fi routers removed from all schools and have replaced it with fiber optic. However, aside from the 5G being rolled out in Americas neighborhoods, Oneweb and SpaceX are planning to utilize at least 7,000 satellites to beam microwaves down on every square inch of the planet since they state that everyone needs and deserves internet access. They are using our schoolchildren as an excuse for this nonsense. What very few people are aware of, is the synergistic effect of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation in causing damage to the cells in our body (according to British scientist Christopher Busby PhD). We may not be able to have a choice in our exposure to nuclear radiation that is vented daily from power plants, but we must be able to limit our exposure to microwave radiation. These corporations have long been given too much power and must be stopped at all costs.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. (Removed, because text slightly changed):
      Unfortunately, there will not be too many Wi-Fi-free schools in Switzerland. While Wi-Fi has not yet been widely installed in public schools, more and more private schools embrace this technology. One private school has introduced virtual reality into the classroom. Swisscom is preparing to launch the 5G network which will be available by 2020. Meanwhile, the operator is providing ever faster speeds for its customers who will be able to surf with their mobile phones in 11 cities at a speed of up to 800 megabytes per second. It is young people under age 26 who are contributing to the explosion of the volume of data, demanding ever greater speeds. The Swiss Government owns the majority of shares in Swisscom and is promoting digital technology at every opportunity.


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