[This article gives an excellent overview of this issue and the FCC laws that deny the right to reject cell towers on the basis of health or environmental concerns.]
June 8th, 2011
by Chantal Boccaccio
Imagine you’re living in your apartment for fifteen years, and one day the city comes knocking on your door with orders to put NINE Cellular Antennas and a GPS Satellite on your roof! That’s the nightmare facing the residents of 7100 Hillside Avenue in Hollywood.
On Wednesday, June 3rd, a hearing about the proposed 9-antennae Cell Tower was held at LA City Hall before the Zoning Administration. Residents within a 500 foot radius were invited by letter to the hearing, where they expected their concerns would be heard.
The residents provided Zoning Administrator Maya Zaitzevsky with testimony, articles and links to hundreds more articles, espousing the exhaustive list of dire health risks directly associated with residing near a Cell Tower.
“I’m not allowed to consider ANY testimony about health implications, since it’s an FCC regulation, and the FCC says it’s safe,” insisted Zoning Administrator Zaitzevsky. “This hearing is only about the aesthetics of the cell tower!”
Residents were shocked. The had been invited to the hearing, and their tax dollars were paying the Zoning Administrator’s salary, not to decide WHETHER there should be a cancer tower over their heads, but merely how to DRESS the Cancer Tower!
The sister item on the agenda, ironically, was an adoption of something called a Mitigated Negative Declaration, which allowed them to blow off the Environmental Impact Study!
Pleading with Zoning Administrator Maya Zaitzevsky fell on deaf ears. “I have Cell Towers all around where I live!” Zaitzevsky insisted.
One neighborhood resident lamented “yes, M’am, but you probably don’t sleep under one.”
How is it possible that you can live in an apartment where the city can just DECIDE to put a tower over your bed – or rather – nine towers and a GPS Satellite — and you have NOTHING to say about it?
Prior to 1996, communities still had the authority to block the location of cell towers. But the Federal Communications Act of ‘96 made it virtually impossible for communities to stop construction of cell towers, regardless of whether they posed threats to public health and the environment– And despite the fact that hundreds of studies world wide indicated that the radiation exposure was like living in a microwave oven.
B. Blake Levitt is a medical and science journalist, former New York Times writer, and author of Electromagnetic Fields: A Consumer’s Guide to the Issues and How to Protect Ourselves, for which she won an award from the American Medical Writers Association.
In the late ‘90’s, Levitt reported “The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the size of the Manhattan phone directory. At the time it was being debated, most people, including many legislators voting on it, thought it was only about complex deregulation schemes. But deep within its pages, in Section 704, lay a stealth clause about the siting of cell-phone towers that is creating a planning and zoning nightmare–and perhaps a public health problem, according to scores of scientists, journalists, and activists.”
It should come as no surprise that representatives of the telecommunications conglomerates helped write the legislation, including Section 704, which states “although communities reserve their rights over the general placement, construction, and modification of towers, they cannot ban them outright.”
Proponents for more governmental protection insist that “the decision to enter the age of wireless convenience was politically determined for us, thus we’ve ignored well-documented safety and environmental concerns.”
“Zoning officials today are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to siting cellular phone towers on, or in, pre-existing buildings,” explains B. Blake Levitt.
“Legally, they can’t refuse them or, supposedly, design zoning regulations based on health effects, no matter how convincing the scientific evidence or how militant community members become. Any community that tries to challenge the safety of cellular towers based on the ‘environmental’ effects of radio-frequency emissions stands to end up in federal court. Several communities already have.”
Critics call it a flagrant challenge to the Fifth and Tenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and believe the FCC is ignoring its duty to protect the health of Americans.
Dr. Jerry Phillips, a biochemist researcher, explains “the only significant money given to research on cell phone and tower safety issues comes from the cell phone industry itself.” Having worked on the inside of that industry, he knows not to trust the studies that are coming out.
More than a decade ago, Dr. Phillips began researching cell phone and tower safety for Motorola. His studies turned up data that indicated distinct negative effects on human health. Motorola quickly took steps to delay Dr. Phillips’ findings, buying some time to decide how to spin the results into something positive to present to the public.
Motorola company manuals for personnel who work on communications towers confirm that high frequency radiation from these antennas is nasty stuff. Safety regulations mandate warning signs, EMF awareness training, protective gear, even transmitter deactivation for personnel working close to antennas.
But no worries if you’re simply sleeping under them!
Publicly, the government will be the first to tell you that no studies have shown “conclusive evidence” that radio-frequency emissions, a form of electromagnetic radiation (EMR), from cell towers are harmful. Cell phone companies will also insist there is no danger.
“There are no health risks posed by the towers. Independent scientific panels around the world have reached this conclusion,” says Russ Stromberg, senior manager of development at T-Mobile.
Ironically, T-Mobile is the company whose towers are being erected at 7100 Hillside. T Mobile is aggressively competing with AT&T for their Land Line market, hoping to get customers to switch to becoming T Mobile all wireless households.
“People think that this is about servicing existing customers who want better cell reception in the canyons,” explains Jarone Johnson, head of the West Hollywood Neighborhood Council. “This has nothing to do with getting better reception – you’d need to put a tower around every bend on Outpost. This has everything to do with future customers they hope to grab away from AT&T. Their reception won’t be better, and their property values are going to plummet.”
Local resident Sally Hampton has been a one-woman crusade against this issue, beating the T Mobile team in five separate hearings for five different communities. One community was so grateful, they erected a website called “Sally Our Angel.” Hampton has spent two exhaustive years, and a hundred thousand dollars of her own money, fighting to keep the T Mobile towers out of our neighborhoods. She’s created two national organizations to fight cell tower siting in residential areas, REACT (Residents Engaged Against Cell Towers), and CloutNow.org. Hampton explain “T Mobile is the most aggressive company. They’ll use any means to get their hooks into an unsuspecting neighborhood. Because of the way the telecom industry has written the law, once they’ve gotten into a neighborhood, they can keep erecting towers in that area without further review. They can literally start digging up your front yard, and there isn’t anything you can do about it. This whole issue isn’t just about putting those nine towers on the roof of 7100 Hillside, it’s a Trojan Horse. It’s about blanketing an entire area once they get in, and this is typical of how they’re operating in neighborhoods all over the country.”
Hampton explains that bringing up any health issues at the hearing can result in an automatic approval on behalf of the telecom company, and set up possible future litigation against the city, due to stealth clauses the cell phone industry has written into the Communications Act.
She’s written Congressman Henry Waxmen asking for changes to be made in the law, citing that “residents are outraged over the disregard outside telecom companies have for local building and zoning codes, the deceptive and aggressive tactics used by wireless companies to force their way into residential areas, and the fact that many placements of cell towers and related wireless facilities turn out to be unnecessary to servicing existing demands, while ignoring public safety.”
The residents of 7100 Hillside can only fight this on the basis of zoning and esthetics. For instance, height variances are most often a neighborhood’s only ammunition. In the case of the Hillside apartment, neither objection is relevant, as the cell tower structure will be placed in an enclosed cabinet already positioned on the roof, which will shield it from view.
Journalist Arielle Emmett, in an article for TelePhony Online, explains “in harsh conditions, especially in deserts or hot environments with unventilated cabinets or after a power outage, internal temperatures can rise dramatically and the batteries emit gasses, sometimes uncontrollably. That’s a phenomenon known as thermal runaway, which can cause battery melt-downs and explosions.” The cabinet on the Hillside rooftop is similar to containers that have exploded in heat, raining burning battery acid on the residence.
“I’ve gotten called out four or five times a year because of cell tower battery explosions,” says Frank Vaccaro, a telecom battery consultancy. “In one case, the front part of a battery cabinet blew off 250 feet because of an explosion and landed in front of a car. I’m concerned because someone could be killed.”
Despite the Cell Phone Industry’s, and the FCC’s, insistence that residing near a Cell Tower is safe, (and that questioning the safety issue is prohibited by law), hundreds of independent studies worldwide tell a different tale.
“Studies have shown that even at low levels of this radiation, there is evidence of damage to cell tissue and DNA,” according to the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center.
“Cell phone and tower radiation has been linked to brain tumors, cancer, suppressed immune function, depression, miscarriage, Alzheimer’s disease, and numerous other serious illnesses.”
According to Dr. Ben Kim, regular exposure to radio frequency radiation has been shown to interfere with the electrical fields of our cells. “Common health challenges that have been linked to regular exposure include abnormal cell growth and damage to cellular DNA, difficulty sleeping, depression, anxiety, and irritability, childhood and adult leukemia, eye cancer, immune system suppression, attention span deficit, infertility and memory loss…” the list goes on. “Unfortunately, many of us have little control over the location of cell phone towers and other broadcasting antennas that emit powerful radio frequency waves.”
Arthur Firstenberg first reported that, in 2004, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) compelled an independent study to determine the effects of putting cell phone antennas on firehouses. “If the science demonstrated a risk, then the union would oppose the use of fire stations as sites for cell antennas until further science demonstrated that cell antennas were safe.” [Use Search Function for entire IAFF paper on this site.]
In April 2005, the Union’s Health and Safety Department found “more than ample evidence of significant health risks,” and concluded that the union should oppose cell antennas on fire stations. That study cited over eighty independent references.
More recent studies have revealed that just two hours of exposure to high-frequency electromagnetic fields (EMF), such as the ones you’re exposed to every time you turn on your cell phone, microwave oven or blue tooth headset, can lead to permanent DNA damage in brain and sex cells, as well as severe gene mutation.
If a factory smoke stack was putting out this kind of pollution, you can bet your brain cells we’d be doing something about it. But since this is an invisible poison, American citizens are unwittingly bathing in radiation.
Meanwhile governments in Austria, Switzerland, and many Eastern European countries have already created protective standards for human exposure to radio frequency radiation. In Scotland, towers are not allowed to be located near hospitals, schools, and homes.
Sweden is on the forefront of international cell technology related health studies. They found that mice and rats exposed to typical cell phone radiation levels quickly developed brains that looked like Swiss cheese. “And they have a hundred times more protective enzymes than a human being!” according to Dr. Hildegard Staninger, PhD.
In a Russian experiment, two active cell phones were placed on either side of a raw egg. In sixty-two minutes, the egg was cooked solid.
A German study of 1,000 people living within 1300 feet of a cell transmitter site were found to have three times the cancer rate than those who didn’t live near cell transmitters. A study at Tel Aviv University revealed similar startling results. Patients who’d been exposed presented with eight different types of cancer, including breast, ovarian and lung cancer, Hodgkin’s disease (cancer of the lymphatic system), bone tumors and kidney cancer.
It’s been acknowledged universally that the effects of cell phone and tower radiation are worse on women and children. In 1997, Dr. Om Ghandi, from the University of Utah, revealed the alarming results that radiation penetrates younger skulls far more deeply than those of adults.
In the U.S., Dr. Ben Kim’s studies echo Ghandi’s findings: “Children are at much higher risk than adults of experiencing health problems related to regular exposure to radio frequency radiation; thinner and smaller skulls translate to greater absorption of radio frequency.”
According to Dr. Leif Salford, cancer now affects one in three, with breast cancer affecting one in nine women. “Cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and myalgic encephalomyelitis are all modern disorders. And all have been associated with exposure to electromagnetic fields.”
Dr. Salford joins thousands of his brethren worldwide who believe that these afflictions are caused by exposure to the ever-present EMF and radiation levels we’re bathing in, courtesy of our hi tech toys. Salford insists “this is the largest human biological experiment in the history of civilization!” Yet the only studies the government considers are those coming from the cell and power company industries!
What possible Incentive could there be for erecting a Cell Tower on an apartment building, despite the risks to residents? Cell phone companies pay “rent” for their residency. It can range anywhere from $800 to $12,000 a month.
Dr. Gunner Heuser, a medical specialist in neuro-toxicity, worked with former Fire Look Outs from California’s Likely Mountain, one of the nation’s many RF/microwave “hot spots.” The Likely Mountain workers labored within 30 feet of a newly erected cell tower, without having been warned of health dangers. They’re now disabled with brain and lung damage, breast cancer, partial left side paralysis, muscle tremors, bone pain and DNA damage.
Dr. Heuser states “in my experience those patients developed multi-system complaints after EMF exposure just as they would after toxic chemical exposure.” Her patients who’d worked in proximity to the Likely Mountain towers all suffered serious cell phone service radiation exposure and expensive illnesses, including: tumors, blood abnormalities, stomach problems, lung damage, bone pain, muscle spasms, extreme fatigue, tremors,