COLUMN: The antennas are coming
Wed Jul 02, 2008, 12:32 PM EDT
There's something the government, the telecommunication industry and the corporate media don't want you to know: Invisible things can hurt you.
The invisible things in question are low-level electromagnetic waves emitted by cell phones and cell-phone towers. Three neurosurgeons appearing on Larry King confessed that the danger is such that they never put their cell phones up to their heads, but at least cell-phone use is a matter of choice. The antennas going up at the Jewish Community Center and on the Village Street water tower are another matter. Neighbors, some of whose property line is only 2 feet away, will be involuntarily affected by low-level radiation 24 hours a day. The Veterans Middle School is within a 750-foot radius of the water tower, where six more antennas will soon join those already there. Kids at Hillel and the JCC are the new JCC single antenna's nearest neighbors.
Why don't more people know that low-level, non-heating electromagnetic waves can adversely affect people's health and well-being? One reason is that citizens are prohibited by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 from speaking at public meetings about health effects when cell-phone antennas are proposed for their towns, a law written by lobbyists designed to keep information about health effects from the public. Another is the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Law of 1999, which gave cell phone companies total immunity from product liability. Unlike cigarettes, you will not read in your newspaper about any high-profile lawsuits claiming cell-phone use causes brain tumors or cancer. By law, there can be no lawsuits.
A third reason we hear so little about health effects is that following the passage of the Telecommunications Act, the government stopped funding independent research on health effects from cell-phone radiation. University studies in progress in the U.S. were shut down, and this highly profitable industry became the only one investigating itself. The corporate press refrains from reporting the bad news uncovered by foreign research.
I know that last point is true from personal experience. When I wrote a weekly column for the Boston Globe, I pointed out that the government of Great Britain was warning parents against giving cell phones to children because their brains are more vulnerable to harm due to thinner skulls and rapidly growing grey matter. The column was never printed; it was deemed outside my "area of expertise."
"I don't even have an area of expertise," I told my editor. "How can I be outside it?"
I looked. And saw page after page of advertising for cell phones, especially family cell-phone plans.
There's total agreement in the scientific community that exposure to low-intensity radio frequency waves in the microwave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum causes biological changes in living things. Research in Finland, the UK, France, Australia and Japan indicates that those cellular changes can lead to short-term physical ailments such as chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, headaches and memory disturbance, as well as long-term weakening of the immune system and the protective blood-brain barrier, eventually leading to brain tumors and cancer. The American Cancer Society and other groups dependant on corporate funding are waiting for definitive proof that will never come. With so many poisons in our environment (each one of us has traces of hundreds of toxins in our blood stream), science will never be able to pinpoint exactly which one has finally caused our illness.
Why is this invisible threat an issue in town now? For a total fee of $2,000 a month, the Water Board solicited telecommunications companies to look into siting new antennas in town. The Board of Selectmen signed a lease with MetroPCS in January, then waited four months to inform neighbors on Village Street, as required by law, that new antennas would be going up. Six weeks later, the Planning Board approved a special permit, encouraging other companies to follow suit. This scenario — monetary rewards, neighbors taken by surprise, federal limits on local authority, an uninformed citizenry and compliant boards — plays out in town after town across the United States, orchestrated by highly paid corporate strategists. Oh, and agreements once reached cannot be rescinded.
Town Planner Rebecca Curran and a group of volunteer citizens will soon be working on a new by-law to regulate the further proliferation of antennas in Marblehead, which hopefully can be presented at next year's Town Meeting. The principle of prudent avoidance, which has led New Zealand and Scotland to prohibit antennas on school grounds, should lead us to limit the number of antennas situated here. We already have sufficient coverage for town-wide cell-phone use.
We need not add more threats to our environment if we are half as determined to protect our health as the telecommunications industry is to keep us believing that we needn't bother our pretty little heads about invisible things.