From: Linda Sepp
Sent: Thursday, February 19, 2009 6:00 PM
Electric sensitivity land
Ecology House's hopes to unplug antenna proposal turns light on EMF debate
by Peter Seidman
Pacific Sun Staff
Residents of a San Rafael apartment complex who say the installation of cell phone antennas nearby would compromise their health are waiting to learn if Verizon and the city can find an alternate site.
The 11-unit apartment complex, called Ecology House, was built in 1994 with funds provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It was designed from the outset as a safe haven for people with chemical sensitivities. It's the only development of its kind in the country.
Verizon has proposed installing cell phone antennas on a tower on the 100 block of Windward Way, 420 feet from Ecology House. Residents say that's too close to the complex, located at 375 Catalina Blvd. in East San Rafael.
Ecology House residents, as well as others concerned with the health of the people who live there, expressed their concern last month during an appeal of a city zoning decision to allow Verizon Wireless to install six panel antennas on a PG&E tower. Verizon has said the site represents the best location for the company's cell phone coverage.
Planning Commissioners postponed a decision on the appeal until they gathered more information about the possibility of alternate sites. The city planning department is waiting for information from Verizon before the appeal can go back on the agenda.
Ecology House is one of the few places of refuge from potentially life-threatening environmental pollution, says Connie Barker, a resident and the secretary of the nonprofit agency that runs the apartment rental complex. "The problem is that there are several people that are already sensitive and don't do terribly well in general because we are so close to those [PG&E] high-tension lines. They would be made much worse by the antennas."
Barker notes that many people who are sensitive to various chemicals in the environment also have sensitivity to electric and magnetic fields (EMFs), and those are the people at risk in the Ecology House complex.
Ecology House, says Barker, is more than a collection of living units for people with environmental sensitivities. It also serves as a gathering place for people to come and discuss issues relating to the disability. "We are a recognized nonprofit for low-income people with chemical sensitivities."
Having the cell phone antennas so close, Barker says, means a considerable number of people who otherwise might come to Ecology House for meetings, to provide testimony for government agencies, etc., would not be able to if the antennas go up, eliminating an essential reason for Ecology House to exist.
Installing the cell phone antennas so close to the complex might force some residents to move. That would be a hardship because, in addition to being a safe haven from environmental pollution, the complex is a recognized Housing and Urban Development program for very-low income people. There is nothing else like it in the country, let alone in Marin.
In an odd--and seemingly outrageous--step, the Federal Communications Commission is tying San Rafael's hands behind its back. Ecology House residents and their supporters cannot present an appeal based on environmental or health considerations to the city, which is why they're appealing on the basis that the antennas would seriously affect the vitality of what they say amounts to a business, albeit a nonprofit one, that is a vital part of the neighborhood.
Thanks to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the environmental health and safety issue is a dead end. The law forbids the city from considering environmental and health issues when deciding on applications for cell-phone antennas. When the law was written, according to advocates for people with chemical and EMF sensitivities and those concerned about EMF proliferation in the environment, the telecommunications industry did most of the writing.
Barker says Ecology House currently has a waiting list of about 80 people who need a safe haven, and that number has reached more than one hundred.
The turnover in the complex, she adds, is small. When Ecology House opened, the so-called Republican revolution began shutting the door on government programs like this, which provides assistance for a relatively small number of people in relation to the entire population of the county.
But it's a sensitive population. And many health experts are saying the small population with environmental sensitivities, notably EMF sensitivity, really are canaries in a collective coal mine.
Other health experts say environmental sensitivity is a myth, a psychological construct. Dueling science is the hallmark of the EMF debate, which started in 1979, when epidemiologist Nancy Wertheimer published some striking findings. She was looking for the reasons behind a number of childhood leukemia cases in the Denver metropolitan area. She and her colleagues discovered that children with leukemia were more than twice as likely to live in homes near high-current power lines. Since then, conflicting studies that support conflicting positions have been published. It's what science does. And the conflicting studies now extend beyond the possible effects of high-current lines.
Questions also have been raised about the effects on humans from prolonged use of cordless phones, household appliances and, yes, cell phones. Considering the number of people walking around with cell phones glued to their ears, especially young ears, the questions about the possible long-term effects of EMF exposure has not abated. And the proliferation of wireless networks is spurring the debate. The idea of bathing metropolitan areas in wireless waves is a cause for concern.
The wireless phenomenon in general and the cell phone phenomenon in particular are new enough that the long-term health effects of their use remain unknown, at least with any certainty. That's what the dueling science is about, not unlike the dueling science that once marked the research into the causal health effects of tobacco.
Joan Ripple is a Marin resident who worked on a Senate subcommittee for the rights of disabled people. She helped compile a study published in 1996 that she says showed people with chemical sensitivity often have electrical sensitivity. "But back in those days, we didn't know that much about electrical sensitivity. Now there's worldwide research that shows that about 50 percent of people with chemical sensitivity also become electrically sensitive."
What at one time might have been a nutty, paranoid statement has become increasingly mainstream, according to Ripple, who is active in the Council on Wireless Technology Effects and has worked with Ecology House. "Actually, the state of California's health department released a study in 2000 that showed 3 percent of the general population was showing signs of electrical sensitivity, and of the people who had chemical sensitivity--about 16 percent of the population--50 percent of them also were showing signs of electrical sensitivity."
But in 1999, the California Electric and Magnetic Fields Program, a project of the California Department of Health Services and the Public Health Institute, published a factsheet that states current studies "do not show a clear pattern of health hazards."
But that statement is contradicted by other studies that claim a direct correlation between EMFs and health hazards. Recently, Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, circulated a memo to his staff, warning them that they should keep their cell phone use to minimum. He said he issued the memo based on the newest research, some of which had yet to be published.
And Herberman is far from alone. A large group of doctors in Germany issued a tract called the Freiburger Appeal. In it they say the observed effects of EMFs are undeniable and have contributed to increased instances of learning disabilities, blood pressure problems, heart rhythm disorders, "heart attacks and strokes among an increasingly younger population," brain diseases and cancer. In addition, say these doctors, EMFs are playing a role in "an ever-increasing occurrence of various disorders, often misdiagnosed in patients as psychosomatic. Those disorders range from migraines to sleeplessness and susceptibility to infection."
The doctors say that "after a carefully directed inquiry," they can see a "clear temporal and spatial correlation" between the occurrence of modern ailments and the increased use of cell phones, digital cordless phones and the "installation of a mobile telephone sending station nearby."
That conclusion is countered by other studies, including a World Health Organization investigation that found no direct causal relationship between EMFs and serious health consequences among a general population. Dueling science. That's how it works until a definitive answer emerges.
Barker at Ecology House knows all about it. Electrical sensitivity is real, she says, and she's seen it firsthand. "The sensitivity reactions can vary from person to person. It can be as bad as people having a seizure when exposed to EMFs to a mild intermittent headache. But for most of the people in Ecology House, it's on the more serious side where they have neurological problems that make it very difficult for them to function when they are close to the source" of EMFs, including cell phone antennas.
Barker notes that the effects of EMFs drop precipitously with distance. She and the other residents hope Verizon and the city can find an alternate location that would move the antennas outside of the health-hazard range for them. Barker is not susceptible to EMFs, but she must be careful when using a cell phone around residents. That goes for her wireless, also. "We have rules in the house since the day it opened."
But are the effects of EMF exposure real or imagined? Barker has a simple answer to scientists who say that based on their studies they can find no direct correlation: "They've never seen someone go into a grand mal seizure because of being next to a cell phone. It was a little hard for me to wrap my head around it, too, because it isn't something that happens to me." But Barker has seen another resident go into a seizure after coming close to a cell phone in use.
But the question remains: Is the reaction a causal relation between EMFs and health effects? Or are there other causes for the reaction? Is the jury really still out?
No, says Ripple. A major reason for the competing conclusions among the scientific community is the basis for investigation. Many of the studies investigate the heating effects of EMFs, how generated heat can harm tissue. A more thorough examination of the effects, say Ripple and others, involves a look at how EMFs affect cell biology not through heat but through other delivery methods.
When that's taken into account, adverse effects unrelated to thermal damage become apparent. And that kind of investigation is underrepresented in this country's process to set safe standards for EMFs. Safe standards here are much less stringent than in many other countries. Many scientists are calling for a re-examination of the safe limits for EMFs.
At the very least, say those who are raising the alarm about what has been called the biggest pollution problem since smog, people should consider reducing their exposure to EMFs through reasonable and rational methods. Using a wired headset for a cell phone or a cordless phone is a good place to start. The Bluetooth earpiece should be left on the dresser drawer, they say, no question about it. At least until the jury comes in with irrefutable proof.
Barker, who was hit with chemical sensitivity when she was just 19, ended up disabled by the malady. Doctors thought she had mononucleosis. "I spent over a decade of my young life being shuttled from one doctor to another and then from one psychiatrist to another. I believed everything they told me when they said I didn't have a physical problem." She followed their advice, took antidepressants, "but it only got worse."
She eventually found support groups for chronic fatigue syndrome and learned other people were dealing with similar issues. At first she thought the notion of environmental sensitivity "was crazy." But she kept an eye on her health and realized there were environmental triggers to her health issues.
Her assessment could be a cautionary tale for those in the general population who aren't hypersensitive to environmental chemicals and EMFs. "I decided I didn't have another decade to wait to find out who was right." She came to Ecology House when she was 35, and she's lived there for the last 15 years.
Whether fanatical cell phone users are willing to just put the Bluetooth down is another story.
Here is the story - my comment is at the bottom after the story:
Cell Towers A Tough Sell At Hillsborough Schools
By RICHARD MULLINS | The Tampa Tribune
Published: February 17, 2009
School Says Tower Offers Needed Boost
TAMPA - On a recent sunny afternoon, a dozen youngsters played in a circle with a rainbow-colored parachute in the playground outside Witter Elementary School in Tampa. A few yards away stood a new 200-foot-tall cell phone tower.
The school allowed the tower to go up, generating thousands of dollars a month by renting space on it to some of the nation's largest cell phone companies.
Across Hillsborough County, school principals are lining up to put similar towers on their campuses to produce badly needed cash for teacher salaries and classroom supplies, even shoes for children who lack them. By summer, 14 new towers could be up at local schools.
Some school officials are ready to jump at the new revenue, but they might be jumping into a hornets' nest.
On one side are cellular companies that have customers with new iPhones, BlackBerrys and other smart phones who demand always-on everywhere coverage for e-mail, text messages and Internet access. On the other side are vocal and well-organized parent groups warning about health risks of wireless signals.
One thing is clear in the debate. Cellular companies have money to offer — sometimes tens of thousands of dollars a month.
"This is a great opportunity for schools," said Stacy Frank, founder of Tampa-based tower company Collier II, which in June 2006 won the exclusive right to build cell phone towers on Hillsborough County school properties.
"Where else are they going to find money like this? It's not a panacea, but when schools are going broke, can they afford to say no?"
Meanwhile, demand for smart phones is only going up.
More than 15 percent of U.S. households have dropped their home land-line phones in favor of a cellular-only lifestyle. More parents are buying cell phones for their children for safety reasons, sometimes for children as young as 6.
Americans have an estimated 272 million cell phones, almost one for every citizen, according to industry data.
Providing coverage for all those new devices takes new antennas. Last year, 103 towers went up within a 40-mile radius of downtown Tampa, according to the wireless firm AntennaSearch. That area has about 4,500 antennas.
AT&T has plans for 18 new cellular sites in that area.
In some cases, new towers can be attached to tall buildings, disguised as palm trees or even as tall crosses. One disguised as a flagpole stands at Dale Mabry Highway and Kennedy Boulevard.
Given that most cellular towers have a range of a few miles, there's a scarcity of sites for towers.
Unless tower companies find more sites, it's possible only 25 will go up this year in the Tampa zone, according to AntennaSearch.
Schools have emerged as attractive spots for new towers. They tend to have open space to situate a tower and almost always are in residential areas where it's especially difficult to site a tower. Schools also enjoy an inside track when it comes to navigating local government bureaucracies.
Jumping in to supply this demand is Frank.
Frank markets her company as specializing in placing towers at Hillsborough schools and advertises nearly every school as available. Under her contract with the schools, everyone receives some revenue from a new tower.
Her company builds, owns, maintains and markets towers to wireless companies such as AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. Her company receives half the rent, 40 percent goes to the school and 10 percent goes to the school district.
A school can receive $9,000 per year from each carrier on a tower, Frank said, with that amount growing 3 percent to 4 percent a year. With five or more potential carriers, a school could receive $45,000 or more annually, with no capital outlay from the school.
The school board allows each principal to decide whether a tower is right for a school. Fourteen Hillsborough County schools have said yes. Altogether, those schools could collect nearly $232,000 this year.
Some parents say that provides pennies per student per day and that it's not worth the tension that has surfaced.
Ray Alzamora, whose child attends Cimino Elementary School, which has a lease pending for a cell tower, said the school's actions were sneaky. Frank joined the principal at a community meeting in January, but Alzamora said the decision to erect a tower largely had been made.
Like many parents, he is concerned about the children's health and the effect of the towers on property values. The state-of-the-art projectors and covered basketball court the school plans to buy with money might be nice, he said, "but it's not worth the hit the neighbors are taking."
Parents opposing towers tend to point to health risks.
No studies have focused on cellular towers — or even on radio waves — and their effect on humans. Several studies have looked at the effect of radio waves and microwaves combined; these generally have not shown any increase in cancer, except for an Air Force study that suggests an increase in brain tumors in association with radio frequency-microwave exposure.
In 2008, the National Academies noted a lack of research "measuring the amount of RF energy received by juveniles, children, pregnant women, and fetuses from wireless devices and RF base station antennas."
It is not known whether children are more susceptible to radio frequency radiation, but "they may be at increased risk because of their developing organ and tissue systems."
Frank says parents are worrying about "voodoo science." "There are no health risks from these towers. … These are low-wattage pieces of equipment."
They're the same towers that federal regulators allow anywhere else, but the division over their placement at schools is forcing principals to consider whether the extra cash is worth the trouble.
"I know the principals want it," said Marie Valenti, principal of Chiaramonte Elementary School in Tampa, which draws $2,575 monthly from its cell tower lease. "But if their parents are going to be upset, it's definitely going to have an impact on their decisions."
Researcher Michael Messano and reporter Adam Emerson contributed to this report. Reporter Richard Mullins can be reached at (813) 259-7919.
Here is my comment:
I am astounded at the level of ignorance there is around this issue. Health effects resulting from mobile phone microwave transmission towers have been an issue since the 80's when towers started to proliferate. In 1996, the telecom act removed citizens right to object to a tower based on health effects. This is all about money - for the telecoms and for the schools that are allowing this to happen.
Is this what we have come to, selling out our children's health for money?
Parents, you MUST fight this for the sake of your childrens health. There is enough evidence to warrant applying "the precautionary principal" (google it). Also google "The Freiburger Appeal" - 3000 German doctors speaking out against the dangers of overexposure to microwave radiation.
Do your research - there are many studies that have been completed about cell towers. The studies are not "voodoo science" as Stacy Frank would want you to believe.
Story about health effects of phone masts (antenna transmitters)
I guess censorship is alive and well in Tampa FLA.
Harmful Effects from Radio Station in Switzerland
The story is about a radio station in Switzerland, out of service since December. The health of people, cows and pigs has improved.
Have good evening
Pratical Health front page Dr Paul Dupont "Mobile phones: tomorrow will be too late"
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