Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Experts at power line hearing debate safety of EMFs / The ABC of 2G, 3G, 4G

Experts at power line hearing debate safety of EMFs

BY COLLEEN O'DEA • STAFF WRITER • November 23, 2009

NEWARK -- Experts disagreed whether electromagnetic fields from power lines cause cancer or other health problems, as they testifed today at the final state Board of Public Utilities hearing on Public Service Electric and Gas Company's proposed line upgrade.

Shortly after the discussion of EMFs, the utility and opponents of the $750 million,
47-mile Susquehanna-Roseland project wrapped up five days of testimony in front of BPU Commissioner Joseph Fioraliso. The entire board is expected to decide Jan. 15 whether PSE&G should be allowed to add 500 kilovolt lines to the corridor, which passes through Morris County.

No studies have proven that EMFs from power lines cause leukemia or other health issues, testified PSE&G's expert William H. Bailey, a scientist, although he did say some studies have found an association between the fields and childhood leukemia.

Martin Blank, an expert for eight municipalities, two school districts, environmentalists and a citizens group opposing the project, said there is much evidence that fields at lower levels than those expected on the new line could lead to leukemia, breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

"Because of the wide range of biological systems affected, the low response thresholds, the possibility of cumulative effects by repetitive stimulation and the inadequacy of exposure standards, it is urgent that the proposed power line be moved to a distance where the anticipated magnetic fields will not pose a hazard to the community,'' Blank, a professor at Columbia University, said in his written testimony.

In response to a lawyer's question, Blank said there has not been enough research to determine what a safe distance from EMFs is.

"All I know is, the farther away you can get, the better off you are,'' he said. Blank
cited studies that found correlations between cell phone use and head cancers and an electrified railroad and Alzheimer's disease.

"The more you get exposed, the more likely you are to get into trouble,'' Blank said.
"The more you get of it, the worse it is for you.''

PSE&G's lawyer David Richter asked Blank about the criticisms several international groups have made against a report Blank referred to in recommending safe exposure levels of no more than 4 milligauss. That's less than one tenth the maximum of 48.6 milligauss expected at the edge of the line's right of way when using monopole structures, which PSE&G has pledged to install exclusively on the eastern portion of the line.

Kyle G. King, the utility's EMF expert, testified that the median field measurement is expected to be 19.3 milligauss, but it would be as high as 120 milligauss directly beneath the 500 kilovolt lines.

Bailey said even that maximum level would be below the limits recommended by two international bodies. Based on numerous studies that looked for a link between EMF exposure and cancer, Bailey said, "the evidence does not support a cause and effect.'' He said, though, that there is a""statistical association'' between long-term exposure and childhood leukemia.

Saying he has not seen any proof that power lines are responsible for any cancer clusters, Bailey also discounted the suggestion by the lawyer representing the eight municipalities that the current line is to blame for the cancers that have struck every family living on one street along the line in East Hanover, saying, "Based on the weight of the scientific evidence, I do not see a basis for that allegation.''

"It's not a coincidence,'' countered East Hanover Mayor Joseph Pannullo, who attended the morning session. "Why not err on the side of caution? We've given them an alternate route, out of Troy Meadows and away from the homes. They're more worried about a delay.''

PSE&G recently offered to abandon plans for a new switching station in East Hanover in favor of retooling the existing station in Roseland. But utility officials support their chosen route along the current 230-kilovolt lines -- replacing existing towers with ones as tall as 195 feet -- as minimizing environmental impacts.

Public Service filed an application with the BPU last January, seeking to be exempted from local zoning rules for its project. In addition to possible health effects, testimony has focused on the need for the project, its location and its impact on the environment.

PSE&G is planning to put the line along the existing power line corridor, which crosses from Pennsylvania at the Delaware Water Gap and proceeds through Warren and Sussex Counties. More than half the line would traverse Morris County, through Jefferson, Rockaway Township, Kinnelon, Boonton Township, Montville, Parsippany and East Hanover before ending in Roseland.




The ABC of 2G, 3G, 4G

The ABC of 2G, 3G, 4G
Though the word spectrum has been used frequently in the world of mobile phones, it is not easily understood by the consumers. Spectrum is the full range of electromagnetic radiation. Such radiation varies from very long radio waves of thousands of kilometres wavelength to microwaves, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, x-rays and gamma rays, the latter having a wavelength less than the size of an atom.

Each of these radiations has a wavelength and frequency at which it oscillates. Radio waves are a medium for carrying voice and data signals. Globally, radio frequencies are identified for different type of services – mobile services, fixed telecommunications, satellite and broadcasting, radar and radio services. Frequency bands are groupings of radio frequencies that are used by mobile networks to communicate with mobile phones.

Once a frequency band is identified for allocation, different slots are allotted to mobile operators (400 MHz or mega hertz is the start-up spectrum in India) in the same frequency band. The slots are offered so that it dose not create interference in service among different operators. It is similar to FM radio or TV channel bands allotted to different radio and TV stations.

Identification of frequency bands or radio waves for different types of services is known as the 'harmonisation of spectrum'. Based on frequency identified for telecom, mobile operators are allocated frequency bands. Once the bands are allotted, operators set up base stations (which includes switches) to convert radio signals to voice and data signals.

Across the globe, different frequencies are used for mobile networks. The first commercial standard in the history of telecom was in the US in the 800 MHz frequency band. In some countries in Europe, the mobile network was based on the 450 MHz band. In India, for the existing mobile network, 2G (second generation) frequency bands are 900 MHz, 1.8 GHz, 1800 MHz and 1900 MHz.

According to the Department of Telecommunication, 3G systems represent the next step in the evolution. While 2G systems focus on voice communication, 3G systems allow high speed data transfer of a minimum of 144 kbps, mobile internet access, entertainment and other complex uses. They have greater capacity and reach than 2G systems.

Broadband wireless access (BWA) technologies enable high-speed data communication over wireless links. It can creat crucial advantages over fixed line broadband systems based on cable networks or digital subscriber line (DSL), in terms of better coverage, speedy deployment, high scalability, lower maintenance and upgradation costs. Also, it allows phased investment to match market growth.

The 'right' to use spectrum at specified frequencies are being offered by the government in the 3G auction. This includes 20 MHz of paired spectrum in the 2.1 GHz band in the telecom service areas. The next step, 4G, refers to the fourth generation of cellular wireless and is a successor to 3G and 2G standards.

According to the International Mobile Telecommunications, a 4G system may upgrade existing communication networks to offer facilities such as voice, data and streamed multimedia to users on an 'anytime, anywhere' basis and at much higher data rates compared to previous generations.

The 4G spectrum is being developed to accommodate forthcoming applications like wireless broadband access, Multimedia Messaging Service, video chat, mobile TV, HDTV content, Digital Video Broadcasting, voice and data, and other services that utilise wider bandwidth.

The 4G working group's objectives are clear: it wants an efficient spectrum use, higher network capacity, more simultaneous users per cell, enhanced connectivity when a client moves at high speeds relative to the station, and a data rate of at least 100 Mbit/s between any two stationary points, smooth movement across heterogeneous networks, seamless connectivity and global roaming across multiple networks.

What still left to be finalized in 4G? Well, pending are a number of spectrum allocation decisions; standardization; technology innovations; component development: signal processing and switching enhancements; as well as inter-vendor cooperation. The 3G experience – good or bad – will be useful in guiding the industry into what's next.