Wireless Electrical and Electromagnetic Pollution News
21 December 2010
The age-old adage First Do No Harm should be the tempering goal of not only medicine, but government and industry, especially when they team up to deploy new technologies, set policies and serve the people.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Owen Veterinarian Fights Xcel Energy Over Electrical Pollution
I interviewed Dr. Pamela Jaffke, a veterinarian in Owen, Wisconsin, who is suffering because of the bullheadedness of her utility company, Xcel Energy. They, along with the other state power companies and the Public Service Commission, refuse to take action to improve the safety of their product in spite of the continuous stream of health complaints like Dr. Jaffke's over the years.
It is time for the Wisconsin utilities to stop releasing their voltage trash - known as transients and harmonics - into the ground, and upgrade the system statewide to protect people, and not just cows, from exposure to biologically harmful ground currents.
I'm not after money. I don't care if Xcel would give me a million dollars right today. That's not going to buy my cat's health. That's not going to buy my health. --Pamela Jaffke
Since realizing she was electrically sensitive, Dr. Pamela Jaffke, a dairy veterinarian in Owen, has worked to make her house safe. Stetzerizer filters helped a bit, but were unable to bring the electrical pollution levels down far enough. "The only thing that made things truly livable, I just unhooked the neutral from the water main," she says.
Then her home's electrical pollution levels spiked November 1 following some work to the sewer pipes, which stopped them from carrying the ground currents, and she and her cat, Magic, were hit hard with debilitating symptoms. "It was an absolute disaster for both of us and it's continued that way," says Jaffke, who has Multiple Sclerosis, and gets painful tingling in her legs from this electrical exposure. Her cat has trouble walking and stops eating.
Xcel came out and ran circles around her without addressing the problem, she told me. "If I was a dairy farm, they would be forced to do something.
Anything over 1/2 volt, they are forced to do something," says the veterinarian. The current readings in her home range from 1/2 to one volt.
Wisconsin law currently protects cows from high levels of stray voltage, which Jaffke says is not "stray." "Xcel put it there and it is Xcel's problem," she says. The term stray voltage only legally applies to cows.
The currents are referred to as electrical pollution in relation to humans. "But there's no laws to protect people," says Jaffke.
Not a New Issue
The health menace of stray voltage/electrical pollution is not a new issue. Wisconsin journalists have blazed a fiery trail to try to expose it. Reporter Chris Hardie at the La Crosse Tribune had won five Wisconsin journalism awards and was nominated for a 2000 Pulitzer Prize for work covering the issue, including a special website dedicated to it, while journalist Kurt Gutknecht had been fired as editor of the Wisconsin Agriculturist for continuing to write about the health affects on animals and the farmers themselves.
State Representative Barb Gronemus, D-Whitehall, had proposed legislation in 2003 to force the utilities to clean up their act. The legislation died in committee despite huge support exhibited at a public hearing September 18, 2003. Supporters blame pressure from the big utilities on the lawmakers for its failure.
At a volt, I'm objecting.
Today, Dr. Jaffke insists she is covered by the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) 92D, which states that there should be no objectionable flow of current over the earth. "At a volt, I'm objecting," she says.
It is likely to be an uphill battle. Xcel Energy has a history of fighting customers over health issues. They argued in a 2008 article that the cow deaths could be blamed on other factors than stray voltage. In an article in the La Crosse Tribune on December 11, 2006, Xcel and the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin claimed that no credible scientific evidence had been raised "that suggests the electrical system in Wisconsin is unsafe or causes any health problems in humans."
Such resistance to customers' needs and safety is deeply ingrained in the untouchable utilities and their unaccountable defender despite numerous studies showing harm, and the nonstop procession of people reporting illness over decades. (See Research and Technical sections at Electrical Pollution , and the Stetzer site for some of the studies and cases. Here is a case involving cancer.)
Owen Council Meeting
Dr. Jaffke is enlisting the help of her city to help deal with the powerful utility. She explained her case and read a list of lies Xcel told her during the Owen city council meeting on December 15. For example, the utility told her that the 5-wire system is unsafe. But, adding a fifth wire would easily correct the problem of electrical pollution for her - and for all residents statewide.
This acceptable, effective method appears in the 1995 report from the research arm of the utilities, the ElectricPower Research Institute.
It states: "A method that practically eliminates ground currents associated with primary distribution line and still maintains the advantage of a four-wire multi-grounded system is a five-wire system."
It would just cost pennies to do, says Jaffke. It is such a simple solution, she told Owen council members, who were alarmed to hear about the serious health effects the respected veterinarian and her cat were experiencing.
The council meets in a building right behind her house, "which pretty much implies that they're getting fried, too," says the human "canary in the mine."
Jaffke hopes her city will have the will and the legal clout to get results. She says, "The city has an obligation to protect their citizens and make sure that any corporation doing business in town is up to code."
Owen mayor Tim Swiggum said during a telephone interview that they plan to go at this from both ends: They will talk to the guys who help them when they are extending power lines to see if that area of town is overloaded, and they also will meet with the higher-ups at the utility to see what they have to say about this problem.
"It's fairly new to me," says Mayor Swiggum, who has begun to educate himself on this controversial issue. "I don't want to burn any bridges. We need the electric company," he adds, though he agrees that Pam Jaffke definitely needs help with the problem in her house.
Jaffke told me she warned the city, "Xcel is going to try to tell you that everything's fine just like they told me. You'll have to be able to refute every one of their arguments. They're not just going to roll over and do whatever you say."
The Owen resident says she just wants a resolution to the problem, and hopes the city can help. But she would not mind if the utility ended up suing her because "in court they'll be exposed as a fraud."
"I'm not after money. I don't care if Xcel would give me a million dollars right today. That's not going to buy my cat's health. That's not going to buy my health," the Owen veterinarian says.
And I say, if the utilities got up to speed and took care of the mess they have made, everyday people would not need to try to do this kind of detective work or have to battle the power companies for their health. What a racket.
Wireless foes gear up for new battle
Tom Sharpe The New Mexican Dec 19. 2010
Wireless opponent Arthur Firstenberg wants a new round of public hearings on last month's upgrades of AT&T's cellular-phone system in Santa Fe.
Firstenberg, who says he is hypersensitive to electromagnetic signals from wireless devices, drew headlines last year by suing his neighbor over her use of an iPhone and a Wi-Fi system. A judge has thrown out the iPhone claim, but the Wi-Fi claim is set for trial on March 21.
Now, Firstenberg is asking for a judge to require AT&T to apply for a special exception from the city to increase the intensity of its signals. Otherwise, he contends, AT&T should be forced to shut off its new system in 30 days.
An AT&T spokeswoman declined to comment on the charges and referred a reporter to an industry group, whose spokesman was not available for comment this week.
On Nov. 15, AT&T turned on its third generation — 3G — network for the first time in Santa Fe, allowing faster connections and new options on iPhones.
Verizon Wireless, which provides service for the BlackBerry and other smart phones, has offered 3G service here since 2006. It plans to begin 4G service in some cities next year and by 2013 in Santa Fe. Verizon reportedly will begin offering service for iPhones early next year.
AT&T's implementation of 3G service "vastly increased the bandwidth of their radio emissions," constituting "a change in the intensity of use," according to Firstenberg's pro-se petition for a writ of mandamus filed Wednesday in state District Court in Santa Fe.
The city land-use code, it says, requires AT&T to seek a special exception "for each of its existing base stations before it is permitted to increase the intensity of use" — a process that requires new public hearings.
The city already had one hearing on the subject on Nov. 17, when the Board of Adjustment approved changes in several AT&T cell towers to accommodate 3G service.
Firstenberg and others at that meeting claimed that under the land-use code, AT&T should seek a special exception for those changes, but city attorneys maintained that was not required, Firstenberg said.
Attached to Firstenberg's petition are letters from more than a dozen people asking the Board of Adjustment to reject the changes because they are concerned that their health, or that of others, is being damaged by the proliferation of electromagnetic signals.
Angela Werneke of Santa Fe wrote that she has immune deficiency, chronic fatigue and chronic migraines. Although she has not been diagnosed with electromagnetic sensitivity, she wrote, she is "deeply concerned, not only for my own personal health and well being, but also for all those who are being marginalized from our community by the pervasive and rapidly increasing levels of electromagnetic radiation."
Felicia Noelle Trujillo, a Feldenkrais practitioner in Santa Fe, wrote that she has patients who are undeniably sensitive to electromagnetic radiation and will suffer from "this brutal and instant rise in the levels of EMR in their environment, when they are already in a weakened state."
Jeraldine Peterson-Mark, a Santa Fe massage therapist, said she tries to avoid the "disturbances caused by living in a wired society," but believes "there is nowhere left to run or hide as large companies' interests are being prioritized over my rights as an individual to choose my good health and well being over bloated modern conveniences."
Contact Tom Sharpe at 986-3080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wi-fi in schools: an invisible threat?
Carolyn Jarvis, Gaïa Willis-Owen, 16:9: Monday, December 20, 2010
Sixteen-year-old McKenzy Honing says school makes him feel sick.
The grade 11 British Columbia high school student came home complaining of headaches and heart palpitations. "It felt like my heart was skipping beats," he said. But on the weekends?
"I'd start to get better. And by Sunday I'd start to feel normal."
Just a typical kid trying to get out of class? Maybe. But McKenzy's mom, Lynda Honing, doesn't think so.
She thinks her son's health is at risk. And she's just one of hundreds of concerned parents across the country speaking out against what they fear may be an invisible threat to their childrens' well being: Wi-Fi in schools.
Global News' current affairs program, 16:9 The Bigger Picture, wanted to find out just how much radiation laptops and routers in schools could be emitting.
So 16:9 asked Kavinder Dhillon, president of LabTest Certification Inc., to test radiation levels in a simulated typical, active wireless classroom.
The result? A reading of 113.8 microwatts – well below Health Canada's recommended threshold of 10 million microwatts.
Just outside the classroom in the hallway, the radiation reading near the router hit 2600 microwatts.
That's 20 times higher than inside the classroom. While it was still low by Health Canada standards, Dhillon expressed some discomfort. "The people who are in the industry, who are testing this," he told 16:9, "they feel this is a high level. This is very high."
16:9 investigated further with another test to see how a person might react in proximity to radiation levels Health Canada considers safe.
Professor Magda Havas, a Trent University environmental scientist, used a wireless computer and a router on an adult male subject who calls himself "electrically sensitive." In a blind test, Prof. Havas exposed him to microwave radiation at levels similar to those in an average wireless classroom.
She found the closer the router, the faster the subject's heart rate. Although the levels she used in the test were under Health Canada's limit, Prof. Havas has a theory that may explain her findings.
"Some percentage of the population is reacting to this microwave radiation," she said.
But could trading chalkboards for laptops make kids sick? 16:9 asked the Wi-Fi Alliance to comment on wireless products' possible health effects.
The Alliance responded with a written statement. "Wi-Fi technology meets all national and international safety requirements," it said, "and emits signals that are typically hundreds to thousands of times below the safety limits."
When 16:9 first asked Health Canada to respond to parents' concerns about WiFi, Beth Pieterson, a Health Canada representative said there was no reason to worry.
She told 16:9 the amount of radiation children experience in a typical wireless classroom is in no way responsible for the headaches, nausea and hyperactivity some kids say they experience.
"There's no scientific evidence," said Pieterson, "that those kinds of effects are caused by the energy limits the kids are exposed to by Wi-Fi."
Now, after 16:9's investigation aired, putting WiFi in the spotlight, Health Canada is promising to look at the potential health risks associated with WiFi exposure.
Early this month, the Health Committee made recommendations to parliament including an independent long-term study and the development of a process to receive and respond to reports of adverse reactions to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation.
Dr. David Carpenter from Albany, New York, a world-renowned expert in environmental toxins, told 16:9 the evidence warrants a serious second look.
"The weight of the evidence demonstrates clearly that exposure to RF radiation causes disease," he said, adding, "the evidence is strongest for cancer."
While Canada races to go wireless, in other parts of the world, Wi-Fi has worn out its welcome. Herouville-St.Clair, France is the first municipality in the world to remove W-Fi from schools and public buildings.
Mayor Rudolphe Thomas told 16:9 he's not willing to gamble with childrens' health.
In other European countries, wireless technology is still prevalent, but it's increasingly treated with caution. In Germany, Wi-Fi is still in use but the government recommended children limit their exposure. And in Britain, some public schools independently decided to remove it altogether.
Here, the current precautions are few and the Wi-Fi hotspots are plenty. Parents like Honing are concerned we're sacrificing our kids' health for convenience.
She says she doesn't want to wait. She doesn't want her son to be an experiment. Dr. Carpenter shares her concern.
He told 16:9 it's time for Canada to stop turning a blind eye to Wi-Fi's possible risks. "You don't want to wait until you can count the bodies before you tell the public that there is a serious potential of harm," he said.
"And with regard to the issue of Wi-Fi in schools, this is exactly where we are."
The plan from a cell phone company was to install the antennas on Farimingdale Wantagh Jewish Center.
A Long Island township's appeals board has rejected a proposal to install six mobile phone antennas on the roof of a Jewish community center. The plan from a cell phone company was to install the antennas on Farimingdale Wantagh Jewish Center.
They were rejected because the phone company could not prove the need to improve wireless coverage.
There was also a concern from residents, that property values would be lowered due to their close proximity to the phone antennas.
This is similar to a current situation in the UK, where residents are voicing concerns over the installation of phone masts over health and conservation issues. It is unlikely that the application to install phone masts by two phone companies will be rejected in this case.
In Hempstead New York however, the Jewish community center remains antenna free.
There does seem to be a backlash against phone antennas, largely down to health, property values, and unsightly appearance.
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