- When neighbors caught wind of a proposed new cell tower
to be erected adjacent to the Lake City High School ball field in Coeur
d' Alene, Idaho, they were stunned. Among them was Sue Anderson, who organized
a group of concerned neighbors to research the details. "Only about
50 property owners within 300 feet of the proposed tower were notified
by the city about an upcoming hearing on the tower proposal. Hundreds of
other homeowners were left completely in the dark," says Anderson.
- The tower proposal, in the works for about a year, was
between telecommunications provider Verizon Wireless and School District
271. Verizon negotiated to pay the district $1,000 per month to lease ground
for a 115-foot tall structure with antenna space for three other providers
besides Verizon. Eventually, the new tower, adjacent to the football stadium,
would be buzzing with dozens of antennas for both cellular and PCS communications.
- Sick neighborhoods
- Since an elementary and middle school are very close
to the high school, Anderson and others set about to update themselves
on the latest science regarding health effects of microwave radiation emitted
by cell towers. "News and science reports from all over the globe
seem to show that a cell tower neighborhood is basically a sick neighborhood.
We found many media reports about cancer clusters in residential areas
close to microwave towers," Anderson says.
- A 2004 German government study found that people living
within 1,300 feet of cell tower radiation had three times the normal cancer
- Among other facts uncovered by Anderson's group was a
2004 resolution by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF)
that opposes commercial cell towers on fire stations after a medical study
showed brain and nerve problems for irradiated personnel.
- It was also discovered that the Los Angeles Unified School
Board passed a resolution opposing cell towers on school property after
the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences classified electromagnetic
fields as a Class 2B carcinogen.
- Public outreach campaign
- Anderson and other volunteers put crucial radiation news
and science into a flyer and distributed them throughout the affected neighborhoods.
Attached to the flyer was a summary of 220-peer reviewed and published
studies documenting cancer-initiating and cancer-promoting effects of high
frequency electromagnetic fields used by mobile telephone technology.
- The summary was completed in 2000 by ECOLOG Institute,
a German research group commissioned by telecom giant T-Mobile to collate
known health risks of mobile telecommunications. ECOLOG's summary cites
everything from DNA damage to infertility and disruptions of the immune
and endocrine systems. The Institute concluded that current power density
exposure standards should be reduced by at least a factor of 1,000. Critics
charge that T-Mobile subsequently "buried" the report in an effort
to keep public discussion of the proven health risks associated with cell
phone radiation off the agenda when tower sitings are being proposed.
- Pressing the advantage
- Once neighbors of Lake City High were armed with the
science information and several web sites where more information could
be researched, they flooded school officials with complaints about the
- "Our most critical concern was numerous studies
showing memory and cognitive function impairment among those living near
microwave transmitters," said Anderson. "In the Freiburger Report,
thousands of German doctors have linked wireless phones and cell tower
radiation to dramatic increases in disorders of learning, concentration
and behavior among their patients."
- Anderson asks, "How can a school district justify
exposing kids to continual radiation documented to cause sleep disturbances
plus concentration and learning difficulties?"
- Martha Rayne, who lives only meters from the proposed
tower site says, "We were outraged to learn that the FCC has no manpower
to monitor emissions from these towers so no one really knows if they are
in compliance with exposure standards. And we were surprised to learn about
all the different frequencies that blast out of a cell tower-everything
from 217 hertz and 1733 hertz with harmonics all the way up to carrier
microwaves in the megahertz and gigahertz realm. Where are the long-term
safety studies for all of these frequencies?" she asks.
- Anderson and others prepared a 46-page binder for school
district officials documenting why microwave exposure is especially hazardous
for school children. Included in the information was a 2002 statement by
EPA's Radiation Protection Division which states that current federal exposure
standards touted by the telecom industry as "adequate" in fact
do not protect the public against possible damage from prolonged, low-level
microwave exposure. The EPA letter admitted that studies show cancer can
occur from long-term irradiation.
- Also included was a letter from Dr. Henry Lai, a leading
radiation and biomedical researcher working at the University of Washington,
who stated that numerous medical studies show serious health effects can
occur at irradiation levels far below current exposure standards.
- Anderson points to a December 2006 article in Coeur d'
Alene Magazine which disclosed that the Kootenai Medical Center (KMC),
serving as a magnet hospital for the five northern Idaho counties, is now
inundated with cancer conditions of all types. The article reported that
an average of 210 patients are cared for daily at KMC's North Idaho Cancer
Center and that more than 100 new cancer patients join the ranks of the
"Big C" club very month.
- According to the article, so crushing is the cancer case
load in North Idaho, that other cancer centers are being rapidly expanded
in Post Falls and Sandpoint. "One hospital worker told us that experienced
medical personnel talk among themselves as having never before seen so
much cancer among young people," Anderson said. "Our urban areas
have been increasingly saturated with microwave radiation from wireless
tower and roof top transmitters since about the mid 1990s. Scientists say
cancers can have a latency period of around 10 years, so that computes
with our area's growing cancer epidemic," she observes. "And
the irony is, people who have cancer are the last people in the world
who need more microwave exposure," she says, pointing to a Spanish
medical study that documented how leukemia cells proliferate rapidly when
exposed to RF/microwave radiation.
- Dr. Lai's research group reported findings that microwave
radiation can actually be physically addictive. The cell phone "high"
is triggered by endorphins released into the brain when microwaves enter
through the ear. Wireless industry ads and promotions continually prod
kids to buy new glitzy wireless hardware for watching TV, downloading music
and texting. Kids know nothing about wireless health hazards because the
industry is not required to warn them that numerous epidemiological studies
show cell phone usage greatly increases their risk of developing brain
cancer. "It's a real problem," says Anderson. "The more
kids get hooked on wireless toys, the more towers are needed to service
those toys. And, if they have their schools and playgrounds irradiated
by nearby transmitters, they are getting a double whammy."
- Odorless, tasteless, soundless, invisible-and patient
- Microwave radiation from cell towers can pass easily
through walls, windows and roofs. A French medical study of people living
within 1,000 feet of cell towers documented common complaints of extreme
fatigue, memory loss, headaches, sleep disorders, depression, skin problems,
hearing loss and cardiovascular problems.
- Anderson elaborates, "With the tower crisis at hand,
we had to educate ourselves on the mechanisms of cell damage that our kids
could sustain from years of exposure to these cell tower frequencies broadcasting
continuously. We learned from the literature that there is a cascade effect.
One of the first things this radiation does is cause a loss of calcium
ions from cell membranes, which makes cells more likely to tear and leak.
Leakage of calcium ions into brain neurons causes gradual brain damage
and neurological symptoms seen in so many irradiated people. Weak, calcium-deficient
cells become vulnerable to cellular DNA damage. DNA damage opens the door
to tumor growth."
- Neighborhood wins round one
- On May 4, the district issued a press release in which
the school superintendent stated that the district had taken to heart concerns
of people who live near Lake City High and had asked Verizon Wireless to
withdraw the tower project from school property. "We were so happy,"
says Brenda Cowles, grandmother of two. "School officials actually
listened to those whose lives are at stake here!"
- "The battle for the health and safety of our school
kids is not over," Anderson says. "Verizon can move over to vacant
land near another set of schools further south, or it might try to lease
private property right across the street from the high school and hit our
kids from there."
- Telecom providers are not required by law to consider
health effects in their siting proposals. Further, the Telecom Act of 1996
prevents local planning authorities from prohibiting cell tower construction
on the basis of health/environmental considerations. "Thanks to this
unconstitutional federal law, city planners are obligated to rubber stamp
whatever facilities Verizon says it needs for 'essential' services. So
we have sent much of our documentation to Verizon Wireless, asking the
company to walk the moral high ground and consider the health of our children
in school zones when siting their transmitters," Anderson explains.
- Cowles agrees. "Microwave transmitters belong in
industrial zones where human exposure can be kept to a minimum. Shielded
buildings can take the rays better than our little kids playing outdoors,"
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