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What Americans Need to Know about Radiation
(or EMR) from Wireless Communications
by Margaret Meade Glaser
EMR Network (Board of Directors)
I was gratified that
you included the topic of electromagnetic effects on biology, particularly
from high frequencies used in wireless transmissions, in Latitudes (Vol.
5, #4). What Americans need to know, and what they are not being told,
is that three out of four independent (non-industry sponsored) research
studies worldwide are showing biological effects from low-level, nonionizing
radiation similar to that used in wireless communications. These are called
"nonthermal effects" because they occur at levels too low to cause tissue
heating. The telecom industry, and the FCC's safe exposure guidelines,
recognize only thermal (heating) effects. That means that exposures at
intensity (power) levels below that threshold are officially being considered
"safe" while the research is suggesting otherwise.
For clarity's sake,
the frequency range of nonionizing radiation used in wireless communications
is referred to as "radiofrequency/microwave radiation" or RF/MW. Microwave
ovens get their name from the fact that they use this type of radiation
to cook food (you could call this an example of a thermal effect). Radar
frequencies are also in this range.
While the FCC maintains
that its guidelines are protective, and indeed may be heading toward relaxing
them significantly in the near future, that is not the position that was
put forth by a federal interagency workgroup of nonionizing radiation
experts. In a letter to a standards setting committee in 1999 (1), they
outlined fourteen points which they believed needed to be addressed before
any FCC guidelines could be deemed credible and sufficiently protective
of the public. Nothing was done with these recommendations.
In letters dated
July and September 2002, scientists from the Radiation Protection Division
of the US Environmental Protection Agency (2) stated that they are concerned
about the burgeoning exposure of the public to nonionizing radiation,
and that claims that the FCC guidelines are protective of all possible
mechanisms of damage are unjustified. Do you think a wireless-happy public
has any idea of this?
If this were all just
theoretical and we had to wait years to see if there were any measurable
effect, that would be one thing. However, I have talked to many down-to-earth,
normal, professional and nonprofessional people who on their own have
noticed headaches, dizziness, ear ringing, pain, and/or other symptoms
when they use their cell or PCS phones. I just heard from a young man
working in a telecom broadband department that he has fielded about 10
calls of this sort in the three months he has been there, and he is not
even in the wireless department.
Since October, over
a hundred doctors in Germany have signed a document stating that they
are seeing increased health problems among patients related to cell phone
use and chronic exposure to radiation from cell towers and antennas (3).
In France, a first study was completed this past year correlating health
symptoms with cell tower proximity (4). Clearly, something is going on.
If you look at the
history of research on nonionizing radiation (the energy waves below the
frequencies of visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum), you will
see that nonthermal effects were first reported decades ago, but were
deemed to be research mistakes. Over time, we have learned just how much
the soviets knew about these effects as evidenced by their having beamed
the U. S. embassy in Moscow with low levels of this radiation several
decades ago. In fact, many in the embassy were found to have developed
serious health conditions.You can read about this in Nicholas Steneck's
1986 book, "The Microwave Debate."
In the past twelve
years there have been hundreds of studies showing these nonthermal effects---
such as DNA damage and nonrepair, opening of the blood-brain barrier (allowing
toxins and pathogens to reach the brain), lowered immunity, decreased
melatonin levels, effects on stress proteins (indicating cell damage),
formation of micronuclei (aberrations in cell nuclei which are often markers
for cancer), changes in calcium metabolism affecting communication between
cells, changes in brainwave patterns as seen on EEG's, plus effects observed
on many different systems of the body.
What is not clear
is the degree to which these effects are cumulative given chronic exposure,
and whether they are indeed linked to major health problems like cancer
and neurological conditions. The bioeffects seen are, however, plausible
precursors to such conditions, and some evidence suggests there may be
an association. Even conservative researchers who have witnessed and studied
nonthermal bioeffects say that this radiation is a "probable" cause of
Right now, many schools
are financially strapped, and the promise of a monthly check in exchange
for leasing a bit of space on the property or building for antennas seems
very attractive. (This is also true of hospitals, office buildings, apartment
buildings, churches, etc.). There is a big push for educational achievement
right now that is leading schools that can afford it to get wireless internet
computer networks installed, some of which transmit microwaves all day
long. When children go home, many use cell phones (and cordless phones,
which while lower power, also emit radiation) and may live in the close
vicinity of cell towers and building-mounted antennas. Some may have their
bedrooms over wireless remote-read utility meters. Even the "second-hand
smoke" of others' use of wireless devices and phones can be affecting
Since children are
more vulnerable to this radiation, because their bodies are still developing
and the radiation can penetrate them more deeply, where is it going to
end for them? Will their bodies be able to handle all this, so foreign
to the radiation environment in which we humans evolved? This is a serious
Some countries discourage
the use of wireless devices by children. And some prohibit the placement
of antennas near schools and day care centers. Meanwhile, in the U.S.
it is actually illegal for zoning boards to consider possible health risks
when deciding where to place mobile phone antennas. Thanks to the Telecom
Act of 1996, such considerations are preempted by our federal government
in order to give maximum freedom and opportunity to telecom companies.
Some communities have been sued when trying to fight this. The Vermont
delegation, with support from some other members of Congress, has recently
introduced bills to reverse this ruling (5). It will take enormous support
to offset the influence of telecom money and pass these bills.
I urge your Advisory
Board members and other professionals to become familiar with this issue,
and to help inform others. Some web sites providing information on the
unheard side of this story are:
(1) June 1999 letter to the Institute for Electronic and Electrical Engineers
(IEEE) from the Radiofrequency Inter-Agency Work Group (RFIAWG). See link
at www.emrnetwork.org under "Press Releases: 8/12/02"
(2) July 2002 letter to Janet Newton from Norbert Hankin, Scientist, Radiation
Protection Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in response
to a letter to Administrator Christie Whitman. See above URL for (1).
Also September 2002 letter to Margaret M. Glaser from Frank Marcinowski,
Chief of the Division in response to a letter to Administrator Whitman
(3) October 2002, the Freiburger Appeal. See www.emrnetwork.org/news/IGUMED_english.pdf
(4) R. Santini study published in "Pathologie Biologie." See www.emrnetwork.org/research/santini_pathbio_eng.pdf
(5) Local Control of Cellular Towers Act (S3103) sponsored by Sen. Leahy,
Jeffords, Murray and Dodd, and (HR5631) sponsored by Cong. Sanders, Tancredo,
Shays and Davis. www.emrnetwork.org/action/30oct_02_fact_sheet.pdf
Cell Towers: Wireless Convenience? or Environmental Hazard? edited by
B. Blake Levitt (2001)
Cellular Telephone Russian Roulette by Robert Kane, Ph.D. (2001)
Electromagnetic Fields: A Consumer's Guide to the Issues and How to Protect
Ourselves, by B. Blake Levitt (2002)
About the Author:
Margaret Meade Glaser has a Masters in psychology and school psychology
and serves as chair of Public Relations on the Board of Directors for
the Electromagnetic Radiation Network.
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