MEDIA RELEASE FROM CELL-OUT.ORG
The Hidden Secrets
We all love our gadgets and gizmos. They help us cope with today’s hectic lives. One of my favorites of these gadgets is my cellular phone. Having my own business, it is my gate to freedom. I can leave my office without abandoning my responsibilities. They also provide a degree of safety by allowing my daughter and wife to call home when they have car problems or just need to stay in touch.
Like most people, I continued to hope for more coverage so I could use my cellular phone everywhere. Occasionally I would be staying in an area without cellular service and I felt disconnected from society; not to the point of panic, but it was like something was missing. Working in the electronics field, I felt well educated in potential hazards of cellular technology and considered it safe as long as use was limited to a reasonable amount of time.
My education started about eight months ago when a cellular tower company approached me and asked if I wanted to lease a small amount of land for a cellular tower. They told me they only needed a 40’ X 40’ area and would give me $800 per month for a 5-year lease with 10 options for renewal. Since I live on 20 acres and the county just raised my property taxes by over 50% last year, I was looking for any way for the property to ‘earn its keep’. While the money they were offering wasn’t enough to live on, it was certainly enough to make me think about all the possibilities. I could be earning money while I was fishing, buy new toys each month, save a little more for retirement or pay my property taxes.
The cellular tower people (SBA) were very aggressive salesmen. They had their sales pitch down to a science. They started off with the “free money” speech followed with the “I wish I had one on my property” angle. At this point it sounded pretty good. What could be the down sides? I asked SBA how much power it transmitted with. “Less than a microwave oven” was the reply. “What is the next step?” I asked. They told me they needed an access agreement so their representatives could conduct coverage tests and verify they would get the needed coverage in the area. Since my property sits on top of the hill and is heavily treed, I knew the coverage would be exactly what they were looking for. I told them that it was important that it be well hidden from the neighbors since I was proud to live in a neighborhood with the best neighbors you could hope for and would not want to benefit from lowering their quality of life. This is when the high-pressure sales tactics started. After a couple weeks of no contact from SBA, a representative called and said he was on the way over with the access agreement and we needed to sign it by 5:00 or they would have to look elsewhere (it was 4:00 at that point). My wife and I are wise to this type of sales tactic and refused to commit with such short notice.
I told SBA if I was going to continue, I would need to see a copy of the lease and the access agreement would have to state that access would be at my direction (not free reign) and could not extend to applying for county permits (one step at a time). SBA did provide a lease for me to review and finally provided an access agreement that allowed them to do their tests without going to the permit stage. As I read the lease, I found some interesting points that did not sit right with me. The 10 options for renewal were at their option, not mine and I couldn’t even sell my property to my children without asking them first. By signing the lease, I would be locked in to this agreement for the next 55 years. That is a pretty big commitment! I would be 100 years old by the time the lease was over!
More research was definitely in order. SBA still had not provided me with exact numbers on power and I needed to know what “Less than a microwave oven” and “way below the national safety limit” really equated to. While I was waiting for the numbers on power from their RF engineers, I did some rethinking on the $800 per month for losing rights to a piece of my property. All the sudden it did not seem like such a good deal. Options like adding a house or duplex had better returns on the property without losing control of it for the rest of my life.
I finally received an email from SBA responding to my request for power levels. 57dBm EIRP was the response. I needed to look up an equivalent power in watts that I could understand. My search indicated a power of 500 watts. Compared to a handheld phone of a little over ½ watt, this seemed like a lot. Here is where my real education started. This power level of 500 watts was for a single PCS provider and the lease indicated that there might be multiple providers locating their antennas on the same tower. The FCC MPE (Maximum Permissible Exposure limits) to PCS frequency radiation is 1 mW/cm2 due to heating effects. (PCS frequencies are in the same frequency band as a microwave oven). Calculating how much power people in the immediate area would be exposed to resulted in numbers in the 0.001 mW/cm2 range. Even though the numbers were significantly lower than the FCC limit, I still did not feel good about exposing my neighbors and family to these levels on a continuous basis (especially if I couldn’t change my mind for 55 years).
My research continued. I found that many countries (Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Italy and Russia) had changed their national limits to 100 or 1000 times lower than those of our federal government . The reason for the change in their MPE limits was that they had found enough evidence that the Electro Magnetic Fields (EMFs) produced by transmission towers (like cell towers or power lines) had some serious biological effects on the people around the towers. More digging uncovered scientific evidence from experiments done on animals that showed health effects at levels as low as 10,000 times below the national limit. Some of these experiments were also done on human blood with similar results. Doctor Henry Lai, of the University of Washington, showed single and double DNA strand breaks at very low levels of long-term EMF exposure. These types of damages are responsible for cancer and cell mutation. Dr. Lai and many other scientists published their findings at the International Conference on Cell Tower Siting in Salzburg Germany a couple years ago. Health problems like Leukemia, cancer and sterility in mice after 5 generations are effects that we don’t want to mess with. These experiments definitely show reason for concern. What makes cellular towers much worse than cellular phones or microwave ovens, is the continuous exposure to pulsed microwave frequency radiation. The high frequency is able to penetrate the body, and the random pulsing (due to multiple channels) causes havoc with the bodies natural electric signals. Handheld phones and microwave ovens are constant power levels. While the dangers of handheld cell phones are starting to be realized, their effects are primarily due to heating of body parts. The only two parts of the body that can’t shed heat are the brain and the eyes. Using a headset solves the health issues as well as makes driving much safer.
Months had gone by since I had last talked to SBA and my wife and I had decided that a cell tower was not something we wanted on our property. The lease gave them too much control of a piece of our property for too long. The money was not enough for the use of the land and most importantly, it was not worth the health of my neighbors and families to have something like that in our neighborhood. SBA had contacted several of my neighbors and we all came to the same conclusions. None of us wanted this icon of industry invading our pieces of paradise. Most of us in the neighborhood have built our own homes and worked for the past 10 or 12 years to make our homes something special.
I thought we were done with the whole cell tower issue when we received a notice from the county stating that a cell tower was being proposed. It turned out to be a new neighbor who had moved in less than two years ago and the proposed equipment would be installed within 50 feet of my property line. His property does not have significant trees to hide the tower and having it pushed so close to the property line does not provide any screening. All the neighbors were shocked that we had to find out from the county rather than from the landowner. We are a close neighborhood and we have all helped each other when we were building our homes (sort of like the old barn raisings). I put together some information that I had found about cell towers and went over to talk to the landowner. When I offered the information for him to read, he refused it and told me to get off his property. I tried to ask him a few questions and raise my concerns for such a tower in the neighborhood. He again told me to get off his property. It was obvious at this point that the landowner did not care what his neighbors had to say, and did not even want to educate himself in the potential health effects. My campaign against the tower would have to take a different angle. I started a web site and forum (www.cell-out.org) and labeled the project “Operation Cell-Out” (because we all feel that the new neighbor, and the wireless industry, sold us out). There are many things about the permit application that were in error. I raised these questions and concerns to the county planning department and was told that it didn’t matter.
SBA did a balloon test to simulate a tower and took three pictures of where you could not see the balloon. The locations the pictures were taken from were locations where you obviously would not be able to see it (over a hill, the other side of ¼ mile of trees, etc.). They did not request to take pictures from any of the nearest neighbors or the road serving the tower property (where you would be able to see the whole tower). When I asked the county planner about doing another balloon test, he said:
“There are no code requirements for notifying anyone when the applicant will be doing photo simulations and for where or how many vantage points photos are taken from. Though I can not speak for the person who took the photos it has bee[n] my experience that they do not go on peoples property to take photos, this would be trespassing and because of that they stay on public property. I have no authority to require the applicant to do an additional balloon test but I have passed on your concerns to them.”
It is obvious that the purpose of a balloon test is to find out where you will be able to see the tower, not where you can’t. This is a perfect example of how the local government and the wireless industry are working against the people. There are many other examples like this in the permit application and it is insulting that such a permit would even be considered (more details on our web site). As for the trespassing issue, SBA did come on my property (15 feet) to place a benchmark rebar and cap for referencing all their survey points. There is no reason they needed to have this on my property, and I still don’t know why they did. They were aware of it, because they submitted the plans showing the reference point on the neighboring property.
The next stage of my education was in the operation of our government. The saying “The Golden Rule” means: “those with the gold, make the rules”. This became all too apparent when I started looking into what it would take to stop the installation of a cell tower. I had found that there were health issues so I thought that I should be able to fight the tower based on those concerns. I believe that our health is more important than money and that logical minds should agree. As it turns out, even if I could prove at the hearing that someone will die if the cell tower is installed, local governments feel powerless to deny the permit. They are so afraid of being sued by the wireless companies, that they approve permits that they normally would not.
This whole corruption started with the Telecommunications Act of 1996 . At that time, cellular was just taking hold and had terrible coverage. There were also only two providers (A and B). In the Seattle area those providers were Cellular One and US West. Before the break up of AT&T, all telephone service was regulated. There was a fixed price that could be charged for every service that they provided. Once AT&T was forced (allowed) to break up, there became two types of service, the regulated portion that provides each home with service, and the unregulated portion that provides everything else (long distance and wireless). The regulated portion is the most expensive to provide, because it requires the maintaining of lines to every home and business. This is typically called “The Last Mile”. Approximately the same time the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was passed, the FCC opened up seven new frequencies to be used for wireless service. They auctioned these frequencies off to the highest bidder. I don’t know how much they sold for, but there was a lot of money involved. These providers realized what these frequencies were worth. Since wireless service is unregulated and it costs about 1/8 the cost of traditional regulated, wired lines to maintain, there was a huge potential to make money. These wireless companies are required to serve 1/3 of their targeted area within 5 years and 2/3 of their targeted area within 10 years. The TCA of 1996 was the tool they needed to make this all out land grab for tower sites a much easier task. One key paragraph from the TCA reads as follows:
Sec704 a 7 B (iv) No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission's regulations concerning such emissions.
Now this paragraph says nothing about human health or operation of wireless service facilities; it merely says it is okay to ruin the environment when they install or modify the towers. Many cellular company lawyers feel free to misquote this paragraph to their benefit and include the words operation and human health causing local governments to feel that they are powerless to consider human health effects during operation of cellular towers. This paragraph has been the subject of many court cases and as a result local governments side with the cellular companies because they fear a lawsuit from them more than from the protesting neighbors. There have been attempts to clarify the wording of this act in congress but they have been unsuccessful. I have faith that justice will ultimately prevail, but hopefully it won’t be too late for the many people who get sick from living in the vicinity of a cell tower that was approved when it shouldn’t have. I should point out at this point that not all cell towers are unsafe. There are many ways to responsibly provide cellular service without affecting the people living around them.
The 150-foot tower that is being proposed within 50 feet of my property is one of those irresponsibly placed towers. It is placed just over 100 feet of a Category 1 wetland (most protected category) and on the low side of a 30-foot drop in elevation. The cell companies own coverage map shows that it will not provide any significant coverage to the east of the tower (the tower would be transmitting at homes and people instead). There are 14 existing cell sites within a five-mile radius of the proposed tower, many of which are on power line towers. Co-locating on some of these existing sites would provide much better coverage to the area without lowering the quality of life of its residence. There is already great Cingular service (the intended provider) at the location of the proposed tower, which again shows that they are not responsibly placing this tower.
Many cities and counties are adopting special zoning laws specific to cell towers. These rules include setback limits from the property boundaries and limitations on the types of cellular sites that can be installed in residential areas. If the proposed tower on my neighbors property were one mile south (in King County), it would be denied due to setback requirements. Snohomish County does not have any special codes for cell towers yet. Because of this lack in zoning laws, cellular companies are able to do pretty much anything they want as long as they conform to the standard building codes. In the past, many communities used to have overhead power installed and have changed to underground power at great expenses (costs of millions of dollars per mile). This was done to improve the quality of the neighborhoods and most new neighborhoods are being built with underground power from the start. It’s not possible to put a cell tower underground, but we should learn from our past and be very careful how we provide wireless service to an area. While most of us think that cell towers are a necessity, they are just the easiest way to provide cellular service, and the most visible. New technology has provided us with pole top boxes that provide localized service where it is needed. More of these units are required compared to a single tower, but they blend into the environment much better and emit much less power than a large cellular tower. Placing cellular antennas on power lines transmission towers, keeps similar uses together so people can plan what they want to live next to.
If the biological effects are something we should be concerned about, then why are our MPE limits still set so high? The FCC has set the MPE limits for thermal effects only. The FCC by its own admission is not the appropriate agency to rule on health effects and it has deferred this task to the FDA, EPA and OSHA agencies. The EPA has allocated a half an employees time to the task, producing no significant findings. So the FCC declares limits based on heating effects alone and says that other agencies will rule on biological effects. What we are left with is an un-monitored human radiation experiment. This is not an experiment with volunteers, but unwilling subjects forced by their governments to participate so that the wireless companies can make a buck. Being unmonitored, there is no way to learn from any damage that does occur and people who do get sick will not know why. There are many people living near cell towers today that have complained about symptoms of exposure and are powerless to make changes because the fields are within the limits set by the FCC . I believe that if we had a national health care program, the laws concerning cell towers would be changed.
This has much the same ring as the tobacco lawsuits we just went through in the past few years. Business starts off by saying it is safe, then says there is no evidence it is harmful. Finally the truth comes out after many have died or become seriously ill. This is slightly different than tobacco because there is a need for cellular service in today’s society and there isn’t such a need for tobacco. I believe that the wireless companies are aware of this and that is why they don’t want these towers on their own property. Why do they lease land for the same price they could buy vacant land and have complete control of it? Why would Verizon have an equipment lot on a busy street that is miles from the nearest cell site without a cell tower of its own? I believe that they want the landowner to share some of the liability with them. The wireless industry tried to get a clause added to senate bill S800 (cleverly disguised as the “Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999”) that attempted to free them of liability from health issues. Fortunately this clause was ultimately struck out before the bill was passed. If they say it is safe, then why are they trying to free themselves of liability? This correlation with tobacco extends even further with a recent study in Japan by Tohoko University where it is shown that trains and busses may often exceed the limit for exposure due to too many cell phones being used in an enclosed metal container. Similar to second hand smoke, passengers are forced to endure the electromagnetic pollution of people they are sitting next to. This shows there is a need for public awareness before the problem gets out of hand.
We need to tell the wireless industry and our government that our health and quality of life is more important than their profits. This is the age of Corporate Responsibility and we need to make the government and the wireless industry responsible for their actions. Please visit my web site for more information. There is a web page that will assist you in writing your federal government to make a change to these ridiculous laws. Use the web sites forum to speak out and share your ideas as well as read about other people’s experiences. With the density that the wireless providers are trying to place these towers, they will ultimately want to have a cell tower every mile. If your closest cell tower is currently a mile away, then your backyard may be a new target. You may not live under a cell tower today, but your neighbor may try to put one in tomorrow. It only takes a minute to make your opinions known.
Please visit the following web site for more details or to notify your federal government of your opinions: www.cell-out.org