The dangers of cell towers

  • DAVID O. CARPENTER

Published: 3/2/2021 11:12:22 AM

I am a public health physician who has been involved in issues related to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) for several decades. I have served as dean of the School of Public Health at the University at Albany/SUNY. I have edited two books on effects of EMFs, ranging from low frequency fields to radio frequency/microwave radiation, or the kind emitted by Wi-Fi routers, cellphones, neighborhood antennas or cell towers and wireless computer equipment. I served as the co-editor of the BioInitiative Report 2012 (bioinitiative.org), a comprehensive review of the literature showing biological effects at nonthermal levels of exposure, much of which has since been published in the peer-reviewed journals.

I have been asked to comment on the application for construction of a 120-foot cell tower on farm land that will be located only 1,500 feet from homes with children. I also am aware that AT&T has dismissed concerns of resulting health effects from the operation of this cell tower based on its conclusion that the radio frequency emission will be much lower than the current standards of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Those standards, which not been reviewed for many years, are grossly inadequate for protection of human health. That is one reason why I am currently a plaintiff on one of the two cases pending in federal courts suing the FCC for failure to protect public health. The FCC admits that it has no health expertise, and it has been described by Harvard scientists as “a captured agency” because its members all come from the telecommunication industry.

There is clear and strong evidence that intensive use of cellphones increases the risk of brain cancer. The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified the radiation from both cellphones and cell towers as a Class 2B “Possible Carcinogen” in 2011. Cell towers use similar radio-frequency radiation as cellphones (in the 1.8 to 5.0 GHz range). The difference between a cellphone and a cell tower environment, however, is that the cellphone is used only intermittently, and at higher power, while the intensity is much less than one would receive holding a cellphone to your head, the emissions from a cell tower are continuous. Thus the aggregate exposure over time coming from being close to a cell tower can be very significant. A child living nearby or in a school with a nearby cell tower will be exposed every moment he or she is at home or in school.

The latency for development of cancer after exposure to radio frequency radiation is long, often up to 20 years for brain cancer. Thus the cancer effects of exposing children will not be seen immediately, but they will have elevated risk of cancer for many years to come. Studies done in several countries have reported elevated rates of cancer, especially leukemia, in residents living near to cell towers.

Unfortunately cancer is not the only disease of concern. Other studies have found individuals living near to cell towers have abnormal levels of several different hormones, and suffer from reduced cognitive ability. Furthermore, there is increasing recognition of the fact that some people, including children, are exceptionally sensitive to electromagnetic fields, and show the syndrome of electro-hypersensitivity. This is characterized by headache, “brain fog” and reduced ability to learn, often accompanied by nausea and gastrointestinal and cardiovascular symptoms,

Placement of cell towers should be as far as possible from any place where humans are present. Certainly having a cell tower near to a home where anyone lives, but especially children, is dangerous to health.

Thank you for your consideration. I urge that approval not be given for construction and operation of this cell tower.

David O. Carpenter, M.D., is the director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany. This My Turn is an abbreviated version of a letter he submitted to the Ashfield Planning Board about the AT&T cell tower application currently under consideration. The complete piece can be found at hilltownhealth.org.


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