by Susan Foster
Editor’s note: California is once again in a trendsetting legislative battle with dramatic implications for our collective public health. Big Telecom wants fewer impediments to deliver next generation connectivity: more, faster, e-ver-y-where. It’s time to say: NO. The technology we love is harming us and, most of all, our precious children who absorb ten times more radiation than adults, with their thinner skulls and higher water- and ion-content brains. Please share this post widely.
Dear Gov. Jerry Brown,
I have a story to share with you. It involves inside information from the telecommunications industry; firefighters and what their brains look like following a five-year exposure to a cell tower outside their station; and a bill currently flying through the California Senate and Assembly.
SB 649 is going to land on your desk sometime in early September.
Veto this bill
As you know, many of us don’t like SB 649. More than half the cities in California comprising more than 2/3 of California’s citizens don’t want this bill to become law.
SB 649 would essentially deregulate the telecommunications industry by giving them the right to force cities and counties to lease available lampposts, buildings, and the right-of-way for cell towers and transmitting antenna which will blanket our neighborhoods and our cities with 5G millimeter waves. 5G, or 5th generation wireless, is virtually untested on human beings. Electrical equipment the size of refrigerators will be allowed, along with back-up generators filled with diesel fuel.
Our exposure to radiation from towers has increased exponentially. With SB 649, California is about to add 50,000 more “small cells” to approximately 300,000 cell towers currently in existence nationwide.
The digital divide will remain a chasm
One of the selling points in legislatures across the country is that 5G will help close the digital divide. That sounds great.
The truth, however, is communications providers have repeatedly demonstrated that they will not make advanced services available to low-income or rural areas unless they are required to do so. SB 649 contains no such requirement.
Driverless cars over children
Most of all, we’re worried about the most vulnerable among us – our children. In the name of faster downloads, appliances that communicate with smartphones in the Internet of Things (IoT), and driverless cars, what good is all this progress if you are putting our children with their developing brains and rapidly dividing cells at risk?
We don’t want to sacrifice our children’s health just so we can preheat the oven with the touch of our phones allowing us to pop a chicken in to roast the minute we walk in the door after a quick trip to the store in a car that just drove itself.
Wireless radiation and DDT have in common
SB 649 would increase harmful radiation that the World Health Organization’s cancer committee IARC classified a 2b “possible human” carcinogen in May 2011.
This verdict put everything on the RF – EMF spectrum into the same category as DDT, which has been banned in the U.S. since 1972. The vote on wireless radiation wasn’t even close. It was 29 to 1.
The only thing that kept this radiation from being classified as a 2a “probable human” carcinogen was a lack of unbiased animal studies.
Reasons why the NTP study is such a big deal
Well, Gov. Brown, now we have one. And for a country with a paucity of government research on RF radiation since Ronald Reagan defunded the EPA’s research around the same time the cell phone industry was taking in the early 1980s, the U.S. really came through big time with a rat study from NIH’s National Toxicology Program (NTP).
The $25 million NTP study found brain cancer and heart cancer when rats were exposed to full body cell phone radiation, not unlike the 24/7 exposure our children will be receiving if you sign SB 649 into law.
DNA damage from wireless radiation
And speaking of children, we have a profound desire not only for them to be healthy, but for their children to be healthy, as well. According to Microwave News, there was evidence of DNA damage coming out of the NTP study.
Please keep that, and the protection of our children in mind, when SB 649 hits your desk.
The firefighter exemption tells the tale
In a move that strikes me as a lesson for all of us to absorb, one group of Californians is already protected from SB 649. One’s mind leaps immediately to the unborn, to children, to the elderly, to those who are infirm or disabled.
It is none of these groups.
The legislature has granted an exemption after a 17 year fight for recognition that cell towers were causing them harm, and that group is among the strongest, healthiest among us – the firefighters.
Why? Because they deserve it.
How do I know? Here’s where the story I promised you comes in.
Telecom insider emerges from the shadows
Almost 20 years ago, I was walking our family dog after watching the school bus disappear from sight. From behind a small cluster of palm trees a woman stepped out of the shadows. She asked if we could speak, but insisted on doing so out of sight of passersby. She confirmed who I was, and asked if she had her information correct that I was a medical writer. I said I was, and suddenly the vaguely familiar face had more meaning.
She was the young wife of a telecom executive who lived several streets over. Our children went to the same school. I was then asked by the stranger if I could lead the neighborhood fight against a proposed cell tower being permitted for the golf course surrounding our neighborhood.
I responded with a question that seems almost inconceivable today. “What’s a cell tower?” I was clueless. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t even question how voice data traveled from one cell phone to another.
The executive’s wife told me she would point out a few faux metal palm trees to me, yet cautioned once I started recognizing these tall metal conduits for radiation from one point to another, I would never stop seeing them. Data was carried on the back of microwaves, she explained, and they could penetrate every living thing – plant, animal. and human.
I asked if she had any science to support this. “Yes,” was her one syllable response. How do I get my hands on the studies, I wanted to know. She reassured me it would be taken care of, and then asked me to tell no one we had talked. Her husband’s job was at risk.
As I was about to continue on a walk that was already in the process of changing my life, I turned back and asked an uncommonly bold question for me, “Am I correct that you were diagnosed with cancer several years ago?” Yes, she had been. My next question was answered even before I asked.
“It’s the children I’m most worried about”
“Some of my husband’s colleagues have had brain cancer. It feels beyond coincidence. They all know at some level it’s dangerous, but they’re making so much money.” She paused, “It’s the children I’m most worried about.” I nodded in agreement about the children. More information was shared before I followed my dog out of the shadows. I struggled to assimilate what I had just heard. The industry knew this stuff caused cancer and they were still permitting cell towers for neighborhoods?
A numbness overcame me the rest of my walk through the neighborhood. The telecom executive’s wife had left me with a daunting challenge. I had to lead a neighborhood fight against a cell tower, yet we had to kill this permit without bringing up health before a city or county council.
Bureaucratic capture of the FCC ties our hands
The Telecom Act of 1996 forbade localities from opposing cell towers on health grounds, only aesthetics. In America?
Seriously? Yes, seriously.
It’s called the preemption clause. As long as the FCC says it’s okay – and that means under 1000 uW/cm2 of radiation for a cell tower – it is presumed safe. Yet the FCC wasn’t a health agency and they didn’t do their own studies. It seems there was a revolving door between the FCC and the CTIA – The Wireless Lobby, leaving me with no reassurance of safety at all.
I was swimming in a sea of new information that I wished I didn’t know, yet the parent in me longed to know more. My wish was about to come true.
Secret agent in the night, with the science
For the next six weeks, perhaps two mornings a week, I would open the front door to let our dog outside before waking the children. There, placed squarely on the doormat, would be an unmarked manila envelope with two or three scientific studies inside.
This was my first glimpse into what the telecom industry knew in 2001, and has failed to this day to share with the public. A 1994 study by Henry Lai and N.P. Singh of the University of Washington struck me as the most worrisome.
RF radiation could damage DNA in the brain cells of rats.
We beat back the neighborhood cell tower
After an intense six week campaign, we prevailed with the help of a former union official who coached us in planning a march along a boulevard leading to the golf club at the back of the neighborhood. It was strategically timed for the weekend of the former San Diego Chargers’ quarterback Stan Humphrey’s celebrity golf tournament.
We created bad PR for the golf club willing to lease land to telecom, and bad PR for the wireless carrier.
The permit was pulled the day before our march.
Firefighters wanted help, too
Following our success, we were interviewed on TV. A few weeks later, I received a telephone call from a firefighter who had seen me speaking for the neighborhood group. He said their fire station in San Diego was getting hit with 24 antennae on the roof of the station. They were out of money and out of time.
Could I write an appeal?
I said I would try, but explained we couldn’t do so based on health concerns. The firefighters were stunned. These guys risk their lives for us every day of the week and they did not have a right to say they didn’t want 24 antennae on the roof of their fire station because the radiation was a health risk?
How could this be?
Telecom Act of 1996 preempts our rights
Check out Section 332(c)(7)(B)(iv) of The Telecommunications Act of 1996. It preempts zoning authority from local governments. Aside from aesthetics, a city has no voice.
I wrote the firefighters’ appeal using a safety angle. It bought us time. One cell carrier went elsewhere.
We then worked to educate the fire chief about the dangers of wireless radiation. Fire chiefs often rent out space on the stations. By bringing in more revenue for the city, a chief’s’ job is more secure. But the rank and file pay the price.
It comes down to the age old issue of money.
Canaries in the coal mine… with red fire hats
I began hearing more stories of firefighters who literally could not function in their jobs, as guardians of society. Once cell towers were activated on or adjacent to their stations, many – depending on the location of the tower and the direction the beam of radiation was following — developed severe headaches, insomnia, and foggy thinking.
These are not symptoms we wish to see in our First Responders.
Exposing the truth is what parents do
And so, as parents who care passionately about our children’s futures know to do, I decided to take matters into my own hands. If my own government didn’t care enough to fund studies into the hazards of RF radiation, and if the telecom industry was allowed to get away with threatening universities and funding where good science was taking place, we had to find other ways of exposing the truth.
In 2004, I organized a SPECT brain scan pilot study of firefighters who had been exposed to a cell tower on their station for over five years. We found brain abnormalities in all firefighters tested.
Res. 15 banned cell towers on fire stations
In 2004, I co-authored Resolution 15, which was passed overwhelmingly by the International Association of Firefighters. Res. 15 urging a moratorium on the placement of cell towers on fire stations in the US and Canada based not only on the SPECT scan study of California firefighters, but on existing science.
There is a solid history of firefighters becoming ill in close proximity to cell towers. There are human and financial costs associated and the state needs to hear their story, Gov. Brown.
The whole country needs to hear their story.
Supermen’s kryptonite: brain damage, infertility
The symptoms experienced by the firefighters who participated in the SPECT brain scan study were similar to firefighters in other stations who live in the shadow of cell towers.
It is important to note that all the men we studied had passed rigorous physical and cognitive exams prior to being hired by the fire department. In California you have to score in the top 98th or 99th percentile to even be hired by the fire service. These were extremely bright, healthy men. For testing purposes we excluded men who had worked HazMat, as we did not want chemical exposure clouding the picture.
The firefighters’ symptoms after a five-year exposure to a cell tower adjacent to their station included:
- extreme fatigue
- cognitive impairment
- anesthesia-like sleep where the men woke up for 911 calls “as if they were drugged”
- inability to sleep
- unexplained anger
- immune-suppression manifest in frequent colds and flu-like symptoms
Shocking stories of cognitive and other damage
Here is how these symptoms translated to real-life responses when we, as a society, need our firefighters the most:
- On several occasions firefighters got lost on 911 calls in the town they grew up in. They used to ride their bikes down these streets. Yet they got lost driving a fire engine.
- In another instance, the emergency bell sounded, and four firefighters awakened from what can only be described as a severe stupor. They got dressed in their protective gear as quickly as they could, slid down the pole, climbed in the truck – two in front and two in back – and just sat in the rig with the alarm sounding in the background. Finally the captain turned to the engineer who was holding the keys in his hand and said, “Hey, aren’t we supposed to be doing something?”
- A medic with 20 years of experience who had never made a mistake and prided himself on that fact forgot basic CPR in the midst of resuscitating a coronary victim. Because the men knew they were struggling to function in the face of the classic radiation poisoning, they looked out for each other. The captain had been counting chest compressions and took over, but it was a potential risk to the victim and a shattering personal experience for the medic.
- This is a relatively small fire department, but most of the men were at an age where they were starting families or adding to them. Yet for three years there were no live births among their wives. There appeared to be an inability to conceive, and there were several miscarriages. Three years after the tower was installed, a healthy son was born to one firefighter and his wife. At age two he was diagnosed with autism.
The brain scans of these six men revealed a pervasive, hyper-excitability of the neurons, which suggested the exposure to RF (microwave) radiation was causing the neurons to continually fire without benefit of rest. When neurons (brain cells) cannot rest, they ultimately die.
Yet more immediately, we found cognitive impairment, delayed reaction time, and lack of impulse control in all six men tested.
Gov. Brown, if we found this degree of damage in big, strong, previously healthy firefighters, just imagine what SPECT brain scans might reveal in children with thinner skulls, developing brains, and rapidly dividing cells.
FCC guidelines permit even more radiation
The fire station cell tower measured at 1 to 2/1000th of the allowable FCC limit of non-ionizing radiation. That means the towers could be almost 1000 times more powerful than the level the firefighters were exposed to, and still be considered within FCC guidelines. And yet even at these “low” levels of radiation, we found brain abnormalities and measureable neurological deficits.
If your children or other family members become ill as a result of a 5G transmitting antenna on a lamppost outside your child’s bedroom window, the carrier is protected from a lawsuit.
Even more terrifying?
The cell tower that radiated the firefighters was 2G, or 2nd generation technology. With SB 649 we’re talking 5G with its untested millimeter wave used in airport body scanners and the military.
Lesson learned from six brave men
The firefighters’ most important lesson to us as a state, and as a society, may be that if we allow the buildout of cell towers so they become commonplace in front of homes and schools, just as they are now on fire stations, we will be facing not just a growing risk of cancer for ourselves and our children, but a neurological tsunami of illnesses from ADHD to autism to Alzheimer’s.
Do I have statistics to back up the theory that the firefighters whose stations have long been targeted for cell tower placement are harbingers of what is happening to society?
Yes, I do.
Rising ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s, anxiety
More than one in ten children received an ADHD diagnosis in 2011 according to the CDC, and that represents a 42 percent rise from a decade earlier. Most of the costs were incurred by adults due to productivity and income losses and they’re staggering. CHADD, the National Resource on ADHD, evaluated the costs based on a review of 19 research studies and found for children and adults a range between $143 billion to $266 billion (adjusted to 2010 U.S. dollars).
The Autism Society puts the prevalence of autism in U.S. children as having increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 (1 in 150) to 2010 (1 in 68), extrapolating from CDC stats. Autism services cost U.S. citizens $236 – $262 billion annually.
The rate of people dying from Alzheimer’s disease in the United States rose by 55% over a 15-year period according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control (May 2017).
According to the Alzheimer’s Organization, Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America, costing more than cancer and heart disease. In 2017, the direct costs to American society of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will total an estimated $259 billion. The Alzheimer’s costs to Medicare and Medicaid alone, for the same year, are staggering; together they will spend an estimated $175 billion caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias – 68 percent of total costs.
If that didn’t make you anxious enough…
The National Institute of Mental Health reported 25% of kids between ages 13 and 18 will experience an anxiety disorder. This is a 20-fold increase fold over the last 30 years.
ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s, anxiety. And this is just the A’s.
Radioactive isotopes and technicolor brains
Six firefighters had radioactive isotopes injected into their bloodstreams that lit their brains up in diagnostically-meaningful colors. Gov. Brown, you might ask what this has to do with these statistics and numbers? I suggest they may have a lot to do with explaining how the incidence rates of these neurological diseases and disorders got so inexplicably high.
These bold, fearless firefighters may not be your typical canaries in the coal mine, but we brought the coal mine to these grand men and women of the fire service. Many of them are ill, and we need to see them as possible harbingers of what is to come to the rest of us.
Explosion of wireless a causal factor?
Is there a correlation of increases in ADHD, autism and Alzheimer’s with an increase in the number of cell towers? The increase in mobile phone subscribers gives a better sense of the trend. There were just over 44,000,000 wireless subscriber connections in 1996. By 2016, 20 years later, there were 395,881,497 subscriber connections according to the CTIA.
Our exposure to radiation from towers has increased exponentially. With SB 649, California is about to add 50,000 more “small cells” to approximately 300,000 cell towers currently in existence nationwide.
An exemption for firefighters but not for kids?
The state clearly honors the sacrifice of California’s firefighters and is concerned about the health risks they face from cell towers. After all, it granted them an exemption from SB 649.
Yet, firefighters are the strongest of the strong. What does that imply for the rest of us?
Gov. Brown, shouldn’t we weigh the risk to our children of untested 5G before deployment of cell towers in front of homes, schools, parks, playgrounds such that our children are bathed in millimeter waves 24/7?
When did wireless become oxygen? There’s nothing we cannot do wired that we’re presently doing utilizing wireless technologies except talk on a cell phone. Let’s consider the risk in that context.
Leading the world, not just California
Your voice was heard around the world in July when crowds cheered in Hamburg, Germany as you announced California would gather leaders from around the world for a global warming summit next year. The New York Times called you America’s de facto leader on climate change.
You will have the power to march in lockstep with half the other states in this country attempting to fast track 5G infrastructure. Or you can tell California – and everyone listening – that we will pause, test, and protect first.
Veto the bill + a moratorium on 5G and IoT
We are asking you to be that leader now, and study the 5G millimeter wave that has the ability to heat skin, eyes, and testes. 5G will be a ubiquitous presence in our lives and in our homes, 24/7, with no “off” switch, no reprieve, and it has never been studied on a human population. Consider all the phones, WiFi, tablets, and a disquieting number of cell towers already in existence.
We do not want a telecom usurpation of local control over our communities, and a blanket of radiation over our homes and our children.
Gov. Brown, put your pen down (please)
Before you sign, we beseech you to pause, bring in independent experts from all over the world, and make California a leader in children’s health over the Internet of Things. Study the effects. Do not let our children become guinea pigs any more than they already are. Please put your pen down, Gov. Brown.
You’ve got mail
I’m asking every concerned parent to mail, email, or fax this letter to you and just say NO to SB 649 and 5G everywhere:
Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax: (916) 558-3160
Email link (or manually enter: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/)
Susan Foster is a medical writer who has worked with firefighters on health, safety and policy with respect to cell towers on their stations since 2000. She organized a brain study of California firefighters in 2004 and was the original author of Resolution 15 passed by the IAFF in 2004. She is an Honorary Firefighter with the San Diego Fire Department and a U.S. Adviser to the UK’s Radiation Research Trust.