Friday, February 4, 2000
Panelists warn of health impact from cell towers
Are cell towers hazardous to your health? Although the federal government disagrees, the panelists assembled for "Microwaving Communities: The Link between Cell Phone Antennas and Your Health" at the Alcott School in Concord on January 30 presented a strong, albeit uncontested, case that they are.
Of immediate concern to the talk organizers was the February 4 meeting of Concord's Trinitarian Congregational Church members to decide whether to allow continuation of a 1997 contract with Sprint Spectrum to house cell phone antennas in their steeple. This site is out of compliance with the current Concord bylaw approved at the Concord Town Meeting in April 1998. Virginia Hines of the Concord Citizens for Responsible Tower Siting, a primary organizer of the talk, said there was a need for a "fresh look" at the scientific evidence before any decision is made.
Keynote speaker B. Blake Levitt, former New York Times health/science journalist and author of Electromagnetic Fields: A Consumer's Guide and How to Protect Ourselves, spoke forcefully about the adverse health impacts of radiation from cellular towers and the phones themselves. Levitt, and the scientists who followed her on the panel, highlighted several studies in the 1990s which showed that chronic exposure to low level radiation can cause health problems ranging from precancerous cell mutations and DNA damage to suppression of melatonin, a major antioxidant, and opening of the protective brain barrier which can lead to serious infection. Aside from the research results, however, Levitt also spoke of the entrenched mindset of policy-making professionals which makes it harder to reevaluate official positions.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits communities from taking into account health effects of a cell tower if the tower complies with federal standards on radio frequency emissions. Levitt asserted that the telecommunications companies fought hard to get a federal standard on environmental issues because "they know they never win when health issues are raised at the local level." She encouraged the Concord community to live up to its history as the seat of the American Revolution, refuse to accept the federal mandate, and insist that control of matters affecting health be returned to the local level.
Carlisle advisory reaction
Will this call to arms have an effect on how applications for wireless communications towers are handled in Carlisle? "No," said both Paul Gill and Rick Blum, members of the town's wireless applications advisory committee who attended Sunday's discussion. Gill and Blum both said that they will review applications strictly in accordance with Carlisle's new bylaw and the rules and regulations thereunder.
Any lease of town-owned land for a cell tower will require a two-thirds vote at Town Meeting.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito