Guest Opinion: There really are dangers from wireless emissions | June 3, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - June 3, 2011

Guest Opinion: There really are dangers from wireless emissions

by Molly Rose

In his recent guest opinion, Leon Beauchman, director of a wireless initiative, assures us that wireless emissions are safe and well below established federal standards. I am not reassured. Even a brief Internet search of scholarly journals raises many questions regarding the health effects of these technologies. In addition, history has shown that federal "standards" and the EPA's history with regard to health and toxicity confer little protection or safety. (Remember the thalidomide tragedy and DDT.)

Early studies on the safety of commercial products are rarely definitive, often biased and paid for by the same commercial interests. We have seen repeatedly that where there are powerful economic forces at work, there is little or no concern for truth or the health and welfare of citizens.

While advocates trivialize citizen concerns regarding wireless technology, calling them the "high tension wires of our time," others have referred to cell phones, Wi-Fi, and electrosmog as the asbestos and secondhand smoke of 2020. It is natural to wonder that if wireless technology such as smart meters can disturb sensitive electronic devices in homes, what they will they do to sensitive organs and systems in our bodies, especially the brain and nervous system, which are themselves electromagnetic systems.

The fact is people do experience symptoms, sometimes debilitating, in proximity to these devices. Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome (EHS) does exist, is well documented in Europe, and is estimated to affect 5 percent of the population, though those numbers are sure to rise as the level of electrosmog in the environment increases. Consider the possibility that such people may be today's "miner's canaries" and that their suffering may be the future for all of us who live in this "mine."

Humans aren't the only ones affected. It turns out, all living systems are extremely sensitive to low level electromagnetic fields. Animals avoid cell phone towers and electromagnetic fields, trees die back, and cows, where farmers have been paid to keep cell phone towers, have increased cancers, immune disorders, miscarriages, birth defects, and lower milk production.

Many studies can be found with serious implications for human health. I direct the reader's attention to Bees, Birds, and Mankind, Destroying Nature by Electrosmog by Dr. Ulrich Warnke, a world renowned bioscientist at Saarland University, specializing in environmental and biomedicine and biophysics. His research shows how and why wireless technologies disrupt the orientation and navigation of birds and bees.

Advocates do not take into account the cumulative effects of 24/7 exposure to the ever increasing levels of electrosmog in our daily environment. Also, many of the studies referenced are old, conducted when cell phone use was much lower.

Instead we should be asking a lot of questions. What goes into the manufacture and production of a technology and its products? What are the energy usages, toxicity, waste, and labor practices involved? What are the possible hazards or dangers posed to the physical, psychological, and social health of human and non human communities, indeed the whole natural world?

Only when we can answer these questions can we decide if it is truly worth having this in our world, and if so, how to make it safer, provide full disclosure to citizens with concerns or special needs, and preserve their right to maintain healthy environments at home, and in public areas.

Molly Rose has worked most recently as an early child educator and as an administrator for a non-profit. She lives in Palo Alto with her family.


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Posted by Jay Chesavage
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 7, 2011 at 12:23 am

I take exception to the assertion that RF exposure is inherently dangerous at any level. Everything (including substances we consider safe and harmless) is toxic at sufficiently high levels. So to identify an environmental hazard that is toxic at high levels and extend that harm to low level exposure is not useful as a point of argument. Put to the extreme, climbing into an energized microwave oven is not equivalent to operating one.

I also take exception to the comparisons between non-equivalent concentrations of environmental fields. Smog and airborne pollutants present substantially uniform exposure over the areas they cover. So exposure to smog in one part of Palo Alto will likely be similar to that in in another. Electromagnetic radiation has no equivalent behavior - is not uniform over distance, but instead quickly falls off with distance, generally as the square of the distance. Optical illumination sources follow the same law. Using the author's argument, staring at a streetlamp a few feet away away would be equivalent to staring at one in the distance. If the environmental hazard being discussed were a visible optical source, this argument would be considered preposterous. Yet this argument is applied to RF, which behaves according to the same laws as optical energy, but is unseen. Further, the use of the inflammatory term "electrosmog" attempts to connect the uniformity and hazard of smog to RF, which has no such behavior, and to infer the harm of one is the same as the harm of the other.

Lastly, I respect the right of individuals to decide for themselves, and apart from science, which hazards they feel comfortable exposing themselves to, and to set personal limits which are significantly below governmental levels. For example, someone who was truly concerned with RF exposure should naturally be most concerned with the sources in closest proximity in their homes, as those are the strongest contributors. So if one truly believed that RF exposure at low levels were harmful, I would assume that person would remove from their home any device which emits RF as its intended purpose, which would include microwave ovens, cell phones, wireless phones, wifi computer and wireless networks. Removing such devices which would reduce their personal RF exposure by at least 99.9%, assuming that their neighbor owns and continues to use the same devices located 30x the distance away. So if you own any of the above RF devices, and your neighbor owns the same device, if you are 1 foot away from your device and 31 feet away from your neighbors same device, your device is responsible for 1000x the exposure you receive, and removing your device reduces your exposure by 99.9%.

So I am left with a question. Has the author, who is greatly concerned about these low level RF effects, dispensed with their microwave oven, cell phone, wireless phone, Wireless internet, and wireless laptop computer?

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2011 at 9:00 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Remember the thalidomide tragedy and DDT.
Well said!
The tragedy was that a common, today, precaution against pregnant women taking it was neglected.
The DDT tragedy was that because of the DDT ban, millions die every year who would have lived with DDT.
Stupid anti science will kill you every time.

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 8, 2011 at 10:45 am

>> I take exception to the assertion that RF exposure is inherently
>> dangerous at any level. Everything (including substances we
>> consider safe and harmless) is toxic at sufficiently high levels.

What amazing skill to contradict yourself in the first two sentences of your comment.

And just because the statistical evidence smears out and cannot be clearly and definitely proven at low levels does not mean it is not there or is insignificant.

The problem is not people who want to ensure technology is safe, but those who use our ignorance or inability to clearly understand science as a reason to rubber stamp their money-making schemes.

As far as cell phones I just wish they would have an on/off switch that worked so that the phone part of the cellphone could be turned off reliably when it is in my pocket.

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Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2011 at 4:23 pm

This Molly Rose hysteria reminds me of Rachael Carson, who is directly responsible for multiple-millions of childrens' deaths from malaria. Carson had no idea what she was talking about, but she scared the general population into irrational policies.

Does Molly Rose have no shame?

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Posted by Jay Chesavage
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 9, 2011 at 7:44 am

A few clarifications for Anon:
I'm not seeing the contradiction you assert is present in the first two sentences of my remarks. The first is an assertion that something considered hazardous at high level does not mean hazard at low level. The second is a counterexample about something considered non-hazardous, such as drinking water, which is toxic if taken in sufficiently high levels.

What we have in the author's original opinion is the assertion that if we don't fully know what the long term exposure risks of a thing are, we should consider them as dangerous and avoid any exposure to them. Yet we know for fact that ionizing radiation (radiation with sufficiently high energy to break chemical bonds, such as x-rays, alpha, beta, gamma rays) causes cancer, and still we fly on airplanes which increases our ionizing radiation exposure by 100X over sea level exposures, and submit to dental x-rays, where we exposure our head to the same 10mrem exposure level that we receive from a full chest x-ray. Although not fully understood, it is clear that the nature of ionizing radiation is that high energy particles striking genetic material will eventually interact in a manner which alters the genetic programming of the cell. The only difference between high levels and low levels of ionizing radiation such as x-rays (where the energy level of the particle is relatively fixed) is the likelihood of causing such damage, which is why exposure limits for x-rays are set. So we know x-rays do cause cancer, and as it is not possible to have a "low power" x-ray, we limit exposure to reduce likelihood of a genetic altering event.

By contrast, the interaction between tissues and RF is one of dielectric heating, where heating occurs when a polar molecule such as water vibrates at energy levels of RF sufficient to couple this mechanical motion into heat, as used in microwave ovens. At low levels such as those used for radio communications, the heating effect is extremely low compared to measurable heating levels, typically in the sub-microwatt range.

What is underneath much of this RF exposure worry? Surprisingly, the low levels emitted by cell towers, not the significantly higher levels emitted by the personal cell phone being carried by folks who object to cell towers on the basis of RF exposure, and submit themselves to regular dental x-rays without worry or concern. I fear that if you were to ask the question of what is the greatest risk to causing brain cancer while one of those dental x-rays were being taken, the answer might be cell phone towers.

Anon would like to turn the phone part of his device off, which I assume is a smartphone. All of the ones I've used have an "airplane mode" which disables all of the RF transmission elements. For the Iphone, it's the first item found in "settings", for the Android it's on the top of the far left menu from the home screen alongside the Wifi and Bluetooth on/off screenswitches. It won't make or receive phone calls in this mode, but for those deeply concerned about RF exposure, it will greatly reduce that one source, leaving only the microwave oven, wifi laptop computer, cordless telephone, garage door opener, and keyless remote keychain fob to worry about.

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