Thursday, May 02, 2013
Currently proposed SWEPCO power lines have made some Carroll County residents feel that technological development has suddenly encroached on our relatively unspoiled area. Many had similar reactions a couple of years ago when a cell phone tower was being erected in Eureka’s historic district, and the likelihood of an ever growing number of cell towers in Carroll County seems inevitable.
According to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Services, which provides guidelines and documentation on wildlife impact for proposed cell phone towers, “Construction of communication towers… in the United States has been increasing at an estimated 6 to 8 percent annually since development of the cellular telephone, and construction continues at a rate of approximately 1,000 towers per month. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) currently estimated the total number of towers at approximately 120,000.”
Cell tower installers are required to follow guidelines regarding airspace, historical and tribal concerns, and impact to wildlife. Radiofrequency (RF) emission standards also have to be met. However, validity of the FCC’s emissions standards, which were based on guidelines last updated in 1996, are increasingly coming under question. In fact, the FCC released a report in March 2013 of inquiry that “seeks to determine whether there is a basis to reevaluate the Commission’s RF exposure limits and policies…”
Meanwhile, most conclusions regarding safety of cell towers in the U.S. are predicated on the idea that current guidelines put forth by the FCC protect our health. However, in an on-line article published in Environmental Reviews [ER] (November 5, 2010), “Biological Effects From Exposure to Electromagnetic Radiation Emitted by Cell Tower Base Stations and Other Antenna Arrays,” by B. Blake Levitt and Henry Lai, points out “…no money has ever been appropriated by the industry in the U.S., or by any U.S. government agency, to study the potential health effects on people living near the infrastructure. The most recent research has all come from outside of the U.S.”
The authors further explain that, “The current standards …adopted by the U.S. FCC… are for whole-body exposures averaged over a short duration (minutes) and are based on results from short-term exposure studies, not for long-term, low-level exposures such as those experienced by people living or working near transmitting facilities.”
The article relates in detail a number of studies that show correlations between cell towers and poor health. Results showed increased symptoms and complaints the closer a person lived to a tower including, nausea, loss of appetite, visual disruptions, difficulty in moving, irritability, depressive tendencies, concentration difficulties, memory loss, dizziness, lower libido, headaches, sleep disruption, feelings of discomfort and skin problems.
The FCC does not acknowledge these studies, according to ER, because they have never been replicated. The authors conclude that “current guidelines are questionable in protecting the public from possible harmful effects of RFR [radio frequency radiation] exposure and the U.S. FCC should take steps to update their regulations by taking all recent research into consideration without waiting for replication that may never come because of the scarcity of research funding.”
Ever mounting evidence that there is room to doubt the FCC emission standards is especially disturbing since Section 704 of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 dictates, in part, that as long as a cell tower’s RF emissions complies with FCC regulations, a local or state agency cannot regulate the placement of the tower on the basis of any perceived health effects the emissions might have.
Still, local agencies can regulate placement of towers based on non-health related matters. For example, some municipalities have zoning regulations that require cell phone tower installers to show they have sought out potentially less invasive locations, such as industrial or commercial areas, and require any cell tower proposed in a residential zone be subject to an alternative sites analysis.
Amanda Waldroupe’s online article, “What to Do if a Cell Tower is Proposed in Your Neighborhood,” (Neighborhood Notes February 8, 2011), quotes consultant Kirk Ranzetta, who says applications by wireless companies “are not always full or not always as accurate as they probably should be.”
If holes are found in the application, Ranzetta suggests neighbors file a notice of objection to the FCC, and says the FCC is legally required to respond to the objection. Waldroupe’s article also says that people or organizations with a “demonstrated interest in the process” can become consulting parties listed on the FCC application.
Regarding FCC emission standards, anti cell phone tower attorneys, Campanelli & Associates, say, “Your Right to Petition guarantees your right to contact your state and federal elected officials, if you so choose, to demand that the Telecommunications Act be changed so that it not prohibit local governments from considering the potential adverse health impact of Cell Tower RF emissions. You also have the right to join with the growing number of groups, across the country, who are organizing for that very purpose.”
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