$15.00 donated in past month
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | East Bay | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections | Health, Housing, and Public Services
A Chicken in Every Pot and a Cell Tower on Every Garage
A bill is speeding through the California legislature that would allow telecom companies to saturate our residential neighborhoods with toxic radiation from 50,000 new-generation cell towers. There would be virtually zero government control and oversight. This article explains why this is happening, what the alternative is, and what we can do to stop it. The final hurdle, a vote by the full CA Assembly, will happen early this week.
[ Small cell Mounted on Telephone Pole. Photo via whatis5g.info ]
In 1928, when Herbert Hoover was running for President, the slogan of the Republican National Committee was "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." Times have changed. Many millennials are turning to vegetarianism, and cars are not the necessary status symbol for them that they were for previous generations. However there is one thing that all age groups can agree on in 2017. We need wireless connectivity, the more the better. Smart meters, smart phones, wireless printers, smart refrigerators, smart toothbrushes, smart bras, smart condoms, smart diapers, smart dolls, smart watches, driverless cars, a whole universe of wirelessly connected objects to make our lives effortless and allegedly less wasteful of natural resources. What could go wrong?
As the federal government and states across the U.S. rush to consider bills to speed up the installation of so-called 5G wireless infrastructure, and remove any local government oversight or interference, so that the telecom industry can keep up with (and expand) the voracious public appetite for the Internet of Things, I take a look at one such piece of legislation, California's SB 649. The bill, authored by Hueso and Quirk, is called Wireless Telecommunications Facilities, or, for short (some would say the more accurately titled), WTF. It has been speeding through the state legislature with only a few murmurs of dissent or abstention. Having passed the California senate, and all assembly committees, it has only to be voted on by the entire assembly (expected to happen on Sept. 11 or 13th) and signed by the governor, and Californians can rest assured that they will not be deprived of their need for an ever-increasing number of wireless accoutrements.
SB 649 provides for a new generation of cell towers, ultra-powerful small cells, that use a different wireless spectrum. This spectrum does not travel long distances, so these cell towers have to be placed close together, on every available space, utility poles, street lamps, and other government-owned structures, or possibly in your front yard. The bill gives the telecom industry carte blanche to install 50,000 of these cell towers throughout residential areas in CA. Although called "small cells," they can weigh up to 300 lbs. The aesthetics could be pretty ugly, since in addition to the quasi small cells, they would allow equipment as large as a refrigerator to keep them powered at all times. (The authors of the bill have thoughtfully removed specially designated scenic areas from the provisions of the bill. If you don't live in such an area, you shouldn't really be that concerned about "aesthetics".)
The cell towers would be placed approximately every two to ten houses. If a parent is concerned about having this equipment emitting mega-doses of radiation and electro-magnetic fields outside their child's bedroom, there will be nothing they can do about it. All oversight and regulation by local governments has been removed. Small wonder that 290 California cities, 47 counties, and a large number of municipal organizations are opposed to the bill, along with dozens of community and social-justice organizations.
The wireless industry would like us to believe that "the jury's still out" on whether wireless radiation has harmful health impacts. This despite the fact that literally thousands of studies have shown just how very harmful it is, starting with the very high death rates and/or cancer rates for people living near cell towers. Sarah Benson's article "Joining the Dots" provides an in depth review with documentation, at http://www.wifiinschools.com. Since the time when her article was published in 2009, there have been hundreds of additional studies indicating harmful wireless health impacts (for a total of more than 5000) which can be seen at http://www.bioinitiative.org. Possibly more accessible for the lay person, the website http://www.ehtrust.org also has extensive information about health and other detrimental impacts.
Just because a young child playing with an iPhone or video game is not experiencing immediate health effects, studies have shown that this population is the one that is most vulnerable, due to children's thinner skulls. It takes ten to twenty years for brain cancers to develop from constant exposure to wireless radiation, and when these children become young adults, and possibly develop brain tumors, their doctor may or may not make the connection to their childhood fascination with wireless gadgets. Doctors have less difficulty diagnosing the cause for the increasing amounts of breast cancer in young women, cancers discovered to be in the exact shape and size of the cell phone the young women carry in their bras.
The legislature has already implicitly recognized the severe harm caused by living or working near a cell tower for long periods. They provided exemptions in this bill for firefighters, which was prompted by widespread reports of neurological deterioration in firefighters when cell towers were installed on or near their stations. For example, a study by a neurotoxicologist (organized by medical writer Susan Foster) covered a group of firefighters who had lived and slept near a cell tower for five years. Foster writes, "A 2004 SPECT brain scan study of firefighters in Central California found brain abnormalities in all the men tested, as well as delayed reaction time, lack of impulse control and cognitive impairment. All... had suffered from sleep disturbances, headaches, lack of focus and memory loss." Some firefighters became so confused they could not find their way around the town where they had grown up. (Source ehtrust.org.)
If this bill goes through, utility workers will be similarly exposed to intense round-the-clock wireless radiation, since the bill provides for the widespread establishment of powerful mini-cell towers on utility poles and other structures where utility workers perform their jobs. When they go home at night, they will be exposed again to the cell tower located in their immediate neighborhood.
Utility workers are highly trained. Apart from the cost in human suffering, the effect of re-training these workers every few years when many of the current workers become incapacitated by this immense exposure, will be very high--not to mention the possible risk of electrocution for those workers who might be suffering cognitive impairment.
If firefighters, among the healthiest and strongest members of our community, are given an exemption on (implicit) health grounds, what about young children, the aged, or infirm, who are much more susceptible to this kind of injury? One can only wonder if, in our quest for more technological thrills, we as a society are starting to descend to the philosophy of Nazi Germany, where the weak and infirm were considered to be useless eaters, who had "life not worthy of living." Those found to be disabled, mentally impaired, or too infirm to be employed, were simply gotten rid of. This included large numbers of children.
You may hear that 5G is different than previous forms of wireless technology, e.g. 3G and 4G. This legislation gives the go-ahead to implement thousands of new radiation-emitting structures, which may or may not fall into the category of 5G, so could include 4G, etc. In Europe, many countries are starting to officially recognize the harm that wireless radiation is causing, and are calling for more limitations and regulation of this technology, even banning it in some areas (as in schools for young children and public libraries). Yet we in the United States are so enamored by it that we are supposed to accept a massive roll-out of cell towers with absolutely no idea of what the health impact of this might be, other than the numerous previous studies indicating high death rates near cell towers, and a few beginning studies showing very detrimental health impacts from 5G, in addition to the thousands of studies showing very harmful effects from existing WiFi referenced above.
Although the authors of the bill assure us that the public is protected because it falls under all applicable federal regulations, the FCC limits on wireless radiation are based on 30-year-old information, and have not kept up with the massive amount of research re health impacts done in recent years. Even if one were to accept the FCC guidelines as protective, the agency is not doing any monitoring to see if the telecoms are complying with their woefully outdated standards, and independent researchers have found existing levels of wireless radiation that far exceed the limits set by the FCC. And that's before these additional 50,000 cell towers are added in California.
So what are the fiscal impacts of this massive and unregulated roll-out? A lot more people will be getting sick and requiring Medi-Cal/Medicare coverage. A lot more people will be staying home from work and needing paid sick leave. A lot more children will be staying home from school, and for every school day missed, the schools will not get paid for that child's attendance. A lot more people will be needing to take extended (or permanent) leave from their jobs and will require disability payments.
A lot more people will be flooding into doctors' offices and emergency rooms, looking for the unknown cause of the terrible headaches, confusion, ear ringing, seizures, nose bleeds, chest pain, heart palpitations, severe insomnia, and numerous other symptoms that people have reported as result of massive exposure to wireless radiation (most noticeable after the smart meter roll-out, since the symptoms suddenly occurred that had not been present before). The doctors may or may not be able to properly diagnose them and the treatments are few and far between, other than avoidance of wireless radiation.
Those who have financial resources are in some cases able to protect themselves in a limited way from the onslaught of this radiation. They can buy or rent a house that is far away from other houses and use only wired landline phones and highspeed ethernet or DSL connections. They can opt out of the smart-meter program (for which they have to pay extra). Some pay a thousand dollars for a special canopy to put over their bed so at least at night they are not being radiated while they sleep, or they buy very expensive paint to coat their walls for protection (which also requires paying a professional emf remediator to ensure that it is done properly), or they may experiment with an endless array of gadgets that promise relief. They may pay a fortune to see one of the very few emf-specialist doctors, and then are put on a regimen of expensive vitamins and supplements, told to eat only organic food, etc. Some people derive some help from this; other don't.
The average low- and middle-income person will not be able to afford the forms of protection I've described, and many more who are unable to tolerate the massive increase in radiation will end up becoming homeless, sleeping in their cars as the only way to limit the amount of their exposure. Those without cars will be left with zero options, not even homeless shelters, since virtually all the residents carry cell phones. Hundreds or possibly thousands of people will leave the state to look for a place where they can live safely. If similar bills are passed in all states, the increasingly large numbers of emf sensitive people will be forced to leave the country, if they have the means to do so.
And of course there will be lawsuits. As attorney Harry Lehmann has pointed out in his excellent legal analysis of the impact of SB 649, in a letter to the California legislature, it is a thinly disguised strategy to transfer most or all of the liability from the industry to the government. Every week brings new studies and new evidence of emf harm, and when people begin to understand the cause of the illness that is destroying their lives, they will turn to legal action. While recent amendments to the bill indemnify the cities from the "installation" of these mini-cell towers (it's not clear if they are indemnified from the effects of operation of the towers, which is much more likely to initiate lawsuits), the state government is not indemnified and could be bankrupted by lawsuits ensuing from the passage of this bill.
The state will also lose money as the tourist industry is impacted. Fewer people will want to visit if confronted with ugly telecommunication equipment, with very noisy fans, on every block. Due to the power of the internet, large numbers of people are becoming educated to the harmfulness of wireless radiation, and will choose to spend their tourist dollars in states that are not blanketed with this technology. Of course, the reader may be thinking, all states have wireless radiation throughout most urban areas. What all states currently don't have is the much more dangerous cell towers located on every block where people live, work, and play.
Ubiquitous wireless cell towers will also harm birds, wildlife and the natural environment, again making California a less desirable place to visit or live. (The U.S. Dept. of the Interior has documented large numbers of bird deaths from cell towers.) The wide range of detrimental environmental impacts of this roll-out are beyond the scope of this article to convey, but articles on that topic, and other detrimental aspects of 5G legislation that I am not able to cover here--such as cybersecurity, increased use of conflict minerals, invasion of privacy, and increased energy usage--can be found at whatis5G.info. Numerous environmental groups are opposing the bill, including the Environmental Working Group, Sierra Club CA, Nurses for a Healthy Environment, Environmental Options Network, The League of Conservation Voters, the Greenlining Institute, and the Environmental Health Trust.
California's Department of Finance analysis report determined that SB 649 is likely to create an unfunded mandate of close to a million dollars per year, which does not include any potential lawsuits against the state, and many of the other hidden costs I've described. The Department of Finance analysis concluded "this ill-conceived and poorly thought-out wireless industry giveaway is the wrong bill for California."
The representatives of the telecom industry are trying to give legislators the impression that this bill will somehow give greater internet/communications access to poor and under-served communities. There is nothing in the bill that mandates this. A city might perhaps be able to negotiate with a particular industry to expand their services to the entire population, but by removing local government control and regulation, the ability for the cities' to negotiate is eliminated.
The bill also greatly limits how much a local government may charge for use of its rights of way. Many other urgently needed city programs would go unfunded as a result of this gift to the telecom industry. Taxpayers and AT&T customers have already been paying billions of dollars to fund an expansion of fiber-optic technology, which has never occurred. Before giving telecoms yet more welfare handouts, maybe we should ask that they make good on their past commitments to provide services to our communities. (See article by Bruce Kushnick for the full details on this misappropriation of funds: huffingtonpost.com/entry/59a4ce47e4b0b234aecad1c7) Fiber optic-corded internet connections are in fact far superior to this proposed WiFi expansion. They are both cheaper and faster than wireless, and have none of the health drawbacks associated with WiFi. And, better yet, the public has already paid for them. This is not a pie-in-the-sky idea, since we have the example of one Bay Area town, San Leandro, which is successfully supplying its residents with high-speed wired connections.
Instead of passing this legislation that will force California to go through the long painful process of implementing cell towers everywhere, depriving cities of needed income and negotiating power, and then discovering what a huge mistake that was, from every possible angle, and having to start again (what landfill will be large enough for those 50,000 cell towers?), why not exercise the Precautionary Principle, and implement legislation that accomplishes the same goal using technology that is known to be safe for people and the environment?
If you live in California, you can still contact the assembly members who will be voting on the WTF bill in the very near future, and give them your input. (Snarky comments aside, you need to be calm and courteous if you want your communication to be effective.) Capitol insiders say it's best to start by calling/FAXing/visiting the district office of the assembly person who represents your area. It's also crucially important to contact Jerry Brown's office and urge that he veto if the bill makes it to his desk. Still have time to donate? You can contact the California senators (most especially the one from your area), since the bill will go to the senate for final approval.
Instead of a chicken in every pot and a cell tower in every yard, let's envision a world that works for everyone, even the birds. Rather than see our civilization collapse as so many advanced societies have done before us, let's choose an Internet of Living Beings, rather than choosing one ruled by a lifeless and soul-less Internet of Things.
On Sept. 13, in an extremely close vote, WTF passed the Assembly. East Bay representative Thurmond came through with a no vote, while Bonta caved to the telecom industry. It has to get final approval from the Senate and then will head to JB's desk. Please contact your Senator and Governor and urge them to stop this catastrophic legislation.