Bridlewood Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) Information Service

The End of Innocence: Cellphones, Cellphone Antennas, Television Transmission Towers, Digital Wireless...and Cancer

A Report on “The End of Innocence: Cellphones, Cellphone Antennas, Television Transmission Towers, Digital Wireless...and Cancer,” a public forum featuring Dr. John Goldsmith that took place on August 23, 1998. Sponsored by the Ad Hoc Association of Parties Concerned About the Federal Communications Commission’s Radio Frequency Health & Safety Rules.
Written by Christopher Beaver (dgfilms@earthlink.net)

I. Introduction and Summary

My report starts with Dr. Goldsmith’s comments, this description offered as an impression rather than a transcript since I also served as moderator for the forum.

As a quick summary, the major points made by Dr. Goldsmith were these:

1. Although there may be variations or limitations in the epidemiological research conducted in the field of radiofrequency radiation exposures, these variations do not negate the basic agreement among all the studies he surveyed. There is a clear and significant health risk from exposure to radiofrequency radiation at levels well below the current American standard.

2. From the standpoint of taking immediate action to protect the health and well-being of the public, it is not necessary to understand the exact biological mechanism by which these disorders are produced.

3. The thermal/non-thermal dividing line currently used as the basis for standards of radiofrequency radiation exposures is no more than a “red herring,” a distraction from our understanding of the actual health effects of radiofrequency radiation and therefore our ability to protect the public.

4. It increasingly appears invalid to distinguish ionizing from non-ionizing radiation with respect to their health effects.

5. We would be incorrect in targeting cancer as the only or primary marker of public health. There are many additional and serious health effects from overexposure to non-ionizing radiation including, but by no means limited to: Sleep disruption, nervous system disturbances, and psychological disorders. They may be indicators of more life-threatening illnesses to come or not, but they are all deserving of a public health remedy.

Following a more complete description of Dr. Goldsmith’s presentation, my report will continue with highlights from remarks made by executive director of the Ad Hoc Association, Libby Kelley, and San Francisco supervisor, Leland Yee as to how we might respond to the radiofrequency health threat, remarks offered as introductions to Dr. Goldsmith at the actual forum.

II. “The End of Innocence,” presentation by Dr. John Goldsmith

Dr. Goldsmith spoke for over an hour with a deep concern occasionally leavened by flashes of humor as he gave an overview of epidemiological principles and provided scientific evidence that adverse health effects of radiofrequency radiation can occur at levels well below the current American standard.

Dr. Goldsmith’s sense of humor was evident as he mimed the relative safety of people using cellphones in relationship to how far away from the head and neck one places the transmitting antennas: Suffice to say, the farther the better.

For me, the key point echoed throughout Dr. Goldsmith’s presentation was this: Although there may be variations or limitations in the epidemiological research conducted in the field of radiofrequency radiation exposures, these variations do not negate the basic agreement among all the studies he surveyed. Cancer rates and other health problems are elevated among populations exposed to radiofrequency levels one hundred and perhaps a thousand times lower than the current American standard.

In Dr. Goldsmith’s previously published words, “Each study, alone, has its limitations....Taken together, these studies tend to support one another... carcinogenicity of radiofrequency can occur in community populations living near broadcast towers, and at much lower exposures than had previously been thought...” Therefore, the lack of absolute consistency among the various studies is far less meaningful than their basic agreement.

In a presentation filled with fresh perspectives on public health concerns, Dr. Goldsmith emphasized that we would be incorrect in targeting cancer as the only or primary marker of public health. There are many additional and serious health effects from overexposure to non-ionizing radiation including, but by no means limited to: Sleep disruption, nervous system disturbances, and psychological disorders. They may be indicators of more life-threatening illnesses to come or not, he stated, but all are deserving of a public health remedy.

A supporting statement by Dr. Goldsmith that placed in perspective a range of scientific conflict in the area of public health policy was his belief that it is not necessary to understand the exact mechanism by which these disorders are produced.

From the standpoint of protecting the well-being of the public, he believes that the epidemiological association is so strong, we should immediately initiate a policy of prudent avoidance. This means that even prior to revising existing radiofrequency safety standards, we should immediately lower exposures to radiofrequency sources wherever and whenever possible.

Dr. Goldsmith justified his concerns by citing a group of studies.

He began with occupational exposure studies made of American Korean War veterans exposed to radiofrequency radiation. These, he said, were often critiqued because exact dosages for individual veterans could not be determined. And yet, Dr. Goldsmith’s point was that this limitation was less important than the basic pattern of health risk that was revealed: The group defined as having higher exposures had more cancer and other disorders than the unexposed or lesser exposed group.

Dr. Goldsmith continued with evidence from studies of the American Moscow-embassy staff — made under the direction of one of the most eminent epidemiologists in the world, A.M. Lilienfeld —that also showed elevated cancer rates, particularly leukemia. I’m sure all of us of a certain age remember news stories about the microwave bombardment of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

When the Ambassador and the person immediately beneath the ambassador in rank both developed leukemia, the U.S. State Department commissioned studies of the staff in comparison with the staff of other American embassies. The studies, kept secret for nearly twenty years, and still not completely declassified, clearly showed that leukemia rates and other health problems were elevated at the Moscow embassy.

Dr. Goldsmith confessed that he himself did not realize at first that the health problems revealed among the embassy staff had previously been described in Soviet scientific literature. In other words, the Soviets directed microwave radiation at the embassy in order to produce exactly those effects their research had indicated would occur. And, in fact, this is what happened.

Cited at the forum, but with more emphasis at a smaller “End of Innocence” meeting held at Rainbow Grocery two days earlier, Dr. Goldsmith stressed that one study of microwave exposures among the Polish army alone should have been enough to merit public health intervention in the use and siting of radiofrequency sources.

He observed that this particular study is often dismissed because it’s the Polish army and there’s a prejudice, at least in the public mind, against scientific research from eastern Europe.

To provide the full foundation for his concerns, Dr. Goldsmith then cited four studies of television transmitting antennas:

--one from Australia (“Cancer Incidence and Mortality and Proximity to TV Towers” by Hocking);

--two from England (“Cancer Incidence Near Radio and Television Transmitters in Great Britain” by Dolk et al and “Cancer Incidence Near Radio and Television Transmitters in Great Britain,” again by Dolk et al);

--and a fourth, as yet unpublished study from Italy.

It was in fact the title of Dr. Goldsmith’s review of the studies from Australia and England that gave “The End of Innocence” forum its title. By this phrase, Dr. Goldsmith means that the prevailing industry and/or scientific attitude that non-ionizing radiation produces no harm at low levels of exposure, below the so-called thermal level — the assumption of innocence — no longer has any validity.

It should be noted that the “TV Broadcast Towers and Cancer: The End of Innocence” article by Dr. Goldsmith and two others, “Epidemiologic Evidence Relevant to Radar (Microwave) Effects” and “From Sanitation to Cellphones: Participants and Principles Involved in Environmental Health Protection,” as well as a selection of personal commentary by Dr. Goldsmith is available through the Ad Hoc Association in a special publication that we put together for the forum. Ordering information can be found at the conclusion of this report.

After describing the Australian and English studies, one of the latter offering a disclaimer that their findings gave “at the most no more than very weak support” to their first study — an inaccurate distortion of the actual findings in Dr. Goldsmith’s analysis — Dr. Goldsmith revealed the results of a yet-to-be-published study reported to him at a conference he’d attended the week before our forum.

This new study, commissioned by the owner of a large television transmitting antenna in Rome, revealed a rise in leukemia rates related to levels of exposure to radiofrequency radiation from the antenna, but, oddly enough, only among men. For Dr. Goldsmith, this strange discrepancy was one of the many variables one encounters among the epidemiological studies that nevertheless do not negate the essential public health hazard they reveal.

To be very exact: Although each of the studies cited may have benefited from further research to understand radiofrequency effects in detail, all indicated a cancer hazard at exposure levels well below the currently accepted American standard.

Offered as tantalizing comments discussed more fully in his written material, Dr. Goldsmith challenged many preconceptions throughout his presentation including the notion that there is a clear dividing line between the effects of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. He also stated his belief that the thermal/non-thermal dividing line in discussions of radiofrequency exposures is no more than a “red herring,” a distraction from our understanding of the actual health effects of radiofrequency radiation.

As he drew his remarks to a close, Dr. Goldsmith explained how information concerning the health hazards of radiofrequency radiation has too often been suppressed. Dr. Goldsmith would have to verify the exact dates and occasions but he recounted the story of how Dr. Michael Repacholi now of the World Health Organization said on several occasions that there was no evidence that non-thermal levels of exposure to radiofrequency radiation produced health effects.

One would be expected to accept this comment at face value, as Repacholi’s presumption of innocence. However, while making such comments, Dr. Repacholi knew full well that his own study of mice exposed to radiation levels associated with cellphone use — the Royal Adelaide Hospital study released in 1997 that caused such a stir in the media — a study that had been suppressed for two years, showed just the opposite.

In a question and answer session with Dr. Goldsmith, as one after another of us asked what we could do or what we should do to protect ourselves, a final theme emerged: the need for self-reliance.

We cannot rely on others, particularly government and industry, Dr. Goldsmith said, to protect the public health and safety on their own. They have, in fact, shown a remarkable abdication of responsibility in this regard as he has seen many times over during his long and distinguished careerin connection with other environmental pollutants such as carbon monoxide and lead.

One participant in the question and answer session, Peter Bye, described the agony that has become his family’s life living in the pathway of a military radar system in Northern California: leukemia in both of his daughters, a constant ringing in the ears of himself and everyone who lives nearby, disrupted sleep with his hands clenched in fists, psychological tension and anger within the family, an increased rate of rage-based crime among his neighbors. He then asked Dr. Goldsmith where he could hope to find help.

Dr. Goldsmith responded in words similar to these he wrote few weeks ago concerning the forum and the pressure he was beginning to feel from the people in San Francisco who desperately desired information and answers on a wide range of radiofrequency and electromagnetic issues. His words, I feel, reveal the emotional toll taken on those who devote their lives to the health and well-being of the public.

“I don’t want,” Dr. Goldsmith wrote, “just because I am from several thousand miles away, to project an excellence of judgment or skill in interpretation of data that are not warranted. Most of the health problems, if there are any special ones, are going to be the same after my visit as before.

It is possible that they may be slightly better understood and possible that some courses of action can be found which will diminish the sense of and possibly the reality of powerlessness. Such a result would be gratifying, but there are no guarantees.”

These comments called to mind a line from Shakespeare: “The fault, dear friends, lies not in the stars, but in ourselves.”

III. The Link Between Knowledge and Action

The very first speaker at the public forum, even before Dr. Goldsmith was introduced, was Libby Kelley, executive director of the Ad Hoc Association. She described the very concrete steps she and a wide-ranging group of people have undertaken to remedy the radiofrequency problem, steps that can still be supported by everyone affected by this issue.

For those of you not familiar with Ms. Kelley, here are some excerpts from my introduction to her presentation: Libby Kelley is a native Californian who lives in the Bay Area with her family. She was educated at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Southern California. And holds a masters degree in Public Administration with a specialization in Health Care Services.

For nine years she worked as an analyst at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. so she knows the ins and outs of government activities in this field, including those moments in which health care took a back seat to more expedient concerns. Following this period of government service, Ms. Kelley earned her living as a licensed real estate broker.

Ms. Kelley described for the forum the Ad Hoc Association’s court appeal of the Federal Communications Commissions Radiofrequency Health and Safety Guidelines. Oral arguments will be heard in Washington in October or November. Supporting the appeal were more than thirty affidavits from people who have experienced some form of harm from cellular antenna installations. This one may go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Ms. Kelley said she first became aware of the hazards associated with radiofrequency radiation when she learned that there was a conditional use permit pending to place cellular phone antennas on the steeple of her church in Marin County. After much internal debate the church rejected the proposal. Months later, however, the antennas were installed across the street disguised as a chimney. After she witnessed this injustice, Ms. Kelley joined forces with David Fichtenberg, a Washington State resident who is a biostatician with a masters degree in public health.

In November of 1997, the Ad Hoc Association, which Mr. Fichtenberg founded, submitted an appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Second District Court, challenging the Federal Communication Commission’s rules used to implement provisions of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. The decision rendered could have national implications and cause major changes in FCC and industry behavior.

In addition to the fifty-four citizens representing neighborhood groups who signed the appeal, the national and Washington State offices of the Communication Workers of America union has joined with the Ad Hoc Association in its efforts. In the nine months since the original appeal was filed, a separate appeal filed by the Cellular Phone Task Force, whose President, Arthur Firstenberg, advocates specific protections for the electrically sensitive, has been consolidated with the Association’s appeal.

The best case outcome would be for the court to order the Federal Communications Commission to lower the existing standard for radiofrequency exposures and negate the federal pre-emption of local zoning controls. There are many facets to the appeal but these five, out of ten described by Ms. Kelley, struck me as the most important.

1. The FCC radiofrequency guidelines for setting the threshold for exposure are much too high. When the FCC adopted their current standard, the federal Food and Drug Administration had already stated that “the data which exists strongly suggests that microwaves can accelerate the development of malignant tumors.” The appeal asks that the FCC to set the standard “as low as realistically allowable.”

2. The FCC failed to conduct an environmental assessment according to the National Environmental Protection Act. Last December, the National Audubon Society raised this issue in a letter to the FCC. The appeal could lead to a proper Environmental Impact Statement on cellular phone antennas, the first ever on this technology.

3. Radiofrequency exposure standards for workers as a category separate from the general public are too high. The FCC admitted it had no expertise in this area while adopting an exposure level for workers that is five times higher than the level permitted for the general public. This was done despite concerns expressed by federal regulatory agencies including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, and the Food and Drug Administration. The appeal asks that the court order the FCC to restore their former rule which has a lower worker exposure standard.

4. The maximum permissible exposure set for the general public is deficient. It only recommends that the public be “aware” of facilities nearby. Ms. Kelley asked, Who tells the public to be aware? How would this be explained to a child? With the latest stealth technology designed to conceal the presence of cellular phone antennas, how will the general public or people in transit know whether they are exposed to radiofrequency radiation or not?

5. Finally, the appeal charges that the FCC has violated the 1st, 5th and 10th amendments of the U.S. Constitution by restricting the right free speech, by instituting a policy of “takings” of private property by siting antennas in locations which cause a declines in private property values, and precludes publicly elected officials from democratically representing their constituents.

I urge everyone who reads this report to contact Ms. Kelley and contribute money to this effort, and find out what else can be done to support the Association’s efforts. For the next several months, this is one national struggle that is worthy of our focus. This is one place where we can make our stand.

San Francisco Supervisor Leland Yee then offered his observations on the effort to regulate cellular phone antennas at the local government level.

In my introductory remarks I noted his eight years on the board of education and two years on the Board of Supervisors as well as his efforts on behalf of neighborhoods, families, and particularly the welfare of children.

I continued that I had first met Leland Yee as I sat waiting to present the antenna issue to the Friends of Noe Valley. He asked me how we were doing on our efforts to stop the antennas in Noe Valley Ministry and when I said the church and phone company were refusing to budge, he volunteered to help. For me the key word is “volunteered.”

Supervisor Yee followed up with a site visit to the Ministry during one of the nine, weekly picket lines maintained by the Noe Valley Families during our struggle. After seeing with his own eyes the nursery school and senior center in the Ministry, and the next-door proximity of residences, Supervisor Yee immediately spoke with church officials and PacBell officials on our behalf.

Today with the support of Supervisor Yee, the California State Association of Letter Carriers, the Friends of Noe Valley, the Noe Valley Merchants Association, and the nearly nine hundred people who signed the Noe Valley Families’ petition against the antennas, Noe Valley is antenna-free.

In his remarks, Supervisor Yee went right to his central point: We cannot rely on scientific forums and presentations to solve the crisis of antenna siting; we must direct our attention to electoral politics. We must never stop communicating our concerns to our elected officials, he said, and demand that that their actions reflect those concerns. In the final analysis, he emphasized, we must elect those who will work with us and oppose those who will not.

Supervisor Yee also observed that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is not necessarily freed of responsibility for their actions by the federal pre-emption of local government’s ability to regulate cellular phone antennas on the basis of health and safety. It may require courage to stand up to the federal government, he admitted, or a shove from their constituents, but the Board of Supervisors has previously gone to court to challenge the federal government in other areas of conflict, recent examples being affirmative action and tobacco regulation.

IV. How to Get More Information on “The End of Innocence Public Forum”

The publication entitled “The End of Innocence,” published by the Ad Hoc Association, consists of three key Goldsmith studies along with an extended section of recent comments by Dr. Goldsmith. This material covers much of the same ground described above but in greater detail. A limited number of copies remain available through the Association.

Despite having to offer the disclaimer that I edited the Goldsmith booklet, I would like to suggest that this is a must-have publication not only for Dr. Goldsmith’s basic information about the hazards of radiofrequency radiation but for an incredible history of public health trends in this century written by Dr. Goldsmith. The latter is like one of those old “New Yorker” articles that goes into wonderful detail about a subject unfamiliar to the general public.

The forum was taped for the Association by Emmy-Award winning producer, Judy Irving, using broadcast-quality camera and sound equipment. The Ad Hoc Association is hoping to edit the more than two and one-half hours of raw tape into an hour version for general distribution. This should not be an involved task — I have volunteered to supervise the editing — but it will require additional funding to pay for technical staff and equipment. Contributions for this finish-up are extremely welcome.

For information on the videotape, publication, court appeal and other activities of The Ad Hoc Association of Parties Concerned About the Federal Communications Commission’s Radio Frequency Health & Safety Rules, please contact Libby Kelley, executive director, by telephone at 1-415-892-1863, via fax at 1-415-892-3108, or by e-mail at dingel@cris.com


REVISED SEPTEMBER 1998
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