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Microwaving Our Planet: The Environmental Impact of the Wireless Revolution
by ARTHUR FIRSTENBERG 1997
Published by the Cellular Phone Taskforce
Contact Arthur Firstenberg at: PO Box 1337, Mendocino CA 95460, telephone: 707-937-3990 (voicemail)
At Arthur's request, we have only a few paragraphs and the bibliography here.
He believes, and rightly so, that "the Internet is part of the problem."
To obtain a home-printed copy of this 83 page booklet on 8.5"x11" single fold paper
in the US, please send $5.00 cash or money orders only to:
Paul Goettlich, PO Box 517, Berkeley CA 94701
Additional postage may be required outside of US.
Contact us with your questions.
[Also see Killing Fields - Arthur Firstenberg / The Ecologist v.34, n.5, 1jun04]
Preface to the 1997 edition ... vii
Introduction ... 1
Satellite systems ... 1
Ground based towers ... 2
Pandora's box ... 2
The power is small, but the reach is unlimited ... 3
Health hazards ... 3
Table 1: Frequencies and wavelengths ... 4
Government safety standards ... 5
Table 2: Exposure levels ... 5
Review of the literature ... 7
1. The nervous system ... 8
radiation sickness ... 8
sensory thresholds ... 9
EEG ... 10
experiments on animals ... 10
epidemiological studies ... 13
2. The heart ... 14
3. Cancer ... 16
4. Reproduction ... 17
5. Genetic Disease ... 19
6. Effects on growth and aging ... 21
7. The blood and immune system ... 22
blood cells ... 22
blood sugar ... 24
cholesterol and triglycerides ... 24
serum proteins ... 25
other biochemistry ... 25
8. Cataracts ... 25
9. Internal organs ... 26
10. Lungs ... 28
11. Bone marrow ... 29
12. Hair and nails ... 29
13. Synergistic effects ... 29
14. Microwave hearing, and other sensing ... 30
15. Electrical sensitivity (ES) ... 31
16. Diagnosing ES: a guide for doctors ... 34
17. Mechanisms of injury ... 38
shear-strain/closed head injury ... 38
blood-brain and other barriers ... 40
calcium efflux ... 41
hypoxia ... 42
heavy metals ... 42
porphyria ... 43
molecular interactions ... 44
solid state physics ... 46
18. Conclusion ... 47
Endangered species ... 49
The danger from satellites 51
Bibliography ... 54
About the Author ... 83
This is an urgent plea to environmentalists and to those within the
telecommunications industry, to doctors and businesspeople and government
officials, that microwave radiation is an imminent danger to all of us more or
less equally, and that for our common survival we must immediately halt the
expansion of wireless communications upon this earth. There is no greater threat
to our common future.
June 22, 1997
From Bill Gates' planned fleet of 300 satellites to the millions of ground based antennas being constructed through-out the world, our privacy is being invaded, our health undermined, our water polluted, endangered species threatened, the ozone layer destroyed, and our climate altered. The assault has already begun.
The purpose of this report is to give a general overview of the environmental threats associated with the wireless revolution, and an in-depth review of 70 years of research into the health hazards of microwaves.
The lack of an adequate review of the literature until now has led to the incorrect perception that the scientific evidence is contradictory and inconclusive. In fact the scientific evidence is consistent and overwhelming.
In 1957 there were no artificial satellites in the sky above us. Today there are thousands. The list of countries that have launched satellites to date is huge: the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Spain, England, Russia, Turkey, China, Japan, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Korea, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, the European Community, Eastern Europe, the Arab League, Pan-Asia, and Intelsat (125 nations). Multinational corporations are sending up fleets. Even small private entrepreneurs are filling up the heavens with smaller, cheaper hardware. Whether a cellular phone company wants to provide global service, or a rancher in Australia wants to know the whereabouts of his cows, satellite technology will do the trick.
Ground based towers
The existing network of ground based antenna systems is not good enough. The telecommunications industry says it will need 270,000 more facilities immediately just in the United States (Microwave News, May /June 1996, p. 10), and comparable numbers elsewhere in the world. These are going up on lampposts and apartment buildings in cities, and on fresh eyesores throughout the suburbs, countryside and wilderness.
In addition, satellite systems, which shine very weakly on us, need to communicate with their own network of powerful earth stations. These stations will proliferate along with the satellites.
Until recently almost all radio transmitters have been fixed and their range limited. The addition of more broadcast channels and new types of communication devices did not change that. But with the advent of cellular technology, all limits have been lifted. Telephones are no longer just communicators but also transmitters, and they are mobile. Suddenly every human being is a potential source of radiation. Suddenly electronic communication is a human right. Suddenly fixed transmitters and satellites are being built to accommodate mobile human beings, rather than the other way around.
Electromagnetic pollution will no longer remain concentrated in population centers, nor will radio transmitters be confined any longer to non-residential zones. In the space of a year or two, unless the people put a stop to it, this form of pollution will be spread more or less evenly over every square inch of the world.
The power is small, but the reach is unlimited.
There are among us today television towers that broadcast with a radiated power of 5 million watts. How much damage could the radiation from cellular equipment do by comparison? one might ask. Each antenna on a rooftop or tower generally emits less than 1000 watts, with 10-150 watts being the norm for lampposts and the sides of buildings.
The answer is surprising. If you live 10 miles from a 5 million watt television station, you will receive more radiation from a cellular antenna that is on a lamppost on your block than you will from that TV station. And by U.S. law, a 5 million watt TV station must be separated from other stations of similar frequency by a distance of at least 175 miles. Cellular transmitters are far less restricted: they can and will proliferate without limit. And they can and will increase their broadcast power if it is profitable to do so. The new legal limit is 3500 watts per channel per transmitting station, with no limit at all on the number of channels or the number of towers or the number of companies broadcasting in the same area.
Television signals also do not reach beyond line-of-sight from the tower, and are blocked by hills and buildings. The cellular transmitter is going to be right there where you are, anywhere on earth. You are no longer going to have the option of limiting your radiation exposure by living distant from antennas.
Microwave radiation is dangerous. As everyone knows, high levels will cook you. Low levels will also harm you in other ways.
Another type of radiationthat coming from electric power lineshas been much more in the news in previous years. There is now a growing scientific consensus that the 60-cycle radiation from power lines is dangerous and can cause cancer, leukemia and other diseases. Fortunately the distribution of electricity is not yet wireless, and most of the earth's surface is still remote from high-tension wires.
Power line radiation (50 or 60 cycles per second, or hertz) is especially harmful because it is close to the frequency of brain waves. Microwave radiation is especially harmful be-cause the wavelengths are smaller than our bodies. This radiation is therefore selectively absorbed by our bodies.
power lines 60 3000 mi.
AM radio 1,600 600 ft.
short wave radio 30,000,000 30 ft.
FM radio 108,000,000 10 ft.
TV channels 2-13 216,000,000 5 ft.
TV channels 14-69 806,000,000 1 ft.
cellular phones 947,000,000 1 ft.
PCS 2,400,000,000 6 in.
satellites 50,000,000,000 1/4 in.
Smaller waves are better absorbed by smaller body parts and smaller people (children).
Cellular transmitters are not only going to be more common than any transmitters have ever been before, they are also broadcasting at the most dangerous frequencies.
And this radiation will be doubly dangerous because all the new technology is going to be digital. Digital signals come in pulses, rather than continuously as is now the case, and pulsed radiation has been found by most investigators to be more injurious to living things at lower average levels of power than continuous radiation.
Government safety standards
In the United States the Federal Communications Commission has set standards of permissible irradiation of the general public. These standards are based on thermal hazards only, the assumption being that if microwaves aren't strong enough to cook you, they will do you no harm. For cellular telephone systems, exposure is permitted to power densities of 533 to 1000 µW / cm2 (microwatts per square centimeter), de-pending on the frequency. These standards are at least ten million times the level which probably still exists over most of the surface of the earth, and at least ten billion times the level of microwaves we receive naturally from the sun and stars. They are also at least two hundred thousand times greater than what even most city residents have been exposed to until very recently (Tell and Mantiply 1980, Solon 1979, Zaret 1974, Szmigielski and Gil 1989).
Table 2 - Exposure levels (µW/cm2)
average stellar signal .000000000000000000000001
cosmic radiation, 10 MHz .000000000000000008
from a quiet sun, all freq. .0000000001
from one cellular satellite .0000001
in Tottenville, N.Y.C. 1978 .000068
average New York City 197 .002
300 ft. from a cellular tower 5.0
in Empire State Building 1978 32.5
in Sears Tower 1978 65.7
F.C.C. Safety Standard 1996 1000.0
We can reasonably expect the radiation levels over most of the habitable parts of the earth to increase 1000-fold just as a beginning result of the current cellular expansion. How high those levels eventually will go is anybody's guess.
The danger, even if we didn't have epidemiological studies, is evident. We cannot expect to increase the irradiation of the entire earth 1000-fold or more virtually overnight without health effects and without massive biological consequences. Indeed this technology is more invasive than virtually any other and has the potential of causing worldwide catastrophe.
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* ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Arthur Firstenberg is president of the Cellular Phone Task force, a citizens' group formed in response to the uncontrolled growth of the cellular phone industry. He was electrically injured in 1981 after three years in medical school at the University of California, Irvine. A holistic health practitioner, he also an expert in the effects of technology upon the environment. He has been studying and writing about electromagnetic radiation for the past 15 years.