More research needed on cell tower impacts

April 3, 2022

The article (“Toxic towers?” Feb. 6) discusses the findings of a peer-reviewed paper by B. B. Blake, H. C. Lai and Albert M. Manville in Reviews on Environmental Health. Their paper reports findings that show the negative effects of non-ionizing (nonthermal) anthropogenic electromagnetic fields on plants and animals. The dangers of ionizing radiation, i.e. thermal heating, are well-known and accepted, but the dangers of non-ironizing radiation from cell towers and antennas are not generally known.

This article reminded us of our four-year (2014-18) unsuccessful attempt with our neighbors to prevent a cell tower from being built near us in Washington state. In four years of fighting, we learned it is almost impossible to stop a cell tower from being built. The cell company’s radiation analysis showed our house and other nearby homes would be within the area of significant non-ionizing radiation.

Because the Federal Communications Commission considers non-ionizing radiation not to be a significant threat to human health, our neighborhood decided to fight the tower’s construction with federal laws that are supposed to protect the bald eagles and trumpeter swans that use the land where the proposed cell tower was to be located.

We hired Dr. Albert Manville to prepare documentation on the tower’s probable killing of these federally protected birds within its zone of ionizing radiation. When the new head of the FCC was installed after former President Donald Trump was elected, the FCC approved the cell tower’s construction, ignoring our environmental assessment and federal law.

In the story in The New Mexican, Manville describes a similar fate for his attempt to get the Department of the Interior to establish an environmental review of the effect of wireless radiation on wildlife. The outcomes of these two initiatives reflect the power of the telecommunication companies to influence decision-making within the federal government.

Its power extends into the private sector. We identified an alternate location for the cell tower but when seeking the necessary terrain analysis to determine if a tower at the alternate location would provide the same coverage as the tower at the proposed site, no company would do the work for us.

A representative of one company explained why we were being turned down, saying: “If we do that analysis for you, the cell companies are not going to like it, and we won’t get any more business from them.” The deck is stacked against anyone trying to prevent a cell tower from being constructed. The political and monetary pressures the telecommunications industry bring to bear tip the scale solidly in the industry’s favor.

There are societal concerns that need to be addressed. The wireless industry has revolutionized many aspects of life and in that process brought a new level of electromagnetic fields’ exposure to humans and wildlife.

Current law forbids any challenge based on the detrimental effects of non-ionizing radiation on humans. Yet there are scientists in the U.S. that investigate the effects of non-ionizing radiation who have been ordered to stop their research and not publish their findings.

There needs to be independent, well-funded research on the effects of non-ionizing radiation on human and other life forms. The parallels with the tobacco industry are thought-provoking.

Jim and Linda Aldrich live in Santa Fe.

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