Wireless internet, cell phones, and smart meters are ubiquitous in the modern world, but some studies have shown that there is reason to be cautious about exposure to microwave radiation (MWR). The federal government, however, is not only asleep at the wheel; it has preempted local communities from rejecting cell phone towers based on very real health concerns. It’s time for federal regulators to take this issue seriously and stop blocking citizens from stepping in when the government fails to act.
Research has shed light on what MWR does at the cellular level. MWR activates voltage-gated calcium channels, which sends a torrent of calcium into our cells. This sets off a chain reaction: excess calcium leads to increased levels of nitric oxide and superoxide, which react together to form peroxynitrite; peroxynitrites break down to form reactive free radicals. Ultimately, this chain reaction from MWR negatively effects mitochondrial function (the “power houses” in each of our cells), causes severe cellular damage, DNA breaks, accelerates aging, and puts us at higher risk for chronic disease.
There’s more. In 2008, scientists from thirteen European countries reported that after a decade of cell phone use, the chance of getting a brain tumor—specifically on the side of the head where you use the phone—goes up as much as 40 percent for adults. An independent study in Sweden concluded that people who started using a cell phone before the age of 20 were five times as likely to develop a brain tumor. Another study reported a nearly 300 percent increased risk of acoustic neuroma, a tumor of the acoustic nerve. The UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer calls MWR a class 2B carcinogen, which means it possibly causes cancer in humans—it’s in the same category as lead, chloroform, gasoline fumes, and the pesticide DDT.
Other studies say that children are at greater risk because their brain tissues are more absorbent, their skulls are thinner, and their relative size is smaller. The younger the child, the greater the risk; fetuses are particularly vulnerable to MWR.
Despite these warning signs, the federal government does not seem concerned in the least with protecting us, or even researching the problem. Martin Pall, PhD, who has been studying MWR and its effects on human health for some time, has pointed out that funding for research in this area at the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Office of Naval Research, and the National Institutes of Health started drying up in the late 1980s. Now, only Iran and Turkey are doing serious research into the health effects of MWR.
Part of the problem is crony capitalism. A provision of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 prevents the public from blocking the construction of cell phone towers based on health concerns. This happened recently in Albemarle County in Virginia, when a planning commission could not take health risks into account when deciding whether or not to put a cell tower up near a school—potentially putting children, who are the most vulnerable to MWR, at risk. This is ludicrous, and benefits only the telecoms industry.
Don’t expect much from the Federal Communications Commission, either. The current FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, was the Associate General Counsel at Verizon.
There are, however, some simple steps that you can take in your home to protect your family:
- Because of particular dangers to the fetus, pregnant women should avoid exposing their fetus to MWR.
- Avoid using baby monitors on cribs.
- Women and girls should avoid putting cell phones in their bras.
- Hold cell phones 15 centimeters (about 6 inches) away from your ear to limit exposure—that is, use the speakerphone function or else headphones with a microphone.
- Always keep your phone in airplane mode when carrying it on your person; it doesn’t need to be off, just in airplane mode.
- Reduce or avoid using your phone when it is sending out high levels of radio frequency energy, which happens when you see only one or two bars displayed, you are in a fast-moving car, bus, or train, or you are streaming audio, video, or downloading large files.
- Don’t sleep with your phone near your head.
- Teach kids to limit cell phone use when they can, and to use alternatives like landlines and Skype, which don’t emit MWR.
- Wi-Fi routers should be placed where people, especially children, spend the least amount of time.
- Consider hardwiring your computers to the modem via Ethernet instead of using Wi-Fi (that’s what we do at the ANH-USA offices).
- Opt-out of installing smart meters in your home (though this may be difficult in some states, or you may be charged both upfront and monthly fees for choosing an analog meter). Nearly half of US electricity customers have smart meters, but many customers may not even be aware of the fact. In the past, states have considered legislation to allow consumers to choose between analog and smart meters, or to require consent for smart meter installation. Currently, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina are considering bills to allow customers to opt out of smart meter installations without paying a fee.
California is leading the way on this issue, and other states and the federal government should take note. Recently, the California Health Department released guidelines on how to minimize exposure to cell phone radiation after a researcher sued the state government for not making the recommendations public originally.
Considering how much wireless technology and other MWR-emitting devices have been woven into our everyday lives, it’s important to act now to protect our family and loved ones.
Action Alert! Write to the FCC, with a copy to Congress, to issue warnings about the damaging effects of MWR.