Dozens, if not hundreds, of satellite antennas and towers loom across Teton County.
When asked if there are any health problems with the wireless radiation emitted by those facilities, many local officials were silent.
“We don’t have anything really to say on that subject,” said Jodie Pond, the director of the Teton County Health Department.
“This would not fall under the DEQ’s authority or expertise,” said Keith Guille, outreach officer of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.
“I haven’t given this much thought,” said Carl Pelletier, the former public information officer for the town of Jackson.
There’s a reason for this. The federal government bars local governments from denying applications for wireless communications facilities “based on health considerations.”
The Federal Communications Commission — an independent government agency that regulates TV, cable, radio, satellite and wire communications — holds all of the power when it comes to determining the safety and distribution of consumer media devices.
“As a town and county we have very restricted lanes in which we need to stay when we review [cell tower proposals],” Jackson Town Councilor Arne Jorgenson said. “Otherwise, we would be in violation with federal law.”
The problem is that the FCC is concerned with “promoting competition,” “supporting the nation’s economy” and encouraging the “highest and best use of spectrum.” Consumer health is not highlighted as a priority on the commission’s site. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 hasn’t been updated since the days of 2G and flip phones, and that act is what governs the FCC’s current radio frequency regulations.
But in the past few decades scientists have found that over-the-counter wireless devices may be far more dangerous than the FCC says, especially for children.
One of the loudest voices of caution about wireless radiation is a resident of Teton Village: Devra Davis.
Davis was a scientific counselor for the National Toxicology Program and formerly an advisor for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a committee member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a team member of a climate change panel that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Davis is a big name in the scientific community. She’s also hard to reach, as she’s an advocate for stationary computers, landlines and Luddite means of communicating.
“Phones are not tested in the way they’re used,” Davis said. “They’re tested 5 millimeters from the body.”
She cited studies that demonstrate the dangers of unrepresentative testing, such as how the director of research at the Cleveland Clinic’s American Center for Reproductive Medicine, Ashok Agarwal, and his team found that men who keep their phone in their back pocket had lower sperm count and poorer sperm quality.
Davis has devoted the past 16 years to investigating and broadcasting the risks of wireless radiation on consumers and fighting the federal government. She founded the Environmental Health Trust over a decade ago, a nonprofit think tank that believes mobile devices, Wi-Fi, 5G and other radio-frequency systems are a risk to the health of humans and the environment.
The trust sued the FCC in 2021 for failing to update its health and safety radio frequency radiation guidelines from 1996 — and won.
The U.S. Court of Appeals of Washington, D.C. called the FCC’s policies “arbitrary and capricious” in regard to the commission’s testing procedures, “particularly as they relate to children,” its conclusions about “long-term exposure” and its “complete failure” to respond to the environmental damages of radio frequency.
The court ordered the FCC to make “a reasoned determination” as to whether the 447 exhibits in 27 volumes that the Environmental Health Trust submitted to the court suggesting biological effects — brain damage, headaches, memory problems, reproduction damage, synergistic effects, nervous system impacts, brain cancer, genetic damage, as well as harm to trees, birds, bees, and other wildlife — warrant a change to its decades-old regulatory guidelines.
Critics say the order is unspecific and lacks a deadline.
Since that ruling, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon wrote a letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, urging “immediate action” be taken to review current research and update policies on “wireless radio frequency radiation.” He worried about the “well-being of all citizens, including the most vulnerable, our children.”
Researchers say that babies and children are the most at risk to the health effects of electromagnetic radiation. Here’s why:
Young brains contain more fluid, and young skulls are thinner.
Neurons in the brains of kids under 6 are not fully myelinated, meaning the fatty, protective sheath that insulates nerves from damage is not yet developed.
Babies have more fat, which facilitates the penetration of toxic agents.
Kids have faster-growing tissues, which can sustain lifelong damage.
Joel Moskowitz, the director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California, Berkeley, is at the forefront of research on the adverse health effects of wireless radiation. He has found that the frequencies of microwaves, which wireless communication devices radiate, interfere with normal cell functioning.
“The brain largely functions on electric signals,” Moskowitz said, “so when people hold phones directly to their head, they’re exposed to a lot of radiation.”
Microwaves can break open ion channels and prompt the production of stress proteins. If a cell can’t eliminate the stress, DNA damage can occur, which skyrockets the risk of cancer. Microwaves can also penetrate deep into organs — like the liver, lungs, brain and bladder — which is where the real trouble can start.
“Energy fields can further diminish organs’ abilities to fight off other chemical toxins,” Moskowitz said. “Any chemical toxins in the circulatory system then have an easier time penetrating brain tissue.”
The youngest members of our population remain especially at risk, with lab research finding that even fetuses exposed to cellphone radiation can suffer.
“The evidence is really, really strong now that there is a causal relationship between cellphone radiation exposure and behavior issues in children,” said Dr. Hugh Taylor, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale School of Medicine, in a similar article on wireless radiation that was published by ProPublica in November.
A peril for pollinators
Harm to wildlife is also a worry, especially for pollinators and airborne animals.
Davis cited a study of six colonies of honeybees. A phone was placed inside three colonies’ hives, and the other three were left alone. After 10 days the bees in the hives with the phone did not return, and the queens in these hives produced substantially fewer eggs. The bees in the phone-free hives continued with business as usual.
Pollinators are essential to the functioning of ecosystems and human food systems. Bees in particular are responsible for pollinating around 90 commercially produced crops, according to the Food and Drug Administration. They are also a rapidly declining population: U.S. beekeepers lost over 45% of their honey bee colonies from April 2020 to 2021, according to the Bee Informed Partnership’s national survey.
“A fair number of studies suggest that bees are at risk of suffering problems of fertility and death,” Moskowitz said, “which are contributing to the demise of the bee population.”
Nonetheless, Grand Teton National Park is at the mercy of the FCC as well.
“We followed FCC regulations when we installed cell towers,” said Valerie Gohlke, public affairs specialist for the park. “We have not done studies on wireless radiation and animals.”
Despite the federal government’s preemption of local governments in the regulation of cell towers, people have the power to limit their own radio frequency radiation exposure.
While the FCC states on its website that “no scientific evidence currently establishes a definitive link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses,” the commission also concedes information on steps “to reduce your exposure to RF energy from cellphones.”
Some recommendations, noted by the FCC and wireless radiation researchers, include:
– Use phones only when the signal is strong.
– Turn off phones or set them to airplane-mode while sleeping.
– Avoid holding a cellphone to ears. Instead, use wired headphones or the speakerphone.
– Stay away from Bluetooth devices, including AirPods.
– Keep phones and laptops away from vital organs, by storing phones in bags or distant pockets and using laptops on tables.
– Text instead of cellphone call whenever possible and avoid consuming videos. Yes, that means TikTok.
– Use wired-connection computers and landlines.
– Simply limit the amount of time on wireless devices. Try setting app timers.
Population density is directly correlated with radio frequency radiation exposure. Lucky for Jacksonites, exposure in Teton County is far lower than in, say, New York City.
Nonetheless, exposure from personal devices can be the most dangerous, as they are used close to the body. Following the above recommendations can reduce risk for a number of radiation-associated illnesses.
“It’s unrealistic to give up devices,” Moskowitz said, “but the technology could be made a lot safer.”
He named a few simple design changes phone manufacturers should consider — like placing an iron bead on the cord of a wired headset to limit the transfer of electromagnetic waves and orienting internal satellite connections in cellphones away from the body, rather than keeping their design omnidirectional.
Really, regulation rests in research and research relies on funding.
The FCC, on its website, states that “more and longer-term studies” are important for determining whether there is a “better basis for RF safety standards than is currently used.”
“There’s hardly any research on 4G and essentially no studies on 5G,” said Moskowitz, of the Center for Family and Community Health. “Health research lags way behind technology, but that’s how the industry and government wants it to be.”
What is this, the New York Post? Good info in the article, but the headline and lead are SO sensationalistic. I guess you need those "eyeballs..."
I am curious about the motivation behind this story "Wireless radiation: Hide your kids, hide your wildlife ". It does not appear to correctly address an issue or offer any factual information. Let me explain.
From the very beginning, with the photograph of the tower at the church and the text below it, the statement about RF exposure does not supply any factual or useful data. It dives into hyperbole with unconfirmable statements about RF exposure at the school a few hundred feet away, implying it poses a risk. Depending on the antennas used, the Effective Radiated Power, and many other factors, the RF Exposure to anyone at the school (or elsewhere nearby) could be very low and not anywhere near the Exposure Limit set by the federal Rules.
If you are worrying about "Dozens, if not hundreds, of satellite antennas and towers...", without stating or knowing any facts, don't say anything. “We don’t have anything really to say on that subject,” is really the right answer - If you don't know the subject, remain silent - but that does not sell the story. Indeed, three persons asked to supply input on the issue all decline to fall into the trap of speaking on a subject they have no expertise about. But that does not sell the story.
If you look at FCC OET Bulletin 65, Evaluating Compliance with FCC
Guidelines for Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields, you will find my name as a contributor - so let me speak from a position of experience and authority.
Take one of the "facts" cited in the article - “Phones are not tested in the way they’re used,” Davis said. “They’re tested 5 millimeters from the body.” That distance is Less Than 0.2 inches. Even at that distance the equivalent volumetric power density in the human body would be very low. The total power available from a battery powered cell phone is very low. The duty cycle (time of usage) is far below 100% and the position of the transmitter is not constant. Everything is working against a large exposure level. The power density falls off very fast with distance from the transmission source so the few hundred feet to the school cited at the beginning of the story yields a very low RF Field and resulting low Power Density.
There is so much hyperbole in this article it would take days to try to explain what is being said and to answer the claims. Just remember the old comment about early computers, "Garbage in - Garbage Out"
Bob Culver, BSEE, PE (Ret)
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