Friends of mine recently moved their design company into a new suite of offices in Larchmont– a light, airy space tucked away but near enough to the village street and all of the charm and convenience it can offer. Good lunch and dinner spots, boutiques, a newly opened outpost of Crumbs (the Beverly Hills-based cupcake mecca they swear they’ll resist, as a daily habit anyway,) even Chevalier’s Books, the much reported site last week of a browsing Mayor V. and his new anchorwoman girlfriend.
The only drawback, however, is a looming cellphone tower hovering over their new digs. My friend, a new mom, joked about it. “I wouldn’t be so concerned if it was after I have my second child.”
There has long been an argument raging about the increased incidence of cancer and birth defects among people living near radiation that the towers emit, and some claim a rise in leukemia in children.
While the U.S. slowed to a crawl during the last administration when it came to regulating companies that posed possible health risks to its citizens, other countries have taken action. The United Kingdom, France, Israel, Japan, Russia, Tajikistan and India ban children from using cellphones due to radiation risks; India even made it illegal for pregnant women to use them.
But change may be on the way here too. In the U.S., activists are targeting Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, which greatly reduced state and local governmental control over the placement of cell towers and other commercial wireless transmitters. Since then, local governments have been powerless to stop telecommunications companies from constructing, erecting and modifying cell and wi-fi towers as they try to keep up with customers’ demands for better signals.
Last week, on June 2nd, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took action against telecommunication companies, voting unanimously to support federal legislation to repeal sections of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 “that limit the authority of state and local governments to regulate cell towers and related wireless facilities on the basis of their health and environmental effects.”
Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education took similar action at its May 26, 2009 meeting, citing “ongoing debate within the scientific community and among governing bodies throughout the world regarding how thoroughly the long-term health effects of low-frequency electromagnetic and radio-frequency emissions are understood” and “questions… regarding how well the existing regulations established by the Federal Communications Commission protect more vulnerable populations such as school-aged children, and how well they protect against the cumulative effect of radio-frequency emissions on people who live or work in close proximity to multiple cellular facilities.”
In January, President Barack Obama convened a panel to study possible cancer and other adverse health effects linked with both nuclear and electro-magnetic radiation. Developments on these issues are being exhaustively chronicled on several sites; among them, EMF Journal, CLOUT (Coalition for Local Oversight of Utility Technologies,) and EM Radiation Research Trust, which are international in scope and make evident the gathering momentum of the movement addressing concerns over technologies’ effects upon human health.
But in a radiation-saturated city like Los Angeles, we’re already awash from the towers, the cell phones we think we can’t live without, and for that matter, the wi-fi laptops we have perched on our, ahem, laps– like I do right now as I write this. (Fortunately, I don’t plan on having chidren; but another plan I have is avoiding testicular cancer.)
And telecommunications companies employ lobbyists, much like tobacco companies, whose job is to snuff out if not manipulate any business-negative data that results from ongoing research– their methods effectively brought to light in the recent movie satire, Thank You For Smoking.
In the film’s final scene, the foiled and out-of-work damage-control specialist for tobacco companies played by Aaron Eckhart next sets his sites on the cellphone industry, half-jokingly alluding to the claims against it for the alleged ravages of resulting radiation.
But it’s no joke.
Photo: CP (with a cellphone camera!)