Adapted from a 9/11/19 Bohemian article here.
North Bay activists warn of serious negative health impacts associated with 4G and 5G Close Proximity Microwave Radiation Antenna (CPMRA) Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (WTFs)
The radio antennas poised to spring up on poles around the North Bay may look innocuous, but are they really? A debate over the fifth generation of wireless cellular technology — known as 5G — ensues while deployment begins across the region. As residents and elected officials ask questions about the potential health impacts that 4G and 5G wireless transmitter proliferation (5G requires both) brings with it, some localities debate stronger local regulations for the new hardware.
However, there are recent FCC rulings designed to ease the way for 4G and 5G densification that attempt to constrain municipal governments from regulating the new and controversial additions to the physical landscape.
At issue are the up to 28 cubic feet of antennas and ancillary equipment affixed to power poles, light poles or other "street furniture" in the public rights-of-way surrounding homes, offices and public spaces. Champions stress the benefits a speedier backbone for wireless devices and sensors.
Color–shifting light bulbs and eco–friendly thermostats to card swipers used by yoga instructors will be unaffected because they connect to fixed Wi-Fi or via wired connections. Mobile card swipers used by dog walkers will perform with less digital lag time on the planned 4G/5G network. Critics decry small–cell ubiquity as a bath of invisible, cancer–causing pulsed, data-modulated, Radio-frequency Electromagnetic Microwave Radiation (RF-EMR) penetrating soft human tissues — and decry the absence of local will to assert local rights to better regulate the 4G/5G densification scheme now planned for the light poles and utility poles in the public rights-of-way, as close as 15 to 50 feet from homes, businesses and schools and directly in many parks.
Resistance to the rollout of Close Proximity Microwave Radiation Antennas (CPMRAs), which are falsely-branded as "Small Cells", is growing because due to the power/distance trade off of all Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (WTFs), CPMRAs contribute as much RF-EMR exposures as Macro cell towers, but at much closer proximity to where people live, work, study, play, sleep or heal.
At 3:10:24 in this video https://youtu.be/HRYFXx7oNN4?t=3h10m22s of a City of Sonoma Planning Commission, Lee Afflerbach, RF-engineer from Columbia Telecommunications Corp., hired by the City states:
"To get around the capacity issue — it’s because so many people are [wirelessly] streaming video and other services like that, they [Verizon] have to basically have multiple sources for this. That’s why we have the smaller cells because each [small] cell is capable of almost putting out the same energy as one macro cell."
In early 2017, Santa Rosa signed an agreement to allow Verizon to install 72 antennas on wooden power poles and streetlights in the public-rights-of-way around the city in both commercial and residential areas — the first wave of hundreds more. Lacking effective zoning regulations, the city of Santa Rosa has allowed the CPMRA installations to proceed on wooden power poles, but has put the brakes on installing CPMRAs on city-owned light poles.
City councils in San Anselmo, Mill Valley, Ross, San Rafael, Petaluma, Sebastopol and the City of Sonoma all tried to get in front of the issue with ordinances limiting where the devices could be placed — encouraging CPMRA installations only in commercial, industrial and mixed-use zones, not in residential zones.
Throughout 2017 and 2018, the Trump era Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted new regulations to attempt to remove barriers to densified 4G and 5G CPMRA deployment and to constrain local regulation of the densification of Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (WTFs) of all kinds — attempting to overreach into local regulations of local public rights-of-way, something over which the FCC has no authority.
The March 2018 FCC Order that attempted to exempt CPMRA installations from environmental review was vacated by the DC Court of Appeals in August 2019. In addition, the city of Fairfax and the County of Marin joined more than 25 West Coast cities (and over 200 cities nationwide) to sue the FCC for its August and September Orders that attempt to streamline the rollout of densified 4G and 4G WTFs in the public rights-of-way..
Members of the Sebastopol–based EMF Safety Network, founded by Sebastopol artist Sandi Maurer, recently marched through downtown San Rafael to bring visibility to the issue. There’s a robust and regional grassroots letter–writing campaign to put the kibosh on roll out of 4G and 5G CPMRAs in residential neighborhoods, and numerous local governments have weighed in with hearings and ordinances about how best to protect its residents’ safety, privacy and property values that are negatively impacted by these proposed 4G/5G CPMRA installations. The drive by "Big Telecom" to expand its wireless data capacity is not going as smoothly as it may have hoped in the communities north of the Golden Gate.
5G is quite different than the generations that preceded it and 4G and 5G will work side-by-side. 5G depends on 360-degree 4G RF-EMR saturation at 500-800 Watts of Effective Radiated power (ERP) to provide pinpoint locations of receiving antennas (either building-mounted antennas and mobile device antennas) so the CPMRAs know where to spray its 15-20 degree transmission of 5G RF-EMR at 1,000 Watts of ERP or more. 5G frequencies (600 MHz to 90,000 MHz) are a net addition to 4G frequencies that are currently in use (700 MHz to 2,100 MHZ). Presumably, the higher frequency 5G transmissions (20,000 MHz and above) enable faster transmission of information and optimize new autonomous sensors and gadgets to talk to one another.
The connective infrastructure of the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) centers largely on the notion that antennas need to be deployed by the millions for densified 4G and 5G to work. This myth, however, was contradicted by the CEO of Verizon, Lowell McAdam who stated in May 2018 on MSNBC:
""When [Verizon] went out in these 11 [5G test] markets, we tested for well over a year, so we could see every part of foliage and every storm that went through. We have now busted the myth that [5G frequencies] have to be line-of-sight — they do not. We busted the myth that foliage will shut [5G] down . . . that does not happen. And the 200 feet from a home? We are now designing the network for over 2,000 feet from transmitter to receiver, which has a huge impact on our capital need going forward. Those myths have disappeared."
The myth that McAdam busted was that owing to some of 5G’s wavelengths (those that are 20,000 MHz and above) , which are shorter and more powerful than its predecessors, the network requires that many radio broadcasting devices be installed—and that they’re located close to one another.
Epidemiologist Devra Davis is the director of the environmental think tank Environmental Health Trust. She’s written that densified 4G and 5G technology has the power to disrupt the flight patterns of bees and birds, and could also disrupt aircraft navigation. CBS news reported last May that the tech could interfere with weather forecasting.
5G is not simply a new generation of cell technology. It aggregates many frequencies (600 MHz to 90,000 MHz), including powerful short wavelengths (20,000 MHz and above) in the radio spectrum to transmit the ever–growing volumes of data received and generated on smart devices and sensors. Promoted by the industry as being a hundred times faster than 4G, 5G will allow, for example, videos to be downloaded in seconds.
These so called "millimeter waves" (30,000 Mhz and above) are more powerful and shorter in length than current 4G frequencies (700 MHz to 2,100 MHz). The myth says that densified 4G and 5G CPMRAs planned for the region require many more CPMRA cell towers installed closer together, including in residential areas. That myth has been busted by Verizon itself.
Some 13 million towers would be needed nationwide, according to a recent report done by Google for the Department of Defense. "Ten cities are now online," says Verizon spokeswoman Heidi Flato. "We hope to have 30 by the end of the year." There’s lots of competition for the 5G business, she adds, with companies such as T-Mobile and AT&T pushing 5G plans of their own. "There’s definitely a race to 5G," Flato says. "Verizon is ahead of its competitors and eager to deploy this technology."
CPMRA (so-called "Small Cell") installations are showing up in cities and towns transmitting only 4G frequencies, but these can be upgraded to 5G frequencies (some at the flip of a switch), without any public review or regulation, once the real estate for the 4G installation has been secured.
North Bay residents who are knowledgeable about what they describe as negative health impacts of the new technology have pushed back against the proposed roll out.
Some 40 people showed up at the Sonoma City Planning Commission meeting on July 11 to oppose Verizon’s proposed installation of three CPMRA towers in the city’s commercial hub. Some, but not all, say they suffer from Electromagnetic Sensitivity (EMS). For them, the quiet enjoyment of their local streets is the primary issue, which is a matter of aesthetics regulation by local cities, per the April 4, 2019 decision by the California Supreme Court, T-Mobile v San Francisco:
. . .the City has inherent local police power to determine the appropriate uses of land within its jurisdiction. That power includes the authority to establish aesthetic conditions for land use . . . We also disagree with plaintiffs’ contention that section 7901’s incommode clause limits their right to construct [telephone] lines only if the installed lines and equipment would obstruct the path of travel. Contrary to plaintiffs’ argument, the incommode clause need not be read so narrowly.
As the Court of Appeal noted, the word “ ‘incommode’ ” means “ ‘to give inconvenience or distress to: disturb.’ ” (T-Mobile West, supra, 3 Cal.App.5th at p. 351, citing Merriam-Webster Online Dict., available at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/incommode [as of April 3, 2019].)
The Court of Appeal also quoted the definition of “incommode” from the 1828 version of Webster’s Dictionary. Under that definition, “incommode” means “ ‘[t]o give inconvenience to; to give trouble to; to disturb or molest in the quiet enjoyment of something, or in the facility of acquisition.’ ” (T-Mobile West, supra, 3 Cal.App.5th at p. 351, citing Webster’s Dict. 1828—online ed., available at <http://www.webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/incommod e[as of April 3, 2019].)
For our purposes, it is sufficient to state that the meaning of incommode has not changed meaningfully since section 7901’s enactment. Obstructing the path of travel is one way that telephone lines could disturb or give inconvenience to public road use. But travel is not the sole use of public roads; other uses may be incommoded beyond the obstruction of travel. (T-Mobile West, at pp. 355-356.) For example, lines or equipment might
- generate noise,
- cause negative health consequences, or
- create safety concerns.
All these impacts could disturb public road use, or disturb its quiet enjoyment
The Planning Commissioners often quote another common myth: that their hands are tied because of FCC regulations, dating back to 1996, deny municipalities jurisdiction over cell towers. This myth says that cities can only make decisions regarding the aesthetics of the cell towers, nothing more, but that is a too-narrow reading of the Telecom laws actually passed by our elected representatives and of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and US Supreme Court decisions from 1996 to the present — the only decisions relevant for California cities.
According to the CA Supreme Court "negative health consequences" and "creating safety concerns", are part of aesthetics regulations.
"There is no doubt that 4G and 5G densification will affect health," says Dafna Tachover, citing the results of a $30 million study undertaken by the National Toxicology Program from 1999 to 2018, which found a link between cumulative exposure to RF-EMR to brain cancer, heart cancer, DNA damage and cardiomyopathy.
Tachover was the Director of Information Technology for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) when she says she developed symptoms of electromagnetic sensitivity. This month she delivered her three–hour lecture in Sonoma, Napa and Santa Rosa, explaining the research that continues to implicate wireless as the cause of her illness.
The City of Sonoma talk took place in a classroom at Vintage Senior Center with the fluorescent lights turned off, where she reeled off references to numerous scientific studies claiming 4G and 5G transmissions at levels many thousands of times lower than the FCC RF-EMR exposure guidelines has significant negative health consequences.
A study started two decades ago, and completed in 2018, by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) found that the effects of RF-EMR exposure are cumulative. Since the 1940’s, peer-reviewed scientific research has established many negative health consequences from RF-EMR exposures:
- Neurological problems
- Bleeding from nose or ears
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Altered brain development
- Unexplained skin rashes
- Sleeping Problems
- Melatonin suppression
- Heart palpitations
- Blood-brain Barrier Leaks
- Chromosome aberrations
- Memory problems
- Hormone changes
- Sperm and ovary damage
- Elevated cancer in children/adults
Electromagnetic Sensitivity (EMS) is a disability recognized by the United States Access Board exercising its authority under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (as amended) ("ADA"). A loss of use or access to common space in cities because of that disability is, without limitation, in violation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act 42 USC 3604(fl(1),(2), as the disabled must be given equal opportunity to use and enjoy dwellings, yards, as well as public and common use areas (Burton v Wilmington Parking Authority, 365 U.S. 715 (1961)) — including the quiet enjoyment of city streets.
The United States Access Board "recognizes that multiple chemical sensitivities and electromagnetic sensitivities may be considered disabilities under the ADA if they so severely impair the neurological, respiratory or other functions of an individual that it substantially limits one or more of the individual’s major life activities. " The ADA (Title II) requires the representations of EMS Californians to be taken by the City Councils without challenge. Cities are obliged to consider the impact of CPMRA installations on these residents’ with disabilities before making CPMRA installation decisions.
In Santa Rosa, installation of the new towers was already in process before residents took notice.
Gabe Osburn, the deputy director of development services for Santa Rosa, explains that the city only has jurisdiction over city-owned light poles in the public rights of way — namely, streetlights, not wooden power poles. "The council gave us the authority to approve installation on a pole–by–pole basis," he says. Osburn says that the wooden power poles are not in their jurisdiction, but other cities in Northern CA have used zoning regulations to restrict in which zones CPMRAs can be installed on wooden power poles.
Verizon proposed 72 poles for Santa Rosa. It contracted with the owners of the wooden poles, PG&E, and began installing cell towers in residential areas around town.
The city held two public study sessions on these CPMRA installations and halted streetlight deployment while officials figure out their next step. Other North Bay cities have taken action in an effort to protect their residents’ safety, privacy and property value. Mill Valley, Belvedere, Sonoma, Sebastopol, Petaluma, San Rafael, San Anselmo, and Fairfax have revised their Wireless Telecommunications ordinances in an attempt to regulate the placement of the new CPMRA cell towers, as did the Marin Board of Supervisors. These ordinances mainly regulate where cell towers may be installed and how close to one another they can be placed.
Petaluma’s ordinance is the strongest in the North Bay. It prohibits small–cell installation on city–owned poles, allows towers on electrical utility poles only in mixed–use commercial zones, (not in residential areas) and decrees a 1,500-foot setback from any two towers. Assistant city attorney Lisa Tennenbaum says Petaluma sought to incorporate citizens’ rights to protect their own safety, privacy and property values within the Orders passed by the FCC in August and September, 2018, which are being challenged in the Federal Appeals Court — Ninth Circuit.
"The industry claims that the guidelines give them more freedom," she says, "but a suit in the Ninth Circuit Court claims that the location of poles is beyond the jurisdiction of FCC. The FCC is responsible for regulating communications." Resolution of this suit is expected by the end of this year or early next year.
San Jose, New York and many other cities have sued the FCC to demand the August 2018 (18-111) and September 2018 (18-133) Orders for streamlning the construction of CPMRA installations be vacated.
"But even if those contested FCC regulations go into effect, as written," says Tannenbaum, "we believe we are still compliant."
In California, Hillsborough, Piedmont and Danville denied specific CPMRA applications. They’re being sued by Crown Castle, a Verizon agent. In Sebastopol, Verizon yielded to citizen pressure and withdrew its applications for two CPMRA cell towers, thanks in part to the actions of the EMF Safety Network, a local nonprofit.
EMF Safety Network director Sandi Maurer says she began experiencing EHS symptoms in 2006. Finding no explanation for her discomfort, she called on Michael Neuert, a local electrician who started researching the health effects of electromagnetism exposure in the 1980s. He came to her house to examine the wiring. "When he shut off the breakers, I immediately began to feel better."
Maurer set out to learn all she could about the effects of EMF. In 2007, the Sebastopol City Council took up a popular proposal to provide free WiFi. Maurer began going to meetings. Despite her opposition, the council unanimously approved contracts to provide free WiFi but flip-flopped two months later and rescinded the contracts.
Maurer was more successful in her fight for an opt-out from smart meter installation, which also uses a pulsed–wireless technology. Now her organization is petitioning the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to better regulate the proposed 4G/5G CPMRA installations in the public rights-of-way. Sebastopol activist Roberta Godbe-Tipp reports the supervisors "told us no one has complained about the cell towers." There are no applications in the unincorporated areas as of September, 2019.
"People say nothing can be done at the local level, but people really do have power. The science is already there, and we have a right to a safe community," Maurer says.
In last year’s updated guidelines, the FCC attempted to assert that 4G/5G towers would not be subject to two kinds of previously required reviews: one under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the other, an environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
In April, the California Court of Appeals cited CPUC law Section section 7901.1 allowing local regulation of Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (WTFs) in the public rights of way to ensure they do not "incommode" the public’s quiet enjoyment of streets. The towers may be disallowed if they "generate noise, cause negative health consequences or create safety concerns. All these impacts could disturb public road use, or disturb quiet enjoyment."
If the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacates FCC Orders 18-111 and 18-133, then local control of CPMRAs can proceed. In the meantime, the FCC’s attempt to usurp local control prompted legislation to restore municipal authority by Sen. Diane Feinstein (S. 2012) and U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (HR. 530).
North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman is a co-signer on Eshoo’s bill. He says that while he’s "agnostic" on densified 4G and 5G installations and the purported health issues associated with it, his emphasis is on localism and overreach by the federal government on this issue. "I don’t like the idea of the federal government — and especially this administration, which consistently shills for big business — running roughshod over our communities. I trust my local government to do its job."
Verizon hasn’t begun the big push for 5G antenna in the North Bay (they are pushing for the 4G CPMRA densification real estate grab now because these installations can be upgraded to 5G at any time in the future, without public review) — at least not yet, says company spokeswoman Heidi Flato, "We have not announced 5G launch for the North Bay yet," she says.
The small cells installed so far aren’t a signal that 5G has arrived, only that it will: They "pave the pathway for 5G," she says. Verizon’s working now to densify its 4G LTE network, she adds. "There’s been a dramatic increase in data usage. If you think of cell network as a highway, commuter lanes jam up at certain times of the day."
Small cells add more capacity, she says, as if you were adding more lanes to a highway. "People are using data–rich applications such as video streaming. Small cells will allow more people to do more things."
Flato didn’t address the negative health consequences raised by the CA Supreme Court judges and by activists, and directed inquiries on that subject to the Wireless Industry Association website https://www.wirelesshealthfacts.com/. Readers can also visit https://bioinitiave.org/, https://mdsafetech.org/, https://ehtrust.org/ and https://www.saferemr.com/.
Activists vow to keep up the fight. Anti-4G/5G densification activist, attorney Harry Lehman notes, "If cities have the courage, they can stop this. It’s now established that this radiation is carcinogenic and harmful to health," he says. "Cities that go along with the industry people are in direct conflict with their civic responsibilities."