An Electronic Silent Spring – May, 2017 Newsletter

An Electronic Silent Spring – May, 2017 Newsletter

An Electronic Silent Spring 
May, 2017 Newsletter from Katie Singer


According to the Cellular Telephone and Internet Association (CTIA), Americans’ use of smartphones between 2015 and 2016 increased by 14.7%. Use of tablets increased by 16.7%. Data traffic increased 42.2%.

With the introduction of 5G (fifth generation of mobile devices) and the Internet of Things (machine-to-machine communication), device ownership, data traffic and the infrastructure that these require wil continue to grow.

Marketing and use of devices and deployment of the infrastructure that they require continue without due diligence certification that the public’s life, health and property are safeguarded when these devices are used.

Regulation of technology’s impacts on security, privacy, fire, health, social interaction, wildlife, emergency preparedness, energy use or use of conflict minerals…has not kept up with electronic developments.

Proposed federal and state laws threaten to erode existing safeguards.

This newsletter offers introductory-level resources for concerned citizens who want to get informed.

Proposed federal Acts would eliminate local control over telecom infrastructure

In a statement, “Accelerating Wireless Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment,” WT Docket 17-79, Trump-appointed FCC Chair Ajit Pai wrote, “As networks evolve, our rules should too. Historic preservation and environmental review regulations designed for large macro-cell towers just don’t make sense for small cells that can be the size of a pizza box. And cities shouldn’t impose unreasonable demands or moratoria on wireless siting requests. This simply penalizes their own constituents who want better mobile service. To address these issues, we are seeking ideas for updating state, local and Tribal infrastructure review to meet the realities of the modern marketplace.

“If we do our job–if we can make the deployment of wireless infrastructure easier, consistent with the public interest–then we can help close the digital divide in our country.”

Former counsel to Verizon, Mr. Pai’s idea of “doing our job” does not include safeguarding the public’s life, health or property. It fails to recognize that wireless electronics and the infrastructure they require increase risks of hacking, privacy loss, fire, harm to children’s brain development, cancer, addiction, electronic interference with medical implants, etc. Further, Pai believes that every municipality should have 5G telecom facilities (antennas on public right-of-ways such as utility poles) whether or not they want them. This is loss of democratic process coupled with lack of professional engineering due diligence. For whose benefit?

Proposed federal and state legislation will erode local authority and increase exposure to electromagnetic radiation (EMR)

The U.S. Congress now has two proposed bills to expand broadband, deploy millions of antennas on public right-of-ways (PROWS, aka utility poles) and remove local authority over telecom facilities: The Mobile Now Act, S.19 and the Digit Act.

For citizens who want local authority over antenna placement, each of these bills makes the 1996 Telecom Act’s Section 704 look protective. Read journalist Blake Levitt’s assessment, “Meet Another New FCC Docket – WT -17-29: Accelerating Wireless Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment.”

Proposed and enacted state bills support the federal bills that would eliminate local authority over cellular antenna placements on PROWs. Millions of “small cells” could be deployed, including in neighborhoods and parks, on PROWS. An antenna could be placed ten feet from a bedroom window. States with bills pending or passed that would pre-empt local zoning authority over telecom facility placement include: AR, AZ, CA, CO, FL, HI, IA, IL, IN, KS, MN, MO, NB, NC, NE, OH, PA, RI, TX, VA and WA.

For a former local planner’s opposition to California SB 649 (including pictures that show what happens when wireless facilities are not well regulated), see

For reports about responses to California’s SB649, see Nina Beety’s update.

In Ohio, 80 municipalities are suing their state to protect their authority over telecom facilities.

Check out the League of Minnesota Cities’ “Small Cell Wireless Talking Points for HF739/SF561.”

Already, “small cells” are being installed in Sacramento and 10 other cities.

In response to a Long Island neighborhood’s outrage over waking up to “cell phone repeaters” on their PROWs, a legislator called for studying the antennas’ health effects. Given federal laws that prohibit municipalities from considering health effects of antennas’ radiofrequency radiation emissions, what benefit would such a study provide?

Preventing new antennas from going up may be easier than getting them taken down. (And preventing them from going up is Not Easy.)

For more updates about state happenings, check out
British Columbia, Canada:
N. Carolina:

While Massachusetts utilities press for “grid modernization,” citizen Patricia Burke asks for expedited passage of Rep. Kulik’s House Bill 3400, which would give ratepayers and elected officials the right to intervene in Dept. of Public Utilities dockets. At a listening session, Burke explained to legislators that in the 1990s, use of “energy efficient” devices overloaded the grid, caused neutrals to overheat, motors and transformers to burn out and electronic equipment to fail. Instead of addressing power quality issues, regulators allow electric utilities to use ground rods on telephone poles. Grid “modernization” has not addressed these flaws. Adding digital, transmitting utility meters (that pulse radio-frequency fields) to a grid designed for 60Hz increases power quality problems. So does adding solar systems with unfiltered inverters.

Burke encouraged legislators and utility officials to aim to minimize using electronics that require high frequencies on this grid, to filter where needed, to enlarge the neutrals and/or go to a 5-wire system. She also noted that bonding a home’s electricity system to copper water pipes can create unsafe levels of contact current (radiation) in plumbing pipes.

Meanwhile, in Michigan, national security threat analyst Cynthia Ayers spoke before the House Committee on Energy Policy. Her testimony concentrated “on the possibility of a catastrophic cyber attack to the systems we depend on for the delivery of electricity–the lifeblood of our modern civilization.” Because of “threats to personal safety as well as the safety of the grid,” the lack of surge protection associated with the new meters, and hacking, Ayers (a consultant within the Mission Control and Cyber Division of the Center for Strategic Leadership at the U.S. Army War College) recommended retaining “analog systems to the extent possible.”

As utilities modernize, insist that regulators and utility officials answer:

  1. Did a registered, licensed professional electrical engineer (PE) certify that installation of the infrastructure in question (i.e. digital wireless meters), the safeguards the public’s life, health and property?
  2. Given that the property owner owns the electric meter socket, the utility owns the meter, and the utility controls the meter-socket assembly, who is liable in the event of an explosion or fire at the meter?
  3. Will this digital, transmitting utility meter have a properly sized fuse?
  4. Who calculated the proper size for this meter’s fuse?
  5. Who determined that this meter is safe from cyber attack?
  6. Who determined that this meter’s readings are accurate?

E-technologies continue to provide a full range of challenges:

New studies and scientific papers continue to show that EMR exposure from common wireless technologies harms health and wildlife  

Cindy Sage and Ernesto Burgio have published a review of new epigenetic studies that account for some neurodevelopmental and neurobehavioral changes in children due to exposure to wireless technologies: “Electromagnetic Fields, Pulsed Radiofrequency Radiation, and Epigenetics: How Wireless Technologies May Affect Childhood Development,” Child Dev., doi:10.1111/cdev.12824.

Cell phone use during pregnancy results in the child’s behavioral problems. Also, prenatal exposure to WiFi affects offsprings’ neurological development and behavior in adulthood.

New study findings confirm risks of nonionizing radiation and present oxidative cell stress as a verified mechanism of damage.

In The Townsend Letter‘s April, 2017 issue, Jim West reports that “the hazards of ultrasound to the human fetus have been confirmed in China since the late 1980s.” An electronic measuring echo used to determine a fetus’ health, ultrasound exposes the fetus to a form of radiation during early gestation, a period of rapid cellular division.

Belgian etymologist Dr. Marie-Claire Cammaerts proposes a way to test the hypothesis that electromagnetism is one cause of bee colony collapse disorder in the Journal of Behavior, 3.28.17.

Children and Schools

Read Lee Sang’s piece in the Nation, “How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Public Schools.”

For an overview about privatization of schools, read Dr. Roxana Marachi’s blogpost.

Chicago school administrators asked Google to comply with the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, which permits federally funded educational institutions to share students’ personal information with vendors who use the information only for school purposes. Instead, Google wanted the Chicago Schools to use an app called Classroom before determining whether it complied with the district’s student-protection policies.

A confidential lease between Milestone Communications and Prince George County (Maryland) Public Schools would allow cell tower development at 73 of the county’s 208 schools. Theodora Scarato uncovered the controversial lease through Freedom of Information Act requests; now, the telecom corporation may back down.

Toy-maker Mattel’s Aristotle, a “digital nanny” designed to “soothe” a crying baby, help toddlers learn to speak and provide constant companionship during the growing years also collects and stores data about the child’s interests and sleep patterns. The data can be shared with partner corporations for marketing, How does replacing a human caregiver with a robot affect a child? How do this digital nanny’s EMR emissions impact developing children?

An 11-year-old Texan showed security experts how he could hack into their Bluetooth devices and “weaponized” a “smart” toy.

The World Health Organization reported on 11 April 2017 that the latest data show a global increase of 13% in childhood cancer incidence over two decades.

My paper, “Inviting Discussion About Safer Tech Use in Schools,” can also apply to safer tech use in homes and businesses. “Shifts” in awareness often happen in one-to-one conversation. Could this piece serve as a focal point for discussion?

Internet Privacy Protections are on the Chopping Block

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed S.J.Res.34, which would overturn an FCC rule that requires Internet providers to get customers permission before selling your data, such as browsing history.

Worker safety

In 2008, the head of  Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) called working on a cell tower “the most dangerous job in America.” Douglas Scott Delaney, a “tower dog” (he works on cell towers), has published Tower Dog: Life Inside the Deadliest Job in America. About 15,000 “tower dogs” maintain the U.S.’s current 215,000 cellular towers. They make an average of $18 per hour.

Meanwhile, Verizon now says workers can be fired if they fix copper phone lines, rather than replace broken copper with wireless.

Driverless cars and vehicle-to-vehicle communications challenge everyone on the road.

The Nat’l Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing to mandate radar (V2V technology) in all new cars and light trucks. The aim of V2V is to improve driving safety and pave the way for self-driving cars.

The SEC has halted some enforcement of its conflict minerals rule. Mining for minerals like coltan (necessary for all wireless devices that need to hold charge) has contributed to mass rapes and more loss of life more than any other situation since WWII. Acting SEC Chair Mike Piowowar says that for now, companies will not be required to conduct a due diligence review or an audit to determine minerals’ origins.

For more info on conflict mineral, read Peter Eichstaedt’s Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict Minerals in the World’s Deadliest Place.

Questions to keep at the forefront

The more complex a system gets, the harder it is to maintain safety. To safeguard the public’s life, health and property regarding the wireless electronics and infrastructure, we need to ask questions:

* Who determines safety? How did they determine it?
* Is the device in question proven safe from fire hazards, hacking and privacy breeches? Has the infrastructure it requires been proven safe?
* In the event of a power outage, will the new infrastructure (i.e. wireless phones) provide emergency services as reliably as copper legacy landlines?
* How will federal and local officials respond when (not if) our electric grid is hacked?
* Could turning on a light (or other device) lead to surveillance? Could using a humble router make your home insecure?
* Is the device and its infrastructure safe for pregnant women, infants, children, people with implants, wildlife and our ecosystem? For what duration? Will it impact children’s brain development?
* How/can users prevent themselves from becoming addicted to the device?
* Is the technology proven safe in combination with other devices?
* Do those who work near equipment receive proper warning about and protection from dangers, including exposure to electromagnetic radiation?
* Do we have the energy and natural resources required to support the manufacturing, shipping, operating and infrastructure for every person owning and frequently replacing personal wireless devices? Who determines we’ve got these resources?
* If someone claims that a device and the infrastructure it requires are safe, ask, Where’s your proof?
* Who is liable in the event that a device (i.e. a smartphone, smart meter, smart appliance, school or work-issued iPad or Chromebook, Distributed Antenna System, small cell on a public right-of-way, etc.) causes fire, a breech of security or privacy, health damage or fatality to a worker, children’s health damage, interference with a medical implant, violation of environmental protections like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act?

Most states have statutes that require professional engineering (PE) due diligence to safeguard the public before new technology is installed and made available to the public. For example, we mandate PE due diligence before anyone drives a car over a bridge or activates a water system. Why/would electrical infrastructure be different?

Good news:

California’s Department of Public Health has released a fact sheet on cell phone radiation safety.

In April, CBS News’ 60 Minutes aired a story about the mechanism that makes smartphones so addictive: rather than delay response to a Snapchat feature by 15 seconds, they’re programmed to give users immediate feedback. Teens may be the most susceptible users. Tristan Harris, a former Google product manager, is urging corporations “to change the attention economy into a ‘time-well-spent economy.’” Getting all of this into the public’s awareness is very good news.

Jeromy Johnson has described how to set up a safer Internet connection.

A church in South Africa realized that accepting money to erect a cell tower on their property would “betray the very community we are called to love and serve.”

After the City of Berkeley passed a landmark cell phone right-to-know ordinance on March 21, 2016, the CTIA/Wireless Association sued to block it. On April 21, 2017, a three judge panel voted to deny the CTIA’s request.

Please help keep this newsletter going!

Thanks to everyone who aims to use electronics as safely as possible, reduces their energy use and EMR emissions.

To healthier ecosystems and safer communities,
Katie Singer


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