Pittsfield Health Board sets troubling precedent by asking Verizon to move tower

Our Opinion: Pittsfield Health Board sets troubling precedent by asking Verizon to move tower

Pittsfield cell tower (copy) (copy)

In appeasing some Pittsfield residents who dislike a nearby cellphone tower, the Board of Health has set a poor precedent for future infrastructure projects that attract controversy.

City health officials recently told opponents of the communications structure located off South Street that they have asked Verizon representatives to remove or relocate the already-built tower. It’s the latest development in a spat that has stretched on since before the tower was initially proposed, far before it was built last July. After its construction, some who had previously opposed its nearby siting began registering health complaints, claiming they were caused by the tower’s radiation.

They repeatedly made their case to local health officials, who did what little they could to address the issue, including commissioning a third-party study to assess the tower’s radiation levels. That report showed the tower was emitting, at most, less than one-fiftieth of the Federal Communications Commission’s safety threshold.

The tower’s opponents deserve to be heard — and they have been. What also deserves serious consideration is that they have made a hefty claim about these ill effects — from tinnitus and headaches to an alleged higher occurrence of cancer — being directly tied to the tower’s operation and location, while offering scant actual evidence for this alleged causal link.

The health board has been upfront about the fact that there is not much it can do to assess or test these claims. Other public health groups have — such as the National Cancer Institute, National Toxicology Program and the Environmental Protection Agency, all of which have largely given cell towers and radio frequency radiation a clean bill of health in reaction to rumored effects on surrounding populations.

Now, though, the board has taken another kind of step entirely. Instead of doing what they can within their authority to examine the issue and engage with constituents, they’re formally asking Verizon to remove without compensation a key piece of communication infrastructure that’s already been built based on health-based arguments that the board knows to be so far uncorroborated. To be sure, these residents have been quite relentless in their pressure on local health officials, who have seen some turnover in critical leadership positions as of late. Meanwhile, health officials told anyone hoping to see the tower removed to not get their hopes up, with Verizon understandably likely to say no.

Given the fact that 5G networks will require larger buildouts, these conflicts stand to rear their head repeatedly. Now, a troubling blueprint has been set, not just for cell towers but for any potentially controversial infrastructure project — even after completion. Forceful but unsubstantiated pushback is legitimized. Health officials defer not to scientific consensus and the existing regulations based on it but to the heckler’s veto. It’s never a good time to weight the flawed wisdom of crowds over the tested groundings of science, but a pandemic is a particularly bad time for health officials to do so.


2 comments on “Pittsfield Health Board sets troubling precedent by asking Verizon to move tower

  1. Pingback: Govt. Propaganda vs. Via Local News, This is Another Wake Up Call - Cialisvvr

  2. Unfortunately, the evidence is neither thin nor unprecedented for these residents who all tie their symptoms to the operation of that one tower, which was installed without proper scrutiny during Covid lockdown. In addition, the symptoms disappear when they leave the neighborhood and reappear when the return to their homes. All of their symptoms are well understood to be associated non-thermal effects of microwave radiation. Anyone who has heard 13 year old Amelia Gilardi’s testimony about she and her sister having to routinely sleep with ‘vomit buckets’ next to their beds would be hard pressed to think this is a NIMBY issue.

    The Health Department did very little. ‘Hands being tied’ by jurisdictional authority has not stopped anyone who needs to fight such an injustice. Even if there could be no legal requirement, they could have coordinated with the state Public Health authorities (who unfortunately are also asleep at the wheel). Underlying this is the not-so-subtle message that “this could happen to you too” — lose the value of your home, lose your ability to live in your home, have to spend many thousands to try to shield it and still deal with the possibly permanent electrosensitivity, which is hardly recognized among US allopathic doctors.

    Those Pittsfield residents have sought redress in every public testimony opportunity. To the DPU as they discuss forcing more broadcasting smart meters onto people’s home. To the new Non-Ionizing Research Committee considering whether to form a commission along the lines of the NH legislators whose research absolutely validated everything the folks in Pittsfield have indicated.

    The NH 2020 report is available at http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/statstudcomm/committees/1474/reports/5G%20final%20report.pdf, only the first few dozen pages need to be read to understand the gist of their detailed analysis of the issues and their recommendations. We hope that MA will continue the work they starts and start regulating this industry, for the health of everyone who is currently over-exposed.

    The NH report actually contacted many federal agencies and asked hard questions to get their responses on the record — here are a few relevant paragraphs to consider in light of this post


    “I find it shocking that the FDA would casually dismiss the carcinogenicity findings
    from the National Toxicology Program (NTP) studies on cell phone radiation in
    experimental animals, when it was the FDA that requested those studies in the
    first place ‘to provide the basis to assess the risk to human health,’ and when an
    expert peer-review panel carefully reviewed the design and conduct of those
    studies and then concluded that the results provided “clear evidence of
    carcinogenic activity,” stated Ronald Melnick PhD who led the design of the $30M
    NTP study. Melnick sent a letter to the FDA documenting the scientific
    inaccuracies in their review.

    “When I worked as a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for 17
    years, I collaborated with the late Dr. Ted Litovitz in 2000. Dr. Litovitz and his
    colleagues studied the impacts of low-level, non-thermal radiation from the
    standard 915 MHz cell phone frequency on chicken embryos. In their laboratory
    studies, control/non-treated embryos suffered no effects, but some of the
    treated/irradiated embryos died — at levels as low as 1/10,000 the normal level
    of cell phone radiation exposure to humans. This was an eye-opener!” stated
    Albert M. Manville, II, Ph.D.; retired Senior Wildlife Biologist, Division of Migratory
    Bird Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Washington.


    The NTP study that returned in 2018 clearly showed the cancer risk from microwave radiation. Microwave radiation from all sources has been listed as a Class 2B Agent (a possible human carcinogen) on the WHO/IARC website since 2011 (this is the same category that lead, DDT and Parathion occupy). If you look on the NTP web site you will see that the last update of their national cancer database was #14, in 2016, before that 2018 study completed. Various agencies like Cancer.gov say they only respond to NTP official database updates (which has not happened in 5 years). Either government sluggishness or politics are involved, but there is plenty of research since at least 1960s and there exists indisputable evidence of harm (look at the Zory Glaser archives that Magda Havas had scanned). Well, industry apologists refuse to believe it and otherwise muddy the waters.

    Is it morally right that people are not notified that microwave antennas are both ubiquitous and harmful? Instead of apologizing about some possibly unfair treatment of the Telecom operator conducting their usual shenanigans (permitted by the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which forbids any local town from invoking environmental or health concerns to stop deployment of a cell tower) some of that energy would be better spent asking for what pre-release health testing has been done on 4G and 5G? The answer is that no one has conducted long term health testing a priori — you and I are the lab animals in this study.

    Torpor at the Federal level should not mean inaction at the state level to protect the residents from chronic over-exposure. The August 2021 FCC loss in DC District Court, where the judge said that the FCC *ignored* proper science in setting their exposure limits (an act regarded as ‘capricious’ of its duty as a public agency) makes the malfeasance plain. This was a great victory and augurs the day when Telecoms will be held liable for their blithe disregard for human health. The FCC radiation limits were never established for newborns or pregnant mothers or desperately ill people — though one can be forgiven for thinking they have been. They are about heating only, like a microwave oven, but there are many non-thermal effects at significantly smaller power levels. Our EHS person experiences them every day she chooses to leave our home sanctuary, including tinnitus and spiky headaches.

    There are those of us working to let the MA government know and force them to respond to such situations. Come join us to make the world a better place, at least in MA.

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