By B.N. Frank
There is no doubt that cell phones have saved lives in emergency situations. However, installing cell towers in national parks needs to be carefully considered. After all, The National Park Service’s own statement reads “by caring for the parks and conveying the park ethic, we care for ourselves and act on behalf of the future. The larger purpose of this mission is to build a citizenry that is committed to conserving its heritage and its home on earth.”
Besides the fact that cell towers can and do collapse and catch fire, the radiation emitted from them is harmful. Since 2004, The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) has opposed the use of their stations for cell towers and antennas due to of health risks from prolonged involuntary radiation exposure. Scientific research has already proven exposure isn’t good for Bambi, Thumper, and the rest of the wildlife gang either.
If you would like to submit your concerns to the Grand Tetons, Dr. Devra Davis of the Environmental Health Trust has provided an overwhelmingly thorough scientific submission as to why this expansion needs to be reconsidered.
FCC limits are based only on thermal heating and do not account for biological impacts at levels far lower than FCC limits. The Department of Interior wrote a 2014 letter on the impact of cell towers on migratory birds documenting several studies that found adverse effects and concludes that “The electromagnetic radiation standards used by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continue to be based on thermal heating, a criterion now nearly 30 years out of date and inapplicable today.”
In the United States, RFR radiation regulatory limits were set by the FCC more than two decades ago in 1996. However, the FCC limits are not safety standards. Although the EPA was actively researching this issue and tasked to develop proper safety limits,, the EPA was abruptly defunded in 1996 and the FCC adopted guidelines developed by industry-connected non-independent groups (ANSI/IEEE C95.1-1992, NCRP’s 1986 Report) Experts from U.S. government agencies (including the EPA and NIOSH) have repeatedly documented issues concerning the inadequacy of these limits but their letters have gone unanswered., The EPA has clarified that the FCC limits do not protect against effects from long-term low-level exposures. In 2008, the National Academy of Sciences released a Report on research needs that included recommending research on the impacts to brain development and exposures to children and pregnant women.
Since 1997, insurance companies have refused to insure wireless companies and “electromagnetic field exclusions” in insurance policies are an industry standard. EMFs are deemed as “high-risk” in insurance white papers, and EMFs are defined as a “pollutant” by many insurance companies alongside smoke, chemicals, and asbestos. Some companies will only cover liability from EMFs under additional “Pollution Liability” policy enhancement coverage. Some policies not only exclude damages from EMFs but also exclude paying for the defense of “any supervision, instruction, recommendation, warning or advice given or which should have been given in connection with bodily injury, property damage, abatement and/or mitigation etc.”
Another area of concern with the proposed expansion of the wireless infrastructure is fires. Cell towers are known to catch fire such as the 150-foot tower in Washington that experienced an electrical malfunction at a lighted beacon on top of the tower which caught an Osprey’s nest on fire. Many birds, particularly raptors, choose to nest on or near cell towers because of the heat they provide, the clear view, and high vantage point that they favor for their nesting sites. There are many more examples of these towers catching fire, such as a 125-foot tower in Maryland. A church in South Africa that housed antennas caught fire this month, and news reports state authorities are investigating if it was a short circuit from the equipment that started the fire.
Towers have also been known to attract lightning strikes. The higher the tower the higher the probability that lightning will strike the tower, presenting another type of fire hazard.
If park visitors agreed to only use their cell phones in emergency situations, this cell tower expansion might not even be considered necessary. Keep that in mind if you’re planning to make a visit to the Grand Tetons or any other national park.
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