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Cellular Service

Mendocino Communications: Cellular Service – Problems and Recommendations

September 5, 2009. Below is a document on cell phones, antennas, and radiation. The original material on this page was written in 2004 with edits throughout the past five years. However, immediately following this introduction is the recent information collected during August, 2009, concerning studies of cell phone radiation. We think it is urgent to present this information and wish that mainstream media had picked-up the leads we discuss.

Note: Base stations – that is antennas – are not the problem: handsets, the phones we hold in our hands, are. The closer we are to a base station or antenna, the less power our phones need and the safer they are. The information below suggests that there are substantial gaps in our understanding of radio frequency radiation (RF radiation) and that precautions are necessary. Most alarming is that this information applies to cordless phones (those we use in our homes to connect to our land lines) as well as cellular. Please take appropriate precautions. The technology properly used is both useful and safe.

Cell phones, Cordless Phones and Cancer – Real Warnings!

For the last 15 years, I have been following research on the effects of non-ionizing radiation produced by cell phones Our entire family and most of our staff and guests use them. Knowing their hazards makes using them a bit geeky and definitely less convenient, but, importantly, somewhat safer. In any case – let’s start with the recommendations from a stellar panel of scientists from the planet’s premier universities.

First, this information is from a study released in August, Cell phones and Brain Tumors 15 Reasons for Concern – Science, Spin and the Truth Behind Interphone. The authors advocate the adopting the “precautionary principle”

The precautionary principle applies where scientific evidence is insufficient, inconclusive or uncertain and preliminary scientific evaluation indicates that there are reasonable grounds for concern that the potentially dangerous effects on the environment, human, animal or plant health may be inconsistent with the high level of protection chosen. (European Commission Communication on the Precautionary Principle – 2nd February 2000: In Cell phones and Brain Tumors…)

Finding that published information regarding microwave radiation to be insufficient, uncertain, manipulated and even biased and that a variety of peer reviewed studies demonstrate correlations between the use of cell phones and cancer, the study recommends taking personal responsibility and lists actions you can take. Below is a modified version of their list:

  • Use a wired headset, speaker option, or text. (Bluetooth uses microwaves to communicate with the earpiece.)
  • Keep the cell phone away from your body. Use a holster; keep on the outside of a purse, messenger bag, backpack, etc.
  • Avoid use in a car, train, bus, or plane. Vehicles are metal and microwaves are reflected by metal ricocheting until they dissipate their energy.
  • Avoid use in rural areas moving vehicles or wherever there are less than full bars. The greater the distance from antennas, the greater power the cell phone will generate. Distance equals “more power.”
  • Use cell phones as answering machines. Leave off until you can use it to check calls.
  • Use a corded land line whenever possible to return calls.
  • Avoid cordless phones. Recent studies indicate that they also increase the risk of cancer.
  • Avoid use inside buildings, particularly with steel structures
  • Do not allow children to sleep with the phone – under their pillow or on their bedside table
  • Do not allow your children under 18 to use cell phones except in an emergency

Here are the 15 reasons for concern summarized:

  1. Industry’s own research showed cell phones caused brain tumors
  2. Subsequent industry-funded research also showed that using a cell phone elevated the risk of brain tumors
  3. Interphone studies, published to date, consistently show use of a cell phone for less than 10 years protects the user from a brain tumor
  4. Despite the systemic-protective-skewing of all results in Interphone studies, significant risk for brain tumors from cell phone use was still found
  5. Studies independent of industry funding show what would be expected if wireless phones cause brain tumors
  6. The danger of brain tumors from cell phone use is highest in children, and the younger a child is when he/she starts using a cell phone, the higher the risk
  7. There have been numerous governmental warnings about children’s use of cell phones
  8. Exposure limits for cell phones are based only on the danger from heating
  9. An overwhelming majority of the European Parliament has voted for a set of changes based on “health concerns associated with electromagnetic fields”
  10. Cell phone radiation damages DNA, an undisputed cause of cancer
  11. Cell phone radiation has been shown to cause the blood-brain barrier to leak
  12. Cell phone user manuals warn customers to keep the cell phone away from the body even when the cell phone is not in use
  13. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) warning for cordless phones
  14. For Digitally Enhanced Cordless Technology, the FCC warns, “This equipment should be installed an operated with a minimum distance of 20 centimeters (almost 8 inches) between the radiator and your body.” The radiation from these phones is based on GSM cell phone technology.
  15. Male fertility is damaged by cell phone radiation

One of the studies cited by the authors is particularly striking in its indictment of not only cell phones but also cordless phones. Pooled analysis of two case-control studies on use of cellular and cordless telephones and the risk for malignant brain tumors diagnosed in 1997-2003 reports odds ratios with a confidence level of .95 of 3.7 for digital cellular phones and 2.3 for ordinary cordless phones for malignant brain tumors when used for more than 2,000 hours. Worse, odds ratios are higher for younger users. (Odds ratio is a measurement between two groups – those who have used the devices versus those who haven’t.) To summarize their findings: Cumulative use of cellular and cordless handsets, particularly on one side of one’s head, is correlated with increased risk of malignant tumors including gioblastoma.

This study alone is alarming. And it is only one of many cited by the authors of Cell phones and Brain Tumors…

The bad news just keeps coming: A few years ago when I looked-up information concerning the nature of microwaves’ effect on the brain – the only effect was understood to be as a point source of heat. This newest report points out that there are unknown effects other than heating: “…why does medicine use these fields for healing bone fractures that did not previously heal with a cast, and the military use them to discourage the enemy?” (Cell phones and Brain Tumors…)

Cell phone manufacturers are providing more substantive warnings than even five years ago. For example, BlackBerry specifies that users carry the phone in an approved holster or keep the phone approximately 25mm or nearly an inch from the body. The company warns that the popular Curve should not even be carried on the body if not in an approved holster that must have a belt clip.

Carrying solutions, including RIM approved carrying solutions and carrying solutions not approved by RIM, that do not come equipped with an integrated belt clip SHOULD NOT be worn or carried on the body. For more information regarding the wearing or carrying of this BlackBerry device without using a RIM approved carrying solution equipped with an integrated belt clip, see the Holster information in the Additional safety guidelines section of this document.

For what it is worth, he iPhone is 10mm better!

For optimal mobile device performance and to be sure that human exposure to RF energy does not exceed the FCC and European Union guidelines, always follow these instructions and precautions: When on a call using the built-in audio receiver in iPhone, hold iPhone with the 30-pin connector pointed down toward your shoulder to increase separation from the antenna. For body-worn operation, keep iPhone at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) away from the body, and only use carrying cases, belt clips, or holders that do not have metal parts and that maintain at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) separation between iPhone and the body. When using the EDGE data transmission feature of iPhone (see the iPhone User’s Guide for more information), position iPhone’s antenna at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) from the body.

Note: Radiation density, to which the “specific absorption rate” (SAR) ultimately refers, decreases at a rate equal to the square of the distance. SAR ratings are calculated based on the position of the phone. (This is a link to an on-line explanation). The telephone antenna is assumed to be as close as possible. In one set of tests, the antenna, due to the phone configuration, is 5 mm from the surface of the head and generates maximum allowable SAR of 1.6 watts per kilogram. If the phone’s antenna is moved just 60cm or 2 feet away in speaker mode, the radiation is reduced by a factor 14,400! (60cm/5mm squared) – approximately 1/10,000 watt. It is clear that distance is the key to safe use of cell and cordless phones.

There’s more information. But more is not necessary. Just be careful. Use the precautionary principle- be sure to use wired headsets. Don’t carry your phone in a pocket and particularly near organs. If you need to use your phone in a vehicle – stop, open the windows. Similarly, use your cell phone outdoors as much as possible or by an open window. A local RF engineer told me when that dual pane glass reflects RF signals, which will cause the phone to power-up. (Interference AND distance = more power!) The cell phone is a wonderful product and a BlackBerry, iPhone and other smart phones are computers usually smaller than a cigarette package – and perhaps far more dangerous. Take care!

Communications in Mendocino Cellular Telephones and Base Stations, Health and Emergencies

In December, 2004, Edge Wireless switched on a GSM antenna located about 40 feet above sea level below a house across Mendocino Bay from the town. Service is now available in Mendocino. Customers of Edge, Cingular, and companies using similar technologies having roaming agreements with Edge Wireless can now use their phones in an area of less than a square mile. Marginal GSM service is also available at The Stanford Inn. Additionally, in December, 2006, a CDMA antenna began service at the Stanford Inn providing Verizon-type signals for the Inn and the town.

The benefits of cellular phones are well known – accidents and medical emergencies can be reported when traveling without having to find a land-line phone; children can call their parents and report where they are or ask for a ride; and families and businesses can reach traveling parents or principals. There are some people who feel that these benefits do not out way the hazards of the technology. It is these people who have worked to keep cellular service out of Mendocino. They have not been totally successful.

Mendocino Cellular Signals
Health Effects and Emotional Arguments
A Little Science
Serious Warnings
Base Stations in Mendocino: Manipulation of the Planning Process
Co-location of antennas - the confusion between a tower and an antenna
What We Are Doing
Cellular Technology and Our Vision of an Organic Lifestyle