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Are mini-cell phone towers a health risk in your neighborhood?

Are mini-cell phone towers a health risk in your neighborhood? (ABC7)

Have you noticed small cell phone towers on street poles in your neighborhood? More could be popping up across Maryland as supporters believe the mini towers will streamline 5-G wireless across the state.

Opponents of these towers tell the I-Team law makers are not taking a close enough look at the potential health risk.

"There are absolutely no long term safety studies that have been done at all that prove any of this 4G-5G technology is safe for long term exposure," Megan Montgomery with the Maryland Coalition to Oppose Residential Cell Towers said.

Earlier this year, Maryland Sen. Thomas Middleton introduced a small cell phone tower bill, SB 1188, a similar to one that was defeated in California last year, SB 649, after AARP, The Sierra Club and The International Associations of Fire Fighters opposed it.

The I-Team did some digging. In the past, Middleton accepted campaign donations from Verizon Good Government Club, Comcast and eBay.

(You can use this link to check on campaign donations to Maryland lawmakers.)

Middleton wrote in an email:

On December 5, 2017, I met with representative of Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, the Maryland Association of Counties, and the Maryland Municipal League. The issues we discussed were related to the construction of small cell towers, including: (1) application, permitting, and zoning fees; (2) structure types, size, and location of antennas; and (3) the process and timing for approval of applications by the counties and municipalities. The local governments were concerned with a one size fits all uniform application fees and process that the telecommunications companies were suggesting. We discussed that broadband is not a luxury, but it is a growing necessity. Local governments seek to ensure that all residents are afforded the socio–economic benefits of broadband and that rural and underserved areas are not further left behind in the push for 5 G. Many local governments in Maryland have passed or are working on passing local legislation, ordinances, or agreements to guide the deployment of small cells. There was discussion that the Federal Communications Commission’s requirements do not allow an effective prohibition of small cells and that they set timelines for the processing of applications. There was discussion about how planning and zoning is a central component of local authority, allowing the local governments to protect the safety and interest of their communities. The local governments mentioned that preemption of local authority does not serve these interests. During this meeting, there was no mention of any health related concerns. While I realized at that time that there were many issues that needed to be worked out and that there may be more issues since all interested parties had not attended the meeting, I introduced legislation so that discussions could continue. Sometimes all the issues have not been worked out when a bill is introduced. I am known for having workgroups so that I can fully discuss all issues raised by all sides and from all parties. I pride myself to come up with a final proposal that is beneficial to all. If there are health related concerns, I plan to fully explore those. For example, next week, a coalition of individuals opposing SB 1188 are coming to my office to meet on the proposal to share their concerns.

Middleton's bill wants to pre-empt local zoning ordinances and cap tower rental spaces charged by cities to wireless companies. After the I-Team first contacted Middleton he and his office met with a local group concerned about the health hazards of mini cell phone towers. After that meeting, Middleton took the bill off the table and his office said its reworking the bill.

CTIA, which represents the wireless industry, also emailed:

CTIA supports these bills that will accelerate deployment of 5G technology and thus revolutionize consumers' wireless experience, create jobs, and grow the economy in areas like transportation, health care, manufacturing, and entertainment. As the wireless industry pursues this path, we follow the guidance of the experts when it comes to health and safety. The Federal Communications Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society and numerous other international and U.S. organizations and health experts say that the scientific evidence shows no known health risk due to the RF energy emitted by cellphones. Notably, the FCC’s exposure levels for cell phones and antennas, including those using 5G frequencies, are even more conservative than standards adopted by leading international standards bodies such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

The Ramazzini Institute in Italy just released a study it says shows lab animals exposed to environmental levels of cell tower radiation can develop cancer.

The Institute's study used exposures below the FCC limits and its results mimic a $25 million study of much higher levels of cell phone radiofrequency radiation from the US National Toxicology Program.

(Link to US National Toxicology Program.)

"We have read in the past a lot of wrong attitude ignoring or discounting or discerning good results. It is no more the time to do that," Dr. Fiorella Belpoggi with the Ramazzini Institute said.

(Here are links to the Ramazzini Institute study, including a YouTube video.)

The FDA says it has yet to review the Institute's study but believes the current safety limits for cell phones are acceptable for protecting the public health and emailed more info:

Are you familiar with our statement on the National Toxicology Program study?
The FDA also directs you to NTP’s own press release on their study:
Regarding the Ramazzini study, we have not yet reviewed the findings in the study mentioned below, but will evaluate them in light of the larger body of work on radiation frequency exposure.

The FCC emailed:

The FCC is not a health and safety agency itself, we will continue to follow all recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other federal health and safety experts, including whether the FCC should modify its current policies and radio frequency exposure limits.

Montgomery County Council just held a public hearing on mini cell phone towers on April 3rd. Watch that public hearing here.

A panel of external scientific experts met in March at NIEHS and recommended that some National Toxicology Program conclusions be changed to indicate stronger levels of evidence that cell phone radiofrequency radiation caused tumors in rats. Here is the link.


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