INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS DIVISION OF OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH, SAFETY AND MEDICINE

Position on the Health Effects from Radio Frequency/Microwave (RF/MW) Radiation in Fire Department Facilities from Base Stations for Antennas and Towers for the Conduction of Cell Phone Transmissions:

The International Association of Fire Fighters’ position on locating cell towers commercial wireless infrastructure on fire department facilities, as adopted by its membership in August 2004 (1), is that the IAFF oppose the use of fire stations as base stations for towers and/or antennas for the conduction of cell phone transmissions until a study with the highest scientific merit and integrity on health effects of exposure to low-intensity RF/MW radiation is conducted and it is proven that such sitings are not hazardous to the health of our members.

Specifically, there is concern for the effects of radio frequency radiation on the central nervous system (CNS) and the immune system, as well as other metabolic effects observed in preliminary studies.

It is the belief of some international governments and regulatory bodies and of the wireless telecommunications industry that no consistent increases in health risk exist from exposure to RF/MW radiation unless the intensity of the radiation is sufficient to heat body tissue.   IAFF members are concerned about the effects of living directly under these antenna base stations for a considerable stationary period of time and on a daily basis.  There are established biological effects from exposure to low-level RF/MW radiation.  Such biological effects are recognized as markers of adverse health effects when they arise from exposure to toxic chemicals for example. The IAFF’s efforts will attempt to establish whether there is a correlation between such biological effects and a health risk to fire fighters and emergency medical personnel due to the siting of cell phone antennas and base stations at fire stations and facilities where they work.

Background

Critical questions concerning the health effects and safety of RF/MW radiation remain.  Accordingly, should we allow exposure of our fire fighters and emergency medical personnel to this radiation to continue for the next twenty years when there is ongoing controversy over many aspects of RF/MW health effects?  While no one disagrees that serious health hazards occur when living cells in the body are heated, as happens with high intensity RF/MW exposure (just like in a microwave oven), scientists are currently investigating the health hazards of low intensity RF/MW exposure. Low intensity RF/MW exposure is exposure which does not raise the temperature of the living cells in the body.

Additionally, a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences panel designated power frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF/EMF) as “possible human carcinogens.” (2)  In March 2002 The International Association on Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization also assigned this designation to ELF/EMF in Volume 80 of its IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. (3)

The telecommunications industry claims cellular antennas are safe because the RF/MW radiation they produce is too weak to cause heating, i.e., a “thermal effect.” They point to “safety standards” from groups such as ANSI/IEEE or ICNIRP to support their claims. But these groups have explicitly stated that their claims of “safe RF/MW radiation exposure is harmless” rest on the fact that it is too weak to produce a rise in body temperature, a “thermal effect.” (4)

There is a large body of internationally accepted scientific evidence which points to the existence of non-thermal effects of RF/MW radiation. The issue at the present time is not whether such evidence exists, but rather what weight to give it.

Internationally acknowledged experts in the field of RF/MW radiation research have shown that RF/MW transmissions of the type used in digital cellular antennas and phones can have critical effects on cell cultures, animals, and people in laboratories and have also found epidemiological evidence (studies of communities, not in the laboratory) of serious health effects at “non-thermal levels,” where the intensity of the RF/MW radiation was too low to cause heating. They have found:

  • Increased cell growth of brain cancer cells (5)
  • A doubling of the rate of lymphoma in mice (6)
  • Changes in tumor growth in rats (7)
  • An increased number of tumors in rats (8)
  • Increased single- and double-strand breaks in DNA, our genetic material (9)
  • 2 to 4 times as many cancers in Polish soldiers exposed to RF (10)
  • More childhood leukemia in children exposed to RF (11)
  • Changes in sleep patterns and REM type sleep (12)
  • Headaches caused by RF/MW radiation exposure (13)
  • Neurologic changes (14) including:
    • Changes in the blood-brain-barrier (15)
    • Changes in cellular morphology (including cell death) (16)
    • Changes in neural electrophysiology (EEG) (17)
    • Changes in neurotransmitters (which affect motivation and pain perception) (18)
    • Metabolic changes (of calcium ions, for instance) (19)
    • Cytogenetic effects (which can affect cancer, Alzheimer’s, neurodegenerative diseases) (20)
  • Decreased memory, attention, and slower reaction time in school children (21)
  • Retarded learning in rats indicating a deficit in spatial “working memory” (22)
  • Increased blood pressure in healthy men (23)
  • Damage to eye cells when combined with commonly used glaucoma medications (24)

 

Many national and international organizations have recognized the need to define the true risk of low intensity, non-thermal RF/MW radiation exposure, calling for intensive scientific investigation to answer the open questions.  These include:

  • The World Health Organization, noting reports of “cancer, reduced fertility, memory loss, and adverse changes in the behavior and development of children.” (25)
  • The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (26)
  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) (27)
  • The Swedish Work Environmental Fund (28)
  • The National Cancer Institute (NCI) (29)
  • The European Commission (EC) (30)
  • New Zealand’s Ministry of Health (31)
  • National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (32)
  • Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organization of Australia (CSIRO) (33)
  • The Royal Society of Canada expert group report prepared for Health Canada (34)
  • European Union’s REFLEX Project (Risk Evaluation of Potential Environmental Hazards from Low Frequency Electromagnetic Field Exposure Using Sensitive in vitro Methods) (35)
  • The Independent Group on Electromagnetic Fields of the Swedish Radiation Protection Board (SSI) (36)
  • The United Kingdom’s National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) (37)
  • The EMF-Team Finland’s Helsinki Appeal 2005 (38)

Non-thermal effects are recognized by experts on RF/MW radiation and health to be potential health hazards.  Safe levels of RF/MW exposure for these low intensity, non-thermal effects have not yet been established.

The FDA has explicitly rejected claims that cellular phones are “safe.” (39)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated repeatedly that the current (ANSI/IEEE) RF/MW safety standards protect only against thermal effects. (40)

Many scientists and physicians question the safety of exposure to RF/MW radiation. The CSIRO study, for example, notes that there are no clear cutoff levels at which low intensity RF/MW exposure has no effect, and that the results of ongoing studies will take years to analyze. (41)

Internationally, researchers and physicians have issued statements that biological effects from low-intensity RF/MW radiation exposure are scientifically established:

  • The 1998 Vienna-EMF Resolution (42)
  • The 2000 Salzburg Resolution on Mobile Telecommunication Base Stations (43)
  • The 2002 Catania Resolution (44)
  • The 2002 Freiburger Appeal (45)
  • The 2004 Report of the European Union’s REFLEX Project (Risk Evaluation of Potential Environmental Hazards from Low Frequency Electromagnetic Field Exposure Using Sensitive in vitro Methods) (46)
  • The 2004 Second Annual Report from Sweden’s Radiation Protection Board (SSI) Independent Expert Group on Electromagnetic Fields Recent Research on Mobile Telephony and Health Risks (47)
  • Mobile Phones and Health 2004: Report by the Board of NRPB (The UK’s National Radiological Protection Board) (48)

The county of Palm Beach, Florida, the City of Los Angeles, California, and the country of New Zealand have all prohibited cell phone base stations and antennas near schools due to safety concerns.  The British Columbia Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils [BCCPAC] passed a resolution in 2003 banning cellular antennae from schools and school grounds. This organization is comparable to the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) in the United States.  The resolution was directed to B.C. Ministry of Education, B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development, B.C. School Trustees Association, and B.C. Association of Municipalities.

Conclusion

For decades, the International Association of Fire Fighters has been directly involved in protecting and promoting the health and safety of our membership.  However, we simply don’t know at this time what the possible health consequences of long-term exposure to low-intensity RF/MW radiation of the type used by the cell phone base stations and antennas will be.  No one knows–the data just aren’t there.  The chairman of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection ICNIRP), one of the leading international organizations which formulated the current RF/MW radiation exposure guidelines, has stated that the guidelines include “no consideration regarding prudent avoidance” for health effects for which evidence is less than conclusive (49)

Again, fire department facilities, where fire fighters and emergency response personnel live and work are not the proper place for a technology which could endanger their health and safety

The only reasonable and responsible course is to conduct a study of the highest scientific merit and integrity on the RF/MW radiation health effects to our membership and, in the interim, oppose the use of fire stations as base stations for towers and/or antennas for the conduction of cell phone transmissions until it is proven that such sitings are not hazardous to the health of our members.

The above is an excerpt. For the full document and  references,see   http://www.iaff.org/hs/resi/celltowerfinal.htm#ref49

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