Shifts happen. Now that President Barack Obama has signed the historic health reform bill, Congress may want to come together and take notice of a once "invisible" health care risk that is now emerging on the horizon. Its key target: school children.
Right now, for example, if you were to visit the ElectromagneticHealth website of expert Camilla Rees, MBA, a guest speaker for the film Full Signal, at this week's D.C. Environmental Film Festival, you could click on Neighborhood AntennaSearch.
By entering your home or business address, you will discover how many cellphone towers and antenna are located within a four mile radius. In Washington D.C., for example, you may be surrounded by as many as 75 towers and 892 antenna. Here in Boulder, Colorado, the number is much lower, still, there are more than 12 towers and 59 antenna within a four mile radius of my house.
We are living, it seems, in a sea of invisible smog of electronic radiation called EMF. And the health risk to schoolchildren is getting worse. Why? Since 1997 and the passage of the Telecomunications Act, more and more cellular antennas have been placed in neighborhoods around the world to support an ever growing number of cell phone users.
Many of these antenna are cleverly hidden in church steeples (the church gets a monthly fee for this), in chimneys, on flagpoles, or water towers. However, when they are placed on school property, the school district is unable -- by law -- to refuse placement of the antennas. Unable to protect the health of schoolchildren from the impacts of EMF, they are, instead, paid a monthly fee. They receive from $2-5,000 per month per antenna.
It's a local issue everywhere, says Rees, and it intertwines health concerns with financial gain. That's why change needs to happen at the federal level. When the federal government passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Section 704 included a federal pre-emption, which took away local and state rights to limit the location of towers in any way. Not for environmental reasons, or human health.
So what are the health risks to children and adults? According to Ms. Rees, federal guidelines are 1,000 times too lenient because they are adhering to a false premise, that unless the radiation is HOT enough, it is not harmful. However, she points to thousands of studies that show biological effects at non-heating levels. The research shows DNA damage, along with impacts to the immune system, nervous system and endocrine system, causing disruption at every level of life.
This health issue is taken so seriously in Europe, that Switzerland's leading expert Dr. Rau M.D., says it is criminal to expose children to this type of radiation. Europe is way ahead of the U.S. in regulating the use of cell phones. The European parliament passed a resolution in April, 2009 recommending that member countries establish wireless free zones. Specifically, schools, health care institutions, daycare and retirement communities must be completely free of wifi. In four years, guidelines call for radiation to be reduced to 1/10th of today's levels.
Pro-active France has already banned cell phones in primary schools. They have also called upon the manufacturers to make a phone that can only text, not include speech except through wired headset or speaker.
Although the U.S. is heading in the opposite direction, there is cause for hope. Next month, on April 26, the Brag Antenna Ranking of Schools Report will be released. It is a Herculean project organized by Dr. Magda Havas Ph.D, and supported by ElectroMagneticHealth, and citizen advocate groups.
The Brag Report ranks all public and private schools in the U.S. and gives each a color code. Dr. Havas' students have been engaged in this project for several years. The Brag Report will make it easy for parents to do a search to find out if their school ranks black, red, amber, or green (best). The goal of the report is to get parents activated and engaged with this issue.
This is where the leadership of parents of school-age children comes in. And it offers another opportunity for a leadership role for our country's First Lady Michelle Obama. While she can't stop the growth of this widespread industry, she can help shine the spotlight of parental concern about the local risk to our nation's schoolchildren.