Editor’s note: This is a letter sent to Joseph Zarro, pastor of Plymouth Church on Pleasant Street that the author wished to share with the community as a letter to the editor.
Dear Reverend Zarro,
According to recent articles in the Belmontonian and the Belmont Citizen Herald, your organization is considering the siting of high power, cellular/mobile antennas in the steeple of the Plymouth Church in our neighborhood. According to the Belmontonian, your church would use the monthly payments from Verizon and AT&T to “support our lofty goals of our mission.” Further, one article quotes your spokesperson as saying “we would not have considered this move if we had concerns of health issues,” noting that there are other, existing cell tower installations in Belmont and he goes as far to conclude that in the 15 years that cell phone towers have proliferated, “there have been no adverse health impact.”
I fear that this may be a dangerous oversimplification of the problem. The “Telecommunications Act of 1996” which fast tracked cell phone tower siting is 18 years old. The studies that wireless proponents quote most often regarding the benign nature of cell phone towers and their effects on health were concluded before 2006. The iPhone wasn’t released until June of 2007 and the smartphone revolution that followed changed the entire cellular and wireless industry. Before 2007, cellular phone traffic was primarily for sporadic voice conversations. What data standards that existed at the time, were very slow. Over the last seven years, it has become commonplace to share photos, view videos and movies, and continuously stream music. Even when we’re not using our phones or tablets, they continue to communicate with the cell towers, alerting us of weather updates, emails, text messages, or other updates from social media. According to networking industry giant Cisco Systems, “Mobile data traffic in the U.S. will be 687 times greater in 2017 than it was in 2007.” This “687 times” represents an order of magnitude more data traffic and RF activity than when most quoted studies were concluded.
Moreover, the goalposts of what we measure for RF output appear to be moving, making comparisons to 2007 deceptive. Since then, a given tower’s antenna now divides the radio frequency into many more “channels.” Each of these channels carrying the “safe” amount of power one is told. However, in the aggregate, a given tower is putting out much more total power.
Many proponents talk about how the antennas are situated so high on a tower, and they are angled such that very little radiation reaches the ground due to the signal’s rapid attenuation. In the specific case of the Plymouth Church’s steeple, it’s not a hundred-foot tower looking down on flat ground. No, you’d be locating the cell antennas in your modestly high steeple, which in turn is located on a steep hill. Your steeple doesn’t look so high from directly across the street on Somerset Street. In fact, just up Somerset, your neighbors actually look down at your steeple. Have you considered the potential effects of cell antenna radiation from your particular, unusual situation on the families living there?
My point is that the science is incomplete and that the circumstances beg for an abundance of caution. We’re clearly in a new era and today’s concerns go far beyond cancer. Many are now concerned of the detrimental cognitive and memory effects this radiation has on people, and in children in particular. In fact, the Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College in London just embarked on a $1.7 million study of the “effect of mobile phones on children’s cognitive development.” Also, Dr. David O. Carpenter, M.D. and Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany claims that “Human studies on the health impacts of Radio Frequency (RF)/Microwave (MW) radiation have found changes in brain function including memory loss, retarded learning, performance impairment in children, headaches and neurological degenerative conditions, melatonin suppression and sleep disorders, fatigue, hormonal imbalances” and much more.
It’s widely believed that due to the less-developed skulls in our children, they are far more susceptible to the harmful effects of RF waves than adults. Yet you would have the neighborhood children and the children of the Plymouth Nursery School, which is run out of your basement exposed to the continual bombardment of this RF energy?
Reverend Joe, this doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t pass the “common sense” test and I ask you to reconsider. Your website talks of your commitment to the community. By latest count, your local community, as defined by those of us who live within a few hundred yards of Plymouth Church, are overwhelmingly (greater than 90 percent) opposed to the cell tower idea. Please listen to us.
Ronald A Creamer Jr
Neighbor, Concerned Parent