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cecile s. yumul
cecile s yumul IN MARCH of 2003 (in the "Alam Mo Ba" news portion of our radio program, "Bukas Bayan," aired over DWRW 95.1 FM every Saturday, 8:30 to 9:00 am), I featured a school in the United States which managed to successfully block the construction of a cell site tower near its campus.

Apparently, the thought of subjecting American boys and girls to the yet unknown hazards of continuous and prolonged exposure to EMR and EMF did not sit well with both school officials and parents alike.

Talks of constructing similar cell site towers (especially in heavily-populated areas) in Pampanga and elsewhere in the country also raised the same fears back then. In fact, pockets of protests and NGO-led public initiatives were already slowly taking shape about the same time. At the very center of this controversy was EMR/EMF.

Not so familiar with EMR/EMF (electromagnetic radiation/electromagnetic field), I took the subject to task and came across the name Dr. Neil Cherry, an expert in the area, who has been lecturing all over the world about his investigations and studies on cellular communication technology and the health factor. Reading Dr. Cherry made me realize just how grave a concern this was and why a great number of people in many different parts of the world are just beginning to wake up to this unhealthy reality.

It did not take long after that radio episode when I was just as soon contacted by a group of civic-minded individuals who heard my broadcast and who came to seek my support and assistance. (Ms. Vicki Gragas, Fe Manapat, and Bart Pasion, to name a few). The group asked me to help them pore over volumes upon volumes of materials in preparation for a forthcoming dialogue on the construction of a cell site tower in Dau, Mabalacat, my hometown. I, of course, obliged. In the best way I could, the paper I prepared (see full text below) served as a guide during the hearings for the Environmental Compliance Certificate.

The following year, in 2004, SB Resolution 493 was issued by the Mabalacat municipal council. The resolution suspended the further construction of cell site towers and similar structures all over Mabalacat indefinitely.

Word of this small hometown victory obviously got around pretty fast so that also in the same year, I found myself playing host to Councilor Susan Arzadon of Pangasinan, who wanted to know just how our kabalens managed to stop the further construction of cell site towers in the province. This was over at my other radio program, Kasama Ka Sa 10K (aired over GVAM 792 kHz Wednesdays, 2:00 to 3:30 pm ), where I also did a series on the controversial subject. I presented the good councilor a copy of this very same paper I prepared, along with other related materials on mobile phones and their impact on health.

Now fast forward to 2007. Just a few of days ago, four barangay kagawads of Sapang Bayabas in Mabalacat (Mr. Tony Dizon, Neth Bengco, the president of the homeowners association, and Ms. Villanueva) accompanied by Jun Reyes (a volunteer reporter of GV Broadcasting System) came knocking on my door asking for my help. A cell site tower, I was told, is now under construction in the midst of their barangay.

Armed with pertinent documents from the Municipal Hall and a restraining order issued by the Municipal Administrator (Diosdao Lingad), the group showed me two SB Resolutions: The first document was the abovementioned SB Resolution 493 of 2004 ("indefinitely suspending the granting of APPROPRIATE LICENSES pertaining to construction of cell site towers and similar structures"); the second document was SB Resolution 773, lifting SB resolution 493. The presiding officer in this recent reversal was then councilor Cherry Manalo.

When elected officials begin to compromise the safety and welfare of the very same constituents they have so solemnly sworn to uphold and protect, it is only fair that we, the people, come to the fore to remind these very same officials that there is more at stake than superficial progress for the town they claim to value.

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Cell Sites: Monuments to a Cancerous Generation?

"The primary element of Intelligence is being able to see the invisible by knowing the signs and the system." —Dr. Neil Cherry


1. Introduction

IN THE early centuries when civilization was just beginning, villagers and travelers looked for a torch of fire and later for isolated gas lampposts flickering in the night to guide them to safety. The message was clear: where there was such a tower or man-made structure, there was life brimming ahead.There was safe shelter beckoning the people.

However, the towering mass, this art of technology, that now stands as a skeletal monument to man's achievements in the 21st century brings us not light always but at times a trigger to foment darkness, a button to turn off the Motors of the World–the Children: the Future.


2. Background

Mobile phones and cell site base stations emit RF radiation. Because of this, extensive research by worldwide scientists and epidemiological studies have been made, to wit:

2.1 The widespread use of mobile phones is a recent phenomenon. Their use has escalated over the past decade and, to many, they are now an essential part of business, commerce, and society.

2.2 The fact that so many people own mobile phones attests to their perceived importance to the general public. The advent of third generation systems will extend the use of most forms of communications technologies, including fax, e-mail, and internet access. The use of mobile phones and related technologies will continue to increase in the foreseeable future.

2.3 The extensive use of mobile phones has been accompanied by public debate about possible adverse effects on human health. The concerns relate to the emissions of radio frequency (RF) radiation from the phones(the handsets) and from the base stations that receive and transmit the signals.

2.4There are two direct ways by which health could be affected as a result of exposure to RF radiation. These are by thermal (heating) effects caused mainly by holding mobile phones close to the body, and as a result of possible non-thermal (physiological) effects from both phones and base stations.

2.5 It is often possible to predict the hazards from a new technology on theoretical grounds, especially where it has evolved from other similar technologies already in use. A determination of the level of exposure can help us understand the risks involved.

2.6 Epidemiological studies of people are also important. These involve comparing rates of disease in different groups of people according to their exposure to known or suspect hazards.

2.7 Epidemiological studies provide direct information about risks in people, but by definition elevations of risk can only be demonstrated once disease has started to occur. Ideally, hazards should be prevented or eliminated before any ill-effects in people take place. Furthermore, the accuracy with which risks can be estimated from the epidemiological studies is limited by the practical and ethical constraints of working with human subjects.


3. Sources of Exposure

Not all antennas emit the same level of RFR. Because of this, people should be made aware of the sources and levels of their exposure to RFR.

3.1 Mobile phones and base stations emit RF radiation. In both cases, levels of exposure generally rest from the source. For mobile phones, exposures will be principally to the side of the head for half the body closest to the phone during hands-free use.

3.2 For base station emissions, exposure of the general population will be to the whole body but not many times less than those from handsets, but ample, especially within ionizing radiation, to cause proven physiological effects in humans. Base stations communicate a defined area or "cell." These can be of three types: macrocells, microcells, and picocells that depend on the power output of the antenna.

3.3 Macrocells provide the main structure for the base station network. The base stations for macrocells have power output of tens of watts and communicate up to about 35 kilometers (22 miles) of distance. There are at present close to 20,000 macrocells covering the country. We believe that this number will continue to increase. There are concerns about whether the emissions from all base stations are uniformly low, whether the emissions could cause unknown danger, and whether, with the increased use of mobile telecommunications, their output will have to rise.

3.4 Microcells are used to infill and improve the main network, especially where the volume of call is high. They are sited in places such as airports, railway stations and shopping malls. Their number is rapidly increasing in line with the growth in demand for mobile phones. The microcell base stations emit less power than those for macrocells and their range is a few hundred meters ( 15 to 17 kilometers). We understand that exposures above these guidelines do not occur, provided the case surrounding the antenna is kept in place. However, as with some other items of electrical equipment there is the possibility of overexposure if the case is removed.

3.5 Picocell base stations have a lower output than those of microcells (few watts) and are generally sited inside buildings. They communicate within the range of 3 to 7 kilometers. It is unlikely that the number of picocells within the buildings will substantially increase.


4. Definition of Terms

The following definitions below are basic in understanding the other parts of this document.

4.1 DNA - deoxyribonucleic acid, genetic material

4.2 EMR - electromagnetic radiation

4.3 EMF - electromagnetic field

4.4 Epidemiology - is a fundamental science and the strongest evidence for the assessment of human health effects of disease agents. When dealing with the health effects or electromagnetic fields and radiation some specific and important epidemiological principles must be used. Exposure assessments are vital. Electromagnetic fields and radiation are invisible, odorless, silent and tasteless and are ubiquitous.

4.5 Genomics - the study of the relationships between gene structure and biological function in organisms

4.6 Homeostasis - a movement within a system, person or group towards equilibrium

4.7 Melatonin - a hormone derived from serotonin and secreted by the pineal glands that produces changes in the skin color of vertebrates and is important in regulating biorhythms

4.8 Normal Magnetic Field - Normal magnetic field level refers to the average obtained, after calculation or several measurements, for the magnetic field in the surroundings concerned and in conditions which can be taken to reflect the field level over a long period. The magnetic field in the environment concerned refers to the magnetic field level in areas where human beings can be expected to be repeatedly present for a considerable length of time, e.g. housing, schools, day nurseries, and workplaces.

4.9 Oncogene - a gene that produces tumors

4.10 Toxic - involving something poisonous relating to or containing a poison or toxin; deadly, causing serious harm or death.

4.11 Tumor - cancer, growth, lump, swelling


5. Views and Reviews

5.1 Dr. Neil Cherry, a world-renowned Environmental Health Professor from London University with extensive background in Biophysics, environmental Epidemiology, among others, sums up the interconnections of cell phone use and of cell sites on Health: "When we look at the health effects the cell sites and the exposure to IT, we see a linked network, whether about the cells in the body, the brain, the heart, the community, the cell sites , the use of phones and the requirement of the phones to have a cell site."

5.2 The newspaper Daily Telegraph in England (acknowledged that around cell sites there is reduced melatonin. As Dr. Cherry is well aware of, this can cause sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, depression, suicide, miscarriage, cancer, and cardiac problems.

5.3 Three Dutch Ministries recently conducted a study that found that the radiation from the next generation cell phone towers can cause headaches and nausea. The study is the first of its kind and compared the impact of radiation from base stations used for the current mobile telephone network with that of cell towers for new third generation (3G) networks. The study used a lower dose of radiation than cell phones. Handheld phones emit stronger radiation when they are used, while cell towers transmit more constant levels of radio signals, exposing everyone within range.

5.4 "In the test groups exposed to third generation base station signals there was a significant impact... they felt tingling sensations, got headaches and felt nauseous," a spokewoman for the Dutch Ministry said. ( EMF-Omega-News 25-10-03)

5.5 Alasdair Philips, a leading researcher into the effects of microwave radiation wrote, "I now agree with Gerd Oberfeld, Chief Medical Health Officer of Salzburg, and colleagues from GSM pulsing base stations should be below 0.02 volts/metre. This means that cell-phone technology as we know it now would have to be abandoned. It could only be used for emergency purposes with relatively few high-mounted antennas. It would work fine for that. But the masses of messages people expect to use their phones will require masses of base stations close to where they live and work radiating them regularly (and constantly in some places) to several volts per metre."

5.6 In many apartments in London where there is over 6V/m continuously emitted from nearby base stations, people in these apartments are becoming ill with headaches and chronic fatigue-type stress-related illnesses. They may well eventually increase cancer rates (stress is generally believed to make people more vulnerable to developing cancer).

5.7 Recently in the Philippines, Elizabeth Mendoza, health physicist of the Department of Health-Bureau of Health Devices and Technology (DOH BHDT) told the Baguio City Council that the calculated distance that the public must maintain from the cellular antenna must be 4.6 meters while maintenance personnel must always maintain a distance of 2.1 meters away from the cellular antenna. With regard to microwave antenna, the tolerable distance limit to the public is 11.9 meters, while the distance limit for maintenance personnel should be 5.3 meters. Mendoza added that the antenna (cellular or microwave) must be positioned in such a way that the antennas do not face or are directed toward any occupied area. (SunStar Baguio , February 5,2004)


6. Body of Scientific Evidence

We can welcome new technology with open-minds. But we should not be blind to what science itself tells about it.

6.1 There is large and growing body of published scientific studies showing that cell phone radiation mimics the biological and epidemiological studies for EMR over the past four decades. This includes DNA strand breakage, chromosome aberrations, increased oncogene activity in cells, reduced melatonin, altered brain activity, altered blood pressure and increased brain cancer.

6.2 DNA damage accelerates cell death in the brain, advancing neurodegenerative diseases and brain cancer. Brain tumor is already an identified risk factor. Cell phones are carried on people's belts and in breasts pockets. Hence, liver cancer, breast cancer, and testicular cancer became probable risk factors.

6.3 Because the biological mechanisms for cellphone radiation mimics that of EMR, and the dose response relationships have a threshold of zero, and this includes genetic damage, there is extremely strong evidence to conclude that cell sites are risks factors for:

–Cancer, especially brain tumor and leukemia
–Cardiac arrhythmia, heart attack and heart disease
–Neurogical effects, including sleep disturbance, learning difficulties, and depression
–Reproductive effects, especially miscarriage and congenital malformation
–Viral and infectious diseases because of reduced immune system competency associated with reduced melatonin and altered calcium ion homeostasis


7. Recommendation

There is valid cause for apprehension for us to put the Filipino people on the safe side. Business can thrive only in a healthy environment. Business need not be indifferent and callous to the real dangers technology poses. It took two decades for business to realize (and only after much damage has been done) and acknowledge the harmful effects of CFCs on health and the ozone layer.

We cannot afford the luxury of time. We cannot expose schools, hospitals, and other places where families gather in large numbers for extended periods of time, households, infants, and communities to harmful effects of new technology just because telecommunication companies do not want to be more responsible; just because they do not want to make public the dangers; just because they are more interested in short-term financial gains than the long-term health conditions of their consumers and the public in general; and just because he who controls the gold has the final say.

There are ways we can have technology and, at the same time, brisk business as well as a healthy people. Towards this end we recommend the following:

7.1 Public health surveys of people in the vicinity of cell site base stations should be being carried out now, and continue progressively over the next two decades. This is because prompt effects such as miscarriage, cardiac disruption, sleep disturbance and chronic fatigue could well be early indicators of the adverse health effects. Symptoms of reduced immune system competence, cardiac problems, especially the arrhythmic type, and cancers, especially brain tumor and leukemia are probable.

7.2 However, since the cellphone radiation has already been shown to reduce melatonin, damage DNA and chromosomes, surveys should look for a very wide range health effects and not be limited to a narrow set. In carrying out health surveys, the researchers must be mindful of the actual and realistic radiation patterns from cell sites and not to make the mistake of assuming a simple, radial pattern.

7.3 From the published guide, Electricaland Magnetic Effects (in relation to the Maastricht Precautionary Principle): The national authorities join in recommending the following precautionary expense and with reasonable consequences in all other respects, an effort should be made to reduce fields radically deviating from what could be deemed normal in the environment concerned. Where new electrical installations and buildings are concerned, efforts should be made already the planning stage to design and position them in such a way that exposure is limited. The overriding purpose of the precautionary principle is eventually to reduce exposure to magnetic fields in our surroundings, so as to reduce the risk of injury to human beings.

7.4 We recommend that a national database be set up by Government giving details of all base stations and their emissions. This should include the characteristics of the base stations and should be an essential part of the license application for the site. For each this "should" list: the name of the operating company; the grid reference; the height of the antenna above ground level; the date that transmission started; the frequency range and signal characteristics of the transmission; the transmitter power and the maximum power output. Moreover, this information should be readily accessible by the public, and held in such a form that it would be easy to identify, for example, all base stations within a defined geographical area, and all belonging to a specified operator.

7.5 We recommend that particular attention should be paid initially to the auditing of base stations near to schools, hospitals, amusement parks, markets, residential areas and other sensitive sites where people gather for extended periods of time.

7.6 We recommend that warning signs should be incorporated into microcell and picocell transmitters to indicate they should not be opened when in use.

7.7 We recommend that operators should actively pursue a policy of mast sharing and roaming where practical, and that they should be considered by planning authorities as an alternative option when new masts are proposed.


8. Conclusion

The fate of our children lies in the decision makers of this present government, local leaders, and most of all the barangay leaders.

The choice is ours. What kind of a future generation do we envision? The facts have been laid before us.

The greatest legacy we can leave the children we raise now is a healthy environment. Safe not only in the food they eat, the air they breathe, but secure most of all from the invisible dangers which will manifest not in our time but 15 to 20 years from now. It is the period when the children we carry in our bosom and hold close to our hearts will be in their prime.

The future does not belong to us. It is theirs to live through.

Tomorrow is their present. Let us allow them to have the chance to live a healthy life by the act of conscience with which we seal their fate; by every stroke of your signature; by every decision you make in the name of the people who placed you in positions of trust.

The Maastricht Precautionary Principle was defined to mean that one should not wait for absolute scientific proof that something is dangerous before taking action to head off the potential catastrophe.

[About the author. Cecile Santos Yumul is a veteran award winning Broadcast Journalist, a visionary teacher (Most Outstanding Teacher of the Philipines in 1992), a nationalist (Most Outstanding Kapampangan for Education in 1993), an environmentalist, and a dedicated daughter. She has over 35 years experience in the field of arts as an actor, director, and author. She is a published writer (Woman's Magazine) of essays, poems, short stories, and social commentaries. She currently resides in Lakandula, Mabalacat, Pampanga with her Mother, 18 dogs, doves, and bonsais.]

-Posted: 2:48 AM 8/16/07 | More of this author on eK!
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