The 1962 publication of biologist Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring,” has been widely recognized as the birth of the modern environmental movement.
Through her exquisite writing and scientific documentation of the devastating effects of pesticides on all living things, she was able to capture the attention of the public, and more importantly, decision-makers.
In early 1970, as a result of heightened public concerns about the deteriorating natural environment and increased pollution, President Richard Nixon presented Congress with a groundbreaking 37-point message and proposal for a program to step up the protection of the environment.
A newly created council to oversee this program developed a plan to consolidate many federal environmental responsibilities into a new agency.
The agency would have the capacity to do research on important pollutants, and on the impact of these pollutants on the total environment. In coordination with other federal agencies, it would monitor the condition of the environment – biological as well as physical.
The agency would also be able, in coordination with state agencies, to set and enforce standards for air and water quality and for individual pollutants. On December 2, 1970 the Environmental Protection Agency was founded.
Today, one of the most significant and widespread emerging individual pollutants is radiofrequency microwave radiation or RFR. In 1982, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Radiation Programs, which had been studying the non-thermal or biological effects of wireless radiation almost since the birth of the agency, announced that it was developing a federal guidance to limit the public’s exposure.
It began the process of doing an extensive analysis of the current science at the time and produced a report entitled “Biological Effects of Radiofrequency Radiation.”
Meanwhile, the telecommunications industry had become a powerful lobby, and in 1996, a heavily-industry-influenced Telecommunications Act was passed in Congress and signed by President Clinton, taking away many of the rights of citizens to protect themselves from RFR.
Simultaneously, the EPA’s work on determining the extent of harm from RFR was defunded by the federal government.
Without federal money and the considerable research capacity of a huge institution, individual researchers and academic institutions were left to find support for and funding to conduct studies on the health effects from RFR in humans, plants and wildlife.
Despite this disadvantage, thousands of studies indicating harm have been conducted worldwide and there have been appeals to the World Health Organization, the European Union and our Federal Communications Commission by hundreds of medical doctors and scientists calling for a moratorium on the build-out of wireless infrastructure.
Although the health effects from RFR on humans are a source of considerable worry among a growing part of the U.S. population, especially as powerful wireless (“small cell”) antennas are now being placed in neighborhoods, the research on harm to wildlife is getting less attention.
As Dr. Cindy Russell documents in her report “Wireless Silent Spring,” scientists have known for a long time that migratory birds use the earth’s magnetic field to navigate. Magnetite, a form of iron ore, is found in a wide variety of organisms and it has been determined that this substance is used to sense the earth’s low energy magnetic field as a directional reference, a sort of internal compass.
Further, a diverse array of animal life also relies upon this geomagnetic field as their GPS for feeding and breeding. Biologists have discovered that RFR disturbs these internal magneto-receptors used for orientation. Wireless radiation can also have profound impacts on biologic processes in insects, fish, amphibians, mammals, trees, plants and seeds.
A New York Times article dated December 6, 1998, “When Homing Pigeons Don’t Go Home Again,” reported pigeon races ending in a disaster soon after cell towers were installed in one region of Pennsylvania. More than 90% of the birds were disoriented and lost their navigational skills and exhibited abnormal frantic behavior near the cell towers.
Researchers are particularly interested in the effects of RFR on bee populations, which are already suffering alarming losses due to pesticides, climate change, loss of habitat and air pollution. Bees are a critical pollinator species for agriculture.
Of the 100 crops that provide 90% of the world’s food supply, 71 are pollinated by bees, according to a report by the U.N. Environmental Program. The report also notes that to produce 1 kilogram of honey, a bee must visit four million flowers and fly a distance equivalent to going around the Earth four times.
Bees, like birds, contain magnetite magneto-receptors in their abdomens and RFR from cell antennas has been shown to disrupt their navigational skills as well, reducing the number of worker bees returning to their hives with the nectar needed to sustain their colony.
Indian researcher, Dr. Sainuddin Pattazhy, found that even when a cell phone was attached to a beehive, the foraging bees did not return, resulting in the collapse of the colony in less than two weeks.
What would Rachel Carson think of this new wireless world in which we live? Are wireless technologies, like pesticides, going to leave us a profitable but toxic legacy? We need to re-think new technologies and innovation and ask ourselves “just because we can, should we?”