Appendix re: Arthur Firstenberg

(The following was appended to my email to the Santa Fe mayor and city councilors regarding a new telecommunications ordinance governing wireless technology in Santa Fe.)


For too long, Mr. Arthur Firstenberg has effectively capitalized on fears, suspicions, and anger about the government, profit-motivated corporations, and unbounded health-safety-environmental conspiracies (comparable to asbestos and tobacco) to indoctrinate a small but vocal band of believers with bombastic and unsubstantiated propaganda such as:

  • “There is no safe distance from a cell tower.” (Firstenberg  2006)
  • “… just as for X-rays, there is no safe level of exposure to microwave radiation.” (Firstenberg 2004)
  • “There is simply no way to make wireless technology safe.” (Firstenberg  2006)
  • “… the blanket of radiation in which wireless technology envelops us is responsible for the spectacular increase in many diseases in the last decade.” (Firstenberg 2007)
  • “… the symptoms of radio wave sickness have become epidemic in all major cities and near most wireless facilities.” (Firstenberg 2001)
  • “… the disease has spread like a plague into the general population. Estimates of its prevalence range up to one-third of the population.” (Firstenberg 2006)
  • “Much as the asbestos and tobacco industries have done, the telecommunications industry has suppressed damaging evidence about its technology since at least 1927.” (Firstenberg 1997)

In 1996, Mr. Firstenberg created the Cellular Phone Taskforce in order to “immediately halt the expansion of wireless communications upon this earth. There is no greater threat to our common future.” (Firstenberg 1997)

Mr. Firstenberg has authored publications and articles with titles such as:

Mr. Firstenberg claims over 120 health effects which are caused by, result from, exacerbated by, or otherwise associated with electromagnetic, microwave, and virtually all other types and frequencies of wireless radiation, including:

  • acrocyanosis (blue fingers and toes)
  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • autism
  • cataracts
  • depression
  • diabetes
  • emotional instability
  • epilepsy
  • fibromyalgia
  • heart arrhythmias
  • hurt of feet sole
  • impaired visual reaction time
  • malignant melanoma
  • multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • sexual disorders
  • strokes in young people
  • altered sex ratio of children (fewer boys)
  • impaired motor function, reaction time, memory and attention of schoolchildren
  • fewer schoolchildren promoted
  • “The children of women who use cell phones during pregnancy show drastically increased behavioral problems by the time they reach school age.”

Mr. Firstenberg, on behalf of “electrically-sensitive” sufferers (which he has lobbied for recognizing as a “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act), has advocated:

  • “We respectfully request that in the case of electrically sensitive people, the functional equivalent must mean, for example, the continued design and manufacture of telephones and other communication devices that do not subject the user to electromagnetic radiation; electrically sensitive people, for example, specifically require equipment that does not contain any computer chips or have any digital display.” (Firstenberg 1998)
  • “… that no technology used to provide services, or by manufacturers to make equipment, for the purpose of accommodating one type of disability, should be permitted if it thereby discriminates against another type of disability. For example, the use of infrared or microwave technology in assistive listening systems or devices for the hearing impaired in public places thereby discriminates against electrically sensitive people who may happen to be using those same public places or public facilities.” (Firstenberg 1998)
  • “… establish radio-free zones for the health of the nations.” (Firstenberg 2000)
  • “Awakening to the potential of electricity to affect children’s health and development can be … empowering, because it gives parents and practitioners an additional tool and offers a new range of potential factors that may be influencing seemingly intractable health or behavior problems.” (Firstenberg 2002)
  • “… our society should provide computer-free classrooms for those vulnerable children for whom this is a necessary and effective accommodation.” (Firstenberg 2002)
  • “No one is donating money to help us, to buy us a protected refuge; no one is volunteering to forego their cell phones, their wireless computers and their cordless phones so that we can once more be their neighbors and live among them.” (Firstenberg 2006)

Mr. Firstenberg began his anti-cellular crusade in Brooklyn, NY, in 1996. After losing lawsuits against the FCC and the United States of America in 2000 (including a petition for appeal to the Supreme Court which was denied for lack of merit), he moved to Mendocino, CA. There he became a leading voice for an organization called Wireless Free Mendocino, stating, “we’re trying to save Mendocino as a refuge.” (Firstenberg 2002)

Perfecting the modus operandi he would later use in Santa Fe, in 2001 his group led a campaign to ban cellular phone service and wireless Internet service in Mendocino. Local radio station manager and schoolteacher Scott Southard “said that wireless controversy has torn his small community apart. ‘There have been radio towers on the high school for 30 years and there were never complaints about them until Firstenberg started his campaign of misinformation and fear,’ Southard said bitterly. ‘You can’t argue with zealots.’ ” (Wired, January 2002)

In 2004, while living in Mendocino, Mr. Firstenberg wrote: (Firstenberg 2004)

“Today I am homeless. My money does not provide me shelter. My good health does not ensure my survival. My friends are unable to help me. I am being killed, but the law offers me no protection. … Because there are virtually no workplaces without computers any more, I have not held a job since 1990. I had resigned myself to living on Social Security Disability, and learned, together with other members of a support group I had found, how best to live with my disability. This mostly meant learning to avoid exposure to electromagnetic fields.”

Also in 2004, Mr. Firstenberg (presumably still “homeless” and in “good health”) moved to Santa Fe. By 2006 he began arousing Santa Feans about his proclaimed dangers of wireless. In 2007, he led a spirited but unsuccessful campaign to deny the installation of Wi-Fi service in the Santa Fe Public Libraries.

In 2008, Mr. Firstenberg — who in 2004 claimed that he was homeless, living on Social Security Disability, and hadn’t held a job since 1990 — purchased the residence he had previously rented for $430,000. Despite knowing that he needed to “avoid exposure to electromagnetic fields,” he chose to live less than a mile due west of the Plaza, within a triangle bounded by, and within 2,000 feet of, three major thoroughfares — West Alameda, Agua Fria, and St. Francis Dr. (US Hwy 285/84).

In January of this year, Mr. Firstenberg filed a half-million civil lawsuit against a neighbor because she refused to turn off her cell phone and other electrical devices in her home. His lawsuit claims that the neighbor’s actions “have rendered Plaintiff’s home uninhabitable and have caused him months of inconvenience and acute pain and suffering.”

For Mr. Firstenberg and his anti-radiation rebels, there is simply no middle ground. There is no compromise. There is no room for debate. No quarter is given for any scientific or medical results that conflict with, refute, or question their own self-referencing echo chamber of anecdotal and self-reported “proof.” They are deaf and mute to reason. They are zealots, and —in their own minds — they’re not just right, but righteously right.

This is the man — Arthur Firstenberg — who leads the opposition to wireless technology in Santa Fe, and whom Councilor Chavez apparently consults for advice and guidance in determining public policy for the city of Santa Fe.

Steve Stockdale
Santa Fe, NM