Arthur Firstenberg – In his own words

[SS: bold text = highlights by me; see also Arthur Firstenberg – Words attributed to him and The World According to Arthur Firstenberg]

(1997)  “Microwaving Our Planet: The Environmental Impact of the Wireless Revolution”

This is an urgent plea to environmentalists and to those within the telecommunications industry, to doctors and businesspeople and government officials, that microwave radiation is an imminent danger to all of us more or less equally, and that for our common survival we must immediately halt the expansion of wireless communications upon this earth. There is no greater threat to our common future.
Arthur Firstenberg
June 22, 1997
Norwich, NY

  • Suddenly fixed transmitters and satellites are being built to accommodate mobile human beings, rather than the other way around.
  • Electromagnetic pollution will no longer remain concentrated in population centers, nor will radio transmitters be confined any longer to non-residential zones. In the space of a year or two, unless the people put a stop to it, this form of pollution will be spread more or less evenly over every square inch of the world.
  • The danger, even if we didn’t have epidemiological studies, is evident. We cannot expect to increase the irradiation of the entire earth 1000-fold or more virtually overnight without health effects and without massive biological consequences. Indeed this technology is more invasive than virtually any other and has the potential of causing worldwide catastrophe.

Arthur Firstenberg is president of the Cellular Phone Task force, a citizens’ group formed in response to the uncontrolled growth of the cellular phone industry. He was electrically injured in 1981 after three years in medical school at the University of California, Irvine. A holistic health practitioner, he also an expert in the effects of technology upon the environment. He has been studying and writing about electromagnetic radiation for the past 15 years.

(Summer 1997)  “Microwaving Our Planet” (as printed in the Earth Island Journal)

  • In February of last year, only five senators and 16 representatives voted “no” on the Telecommunications Act of 1996. We have, consequently, hundreds of new satellites competing for space in our crowded skies, hundreds of thousands of new communication towers sprouting up in our midst and the uncontrolled proliferation of wireless broadcasts. This amounts to an electromagnetic war on life from which there soon will be no place to hide.
  • The industry is mounting antennas on apartment buildings, water towers, churches, schools, billboards, highway signs, lamp posts and traffic lights — while telling us that all this is safe. But the energy emitted by PCS antennas is extremely close in frequency (1.8-2.0 GHz) and power (up to 1,000 watts or more) to the energy that cooks food in microwave ovens. Essentially, hundreds of thousands of microwave ovens are being placed on rooftops and towers — and they’re being turned on with their doors open.
  • The electromagnetic bombardment from telecommunications systems is so great that it also has become necessary for companies to spend huge sums of money to develop better shielding for pacemakers, hearing aids, computers, guidance systems in airplanes and helicopters, and most other electronic equipment.
  • We are being asked to believe that there are no nonthermal effects and that if microwaves aren’t strong enough to cook us, they will do us no harm.
  • Much as the asbestos and tobacco industries have done, the telecommunications industry has suppressed damaging evidence about its technology since at least 1927, when colloid chemist Ernst Muth first discovered that red blood cells exposed to radio frequency waves (at levels far less powerful than permitted today by the FCC) are forced to line up in chains resembling strings of pearls.

(August 14, 1997)  Reply by the Cellular Phone Taskforce to the FCC in the matter of Petition of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America for Amendment of the Commission’s Rules to add Intelligent Transportation Services (ITS) as a New Mobile Service with Co-Primary Status in the 5.850 to 5.925 GHz Band

  • The Cellular Phone Taskforce is comprised partially of citizens who are already suffering serious illness, or have lost their homes, or have had to move away from their place of residence, because of microwave radiation from wireless communications technology installed in their vicinity during the past nine months. Some of our members have died because of continuing involuntary exposure to such radiation.
  • Indeed, the several hundred scientific studies reviewed in Microwaving the Planet show serious damage to all cells and organs of the body at exposure levels four and five orders of magnitude less than permitted by the Commission’s current guidelines.
  • There is ample scientific evidence available now that the widespread epidemic of insomnia, eye problems, and neurological and cardiac symptoms in the coverage areas of the new personal communications services (PCS) systems is due to the microwave radiation now blanketing such areas.
  • It is already difficult for those of us who are sickest or most sensitive to the radiation to find safe places to live.
  • As noted by this commenter, “the implementation of shortrange LMS systems has grown substantially so that today most major U.S. toll highway, tunnel and bridges systems …  have
    short-range 902-928 MHz LNS systems or are planning to implement such systems in the near future.
    ”  Mark IV’s comments further state that the public benefits from all this. As an
    organization representing a segment of the public, the Cellular Phone Taskforce respectfully disagrees. Our members have been injured by all of this, and many of us can no longer travel on toll roads at all because of technology installed by this company and others. The presence of microwave beacons at intervals along the highway is in fact dangerous. Its impact on the nervous system of drivers is possibly worse than the impact of alcohol, and will cause accidents. This radiation can trigger seizures and heart arrhythmias, and impair motor function, reaction time, memory and attention, as noted above (footnote 1), and should never be allowed to impact a highway where people are driving. Mark IV’s technology in particular is a worse health hazard than that of other manufacturers because its antennas are being installed invisibly underneath the pavement so that sensitive people who must avoid radiation do not even know it is there.
  • Among the members of the Taskforce are several truckers who are being increasingly disabled by microwave radiation along their routes. They have had their eyes swelled shut for periods of time and been unable to work. They cannot drive as many hours as before along certain routes without sleeping. The acceleration of this trend will greatly harm the trucking industry of the United States.
  • 3M states that advanced data transmission systems “will provide for more safe and efficient transportation.”  The Taskforce reiterates that, as these systems are a health hazard, and interfere with the nervous system severely, and cause seizures and heart arrhythmias in healthy people, they will most certainly not provide for either safety or efficiency.
  • The Cellular Phone Taskforce’s position is that the most important system that must not be interfered with is the human body, and that health considerations must take precedence over highways, hearing aids, and amateur uses of this spectrum alike.

(June 29, 1998) The Cellular Phone Taskforce filed a Petition for Reconsideration in the matter of Guidelines for Evaluating the Environmental Effects of Radiofrequency Radiation (signed by Arthur Firstenberg).

  • The Cellular Phone Taskforce represents people with electrical sensitivity, a large and growing class of disabled people in the United States.
  • Arthur Firstenberg submitted documentation of the Social Security Administration’ s acceptance of his own electrical sensitivity, in the Complaint of Discrimination on the Basis of Handicap, which he submitted to the FCC on behalf of the Cellular Phone Taskforce February 3, 1997.
  • Because modern telecommunications services, equipment, and customer premises equipment are being designed to emit more and more, and not less and less, radio frequency radiation, the disabled people represented by the Taskforce are increasingly being shut out of this nation’s communications network …
  • The fact that the present buildout of a digital communications network in this nation is also depriving Taskforce members of the right to live their lives out at all and gravely depriving them of their due Constitutional rights as citizens is the subject of another proceeding, which is based on ET Docket No. 93- 62 and is now before the U. S. Appeals Court for the Second Circuit in New York City.
  • … the changeover – of all wireless services and equipment from analog to digital, is converting them to a format that is inaccessible where it used to be accessible to many. This is only one example. The Taskforce respectfully asks that any modification in telecommunications equipment or services that increases or changes the electromagnetic radiation thereby produced be evaluated in consultation with the Electrical Sensitivity Network.
  • The Taskforce agrees with the Commission’s proposal that the term “usable” means that disabled people must be provided with the functional equivalent of services provided to individuals without disabilities. 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.
  • Also, current plans to convert even wireline signals to digital modulation, and to send high frequency waves over telephone wires will have the unintended result of rendering all telephones in the United States inaccessible to electrically-sensitive people, thereby cutting them off from society altogether and grossly violating their constitutional rights, and the Taskforce asks that under Section 255 these plans be prohibited, and that any modification of telephone communications that will subject phone users to increased or changed electromagnetic radiation be evaluated in consultation with the Electrical Sensitivity Network.
  • Under “output, display, and control functions”, the Taskforce asks that the following item be added: “Prevention of electromagnetically-induced seizures, cardiac disorders, neurological disfunction, skin rashes, and immune disfunction.” These are all conditions induced in electrically sensitive people by exposure to electromagnetic radiation.
  • The Taskforce requests 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.
  • The terms “commonly used” and “readily accessible” should be defined by considering a fifth factor, in addition to the four provided by the Commission in para. 94 of the NORM. The Taskforce requests that also the degree of hardship imposed on the disabled by the denial of accessibility must be a consideration. Extra expense must be borne if non- accessibility means the total and complete denial of accessibility to basic communications to a portion of the population which only recently had such accessibility! The Taskforce respectfully notes that the status quo ante was accessible to our constituents already; that there is no technical difficulty whatsoever in having basic communications accessible to the electrically sensitive; and that the only” expenses” we are really talking about are the profits that might be denied to various companies which would have accrued had they converted from accessible to inaccessible technologies.
  • Since disabled people are on average much poorer than the general population, and often on SSI or public assistance, it should be the rule never to require a filing fee for these types of complaints (para. 155, NPRM).
  • Respectfully submitted,  Arthur Firstenberg  President, Cellular Phone Taskforce Post Office Box 100404 Brooklyn, New York 11210 (718) 434- 4499  Original + 9 copies mailed to the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, 1919 M Street, N. W., Room 222, Washington, DC 20554, this 29th day of June, 1998 by Federal Express.

(March 1999)

  • A summary of the death statistics associated with the digital PCS (around 1.9GHz) systems installed in selected United States cities is shown in the table below. Individuals living with 100 metres of a wireless facility of any kind tend to report symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, memory loss, inability to concentrate, irritability, rise in blood pressure, peculiar pressure behind the eyeballs, joint pains moving around the body, hurt of feet sole, high-pitched noises in their ears, itchy systemic rash and even internal bleeding — all symptoms of radiowave sickness. Clinics report an immediate increase in respiratory illness: bronchitis, flu, pneumonia and asthma during the first weeks of PCS base station start-up and hospitals become inundated.
  • Arthur Firstenberg, president of the Cellular Phone Taskforce has published a book, Microwaving the planet which includes a current literature review of over 200 sources (available from the Secretariat). He also edits the publication, No place to hide, available for $30 U.S., and $40 elsewhere from: P O Box 100404, Brooklyn, New York 11210. (718) 434-4499.


Data sounces: Center for diseases Control, Atlanta

Research: Arthur Firstenberg

(March 2000)  The Problems of Internet Pollution

  • The conquest of time and space began with the telegraph wires over 155 years ago. It had two important consequences: the world began to be electrified and human beings became capable of influencing faraway places with no time delay. Both of these have adversely affected life on earth. Both have been magnified enormously by the worldwide computer network.
  • Despite the fact that the computer network is an extremely useful tool, I oppose the use of the Internet to spread the emergency message of electromagnetic radiation and its [threat] to the global environment.
  • It makes no sense to me to fight cellular telephone systems with computer systems. I cannot support a system of communication which requires all participants to be irradiated at their terminals (by their computer screens) and which is inundating the radio airwaves with massive amounts of transmitted data. I also cannot support the erasing of this earth’s physical boundaries and the destruction of the ecosystems which must follow.
  • Oscillating circuits in microwave radiation have now become easy to produce and inexpensive to buy. It is so easy to broadcast and manipulate radio waves of any desired frequency that there is no place left to escape them. The global computer network makes it possible to coordinate immensely profitable wireless operations everywhere in the world at the same time. Since communication is as basic and necessary to human existence as water, there has been demand for radio waves since their discovery in the 19th century. Communication is now done by satellites.
  • Satellites cover the earth. The company Iridium completed its global coverage with several satellite launches during the spring of 1998. Orthcomm. went commercial on November 30, 1998 with a fleet of 28 satellites orbiting 500 miles up.
  • Globalstar tested its now complete satellite coverage of the earth in late July 1999–with 48 satellites in orbit by the end of that year. Motorola announced that it would continue to back Iridium and to guarantee satellite service to its customers. Angel Technologies has begun testing its high altitude aircraft which it plans to use to provide wireless internet service from 60,000 feet up in early 2000!
  • All of these broadcasts from space are interfering so much with radio astronomy that astronomers are calling for the international community to set aside radio-free zones, and to regulate satellites to blind their signals. We at the Cellular Phone Taskforce want astronomers to know that there are human beings out here to protect too! We are 100 percent behind them in the need to control the radio-pollution of space and establish radio-free zones for the health of the nations.

(September 2001)  Radio Wave Packet

  • Since digital cellular phones (and towers) came to the United States in November 1996, the symptoms of radio wave sickness have become epidemic in all major cities and near most wireless facilities.
  • HISTORY OF THIS ILLNESS: The term “radio wave sickness” was first used by Russian doctors to describe an occupational illness developed by large numbers of workers exposed to microwave or radio frequency radiation. The symptoms were called “neurasthenic.” “Neurasthenia” was an older term for this group of symptoms, which was coined by an American physician, George Beard, in 1868, to describe a new type of illness that followed the building of the railroads and the telegraph system in this country. The illness was particularly common among telegraph, and later among telephone operators. The term “neurasthenia” fell out of fashion in the twentieth century in this country, when this cluster of symptoms, or a large number of them, began to be referred to as “anxiety” symptoms, presumably of purely psychological origin. Illness by radio waves has been rediscovered, and is now classed with illness caused by electricity in general, under the term “electrical sensitivity.” There have been four international scientific conferences held in recent years on electrical sensitivity—one in Austria, two in Denmark, and one, for medical doctors, in Dallas, Texas. Two books exist on the subject, by Grant (1995) and Bergqvist (1997).

(June 2002)  No Place to Hide (newsletter published by Cellular Phone Task Force, Vol 3, No 3)

  • No Place To Hide is a publication of the Cellular Phone Taskforce, an environmental organization dedicated to halting the expansion of wireless communications. We serve as a clearinghouse for information about injury to health and environment from wireless broadcasts. Arthur Firstenberg, Editor. Annual subscription rate: $25.00 USA, $35.00 Foreign. Make checks payable to the Cellular Phone Taskforce, P.O. Box ____, Mendocino, CA 95460. Phone: ___________.
  • [SS: following statement pertains to an announcement about the Teledesic satellite project, which was canceled in October 2002; similar private satellite ventures Iridium and GlobalStar also failed.] The reduced scale (and expense) and higher orbit make it more likely that the system will actually be built, and more of a question mark regarding the expected effects on the global environment and health.
  • In 1995, Schatzie Hubbell of Fort Worth, Texas wrote a report about a low frequency noise that was disturbing people all over North America, indeed all over the northern hemisphere. Dubbed the “Taos Hum,” it was certainly not confined to Taos, New Mexico, but it had been the subject of a government investigation, and a 1993 report issued by the University of New Mexico, in response to complaints by residents of that New Mexico city. It was estimated at that time that 12% of the residents of Taos heard this sound. Two year later, Schatzie compiled a list of hundreds of hearers throughout North America, with contact information for some. On that list was JLG (SS: name edited for this blog, but used in original newsletter) of Summerland, British Columbia. In September 1999, when I wrote a story about the Taos Hum for No Place to Hide, I mailed a copy of that issue to all the people on the lists of Schatzie Hubbell, the University of New Mexico, and a few other sources. My correspondence with JLG dates from that time. I am sad to report that on January 23, 2002, JLG was found frozen to death outside her home. She had taken sleeping pills and left a suicide note. This issue of No Place to Hide is dedicated to the memory of JLG, born April 29, 1932 in (SS: city edited), England. She leaves behind sons (SS: edited) and grandchildren (SS: edited). Reproduced here (SS: below) are some of the correspondence she sent to me and others during the last three years of her life. Her story speaks for itself, and for us all. Arthur Firstenberg
    • (September 20, 2000)  Dear Mr. Firstenberg, Arthur, if I may: Thank you for the publication No Place To Hide. I have been trying to respond since the spring but due to declining health I have been unable to. I presume you got my name from Mrs. Hubbell, so (you know the details) I have been, and am badly affected by the low level noise. For the past few years, I have become intensely ill with heart problems, excruciating headaches, vision problems, and continual dizziness. Any place in my body where I have had a previous injury or surgery gives me extreme pain. An 18-year-old cancer scar flared up and became red and painful. I get such a burning tingling vibration through my feet and body, even my teeth ache. I feel as though I am being “broiled” from the inside out, and going to die and wish I could. The problem with the cancer scar resulted in a scan (more radiation) (results negative – no cancer). Then in August past I had a minor stroke, temporarily lost vision in my left eye. Another scan – C.T.-after which I nearly went mad with head pains. When your publication came I realized I was living near to a cell tower. I began looking round Summerland, and counted three right in town, and a couple of huge ones on a mountain overlooking the town.  I have just written to our council enclosing some of your findings as they were going to put up yet another overlooking the town, but close in. How many do they need for a population of 12,000? I have tried informing my doctors of the dangers but I am met with either downright derision or patronizing amusement. I cannot read or write for very long, drive or do needlework. I am going broke moving around trying to find a place where I can heal. Since the stroke I am too dizzy to travel far. At present I am staying in a village close to Summerland where there is no cell phone service. I am not getting any better — the “noise” is horrendous, everyone has a satellite T.V. dish as there is no cable. I don’t know what to do. Is there some radiation from the source of the noise? Summerland is situated directly north of George, Washington, and east of Williams Lake and Port Hardy (Loran-C towers). Something atmospheric is causing my ills. I have always led an active life (never smoked, not overweight), swimming, walking, tennis, and volunteer work. In this area we have recently had bighorn sheep dying at a tremendous rate. Once again I sent the “cell phone tower flyer” but got no response. In the paper they called it “viral pneumonia”, no mention of how they acquired the pneumonia. I have written a well known Canadian environmentalist, Dr. David Suzuki, I did receive a reply, saying he could not take on any more “causes,” as he was involved in too many now, but encouraged me to keep trying. Other things have crossed my mind — we are having a lot of unprovoked animal attacks on humans by bears and domestic dogs. Are they suffering as we are? I hope this letter makes sense, my head is so “woolly”. I have such a hard time searching for words and concentrating, most days I am unable to function normally. I understand exactly the plight of the French lady, Martine Charpenet. I wish I knew someone in my vicinity who understood. Friends and family are sympathetic but at a loss to know how to help, as they can’t sense anything. I worry for my new baby granddaughter. Thank you, once again. I will be sending you some funds for a subscription when I return to Summerland. I’d be interested to know, do you hear “the noise” in Mendocino?  Sincerely, JLG
    • (November 2, 2000)  Dear Mr. Bowling (SS: presumably Milt Bowling, coordinator of Canada’s “Electromagnetic Radiation Task Force”): I was not aware we had a Task Force Against Electromagnetic Radiation in B.C. until receiving my latest copy of No Place To Hide. I spoke with Environment B.C. in June about this problem, but they did not give me your name. I became very ill from living by a wireless communication tower in Summerland. I had to sell my home, since then I have spent many dollars trying to find a place of refuge. I tried moving back to White Rock but my symptoms increased, the head and body pain and shaking were unbearable. I returned to Summerland August 1st, staying with a friend, August 4th I suffered a stroke, losing vision temporarily in my left eye. While in hospital I tried, once again, to explain to the doctors the cause but was treated as usual with derision. Because of the symptoms I have suffered over the past few years I have been subjected to many scans, x-rays and ultrasounds (more radiation). I had no idea what the cause was until I heard from Mr. Firstenberg and realized I had reached saturation point. Just now I am staying in Hedley, a small community an hour’s drive south of Summerland. It is better, there is no cell phone service, no cable TV, hence there are many satellite dishes which are not good for me — especially those monstrous ones. Cellular towers are very prolific on either side of Okanagan Lake and Skaka Lake from Okanagan Falls up to Vernon and Kalamalka. There are so many in Summerland for a community of 12,000 population. Recently another was proposed by a cable company for Giants Head Mountain. A few people complained because of the aesthetic appeal. I wrote a councillor, one of only two who opposed the tower, and told him of the dangers. Decision will be made on November 28. Already they are talking of hiding it in another location. I am also bothered by the low level pulsing noise which is very distinct and bothersome here in Hedley. I presume it is from the Loran-C tower in George, Washington State, which is directly south of here. What are we doing to our environment? I am a senior citizen and I just don’t know where to go — I’m too old for living in the bush! I’m very concerned for my grandchildren. I don’t think I am going to make it much longer if I don’t improve here or find somewhere, but I hope we wake up before long because of the children. I just heard today, on the radio, Bell Canada is going to have a project in Alberta, bigger and better internet service for every home in the Province! I have gone from an active, involved person to someone whose life is now severely limited. I can’t drive far because of dizziness and visual problems. I can’t read or do needlework or watch television. Can you put me in touch with anyone who is suffering and as debilitated as I? Thank you for reading my letter, all the very best to you in your challenges, keep up the good work. We need you. Sincerely, JLG

(July 1, 2002)  “Electrical Sensitivity” (co-authored with Susan Malloy)

About the authors:

Arthur Firstenberg is founder and director of the Cellular Phone Taskforce, a nonprofit organization that disseminates information about electromagnetic radiation and advocates for electrically sensitive people. He is editor of the Taskforce’s publication, No Place to Hide, and the author of Microwaving Our Planet: The Environmental Impact of the Wireless Revolution. [Also see Killing Fields – Arthur Firstenberg / The Ecologist v.34, n.5, 1jun04]

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University in 1971 with a B.A. in mathematics, he went to medical school from 1978 to 1982. Injury by x-ray overdose cut short his career. Firstenberg explains that after receiving about 50 diagnostic x-rays during extensive dental work, he became sensitive to high-powered equipment in the hospitals where he worked. “I could literally feel the radiation from the equipment; it made me weak and dizzy, but I kept working. After several months I collapsed. I was 31 and no one knew the cause of my illness. I was bedridden for about three months and at first I was not sure if I would survive.”

Firstenberg’s symptoms included a slow heartbeat, chest pain, extreme shortness of breath on exertion, and weight loss. By reading Eastern European literature on the subject, he eventually discovered that he had the symptoms of radio wave sickness. He later learned that any type of electromagnetic field may provoke similar illness in sensitive people, which commonly manifests with nausea, dizziness, headache, irritability, insomnia, and difficulty with memory and concentration. He also gradually became chemically hypersensitive.

His therapeutic approach is strict avoidance. At home, he has no computer, no television, no wireless equipment, no microwave, and uses only incandescent lighting. He moved cross-country to Mendocino, California which has minimal electrical pollution, and he is symptom-free as long as he avoids exposure.

As is often the case in advocacy organizations, Firstenberg’s personal experience led him to study the condition that plagued him. He is now an international spokesperson and advisor on the subject of electrical sensitivity (ES). He can be contacted by phone at (707) 937-3990 or mail: P.O. Box 1337, Mendocino, CA 95460.

Susan Molloy has an MA in disability policy and provides referrals and troubleshooting for people with symptoms provoked by environmental exposures. She is cofounder of the Environmental Health Network (EHN) of California and edited EHN’s newsletter for 11 years. She served as chair of the Independent Living Council in Arizona and works at New Horizons Independent Living Center in Prescott Valley. She works from home due to her inability to withstand electromagnetic exposure, and uses a custom-shielded computer provided by Arizona Rehab. Services Admin.

Molloy has a history of allergies since childhood and was hospitalized with chemical sensitivities at age 31. ES symptoms emerged shortly after this. “When I go under power lines or fluorescent lights it feels like a blow to the top of my head,” she explains. Asked if she could run errands, Molloy explains, “I can go into stores and other buildings. It’s getting back out that’s the problem. I tend to lose coordination and would often be stumbling if I didn’t use a wheelchair. I get disoriented and my speech is also affected.” Professional-grade ear protectors help soften the impact of auditory hypersensitivity to motor noises. She feels that living in the desert, where she keeps appliances to a minimum, has given her more stamina.

“I’d like to think that Arthur and I are just special cases, that people can stand back and distance themselves from our difficulties. I’d like to think that others won’t suffer similar problems. But we know better. The numbers are growing, and no one is listening.” She can be reached at (928) 536-4625 or

  • The authors of this article are adults who are made extremely sick, sometimes incapacitated, from exposure to “normal” amounts of electromagnetic energy. We’ve seen some children respond as we do, as their well-meaning parents and teachers equip them with newer, faster, more powerful “safety” and communication devices, oblivious to the potential consequences for their children’s health and development. We’re not oblivious to these consequences because we ourselves respond directly and immediately, with debilitating pain, confusion, and neurological symptoms, to cell phones, cordless phones, computers, televisions, and other normal elements of today’s home, work and school environments.
  • The 750,000-watt Doppler weather radar at Fort Dix, New Jersey, overlooks the Township of Brick. Why is that of interest to anyone but meteorologists? It’s not, except that eight out of every 1000 children born in Brick since the radar station was built in 1994 are autistic.
  • Awakening to the potential of electricity to affect children’s health and development can be initially disheartening, because electromagnetic pollution is so inescapable, and its sources so often are “conveniences” for which we’ve eagerly expended considerable resources. It can also 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.
  • However, our society should provide computer-free classrooms for those vulnerable children for whom this is a necessary and effective accommodation.
  • In schools where wireless computers—or regular computers with wireless keyboards/mice—are installed, even a computer-free classroom will not be an effective intervention for a child whose Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is triggered or exacerbated by electromagnetic radiation. This is because the microwave frequencies used by these technologies, identical to the frequencies used in a microwave oven, pass through walls and do not respect the boundaries of classrooms.
  • Medical facilities, also, are sites of electronics’ proliferation. The growing field of medical telemetry uses wireless technology to monitor the vital signs of hospital patients. But also, in hospitals, nursing homes, day care and elder care facilities, mental health institutions and group homes, remote monitoring of patients is in increasing use, not only for medical purposes, but simply to cut back on personnel costs.
  • New automobiles have much larger electromagnetic fields than they had ten or twenty years ago. This is due to multiple computer-controlled operating systems, GPS satellite-tracking devices, digital dashboard displays, and, commonly, a cell phone constantly charging in the car.
  • At home, every parent can easily do the following experiment: tonight, before your family goes to bed, unplug all of these items you may have in your home: the TV, the computer, the base unit of the cordless phone, the entertainment center, and the baby monitor. Notice the quality of everyone’s sleep, how you feel in the morning on awakening, and note whether you and your child seem calmer. Appliances should be completely unplugged, not just turned off at a surge protector (which itself may be a source of electromagnetic fields).
  • If your child has a motorized wheelchair, don’t plug it in overnight next to his or her bed. Often these children are especially vulnerable as they may already have epilepsy, cerebral palsy, or other mobility-impairing conditions.
  • Electric floor or ceiling heaters, fluorescent lights, dimmer switches, and electronic security systems can all produce problematic electromagnetic fields. Finding all the sources and eliminating or avoiding them requires patience and may be time-consuming but is not necessarily difficult or expensive.
  • Your basic measuring tools are a $40 magnetic field meter, or “gaussmeter,” and a cheap (poorer quality is better for this purpose) battery-operated AM radio. When the gaussmeter reads 0.2 milligauss or less, and the radio, when tuned between stations, remains silent (does not buzz or give loud static), you have a relatively calm environment—especially important in the sleeping area. These two measuring devices will not detect the very high frequency radiation produced by cordless phones, wireless computers, baby monitors, remote controls for appliances, radio-controlled toys, and other wireless equipment. We recommend eliminating wireless technology from the environment altogether.
  • Many homes will have ambient magnetic fields that cannot be reduced to 0.2 milligauss because of factors outside your control, most commonly nearby power lines and transformers. Neighbors’ activities may also be a factor. But reducing exposures to the extent possible within the home may still have a significant effect, especially on neurological or behavioral problems in developing children. Exposures outside our own control, such as from the street, a radar station or cell tower, at school, or in hospitals and medical facilities, can be dealt with effectively only on a societal level.
  • Ironically, some of our societal problems, such as school violence and kidnappings of children—even before 9/11 added to our worries—are being used as reasons to attach more cell phones to our kids for their safety and our peace of mind. But these very devices, and the millions of towers and antennas that make their use possible, expose all of us to a level of radiation that we know (from studies and painful firsthand experience) can contribute to the anxiety, depression, irritability, impulsivity, confusion, and general unrest that feed the very concerns which led to the need for all those cell phones in the first place. This can begin to change as more of us turn them off and experience the difference.

(Fall 2002)  Letter to Earth Island Journal: Unhappy Trails, Part II

How did a conspiracy theory out of Nexus Magazine sneak into Earth Island Journal, which usually has very high reporting standards? William Thomas’ article on so-called “chemtrails” (Summer 2002) doesn’t contain a single verifiable fact, and is wrong in important areas. In particular, the air where jet airplanes fly isn’t always dry and warm, and their contrails have been making cloudy days out of sunny ones for decades, depending on temperature, humidity and wind conditions up there. I first watched it happen in the late 1960s, when I was in college. Air traffic over central New York State was increasing alarmingly at that time. You can also see criss-cross cloud patterns in photographs in meteorology books from the 1930s, even before jet air traffic.  It’s nice that people are finally looking up and noticing their sky, but let’s not add imaginary problems to all the real ones, please.

– Arthur Firstenberg
Mendocino, CA

(June 2004)  “Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Killing Fields”

  • 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.
  • For eight years I have provided advocacy and support in North America and worldwide for people in similar circumstances. Some have epilepsy, or heart disease, or diabetes, or cancer. Some have allergies or asthma. But most, like me, are in good health. The assault we are all suffering is a radical increase in electromagnetic pollution, or electrosmog, that is engulfing the earth.
  • In 1982 I was in my final year of medical school, a promising career ahead of me. For several months I had been having headaches and difficulty concentrating and remembering things. Then, while on a surgery rotation, I suffered crippling pains in my hips, making it difficult to assist in operations. My heart rate slowed to less than 50. One day I collapsed and was unable to get up. My chest hurt, and I could not get enough breath. I was sure I was having a heart attack. During the next two weeks I lost 15 pounds. And I was a slim man to begin with. It wasn’t a heart attack, but it was still six months before I could walk up a flight of stairs without becoming short of breath. It was three years before I was strong enough to ski again. It was seven years before I met someone who validated my own experience that being near certain electrical appliances, such as television sets and computers, made me ill, and that staying away from them kept me healthy. However, having discovered how to remain healthy, I gradually found that I was being effectively disabled by my society.
  • Having stumbled upon an obviously well-kept secret, I researched the world literature on bioelectromagnetics, (or the biological effects of electromagnetism), and made myself an expert.
  • 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.
  • In 1996, the telecommunications industry began a marketing campaign … For Christmas that year, all over the country, digital cell phones were going to be on a lot of shopping lists. And to make them more practical, tens of thousands of antennae were going to be erected on towers, buildings, church steeples and lampposts all over the country before Christmas, and hundreds of thousands more during the next few years.
  • In response to this emergency, a few friends and I created the Cellular Phone Task Force, and contacted all the public officials we could think of, and the press, to warn them of the danger. But on November 14 1996, Omnipoint, New York City’s first digital cellular provider, did open for business, broadcasting from thousands of antennae newly erected on the rooftops of apartment buildings. According to the health authorities, an early flu hit New York City – but not Boston, and not Philadelphia – on about 15 November. The flu was severe and ran a prolonged course, often dragging on for months instead of the usual two weeks.
  • At Christmas time, the Cellular Phone Task Force placed a small classified ad in a free weekly newspaper. It read: ‘If you have been ill since 11/15/96 with any of the following: eye pain, insomnia, dry lips, swollen throat, pressure or pain in the chest, headaches, dizziness, nausea, shakiness, other aches and pains, or flu that won’t go away, you may be a victim of a new microwave system blanketing the city. We need to hear from you.’ And we did hear from them. Hundreds called, men, women, whites, blacks, Asians, Latinos, doctors, lawyers, teachers, stockbrokers, airline stewards, computer operators. Most had woken up suddenly in mid-November, thinking they were having a stroke or a heart attack or a nervous breakdown, and were relieved to know they were not alone and not crazy.
  • The Cellular Phone Task Force, along with over 50 other grass roots organisations and individuals around the US, became involved in a legal challenge of the FCC’s absurd standards and its pre-emption of local control. This was taken all the way to the US Supreme Court. Dozens of cities, towns and public officials, including several US senators and representatives, submitted briefs urging the High Court to hear our case. But in January 2001, the Supreme Court, without comment, declined.
  • You will hear statements by supposed experts – always the same few, in the pay of the telecommunications industry – to the effect that cell phones/cell towers/microwave radiation have been proven safe in countless studies. It is an easy lie, one that the news media have been eager to propagate. Such studies don’t exist. Quite the contrary: it has been shown that, just as for X-rays, there is no safe level of exposure to microwave radiation, and it is so easy to demonstrate harmful effects that it takes some skill to design experiments that don’t show them. It is harder to show effects today than 10 years ago because now the entire planet is exposed, making it impossible to do experiments with ‘unexposed’ controls.
  • The California Department of Health Services has concluded that, on the basis of a telephone survey, 120,000 Californians – and by implication one million Americans – have left their jobs because of electromagnetic pollution in the workplace. The people who have left their homes for such a reason are not being counted by anyone.
  • Too many intelligent, professional, useful people are wandering this country’s barren deserts, homeless, ostracized, robbed of their civil rights, with no place to land. Too many have committed suicide because they have lost all hope, have suffered too long, have had to pick up roots and flee for their lives once too often.
  • So many radars, antennae, and communication devices are being deployed for government, military, emergency, commercial, and personal uses in both the developed and developing worlds, and in space, that there is nowhere left to hide. Even radio astronomers are seriously talking about the far side of the moon as the only place left that is quiet enough, in the radio spectrum, to still be able to see the stars.

(January 2006)  “The Largest Biological Experiment Ever”

  • The most basic fact about cell phones and cell towers is that they emit microwave radiation; so do Wi-Fi (wireless Internet) antennas, wireless computers, cordless (portable) phones and their base units, and all other wireless devices. If it’s a communication device and it’s not attached to the wall by a wire, it’s emitting radiation. Most Wi-Fi systems and some cordless phones operate at the exact same frequency as a microwave oven, while other devices use a different frequency. Wi-Fi is always on and always radiating. The base units of most cordless phones are always radiating, even when no one is using the phone. A cell phone that is on but not in use is also radiating. And, needless to say, cell towers are always radiating.
  • Why is this a problem, you might ask? Scientists usually divide the electromagnetic spectrum into “ionizing” and “non-ionizing.” Ionizing radiation, which includes x-rays and atomic radiation, causes cancer. Non-ionizing radiation, which includes microwave radiation, is supposed to be safe. This distinction always reminded me of the propaganda in George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “Four legs good, two legs bad.” “Non-ionizing good, ionizing bad” is as little to be trusted.
  • As far as cell phones themselves are concerned, if you put one up to your head you are damaging your brain in a number of different ways. First, think of a microwave oven. A cell phone, like a microwave oven and unlike a hot shower, heats you from the inside out, not from the outside in. And there are no sensory nerve endings in the brain to warn you of a rise in temperature because we did not evolve with microwave radiation, and this never happens in nature. Worse, the structure of the head and brain is so complex and non-uniform that “hot spots” are produced, where heating can be tens or hundreds of times what it is nearby. Hot spots can occur both close to the surface of the skull and deep within the brain, and also on a molecular level.
  • The second effect that I want to focus on, which has been proven in the laboratory, should by itself have been enough to shut down this industry and should be enough to scare away anyone from ever using a cell phone again. I call it the “smoking gun” of cell phone experiments. Like most biological effects of microwave radiation, this has nothing to do with heating.
  • The brain is protected by tight junctions between adjacent cells of capillary walls, the so-called blood-brain barrier, which, like a border patrol, lets nutrients pass through from the blood to the brain, but keeps toxic substances out. Since 1988, researchers in the laboratory of a Swedish neurosurgeon, Leif Salford, have been running variations on this simple experiment: they expose young laboratory rats to either a cell phone or other source of microwave radiation, and later they sacrifice the animals and look for albumin in their brain tissue. Albumin is a protein that is a normal component of blood but that does not normally cross the blood-brain barrier. The presence of albumin in brain tissue is always a sign that blood vessels have been damaged and that the brain has lost some of its protection.
  • The implications for us? Two minutes on a cell phone disrupts the blood-brain barrier, two hours on a cell phone causes permanent brain damage, and secondhand radiation may be almost as bad. The blood-brain barrier is the same in a rat and a human being.
  • Organs that have been shown to be especially susceptible to radio waves include the lungs, nervous system, heart, eyes, testes and thyroid gland. Diseases that have increased remarkably in the last couple of decades, and that there is good reason to connect with the massive increase in radiation in our environment, include asthma, sleep disorders, anxiety disorders, attention deficit disorder, autism, multiple sclerosis, ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, cataracts, hypothyroidism, diabetes, malignant melanoma, testicular cancer, and heart attacks and strokes in young people. Radiation from microwave towers has also been associated with forest die-off, reproductive failure and population decline in many species of birds, and ill health and birth deformities in farm animals. The literature showing biological effects of microwave radiation is truly enormous, running to tens of thousands of documents, and I am amazed that industry spokespersons are getting away with saying that wireless technology has been proved safe or — just as ridiculous — that there is no evidence of harm.
  • Today, with the mass proliferation of radio towers and personal transmitters, the disease has spread like a plague into the general population. Estimates of its prevalence range up to one-third of the population, but it is rarely recognized for what it is until it has so disabled a person that he or she can no longer participate in society. You may recognize some of its common symptoms: insomnia, dizziness, nausea, headaches, fatigue, memory loss, inability to concentrate, depression, chest discomfort, ringing in the ears. Patients may also develop medical problems such as chronic respiratory infections, heart arrhythmias, sudden fluctuations in blood pressure, uncontrolled blood sugar, dehydration, and even seizures and internal bleeding.
  • What makes this disease (electrical sensitivity) so difficult to accept, and even more difficult to cope with, is that no treatment is likely to succeed unless one can also avoid exposure to its cause — and its cause is now everywhere.
  • In 2002 Örjan Hallberg and Olle Johansson coauthored a paper titled “Cancer Trends During the 20th Century,” which examined one aspect of that question.7 They found, in the United States, Sweden and dozens of other countries, that mortality rates for skin melanoma and for bladder, prostate, colon, breast and lung cancers closely paralleled the degree of public exposure to radio waves during the past hundred years. When radio broadcasting increased in a given location, so did those forms of cancer; when it decreased, so did those forms of cancer. And, a sensational finding: country by country — and county by county in Sweden — they found, statistically, that exposure to radio waves appears to be as big a factor in causing lung cancer as cigarette smoking!
  • Since the late 1990s a whole new class of environmental refugees has been created right here in the United States. We have more and more people, sick, dying, seeking relief from our suffering, leaving our homes and our livelihoods, living in cars, trailers and tents in remote places. Unlike victims of hurricanes and earthquakes, we are not the subject of any relief efforts. 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.
  • No shield or headset will protect you from your cell or portable phone. There is no safe distance from a cell tower. If your cell phone or your wireless computer works where you live, you are being irradiated 24 hours a day.
  • To effectively shield a house is difficult and rarely successful. There are only a few doctors in the United States attempting to treat radio wave sickness, and their success rate is poor — because there are few places left on Earth where one can go to escape this radiation and recover.
  • Yes, radiation comes down from satellites, too; they are part of the problem, not the solution. There is simply no way to make wireless technology safe.
  • Our society has become both socially and economically dependent, in just one short decade, upon a technology that is doing tremendous damage to the fabric of our world. The more entrenched we let ourselves become in it, the more difficult it will become to change our course. The time to extricate ourselves, both individually and collectively — difficult though it is already is — is now.

(July 2007)  My View: Look Wifi in the Eye (originally printed in the Santa Fe New Mexican in January 2007)

  • As was the case with pesticides 45 years ago, citizens are often ahead of the government in recognizing environmental hazards. In the United States the EMR Network, the Cellular Phone Task Force and the Council on Wireless Technology Impacts are leading the way on this emerging issue.
  • And on December 11, 2006, the [London Times, in its Health section, published a long investigative report titled “Wi-Fi: Should we be worried?”
  • Why aren’t such discussions taking place in The New York Times, or The New Mexican? It’s not because scientists aren’t reporting a problem. Many eminent scientists have joined a worldwide chorus sounding a growing alarm. And it’s not because Americans aren’t trying to make themselves heard on the issue. In my files are thousands of reports from individuals made dizzy, nauseous and homeless by wireless technology. They report all the classic symptoms of microwave sickness: Memory loss, inability to concentrate, headaches, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, depression, muscle and joint pains, heart palpitations, unstable blood pressure, eye pains, worsening allergies, ringing in the ears, nosebleeds, and skin rashes. These reports are no different from those shared by my colleagues in Canada, England, Austria, Germany, Japan and Australia.
  • We have abundant evidence that the blanket of radiation in which wireless technology envelops us is responsible for the spectacular increase in many diseases in the last decade.

(April 2009) Letter to the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program

To Whom It May Concern:

I am the president of the Cellular Phone Task Force, a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 to work with scientists, doctors and citizens worldwide to confront a new and frightening danger to public health. That danger was universal microwave radiation from digital cell phones and cell towers.

Today the danger from universal wireless broadband looms even larger. Money to provide broadband to presently unserved populations must be spent on fiber optics and communication cables, and NOT on wireless technologies.

Where a single source of radiation once sufficed to serve thousands of cell phone users who used their phones intermittently, today wireless broadband requires a dense concentration of antennas, wireless access points and wireless computers that broadcast 24/7. The greater the population density, the greater the concentration of antennas, access points and computers.

The public and, unfortunately, the regulators, for the most part, do not understand the physics. They don’t understand the critical importance of distance: a WiFi antenna exposes you to much more radiation than a cell tower. A WiFi antenna transmitting only 1 watt exposes you to 100 times more radiation than a cell tower transmitting 1000 watts, if the WiFi antenna is 10 yards away and the cell tower is two miles away. A WiFi antenna is almost always much more dangerous than a cell tower, because cell towers are further away and WiFi antennas and access points are right on top of you.

People don’t understand the importance of bandwidth. For the same amount of power, the more frequencies your body is hit with, the more harmful. Broadband radiation is more harmful than narrowband radiation. Data transmission is more harmful than voice transmission.

People don’t understand that exposure to this radiation is involuntary. If you’re allergic to cigarette smoke, you can shut your doors. The smoke doesn’t come in. But microwave radiation does. If you lay a cloud of WiFi/WiMax over the whole country, you trap within it 300,000,000 people regardless of whether they are children, pregnant, old, sick, or sensitive. If this type of radiation already causes certain people pain and they have learned how to keep their distance, you condemn them to torture for the rest of their life.

People are dying. My phone does not stop ringing with the cries of individuals whose neighbors have installed WiFi, or whose cities have installed citywide WiFi. I get to listen to them tell me how suddenly they can’t sleep, their ears ring, their joints hurt, their heart pounds, and their blood pressure is through the roof. They can’t think and their memory is gone. They suffer from nose­bleeds. Their children are acting out. Where can they go, they ask me. I get to listen to the same story I have heard so many thousands of times before. And I no longer have an answer, because wireless Internet is coming to my neighborhood as well, and yours, unless people wake up.

(September 2009)  Controlled burns to thin forests will destroy them

The U.S. Forest Service wanted to burn again. There were too many trees in those woods, they said. It was a fire hazard, endangering the city of Santa Fe.

So on the morning of March 11, I drove to the Hyde Park area and hiked until I spotted an older ponderosa pine. I wanted to see if those foresters were right. This tree was 3.7 feet in diameter at breast height and had been there for a few centuries. I looked up, and pacing off the distance, I found that its branches extended about 25 feet outward from its trunk. By a few simple calculations, I determined that this tree’s canopy shaded approximately 2,000 square feet of forest, and that about 22 trees of this size per acre would form a continuous canopy, shading the entire forest floor.

Then I consulted the public documents for the Hyde Park Fuels Reduction Project, in which it is claimed that, historically, this forest averaged 35 to 36 trees per acre, of which only 10 were small trees, and yet it is stated that this same historical forest shaded less than 20 percent of the forest floor. I realized this was probably not true. A simple walk in the woods was enough to show that to me.

There are estimated to be only 2,000 Mexican spotted owls left in the world. A few pairs nest in the canyons around Los Alamos and in Bandelier National Monument. None are left near Santa Fe, although this was once part of their habitat. Spotted owls require closed canopy forests to breed, forests that policy makers wrongly say never existed here.

When I returned recently to a favorite campground north of Jemez Springs, I found that the Forest Service had thinned and burned the forest nearby. My first thought was how ugly it was. Then I worried about all the carbon in the trees that weren’t there. This is not just a local tragedy. The Bush Administration’s Healthy Forests report of Aug. 22, 2002, estimated that 190 million acres of federal forests and rangeland should be treated for “fuels reduction” to prevent catastrophic fires. That would mean removing more than 3 billion tons of stored carbon, or almost half the yearly world carbon emissions causing global warming. So while the Obama administration advocates a cap-and-trade policy to save our atmosphere, it continues a policy, administered by the Forest Service, to burn up billions of tons of trees.

Are there really too many trees in our forests? When the 35-trees-per-acre old-growth forests were cut down a century ago, hundreds of thin young trees grew up in their place. Another easy calculation shows that one old tree 4 feet in diameter contained the same amount of carbon and moisture as 16 young trees 1 foot in diameter.

Those hundreds of trees need to be there. They provide oxygen for us to breathe, habitat for birds and animals, and shade, recreation and beauty for us all. Their roots hold the soil together and keep moisture in it, ensuring the decay of woody debris that in turn supports the growth of the soil fungi that are essential to the absorption of water and nutrients by tree roots. Removing large numbers of trees and setting fires removes water, increases air movement and compromises the health of the forest, potentially increasing, not decreasing, fire danger.

On Sept. 9, the Santa Fe City Council is set to approve the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed Plan, which recommends burning 1,000 acres of forest per year in the watershed, every year from now, forever into the future.

That is a really bad idea.
Arthur Firstenberg is a researcher, writer and environmental consultant who lives in Santa Fe.