The Department of Interior charged that the FCC standards for cell phone radiation are outmoded and no longer applicable as they do not adequately protect wildlife. In particular they highlighted the fact that the ICNIRP guidelines (adopted in SA too) continue to be based on thermal heating, a criterion now nearly 30 years out of date and inapplicable today.
The Director of the Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance of the United States Department of the Interior sent a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in the Department of Commerce which addresses the Interior Department’s concern that cell tower radiation has had negative impacts on the health of migratory birds and other wildlife.
The Interior Department accused the Federal government of employing outdated radiation standards set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a federal agency with no expertise in health. The standards are no longer applicable because they control only for overheating and do not protect organisms from the adverse effects of exposure to the low-intensity radiation produced by cell phones and cell towers:
“the electromagnetic radiation standards used by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continue to be based on thermal heating, a criterion now nearly 30 years out of date and inapplicable today.”
The Department criticized the Federal government’s proposed procedures for placement and operation of communication towers, and called for “independent, third-party peer-reviewed studies” in the U.S. to examine the effects of cell tower radiation on “migratory birds and other trust species.”
Following are excerpts from the letter, dated Feb 7, 2014:
“The Department believes that some of the proposed procedures are not consistent with Executive Order 13186 Responsibilities of Federal Agencies to Protect Migratory Birds, which specifically requires federal agencies to develop and use principles, standards, and practices that will lessen the amount of unintentional take reasonably attributed to agency actions. The Department, through the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), finds that the proposals lack provisions necessary to conserve migratory bird resources, including eagles. The proposals also do not reflect current information regarding the effects of communication towers to birds. Our comments are intended to further clarify specific issues and address provisions in the proposals.
The Department recommends revisions to the proposed procedures to better reflect the impacts to resources under our jurisdiction from communication towers. The placement and operation of communication towers, including un-guyed, unlit, monopole or lattice-designed structures, impact protected migratory birds in two significant ways. The first is by injury, crippling loss, and death from collisions with towers and their supporting guy-wire infrastructure, where present. The second significant issue associated with communication towers involves impacts from non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation emitted by them…”
“The second significant issue associated with communication towers involves impacts from nonionizing electromagnetic radiation emitted by these structures. Radiation studies at cellular communication towers were begun circa 2000 in Europe and continue today on wild nesting birds. Study results have documented nest and site abandonment, plumage deterioration, locomotion problems, reduced survivorship, and death (e.g., Balmori 2005, Balmori and Hallberg 2007, and Everaert and Bauwens 2007). Nesting migratory birds and their offspring have apparently been affected by the radiation from cellular phone towers in the 900 and 1800 MHz frequency ranges- 915 MHz is the standard cellular phone frequency used in the United States.
However, the electromagnetic radiation standards used by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continue to be based on thermal heating, a criterion now nearly 30 years out of date and inapplicable today. This is primarily due to the lower levels of radiation output from microwave-powered communication devices such as cellular telephones and other sources of point-to-point communications; levels typically lower than from microwave ovens.
The problem, however, appears to focus on very low levels of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation. For example, in laboratory studies, T. Litovitz (personal communication) and DiCarlo et al. (2002) raised concerns about impacts of low-level, non-thermal electromagnetic radiation from the standard 915 MHz cell phone frequency on domestic chicken embryos- with some lethal results (Manville 2009, 2013a). Radiation at extremely low levels (0.0001 the level emitted by the average digital cellular telephone) caused heart attacks and the deaths of some chicken embryos subjected to hypoxic conditions in the laboratory while controls subjected to hypoxia were unaffected (DiCarlo et al. 2002). To date, no independent, third-party field studies have been conducted in North America on impacts of tower electromagnetic radiation on migratory birds. With the European field and U.S. laboratory evidence already available, independent, third-party peer-reviewed studies need to be conducted in the U.S. to begin examining the effects from radiation on migratory birds and other trust species.”
Radiation Impacts and Categorical Exclusions
“There is a growing level of anecdotal evidence linking effects of non-thermal, non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation from communication towers on nesting and roosting wild birds and other wildlife in the U.S. Independent, third-party studies have yet to be conducted in the U.S. or Canada, although a peer-reviewed research protocol developed for the U.S. Forest Service by the Service’s Division of Migratory Bird Management is available to study both collision and radiation impacts (Manville 2002).
As previously mentioned, Balmori (2005) found strong negative correlations between levels of tower-emitted microwave radiation and bird breeding, nesting, and roosting in the vicinity of electromagnetic fields in Spain. He documented nest and site abandonment, plumage deterioration, locomotion problems, reduced survivorship, and death in House Sparrows, White Storks, Rock Doves, Magpies, Collared Doves, and other species.
Though these species had historically been documented to roost and nest in these areas, Balmori (2005) did not observe these symptoms prior to construction and operation of the cellular phone towers. Balmori and Hallberg (2007) and Everaert and Bauwens (2007) found similar strong negative correlations among male House Sparrows.
Under laboratory ‘conditions, DiCarlo et al. (2002) raised troubling concerns about impacts of low-level, non-thermal electromagnetic radiation from the standard 915 MHz cell phone frequency on domestic chicken embryos- with some lethal results (Manville 2009). Given the findings of the studies mentioned above, field studies should be conducted in North America to validate potential impacts of communication tower radiation both direct and indirect – to migratory birds and other trust wildlife species.”
Full Letter with addendum and citations: https://www.ntia.doc.gov/files/ntia/us_doi_comments.pdf