Sunday, June 29, 2008


People move for all sorts of reasons, so I was floored when I found out the couple living in the top floor apartment of my brownstone in Brooklyn moved because of this: a rooftop cellular phone tower. My building superintendent tells me they feared the configuration on the top of a building five doors down might be emitting Electromagnetic radiation. They fear the device could cause them harm.

Apparently, they just noticed the contraption, which has been up on the corner building for months now. Cellular phone companies often pay building owners to install the equipment to make their systems more reliable. The more towers they have, the better the signal . I'm told my neighbors actually broke their lease and paid a hefty penalty to pack up their bags and leave.

More researcher needs to be done on the health effects of these towers, but most experts agree that RF coming from cellular base stations, as they're called, pose very little health risk. They indicate the only way, one might be affected is to pitch a tent on the roof, right next to the thing and right in the path of it's electromagnetic signals.

Even the Food and Drug Administration offered up their opinion on the cellular towers:

"As with all forms of electromagnetic energy, the power decreases rapidly as one moves away from the antenna. Therefore, RF exposure on the ground is much less than exposure very close to the antenna and in the path of the transmitted radio signal. In fact, ground-level exposure from such antennas is typically thousands of times less than the exposure levels recommended as safe by expert organizations. So exposure to nearby residents would be well within safety margins. "

I don't know about you, but unless you're going to seclude yourself in an igloo in Alaska, there's no escaping technology. We all want the latest advances and we prove that by gobbling up all of the new high tech gadgets as soon as they hit store shelves. But, the NIMBY theory prevails. They scream "not in my backyard."

In fact, here's a letter sent to a Brooklyn blogger, citing her fear of the grey metal contraptions:

"Hi, I encountered a dangerous situation today at 553 Henry street. It looks as though they installed some new cell phone antennas on the roof. But here is where it gets good; not only did they do that, they also went ahead and put a huge antenna directly on the facade of the building on the 4th story. Now this is pretty scary being we have many small children walking by the building everyday. Not only will this become an issue with a good storm but looking at it makes me nervous."

Debates like this are going on all over the country. Elsewhere, another woman says she heard a youngster in her neighborhood has Leukemia and wonders whether the new cell tower in her neighborhood is to blame.

Although research indicates there is little risk of radiation exposure to these towers, people often forget about the other environmental threats we face everyday. The couple who moved out of our building didn't move because of idling diesel trucks, or smog in New York City, or even radiation from the Sun that can cause skin cancer. They bolted because of a fear of cell towers. Actually, more extensive research has been done on the ill effects of holding a cellular phone up to your ear everyday.

Some suggest it may not be good for us. I'm sure these poor folks are going to be on the run for years. As technology improves, certainly another one of those towers will find its way into their new neighborhood. And who knows what else....high tension wires, a trash transfer station, maybe even a nuclear power plant. "D'oh!"

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