To this list,
For those who may not know him, Arthur Firstenberg has been a
leading force behind calling for a more compassionate U.S.
government response to those who are suffering from electrical
sensitivity. Though suffering from ES himself, he has done an
amazing job on very few resources to advocvate for himself and
others. His amazing account of his experiences over the past 20
years and what he perceives as the future for those suffering from
electrical sensitivity or microwave sickness is a must read for
those affected by exposures to electromagnetic radiation.
Council on Wireless technology Impacts
P.S. This article is forwarded with appreciation to Don Maisch, EMF
Effects Consultancy - http://www.emfacts.com/ - in Australia, who
obtained it from HOPEDANCE Issue #43 ~ March/April 2004
Telecommunications vs. The Environment
by Arthur Firstenberg
In 1982 I was in my fourth year of medical school, a promising
ahead of me. 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
For eight years I have run an advocacy and support network for
in similar circumstances. No one else has been doing this kind of
work in North America. I am afraid time has run out for us. I will
outline, later, the emergency measures that are needed in order to
reverse a grave, imminent and largely unacknowledged threat to all
I am electrically sensitive, and I advocate and provide information
and support for electrically sensitive people in North America and
worldwide. The assault we are suffering is a radical increase in
electromagnetic pollution, or electrosmog, that is engulfing the
earth. Let me explain some terms. "Electrical sensitivity" means
sensitivity to, or illness caused by exposure to electricity,
electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and electromagnetic radiation (EMR).
Now we are all electrical beings, living in and affected by our
electromagnetic environment, but most people are not aware of it.
term "electrically sensitive" has been applied to those of us who
have become so reactive that we are not only aware of it, but our
reactions are immediate and cause us disability and illness. It is
applied to those whose reactivity is so obvious and disturbing that
we cannot be talked out of it by well-meaning family, friends and
doctors. This cuts our numbers down to only 2-3% of the population.
You see, electrical sensitivity is a political as well as a medical
term. It is not politically correct to be injured by electromagnetic
radiation. Our injuries cannot be acknowledged; the implications for
modern communication technology would be too enormous.
In the summer of 1996 I was living in Brooklyn, New York. I had
more-or-less come to terms with my electrical sensitivity, and was
dealing with it as best I could. I was not a doctor, having had to
leave medical school during my fourth year due to an illness of
unknown cause. At first, I had had headaches and difficulty
concentrating and remembering things. Then, while on a surgery
rotation, I had had crippling pains in my hips, making it difficult
to assist in operations. My heart rate had 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 getting short of
breath. It was three years before I was strong enough to ski again.
It was seven years before I met someone else who experienced pain
from being near certain electrical appliances, including television
sets and computers, and before I first heard the term "electrical
sensitivity." It was 17 years before I gained back those 15 pounds.
In the meantime I researched the world literature on
bioelectromagnetics, or the biological effects of electromagnetism,
and made myself an expert. I learned that electro-machines, used in
every modern surgical operation to cut through tissue and to stop
bleeding, expose surgeons to much higher levels of radio frequency
radiation than is permitted for workers in any industry. I learned
that there was a disease thoroughly described in the Russian and
Eastern European medical literature called radiowave sickness, whose
existence was usually denied by western authorities. The description
recalled to me my "unknown illness" which had derailed my medical
career. A bradycardia, or slow heart rate, was said, in these texts,
to be a grave sign.
Because there are virtually no workplaces without computers any
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,
which mostly meant learning to avoid exposure to EMFs. But in July,
1996, I learned to my dismay that an innovation was coming to my
which threatened to make it impossible to avoid exposure any more.
At that time, cell phones were still a luxury item which only worked
in some locations. People were not accustomed to staying connected
whenever they left their home, and even at home most still had a
cord, not an antenna, attached to their telephone. Most were not
accustomed to holding devices that emit microwave radiation next to
their brain. In 1996, the telecommunications industry began a
marketing campaign designed to change all that. For Christmas that
year, all over the country, digital cell phones were going to be on
lot of shopping lists. And to make them more practical, tens of
thousands of antennas 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
antennas 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 November 15. 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,
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.
Later, I analyzed weekly mortality statistics, which the Center for
Disease Control publishes for 122 U.S. cities. Each of dozens of
cities recorded a 10-25% increase in mortality, lasting two to three
months, beginning on the day in 1996 or 1997 on which that city's
first digital cell phone network began commercial service. I
published both the raw data and the complete analysis, with graphs.
I learned that in February, 1996, Congress had passed a law
prohibiting local governments from denying permits for cell phone
antennas because of environmental concerns - so long as they comply
with Federal Communications Commission rules. And I learned that the
FCC had just issued regulations setting public exposure limits for
microwave radiation at levels at least ten thousand times higher
levels which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, were
causing reports of illness from all over the world, and at least ten
thousand times higher than the levels which had forced me to leave
behind my home, my family, and my friends, and to run for my life,
never to be able to return home again.
The Cellular Phone Task Force, along with over 50 other grass roots
organizations and individuals around the U.S., became involved in a
legal challenge of the FCC's absurd standards and its preemption of
local control. This was taken all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Many cities and towns, several U.S. Senators and Representatives and
dozens of other public officials 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. But the fact is, 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 easier today than ten
years ago because now the "controls" are also exposed, the whole
planet is exposed, so where can you go to do a good experiment, but
most experiments still show effects anyway - effects on heart
rhythms, brain waves, the blood-brain barrier, sleep, eyes, gonads,
skin, hearing, calcium, melatonin, glucose, metabolism, human
well-being. If you look, you will find. Zorach Glaser reviewed over
5,000 such studies for the United States Navy during the 1970s alone.
from the volumes of literature I have seen, certain results stand
in my mind: Allan Frey's work on microwave hearing. Milton Zaret's
work on microwave cataracts. The work of Canadians Tanner,
Romero-Sierra and Bigu Del Blanco on birds, including demonstrations
that birds are particularly sensitive because feathers are good
microwave receiving aerials. A Swiss government study on sleep,
shut down a short wave transmitter because the researchers were able
to show it caused sleep disturbances up to several miles away. An
international effort which found a very wide range of environmental
effects caused by a Latvian radar station at extremely low levels of
exposure, including: smaller growth rings in trees, premature aging
in pine needles, chromosome damage in cows, decreased memory,
attention, learning, and pulmonary function in school children,
increased white blood cells in adults, and an altered sex ratio
girls) in children born during the years of the radar's operation.
Loscher and Kas's work on farm animals sickened by cell towers in
Germany. The work of Wolfgang Volkrodt, and that of Ulrich Hertel,
linking forest dieback to microwave radiation, rather than acid
Roger Santini's study of the health of people living at varying
distances from cell towers in France. Claudio Gomez-Perretta's
similar study in Spain. A Dutch government study exposing normal and
electrically sensitive people to cell tower signals finding
disturbing effects on both groups. Neil Cherry's study of childhood
cancer rates as a function of distance from Sutro Tower in San
Francisco. Leif Salford's recent work on the blood-brain barrier,
verifying the earlier work of Allan Frey and others, but with
additional, ominous findings: l) sometimes, decreasing the amount of
radiation 1,000 times increased the damage to the brain
effect); (2) animals exposed to a cell phone once for two hours were
found to have areas of brain cell death two months later.
In Germany, 2000 physicians have signed a petition (the Freiburger
Appeal) calling for severe restrictions on wireless technology
because they are seeing such a dramatic increase in certain diseases
and symptoms in their patients, which they can only attribute to
ambient microwave radiation. The diseases include: attention deficit
disorder, extreme fluctuations in blood pressure, heart arrhythmias,
heart attacks and strokes in young people, Alzheimer's disease,
epilepsy, leukemia, and brain tumors. The symptoms include:
headaches, migraines, chronic fatigue, agitation, sleep disorders,
tinnitus, nervous and connective tissue pains of unexplained origin,
and susceptibility to infection. The appeal calls for a massive
reduction in exposure limits; no further expansion of cell phone
technology; cell phone-and antenna-free zones; a ban on cell phone
use by children; and a ban on cell phones and digital cordless
in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, public buildings and public
The California Department of Health Services has concluded, on the
basis of a telephone survey, that 120,000 Californians have left
their jobs because of electromagnetic pollution in the workplace.
people who have left their homes for such a reason are not being
counted by anyone.
The highest profile person yet to declare that she is electrically
sensitive, and thus unable to use a cordless phone or a computer, or
to use or be near anyone else using a cell phone, is none other than
Gro Harlem Brundtland, a medical doctor, master of public health,
former Prime Minister of Norway, and until 2003 the Director-General
of the World Health Organization. Yet even so public a figure on the
world stage has been unable to draw the world's attention to our
collective plight, or in any way to slow down the growth of
telecommunications, or even to put it on the map as an environmental
This must happen. 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
Within the telecommunications industry, too many equipment testers,
installers, and repairpersons with radiowave sickness are afraid to
speak out, or do not even know why they are ill.
So many radars, antennas, 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
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
see the stars.
The following are urgently needed:
Sanctuaries. Radiation-free zones. Places without radio antennas,
cell phone service, or television cable (cable is often a
source of radiation). These are needed right now, to save lives.
Legal help. Environmental and disability rights attorneys able to
take on this issue. Funding for land acquisition and legal expenses.
Volunteer help for phone calling, letter writing, grant writing, etc.
To make our world safer, keep in mind these two principles:
1. Distance counts. The power drops off as the square of the
distance. Antennas should be few, and as far as possible from people
and environmentally sensitive areas.
2. Digital hurts. Digital (pulsed) technology is more harmful at
lower levels of power than analog. The FCC's mandate to replace all
analog TV, radio, and telecommunications transmissions with digital
during the next few years is very dangerous.
The following are things that individuals can do:
o If you have a cell phone, cancel your service. Cell towers and
antennas degrade the environment for miles around. They kill and
injure more people than they save in emergencies. A cell phone in
pollutes its own environment for a distance of 100 yards. Even when
not in use, cell phones emit radiation if they are turned on to
o If you have a cordless home phone, trade it in for one with a
For the sake of convenience you are microwaving your brain and
polluting your neighborhood. Never expose your baby to a wireless
o School administrators: Developing children should not be exposed
wireless computers, keyboards, or mice.
o Community radio stations: Resist the temptation to increase your
transmitter power, or to add repeaters in areas of poor reception.
Better receiving antennas on the listening end will accomplish the
same purpose without more pollution. Areas of poor reception are the
healthiest places to live.
o Low power FM enthusiasts: Low power FM is not a good idea. No
matter how low the power, antennas should never be located in
o Concert and event organizers: Make your event safe and accessible
by banning cell phones and doing security without two-way radios. o
Health spa owners: Please don't pollute your grounds with cordless
phones or two-way radios.
o Wildlife scientists: Radio collars pollute the wilderness and
injure the animals you are tracking. Please don't use them.
o Park administrators: Keep our parks and wilderness areas as
sanctuaries. Keep antennas out of them.
o Local public officials: Public health must come first. Vote
proposals to put towers and antennas in your community.
o Members of Congress: Support the efforts of Senators Patrick Leahy
and James Jeffords, and Representative Bernie Sanders, to repeal
Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act, which purports to deny to
local officials the right to protect their constituents' health.
Arthur Firstenberg is a founder and director of the Cellular Phone
Task Force, and the editor of its publication, No Place To Hide. He
is the author of the book, Microwaving Our Planet: The Environmental
Impact of the Wireless Revolution. He does not have e-mail or a
website. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 1337, Mendocino, CA 95460,
or by leaving a message at (707) 964-5196 or (718) 434-4499.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
>His amazing account of his experiences over the past 20
>years and what he perceives as the future for those suffering from
>electrical sensitivity or microwave sickness is a must read for
>those affected by exposures to electromagnetic radiation.
Certainly an interesting article, but it doesn't really offer
any practical advice on what an ES person can do to improve
their situation. He even points out that he is homeless
and jobless, so it's not clear that he is even aware that
things can be done to bring an ES person back to a normal
In my opinion, expecting that cell phones, wireless phones,
wireless networks, television, radio, and satellite signals
to be abolished because of the adverse reactions of a minority
is not realistic. One would be better off trying to find ways
to overcome their ES symptoms.
P.S. After reading that article, I wrote the author of that
article a letter telling how I had gone from ES disabled
to back to a normal life.
In reply to this post by libby_kelley
This is a fair enough comment Marc. I exchanged letters with Arthur for
three years on ES some years back - it was he who gave me the moral
support to keep going at a time in life when I thought I was going to go
under due to extreme electrosensivity. However, like Marc, I have gone
from being disabled to well, but only because I have worked hard at
finding ways to survive.
Unfortunately, though, Arthur has resisted this path, feeling that the
technology is an infringement on his rights, and that he should
therefore not be put in a position of having to defend himself from the
technology, rather, it should be abolished. That is his firm and
My own view is that yes, we should struggle to be well in the midst of
it all, and yes, as much as possible the technology should be made as
safe as possible for humans to be around - but to expect it to be
abolished is plainly impossible. My personal position is: lobby for as
much awareness as possible, especially within the medical community,and
continue to look at ways of shielding, health promotion - and yes!
alternative forms of energy! There is no doubt in my mind at all that
there would be ways of having all the technology we need (note - need
not want) using a much safer form of energy.
From: Marc Martin [mailto:[hidden email]]
Sent: Wednesday, 12 May 2004 10:02 AM
To: [hidden email]
Subject: Re: [eSens] Arthur Firstenburg's latest article
>His amazing account of his experiences over the past 20
>years and what he perceives as the future for those suffering from
>electrical sensitivity or microwave sickness is a must read for those
>affected by exposures to electromagnetic radiation.
Certainly an interesting article, but it doesn't really offer any
practical advice on what an ES person can do to improve their situation.
He even points out that he is homeless and jobless, so it's not clear
that he is even aware that things can be done to bring an ES person back
to a normal life.
In my opinion, expecting that cell phones, wireless phones, wireless
networks, television, radio, and satellite signals to be abolished
because of the adverse reactions of a minority is not realistic. One
would be better off trying to find ways to overcome their ES symptoms.
P.S. After reading that article, I wrote the author of that article a
letter telling how I had gone from ES disabled to back to a normal life.
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