Waves of doubt
Get ready for the environmental battle of the next decade: the fight against
electromagnetic fields. Cell phones and broadcast antennas are only part of a
problem that could threaten us all.
by Dan Kennedy
We've become accustomed to environmental threats that we can't see,
smell, taste, or hear. We fear that toxic waste may be oozing into our water,
and hence into our bodies, causing cancer and death. We know that human-made
chemicals have destroyed a good chunk of the protective ozone layer, exposing
us to a heavier dose of the sun's ultraviolet rays. We worry that the cars we
drive are heating up the atmosphere, which in turn may lead to an apocalyptic
rendezvous with melting ice caps, sinking continents, devastated croplands, and
Now just beginning to creep onto the edges of public awareness is an
environmental threat that may turn out to be every bit as pernicious as toxic
waste and global warming: electromagnetic fields, or EMFs, pulsating waves of
low-level radiation that emanate from toasters and space heaters, from
microwave ovens and broadcast towers.
The conventional wisdom is that EMFs are utterly harmless. Sure, there have
been a few minor scares here and there. In the late 1970s, several scientists
reported that families living near high-tension lines experienced
higher-than-expected rates of childhood leukemia, although other researchers
have been unable to replicate those findings. There's long been a buzz, if not
hard scientific evidence, that women who work in front of computer terminals
are more likely to suffer miscarriages than women who don't. And maybe your
mother knew best when she told you not to sit too close to the TV. For the most
part, though, the technology that allows kids to watch Blue's Clues has
been considered as innocuous as the show itself.
That's beginning to change. The reason: the wireless revolution, or the
"unwiring of America," as its proponents like to call it. Cell phones and
pagers, and a new generation of digital PCS (personal communications systems)
devices such as wireless phones and modems, have exponentially increased the
extent to which we're exposed to EMFs in our daily lives. These innovations
were made possible by a dramatic overhaul of the nation's telecommunications
infrastructure. Some 52,000 cell-phone and PCS antennas have been erected
across the country in the past few years, on the sides of schools and in church
steeples, on existing broadcast towers and atop roadside signs. It's estimated
that another 50,000 will be added during the next half-dozen years.
Now, hundreds of citizens' groups across the country are fighting for
moratoriums and for laws to keep these antennas away from homes, schools, and
heavily populated areas. Often mobilized by the aesthetically displeasing
prospect of having an ugly antenna in the neighborhood, these activists
invariably become far more alarmed when they learn about the potential health
effects -- cancer, headaches, learning disorders, and hyperactivity, to name
just a few. In Newton and West Roxbury, in Northborough and North Smithfield,
Rhode Island -- indeed, in Pittsburgh, on Long Island, and in Northern Ireland
and the Philippines -- activists are saying no.
The crusade against EMFs may well grow into the environmental battle of the
"In a new era of global technology, there's no place to hide, and we have to
realize we're accountable here," says Virginia Hines, a physician's assistant
from Concord who got involved when an antenna was installed in her church's
steeple. Hines later founded the Massachusetts Council on Wireless Technology
and Impacts, a coalition of activists in about 50 communities.
"We're being exposed while the scientific community is trying to get
consensus," she says, "and that's not a good situation."
In fact, although there's a fairly strong scientific consensus that EMFs are
harmless, a small but growing body of evidence suggests otherwise.
A study in Australia several years ago conducted by Bruce Hocking, then a
researcher with a telecommunications company, showed that households close to
TV-transmission antennas suffer from elevated childhood-leukemia rates --
raising the possibility that the same may also be true for cell-phone and PCS
antennas, which put out weaker signals but are far more ubiquitous. Hocking's
results are similar to those of studies in Hawaii and Britain.
At the University of Washington in Seattle, a research team headed by
bioengineering professor Henry Lai reported that exposing biological cultures
to the same level of microwaves encountered by cell-phone users causes
irreparable DNA damage, which is a precursor to cancer. Lai's team also showed
that rats exposed to low levels of microwaves sustain brain damage associated
with spatial-learning problems, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease.
And though putting a cell-phone antenna up against your head clearly represents
a greater potential danger than living several hundred feet from an antenna,
some researchers believe that such chronic, low-level exposure may be just as
"At this point we cannot make any definite conclusions, but there are
concerns," says Lai. "I think we should be more cautious."
For reasons that are not entirely clear, the foreign media have taken
questions about EMFs far more seriously than has the American press. Henry Lai
is quoted in the Times of London and the Toronto Star more often
than he is in the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Newspapers in Australia and New Zealand regularly weigh in on the issue --
which may explain why New Zealand, unlike the US, has banned antennas from
schoolhouses. Just two weeks ago, the British and French media reported on a
former engineer for British Telecom who filed a lawsuit over memory losses he
claims to have suffered as a result of frequent cell-phone use.
A particularly noteworthy story appeared in the Sunday Times of London
on February 28, in which it was reported that "some of Britain's leading
scientists have curbed their use of mobile phones because they fear they could
damage their health." Colin Blakemore, a prominent physiology professor at
Oxford University, was quoted as saying that he had suffered from confusion --
"a gap in experience," he called it -- while using his cell phone, and he
attributed that to the intense EMFs that are emitted by the phone's antenna.
In the United States, by contrast, media accounts of battles over antennas
tend to center on aesthetics and property values, with health concerns getting
a passing mention but little explanation. Lurking just below the surface of
many of these reports is the sense that yuppies, who constitute by far the
largest segment of the country's 60 million cell-phone users, are pulling
a NIMBY when it comes to supporting the technology that makes their toys
possible. "The problem usually arises in suburban areas, and ironically enough
it's the people who use phones the most who sometimes object to the towers that
make those phones work," says Tim Ayers, a spokesman for the Cellular
Telecommunications Industry Association, the leading trade group. Congress has
given the industry a big assist in overcoming those objections, passing a
provision in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that makes it impossible for
local officials to ban antennas, and that prohibits them from regulating
antennas on the basis of "environmental" concerns -- which is generally
understood to include potential health effects as well (see "Fighting Back,"
It took two teacher-farmers from Vermont to get Washington's attention.
In May 1997, Janet Newton was checking on the sugar maple trees on her farm, in
Cabot, Vermont. Several trees had nails in them. Survey markers were scattered
about. Upon further investigation, Newton learned that her neighbor had agreed
to let a cell-phone company install an antenna on his property.
Newton and her husband, Dale Newton, mobilized their neighbors and were able
to get the application dismissed. They helped local officials draft a bylaw
regulating cell-phone antennas. More significant, they formed the EMR Network
(EMFs are sometimes referred to as electromagnetic radiation, or EMR), a
fledgling national organization to educate people about the potential danger of
EMFs and to help communities fight back. The network's Web site,
is a good introduction to the issue, and it includes links
to a number of other organizations as well.
The Newtons' activism certainly mobilized the Vermont congressional
delegation. The senators -- Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, and Jim Jeffords, a
Republican -- are sponsoring legislation to repeal a provision of the
Telecommunications Act of 1996 that prohibits local officials from banning cell
and PCS antennas on environmental grounds. The bill would also encourage the
development of alternative wireless communications, such as satellite
transmission and a new technology called "PCS over cable," which makes use of
existing cable-television lines. Vermont's House member, Representative Bernie
Sanders, an independent socialist, is sponsoring a bill similar to the
Jeffords-Leahy legislation. (Representative Charles Bass, a New Hampshire
Republican, is sponsoring a separate bill that would not repeal the 1996
provision, but would nevertheless strengthen the hand of local officials.)
Unfortunately, any such legislative solution may come too late. According to
the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), a trade group
representing the $29.6 billion industry, approximately half of the 100,000
antennas that will be needed for a national wireless network are already in
place. And the vast majority of the remaining half are likely to be installed
in places where there are already antennas -- on transmission towers, as in
Newton Upper Falls, or in church steeples, on signs, or on the sides of
buildings. Within the industry, this phenomenon is known as "co-location."
"While there are still more antennas to go up, we may have reached something
of a peak in terms of the number of towers that are being built. There is a lot
more sharing going on," says Tim Ayers, a spokesman for CTIA, who estimates
that some 80 percent of new antennas are installed on existing structures.
He also defends the 1996 provision diluting the power of local zoning officials
by saying that a national wireless network could not have been built if each of
the country's 30,000 separate zoning authorities had been given free rein.
Responds Ed Barron, an aide to Senator Leahy: "Local governments and states
should have, as our bill provides, the ability to exercise normal police power,
which covers health and safety issues."
For Janet Newton, the debate over cell-phone antennas cost her the friendship
of her next-door neighbors, but it has opened her eyes to the growing body of
scientific evidence suggesting that EMFs are harmful. She's also in contact
with dozens of grassroots organizations across the country. "We're just
beginning to get a handle on how many are out there," she says.
But the concerns over EMFs cannot be so easily dismissed. The unusually high
number of children who contracted leukemia near TV-transmission towers (and,
earlier, near power lines) may represent the canary in the mineshaft. Many
scientists tend to disparage statistical correlations, arguing that they're
more likely to be a fluke than evidence of a real problem. But such findings
are often the best way we have to document health problems. In Woburn, for
instance, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health concluded in 1996 --
solely on the basis of statistical analysis -- that the city's elevated rate of
childhood leukemia in the 1960s, '70s, and early '80s was the result of toxic
chemicals in drinking water. Even in the case of smoking and lung cancer, it
was many years before scientists had any evidence more powerful than
David Ozonoff, an epidemiologist at the Boston University School of Public
Health who studied Woburn earlier in his career, says the statistical
correlations linking health effects and EMFs are "quite solid" and have been
played down by many scientists mainly because "we don't have any agreed-upon
mechanism." In other words, because mainstream science holds that low levels of
EMFs shouldn't cause health problems, most scientists conclude,
illogically if not necessarily incorrectly, that they don't. That could
"You are really promoting the dissemination in society of a technology that
may be problematic, but you won't be able to put the toothpaste back in the
tube," Ozonoff says. "We don't know very much about these things. This stuff
might turn out to be safe. But I don't really think there's a societal need to
take that chance at the moment."
At this point, all Susan Sangiolo has are questions. Why does her
seven-year-old son, Adam, have short-term memory problems? Why do at least
three other kids on her street have learning disabilities? Why did she have a
miscarriage, and a friend have a miscarriage, and another friend have two? Why
does it seem that too many of her neighbors are dying of cancer in the prime of
Sangiolo knows that one answer to those questions -- perhaps the most likely
answer -- is fate, coincidence, the luck of the draw. But every time she looks
out her kitchen window, she can't help but wonder whether the real answer is
staring her in the face. Some 850 feet away looms a broadcasting tower, rising
1249 feet and bristling with antennas for radio stations and paging systems. It
is one of four such towers -- two in Newton, two in Needham -- that surround
Sangiolo's neighborhood in Newton Upper Falls.
Last fall, American Tower Systems (now, following several mergers, American
Tower Corporation) unveiled a plan to take the tower down and replace it, a
short distance away, with a 1349-foot structure that would accommodate the
digital and wireless revolution. To what's there now would be added antennas
for high-definition television and cell phones, both the traditional analog
types and the newer PCS models.
The company's pitch was soothing. Even though the new tower would put out
nearly five million watts of juice (compared to just 160,000 watts from the
existing tower), it would be safer: the 50-year-old existing structure leaks
radiation, whereas the replacement would use state-of-the-art technology to
hold emissions in the immediate neighborhood far below what's allowed under
state and federal standards. American Tower also agreed to implement a
monitoring system and to fix up a nearby playground.
But Sangiolo and some of her neighbors were not mollified. They began reading
up on the potential dangers of EMFs. They sponsored public-awareness events.
They demanded that their elected officials reject the company's proposal. And
when the Newton Board of Aldermen voted overwhelmingly, in January, to approve
American Tower's plan, Sangiolo and about a half-dozen of her neighbors sued,
charging that the city had exceeded its zoning authority.
"What if five years from now health effects are proven?" asks Sangiolo. "At
this point we have to be concerned about doing the right thing for our kids,
and if that means selling and moving, we will." (The Sangiolos also have a
daughter, Allee, who's a fifth-grader.) For the Sangiolos, the potential danger
is especially troubling because she and her husband, Mark Sangiolo, are
architects who work out of their home, leaving them exposed to EMFs 24 hours a
day, seven days a week. "We're not fanatics," says Mark. "We really have better
things to do. I really resent that we've had to spend so much time on this."
The Sangiolos are not alone. Moratoriums are in effect in several communities
on Martha's Vineyard. Activists are fighting the installation of a huge array
of antennas, known as PAVE PAWS, at the Massachusetts Military Reservation, on
Cape Cod. In Wayland, Diana Warren pushed for a six- to twelve-month moratorium
last June after she learned that her church was considering allowing a PCS
antenna to be installed in its steeple. And when then-attorney general Scott
Harshbarger threw the moratorium out on legal grounds, the town promptly
adopted another; Warren now leads the town's efforts to draft a new wireless
In Northborough, Richard Gianattasio, a product-marketing manager for Compaq,
learned about two years ago that Bell Atlantic had reached an agreement with
Northborough officials to put a cell-phone antenna on town-owned land, just 60
feet from his neighborhood. Gianattasio led a successful fight against the
antenna, which led to the town's adopting a bylaw requiring that antennas be
kept away from residential areas. "It's forced both the tower companies and the
town to not really jump into anything, to try to understand the impact, and to
try to find the most suitable location for the towers," says Gianattasio.
In North Smithfield, Rhode Island, high-school teacher Alan Glasser and a
group of neighbors campaigned against a 190-foot cell-phone antenna that
Cellular One wanted to install near their neighborhood. Opponents mobilized,
leafleting residents repeatedly and conducting their own study in nearby
Cranston to show that antennas reduce property values. The zoning permit was
defeated at a town meeting, but the experience has left Glasser and his
neighbors financially drained (he estimates their costs at $4000 to $5000) and
emotionally spent. "Nobody should have to go through that," Glasser says. "It's
absolutely unbelievable that people should have to fight for their health and
home and community over the power of a cellular-phone company. To me it's
To mainstream scientists, what's incomprehensible is the notion that EMFs could
damage people's health. Only the most pathologically paranoid (a description
that does, unfortunately, fit some in the anti-EMF movement) believe that
industry and government are foisting technologies such as cellular phones, PCS
devices, and digital TV on us for evil purposes. The truth is that proponents
of these technologies, as well as the vast majority of scientists, genuinely
believe that low-level exposure to EMFs does not cause any health problems.
Peter Valberg, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health who works as
a private consultant for industry and for municipal governments (the city of
Newton hired him to review the American Tower proposal), says that activists
are worrying about levels of EMFs so low that they are on "the borderline of
detectability." He notes that the human body itself is an ongoing storm of
electrical activity. The idea that barely measurable amounts of EMFs could have
any kind of harmful effect is simply not supported by research, he asserts, and
even studies that do show problems are contradicted by other studies.
"No study can prove that something does not exist," concedes Valberg. "I think
it's a very natural reaction that when a new technology comes along you're
going to be suspicious of it." But the overwhelming weight of scientific
research, he insists, "suggests, at least, that the technology is safe."
Robert Hallisey, director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's
Radiation Control Program, is justly proud of his agency's record. Since 1983,
Massachusetts has mandated that EMFs at the border of an antenna installation's
property line cannot exceed 20 milliwatts per square centimeter. The federal
standard, by contrast, was 100 milliwatts -- until last year, when the Federal
Communications Commission adopted the Massachusetts standard.
"We believe that the standard we put in effect in 1983 adequately protects
public health, that levels below that standard would not have any health effect
on individuals," says Hallisey. And in Newton Upper Falls, American Tower went
much further, agreeing to limit EMFs to just 10 percent of the
state-allowed maximum. Granted, it's impossible for a layperson to know
milliwatts per square centimeter from Einstein's general theory of relativity.
But clearly, Massachusetts and Newton officials have held EMFs below the
already-low levels that federal regulators had believed to be safe.
But there is a completely different scientific dimension to the question of
standards. Despite solid theories suggesting that extremely low levels of EMFs
shouldn't be harmful, there is evidence that they are. And the work of
scientists such as Henry Lai and Bruce Hocking may be just the beginning of
understanding this alternative perspective.
A leading advocate of this view is B. Blake Levitt, a Connecticut-based
writer and a former science and medical reporter for the New York Times.
Her book on the subject, Electromagnetic Fields: A Consumer's Guide to the
Issues and How to Protect Ourselves (Harvest, 1995), sheds light on a
number of obscure scientific studies that suggest that things are not at all as
they appear; she's currently working on a revised edition. Her central point,
undisputed even by the mainstream, is that the EMF standards used by government
regulators are based on so-called thermal effects -- that is, if the radiation
in question doesn't cause flesh to heat up, it's presumed to be harmless. That
presumption, she asserts, is seriously flawed.
In conversation, Levitt is no-nonsense and practical, and she takes pains in
her book to present her views in technical terms. Nevertheless, her views are
radical. Levitt believes that mainstream scientists have gone off track because
they fail to understand how readily human-made electromagnetic disruptions can
raise havoc with the human body's own electrical essence.
Electromagnetic Fields cites scientific studies suggesting that health
problems such as cancer, learning disorders, and miscarriages can be caused by
even very low levels of EMFs. Levitt theorizes that EMFs may have some
relationship to AIDS, chronic fatigue, and Gulf War syndrome (the troops were
exposed to massive amounts of EMFs from high-tech weapons). She raises the
possibility that EMFs disrupt the human body's orientation with respect to the
extremely low level of natural magnetism emitted by the earth's core. She even
wonders whether EMFs in the atmosphere may have played a role in the increase
in thunderstorms that has been documented since 1930, the mysterious
deformations found in frogs, and the damage to trees that is usually attributed
to acid rain.
"This is such an esoteric area that the biologists don't get near it," Levitt
says. "But you don't have to go very far from the science on this one. It's a
Other studies have suggested that low levels of EMFs are associated with such
health problems as decreased appetite, decreased cellular activity, a drop in
reproduction, and even, oddly enough, a change in the effectiveness of
medication given to glaucoma patients.
None of this is definitive; indeed, the findings are an argument not for panic
but for more research. Unfortunately, little of that research is going on, at
least in the United States. The Wireless Technology Research project, a
five-year, $25 million effort funded by industry, wraps up later this
year. Critics say the money has been squandered, and its very existence has
resulted in a cutoff of funds for dissenting researchers such as Henry Lai.
Still, what's known so far is suggestive enough that in 1997, more than 40
researchers and faculty members at the Harvard School of Public Health, and
others at the BU School of Public Health, signed a petition asking that state
officials block Sprint from activating a PCS network pending "a full review and
determination of its safety by the scientific community."
"It is just stupid to disperse microwaves upon the population from a
public-health perspective," says Susan Clarke, an anti-EMF activist from
Concord who organized the petition drive. "How much do we value healthy brain
functioning in our society? How much do we value freedom from cancer?"
Amy Bishop, a molecular biologist and biochemist at the Harvard School of
Public Health, was among those who urged that Newton officials reject the new
tower in Newton Upper Falls, charging in a letter to the city's health
commissioner, David Naparstek, that even the unusually low emission levels that
American Tower and the city had negotiated were "20x the level at which adverse
health effects are seen," and warning of the possibility of "elevated
frequencies of brain tumors, childhood leukemia, breast cancer and other
cancers, heart attacks and the myriad other reported adverse health effects."
Bishop, who recently moved from Upper Falls to Ipswich (though not, she says,
because of the transmission towers), received a response from Naparstek that
might best be described as polite but dismissive. "I know David Naparstek is
probably a very nice guy, but I think he just got a different interpretation,"
she says. Responds Naparstek: "The problem is that fears are far ahead of
science. A preponderance of the studies that have been done so far have not
come up with any kind of association between the towers and health effects."
Theory and reality collide at Brenda Loew's home, just down the hill from Mark
and Susan Sangiolo. Loew -- the publisher of EIDOS, an independent
magazine on free speech and sexuality, and a member of the Loew movie-theater
family -- moved to Upper Falls about five years ago. In less than a year, she
was suffering from "strange, strange headaches" -- not migraines, which she'd
had periodically for years, but "constant pressure and a dull ache in my
temples and all over my head." Like the Sangiolos, she began educating herself
about EMFs after American Tower proposed a new tower last fall. She now has
little doubt that the existing tower is responsible for her pain, and she's
signed on to the lawsuit seeking to block the new tower.
Or take Jerry Davis, a retired musician suffering from a little-understood,
sometimes-mocked illness known as electrical hypersensitivity. Four years ago,
after playing more than 10,000 weddings and bar mitzvahs, Davis began to suffer
from symptoms such as chronic fatigue and rashes, especially when he'd play an
electric instrument or use a microphone. He figures his condition was caused by
his profession and aggravated by living near a transmission tower in Newton
Highlands. Today he lives in a low-EMF neighborhood in Newton Centre and tries
as best as he can to stay away from televisions, radios, and fluorescent
lights. "It will be okay as long as I'm practicing avoidance," says Davis, who
keeps his hand in musically by playing the piano -- acoustic, of course -- at
Are Brenda Loew and Jerry Davis suffering from real, tangible illnesses? Or
are they merely flamboyant hypochondriacs? Most of what we know about
traditional Western medicine and science would suggest the latter. But theories
about human beings as electromagnetic organisms, long supported by Eastern
practices such as acupuncture (thought to work by changing the body's
electrical flows), tend to support the validity of their complaints.
Not one person interviewed for this article who supports the new tower came
across as anything less than caring, responsible, and genuinely concerned about
the opponents' worries, though a few voiced exasperation over their refusal to
listen to what the proponents regard as the scientific facts. Brian Yates, an
alderman from Upper Falls who also chairs the quasi-public Upper Falls
Community Development Corporation (which negotiated the mitigation package with
American Tower), says he's convinced that, at the very least, the new tower
will be safer than the old one.
"We think that we got the best deal out of this. We put a lot of blood, sweat,
and tears into making this as solid as it could be," says Yates. Steven
Moskowitz, vice-president and general manager for American Tower's northeast
region, adds, "We're a Boston-based company. We want to ingratiate ourselves as
best we can within the communities, and help the communities find better ways
to handle the onslaught from the wireless companies. There's nothing at this
point that shows that it's harmful. What we're proposing is dramatically within
the basic standards of the state of Massachusetts." Jason Rosenberg, a Newton
lawyer who represented American Tower in negotiations, says of the hard-core
opposition: "If you're not having a dialogue but you're arguing religion, as I
call it, then the other person just can't be believed."
Rosenberg's frustration is understandable, but one person's religion is
another person's science. The fact is that a body of disturbing, if
inconclusive, evidence suggests not only that the new tower should not be
built, but that much of the country's electrical and telecommunications systems
are dangerous in ways we're only beginning to understand.
For the time being, the new tower is on hold. Moskowitz says he hopes it will
be ready to go online by late spring or early summer of 2000. Edward Collins,
the plaintiffs' lawyer, says he's confident that the new tower will never be
built, calling it "a straight-out zoning case" and arguing that the aldermen
clearly exceeded their authority by approving the expansion of a preexisting,
nonconforming use in a residential area.
But the outcome, whatever it is, will hardly resolve the situation nationally
-- or even, for that matter, in Newton. The work of Henry Lai, Bruce Hocking,
and others implies that we may need to do nothing less than derail the wireless
revolution and start over again. John Goldsmith, an epidemiologist at Ben
Gurion University, has called for television transmitters to be located at
least five kilometers -- a little more than three miles -- from residential
areas. But what about cell-phone and PCS antennas, which are less powerful but
more common than TV transmitters, bathing us in EMFs everywhere we go?
Blake Levitt, the Connecticut science writer, believes we may not need to
change our lifestyles as much as her radical views imply. No technophobe, she
has taken some simple, common sense steps in her own life: she uses her
portable cordless phone (like a cell phone, but less powerful) only when she's
outside, and she's gotten rid of her computer's video-display terminal, a rich
source of EMFs, replacing it with a liquid-crystal display.
As for the country's telecommunications infrastructure, Levitt believes we may
need to stage a tactical retreat. She would replace cellular and PCS technology
with a satellite system, on the theory that ground-level EMFs from satellites
hundreds of miles away would be virtually harmless. Wireless phones themselves
would probably remain hazardous enough to use only in emergencies. And as much
as possible, she would switch data transmission to fiber optics, which are
relatively free of EMFs. For the time being, though, she's helping communities
-- Great Barrington is one example -- draft model zoning ordinances to keep
antennas away from neighborhoods and schools.
Undoing the wireless revolution may prove difficult, if not impossible. We
love our electronic toys. What could be more convenient than a cell phone when
you're stuck in traffic, running late for a meeting? What about those way-cool
things in the pipeline, such as computerized maps in your car and interactive
ads in your portable electronic newspaper, allowing you to reserve a table at
your favorite restaurant via wireless modem? We don't want to walk away from
such conveniences, and it's easy to be cynical about the scientific scare of
the week -- the widely publicized reports that this or that is bad for you,
which invariably fade away in a few days' time, seemingly without
The thing is, we're going to find out about this one way or the other in the
not-too-distant future. With 60 million wireless-phone users out there, it
won't be too many years before we learn definitively whether a disproportionate
number of them get brain tumors, Alzheimer's disease, or just plain confused.
If nothing happens, then we can probably assume the antennas are safe as
But if millions get sick, we're all going to wonder why we were subjected to
such a grotesque, irresponsible experiment.
Dan Kennedy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.