Film: Wireless technology endangers our health

Big shout out to Angela Flynn for providing the following:

the wireless web

Written on February 17, 2010 at 6:21 pm by admin

Filed under A&E, Consumer News, Features, Health, International, Movie Review, National, News one comment

Jake Thomas

When Congress enacted the Telecommunications Act of 1996, it lifted many regulatory barriers that allowed cell phones and wireless Internet to become integral parts of daily lives.

But since then, some scientists have begun wondering out loud if there isn’t an additional cost to these new technologies beside the monthly bill. A growing mound of studies are suggest that bathing ourselves in wireless frequencies 24-7 might bring on an epidemic of health problems, including cancer, that put children in particular at risk.

“Full Signal” a documentary by Talal Jabari, a Palestinian filmmaker who cut his teeth during the Second Intifada, looks at some of the potential risks of a technology that has revolutionized how people communicate.

Jabari recently sat down with the Portland Observer to discuss the documentary.

What is the central thrust of “Full Signal”?

The bottom line is there is more and more science that is showing there are risks associated with wireless technology, and we have to take precautions, not just on an individual level, but on a community level, and, also, in terms of government, to try and change the law that prohibits us from talking about the health impact of this technology.

What prohibits us from talking about this technology?

Well essentially, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 clearly states that the placement of this technology cannot be challenged for its environmental effects, and health being one of those environmental effects, which means you can’t ask that essential question of what is this doing to my health, and why does this need to be so close to me and my children and their school, for example. This is the essential premise that the wireless industry use to place their antennas wherever they want.

How about the personal part of avoiding this technology?

We have to realize that there is a risk to us using this technology, and by this technology I mean your cell phone, your Wi-Fi, your cordless phone at home. These are things people take for granted because they love the technology and the ease of using it. But there are some steps you can take. I would eliminate the wireless phone at home. That’s a continuous signal that is being sent throughout your home. Wi-Fi as well: eliminate it, especially if you have young children. These are the people that are going to be impacted. But certainly turn it off while you’re asleep, there is no need for it to be running, and your cell phone: use it as sparingly as possible. Now Maine, and the city of San Francisco are requiring labels on cell phones saying that they could be dangerous to your health. I think it’s only a matter of time before the cell phone conundrum is actually solved and shown to have a definitive impact on a person’s health. Wireless cell phone antennas are a little more difficult. But your cell phone, use it as sparingly as possible. Don’t give it to your children, they are at the biggest risk again. If you use it, use a hands-free device that is wired. Don’t use a Bluetooth because it is even more dangerous because people put it in their ears and they leave it there all day long and it’s transmitting all the time.

Do you own a cell phone?

I own a cell phone, yes. Because of the nature of my job and the nature of many other peoples’ jobs we need to be in touch. But I started using it a lot more sporadically. I turn it off a lot more, and I’ve learned to be at a stage where I use my cell phone as an answering machine, and I keep it off for most of the day. Sporadically during the day, depending on how busy my schedule is going to be, I turn it on. I see that I have voice mail, I call the person back on the land line. I essentially use it as an answering service. I’ve maintained it, but I really don’t use it anymore.

Do you have Wi-Fi at home?

I used to have Wi Fi at home before I started research for this film, but I’ve taken it out. You know what? I just got a longer cable. I have the Wi-Fi router with the Wi-Fi turned off and I just plug in the cable. It works fine.

So you’re not saying we should completely abandon these technologies, just use less?

Yeah, I mean I’m realistic. People aren’t going to pick up their cell phones and throw them away. I think with cordless phones at home and Wi-Fi we should look toward abandoning them because we are being exposed 24 hours a day, but with cell phones just using them a lot more sporadically, and become aware of the fact that there is a health risk. The cost of making these calls aren’t just what appears on your bill at the end of the month, there are long term effects, especially on children.

Talk a little about the health effects. What are some things that can happen?

There is a spectrum of health risks. We’re talking on the low-end of the spectrum dizziness, forgetfulness, headaches, that sort of a thing that goes away after you hang up the phone. But when you talk about long-term exposure then you start to talk about degenerative diseases, where your brain is being slowly eaten away; it’s dying in important areas. On the far end, you’re talking about cancers. There have been several cancers that have been linked to wireless frequencies. The famous one, of course, are brain tumors, both malignant and benign. People have leukemia from having their whole body irradiated by a tower or some other form of wireless technology.

How did you get the idea to do this film?

Two and a half years ago my wife and I had a baby, and as a new parent you become a little paranoid for your child. You make sure that all the sharp edges are covered and the TV is secure so they don’t pull that on herself. Our neighbor has an antenna on his roof. I love this technology, and wanted to see what’s going on here, if this is safe or not. I began speaking to a few experts who’ve conducted research in communities where there are cancer clusters. It was clear to me that there is a bigger issue here than I had previously known about. Before I used to be addicted to my cell phone.

There are all sorts of deaths that are attributable to cars. People die in accidents, and they emit cancer-causing fumes. Are you worried that people will accept some sort of risk for these modern conveniences?

People are always willing to assume some sort of risk. I think you have to look at the balance between risks and awards. Cars have, I believe, a bigger reward than a risk. But in terms of cell phones, if what the scientists are starting to uncover is true and you know these latency periods that started 10 years ago are going to start showing themselves now. It’s difficult to, especially in the Unites States, to replace your car with something else. Portland here has a transportation system, but not all cities do, not all rural communities do. That’s why it’s more valuable. It’s not difficult to replace a Wi-Fi system; it’s not difficult to replace your cell phone, so you’ve got to study to risk-reward balance.

So the Telecommunications Act is in place, which gives a lot to wireless companies. They probably have an army of lobbyists with a lot of money. Don’t you think the train has left the station on this one?

No, I mean the train left the station in 1996 when the Telecomm Act passed. A lot of money was paid to a lot of lawmakers to get this legislation passed. I think now, we need to put the breaks on the train. At the time it was a great idea: having wireless to communicate across the nation at cheap rates and in a convenient way. It was a fantastic idea. Now we are trying to see that maybe there are more questions than answers and now it’s time to slow things down. We’re not saying completely stop the train; we’re saying there has to be some sort of alternative. There has to be a safer way of using this technology. And that’s what we have to start looking for.

What are some of those alternatives like turning your Wi-Fi off at night?

Those are precautions. My generation when we were younger didn’t have the cell phones that younger generations have now. I don’t know hat alternative technologies there are honestly. I’m sure there are people working on them now.

What is one thing people should be the most concerned about?

The one thing that people should be most concerned about it that they’re not allowed to discuss their health. There’s this umbrella law, the Telecomm Act that should be unconstitutional. That should be against the law of the land to say that something so integral to my lifestyle is something that can’t be discussed. This is the biggest issue. The telecom industry shouldn’t be above reproach. We shouldn’t have to try and find new ways to fight the towers going up. It should be genuine discourse. This is the biggest problem.

When you say that people can’t talk about it what do you mean?

You can’t challenge the location of an antenna based on health. You can’t come to your city council and say I don’t want this tower here because there are x, y, and z studies that show this is going to be detrimental to be child’s health. You can’t do that. This is the essence of this situation. If the council says they’re worried about the health effects, they can be taken to court by the industry, and they have been taken to court in other places by the industry, a lot of times successfully because they have the Telecom Act backing them.

What’s one thing in the documentary that really made an impression on you?

You know, you learn a lot. I think that the biggest shock was that you think okay, I’m going to talk about that cell tower on my neighbor’s roof and then suddenly it’s not just the cell tower; I’m doing it to myself. That cell tower is there because I’m making those calls, and I’m bringing the Wi-Fi into my home, and who thinks that the cordless phone is dangerous? And I love technology, I’m as techie as the next guy. Once you discover that you’ve brought all these things into your house, just without thinking. We don’t ask the questions we just bring this technology into our house. This is the shocker. We need to be critical of people who say, “full signal, the anti-wireless movement are crazy.” A lot of people will say that I’m sure. And it’s difficult to criticize them because two years ago that’s where I was. I think they need an eye-opening experience. They need to see the science they need to just ask the questions. That’s all I’m asking them to do is to ask the questions don’t take anything for granted and then make up your mind. And hopefully before it’s too late, you know, in terms of these illness and these cancers that are facing us.

This anti-wireless movement gets lumped in with fringe, out-there, conspiracy groups. Does that worry you?

It does concern me. I consider myself mainstream, I think my forte, my strength in making this film, is that I am mainstream. I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I think people who try to tie this into bigger conspiracies are really being detrimental to the cause of making people aware of this risk. Don’t write it off as another conspiracy. This isn’t a conspiracy. There are scientists in the United States and around the world who say that there is an increased risk. As far as the message goes, do your research and make sure you’re using this technology responsibly.

Talal Jabari with be present for a screening of “Full Signal,” Sunday, Feb. 21 at 4 p.m. at the Hollywood Theater on Northeast 40th and Sandy.


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