SOURCE: The EMR Policy Institute

August 13, 2008 13:25 ET

Double Standard for Radiation Protection in the Wireless Workplace

EMR Policy Institute (EMRPI) and IBEW Oppose Alltel / Verizon Wireless (VZW) Merger on Worker Safety Grounds

MARSHFIELD, VT--(Marketwire - August 13, 2008) - EMRPI has filed formal opposition at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to the Alltel / VWZ merger. EMRPI's Petition to Deny asserts that FCC has not addressed the impact of long-term exposure to RF radiation (RFR) on human health as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

All mobile carriers have a non-transferable FCC license requirement to protect workers from RFR harm regardless of employment category. Unlike workers who install and repair mobile phone antennas and are required to be trained and alerted to dangerous RFR levels, third-party workers are left ignorant and defenseless in the wireless workplace. It is possible and likely that job site workers would be in a direct line with the antennas' RF beams and be exposed to RFR at levels 200 times stronger than holding a cell phone to their heads.

Worker safety in the wireless workplace is at issue in the Alltel / VZW merger before the FCC. FCC sets the policy for RFR exposure to all workers who come in contact with antennas in their workplaces.

3rd party workers including fire fighters, electricians, roofers, painters, window washers and others apply their professional skills on structures that host wireless transmission sites. As a result of not having RF training or being able to identify the potentially hazardous RF beams, they are routinely over-exposed to RFR on the job.

There is literally a double standard for worker protection in FCC's RFR safety guidelines. FCC policy requires that workers who work directly with antenna equipment have specific training and protection equipment. No equivalent training is provided for construction and maintenance workers who encounter hundreds of thousands of rooftop antenna sites as they repair air conditioner systems, elevators, and roofs. No training is provided for painters and window washers whose bodies are next to antennas on the sides of buildings. Firefighters have no idea if the antennas they encounter at fire sites are emitting RFR.

The EMRPI's petition opposes the Alltel / VZW merger until VZW demonstrates implementation of an RFR safety solution that protects all categories of workers near VZW's antenna sites. "Currently FCC policy leaves thousands of workers unprotected," said EMRPI President Janet Newton. See: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520037595

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), representing nearly 750,000 workers in every state in fields including utilities, construction, telecommunications, broadcasting, manufacturing, railroads and government, has also filed comment protesting the Alltel / VZW merger on worker safety grounds. It states:

        If the [FCC] determines that the merger should be approved, it
        should grant the applications subject to the condition that the
        merged company immediately adopt a nation-wide RF safety system
        that protects all workers.

        The IBEW feels that without a comprehensive RF safety system, which
        can be administered and verified by a neutral third party, RF
        over-exposure will continue to pose unnecessary health risks.

See: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520037722


Workers' risk is multiplied when antenna sites are camouflaged. Municipalities continue to demand stealthing of antennas from public view. Although it supports the public's desire not to see antenna, it removes any visual warning to workers of potential RFR hazard.

The January 2008 National Academy of Sciences Report examining the research on adverse health effects of wireless devices describes the inadequacy of FCC's safety program for all workers:

        ...Wireless networks are being built very rapidly, and many more
        base station antennas are being installed. A crucial research need
        is to characterize radiated electromagnetic fields for typical
        multiple-element base station antennas and for the highest radiated
        power conditions with measurements conducted during peak hours of
        the day at locations close to the antennas as well as at ground
        level. (p. 17, par. 5)

        ...the interest in base station exposures close to the antennas is
        driven by the potential health effects on antenna repair
        professionals and building/roof maintenance workers from relatively
        high, acute exposure...

"EMRPI opposes the Alltel / VZW merger until FCC updates it RFR safety requirements to protect all workers and the public," Ms. Newton stated.

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