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In what may be the first such move by a city health department, members of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Board of Health on Feb. 2 voted unanimously to issue a cease-and-desist order to Verizon if the company refuses to discuss removing or relocating a cell tower residents said is the source of multiple illnesses.

The order would require Verizon to turn off the tower unless it commits to resolving issues raised by residents of the Berkshire Mountains community.

Following the vote, Verizon told WAMC Northeast Public Radio:

“Verizon telecommunications equipment and networks comply with all health and safety standards established by the FCC [Federal Communications Commission]. We have met on multiple occasions with the Pittsfield Health Department and members of the community to address their concerns with this site. All of Verizon’s equipment at the Pittsfield tower operates well under the FCC’s conservative limits, as confirmed by the city’s own RF study from last summer.”

Susan Foster, a medical writer who organized a SPECT brain scan pilot study of California firefighters in 2004, said Verizon and other telecom giants, championed by the FCC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, hide behind the illusion that their cell towers produce only a small fraction of what the FCC allows.

“The truth is the FCC set those limits extraordinarily high for several purposes, and one is to offer the illusion of safety,” Foster said.

She added:

“Every time one of the carriers wants to come in and place a cell tower near your child’s school or in the midst of a residential neighborhood, telecom representatives come before a local planning board and present carefully orchestrated routines in which they say, ‘The cell tower we are proposing for this site measures at 1/1000 of what the FCC allows.’

“Of course, that sounds reassuring. What they don’t tell you is that thousands of studies by some of the world’s leading physicians and scientists have found radio-frequency radiation is linked to acoustic neuromas and glioblastomas, oxidative stress, DNA damage, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, male infertility and electrosensitivity (EHS) at a small fraction of what the FCC allows.”

In fact, in December 2019, Verizon warned investors, in documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, that it could be the target of litigation that could require the company to pay significant damages or settlements:

“[O]ur wireless business also faces personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits relating to alleged health effects of wireless phones or radio-frequency transmitters. We may incur significant expenses in defending these lawsuits. In addition, we may be required to pay significant awards or settlements.”

Foster has studied the health impact of wireless technology for nearly two decades. She organized a firefighters pilot study at a small station in central California where she chronicled previously healthy firefighters suffering cognitive impairment to the point they got lost responding to 911 calls in the same town they grew up in.

The study, published in 2004, was conducted by Gunnar Heuser, M.D., Ph.D., then of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. It found brain abnormalities inconsistent with the profile of previously strong, healthy men in the prime of life.

The study served as the basis for state and national lobbying on the part of the firefighters which resulted most recently in an exemption to 5G towers on fire stations throughout the state of California — the first such exemption in the world.

“If the firefighters, the strongest of the strong among us, sustained brain damage at 1/1000 of what the FCC allows, and this was 2G when we did the study in 2004, what are we doing to pregnant women, developing children, the immunocompromised, the elderly and to society as a whole?” Foster asked.

Foster said the symptoms she found in firefighters correlate with the symptoms reported by Pittsfield residents.

Pittsfield residents have been reporting symptoms to city leaders and the Board of Health for at least 18 months.

For some, the symptoms appeared immediately after the August 2020 activation of the cell tower.

For others, the headaches, nausea, vomiting, rashes, vertigo and foggy thinking — and in some cases, more severe medical conditions — came on in the days, weeks and months later.

Residents invited medical and scientific experts to speak to city officials. Some residents sold their homes and left Pittsfield because they were no longer able to live with the radiation raining down on them. Others lived in their cars or moved in with relatives.

Courtney Gilardi, whose family moved to a small cottage several miles away, has been active in the fight against the 115-ft Verizon tower ever since it was lowered into a clearing of trees in the midst of her neighborhood.

Gilardi and her 13-year-old daughter spoke at the recent Pittsfield Board of Health meeting, along with eight of their neighbors.

The two also testified before a subcommittee of the Massachusetts legislature as lawmakers were considering establishing a 5G commission patterned after that of neighboring New Hampshire.

Foster called Pittsfield a microcosm of the country.

“We are literally trapped in a web of laws and FCC directives that take away our rights when it comes to fighting these towers,” Foster said.

One year after Verizon activated the tower in Pittsfield, a victory in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals found the FCC’s regulatory limits were “arbitrary and capricious.”

In a case brought by Children’s Health Defense and Environmental Health Trust, the court ruled on Aug. 13, 2021, that the FCC failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its determination that its current guidelines adequately protect against the harmful effects of exposure to radiofrequency radiation.

Foster said there’s growing outrage at the encroachment of cell towers into every corner of people’s lives including outside their children’s bedroom windows.

With 5G beaming from hundreds of thousands of satellites orbiting Earth, and global petitions by scientists and physicians calling for a halt to the 5G rollout until it can be studied for health effects, the world might be rooting for Pittsfield to win its battle against Verizon, she said.