Hand holding cellphone

Placing a cell antenna atop the Curtis apartment building n Lenox would cause "significant radiation" inside that building as well as across the street in Town Hall, according to a retired electrical engineer professor.

LENOX — Placing a cell antenna atop the Curtis apartment building would cause “significant radiation” inside that building as well as across the street in Town Hall.

So says Kent Chamberlin, a retired electrical engineering professor at University of New Hampshire, who cautioned against potential risks surrounding the use of cellular technology. He also served as chairman at the UNH Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

During a public presentation before the Board of Health last week, Chamberlin highlighted the findings of a 13-member New Hampshire Commission formed in 2019 by state lawmakers to study the health and environmental impacts of 5G wireless technology.

Kent Chamberlin photo

Retired University of New Hampshire professor Kent Chamberlin gives a presentation to the Lenox Board of Health on cellular technology health concerns.

“Unpaid citizen experts on a state commission concluded that wireless radiation poses a significant risk to health and the environment,” said Chamberlin, who was on the commission.

“You don’t want to hear this, but the finding of the commission was that cellphone radiation is indeed harmful,” he said, adding that he was not being paid for his presentation. “The good news here is that there are things we can do to protect ourselves against that radiation, but we have to acknowledge that it’s a problem first.”

The Curtis apartment building

The Curtis apartment building in Lenox has been proposed as the site of a cellular antenna to boost the Verizon signal in the downtown area.

The Lenox Housing Authority is considering whether to allow a low-power antenna to be embedded in the chimney of the Curtis, a subsidized housing building, to augment weak cell signals downtown for Verizon users. The Curtis was suggested as the site because it’s the highest structure in the downtown historic district.

And the Planning Board is also considering revisions to its cellular bylaw.

The presentation was hosted by Tri-Town Health Executive Director James Wilusz, who introduced it as informational and not specifically focused on the proposed Curtis cell antenna.

Chamberlin, who asserted that he is not “anti-technology,” maintained that “the science is clear about the health risks of exposure to cellphone radiation, but it’s mostly political at this point; that’s what’s keeping us from moving forward.”

He also stated that “the only people I’ve run into so far who say that cellphone radiation is harmless are people affiliated with the cellphone industry.”

Chamberlin emphasized a number of concerns:

• “There is a large and growing body of evidence demonstrating that exposure to cellphone-type radiation is harmful to humans and the environment. These devices include cellphones, cell towers, Bluetooth, baby monitors, smart meters, cordless phones, Wi-Fi and ‘Internet of Things’ devices.” Those devices include digital-connected appliances, smart home security systems, and wearable health monitors, for example.

• The antenna on the proposed Curtis building site would transmit “very strong radiation” not only toward the horizon but also downward and across Walker Street to Town Hall, which would cause “significant radiation” inside that building as well as inside the Curtis. Chamberlin cited health-related “symptoms” among some Pittsfield residents after a cell tower was erected in a residential area on Alma Street off Holmes Road.

• Cell towers should be set back by 1,640 feet (just under one-third of a mile) from residents. In Lenox, he suggested a “tall tower” away from downtown “with a directional antenna, a great coverage area, and nobody would be exposed to excessive radiation.” Chamberlin cited a study in Brazil conducted from 1996 to 2006 claiming accelerated cancer cases leading to death among people living within one-third of a mile from cell towers. Other studies found similar results, he said.

• “Cell tower companies are willing to jeopardize the health of people just to save some money” by installing lower-cost antennas on buildings instead of constructing more expensive free-standing towers.

• Newspapers are not willing to publicize radiation-risk studies because some of their main advertisers are telecommunications firms, so “they don’t want to bite the hands of the heavy advertisers that feed them.”

Chamberlin denied that he was “cherry-picking” among published studies. “Some show harm, while others do not, and it’s somewhat dependent on who funds the research,” he said. “I just showed you what seemed to be rock-solid studies that definitely show harm with exposure.”

He also stated that Federal Communications Commission limits on radio frequency radiation set in 1996 are far too lenient. He cited a Harvard University Center for Ethics study contending that the FCC “is dominated by the industry it presumably regulates. ... The industry controls the FCC through a soup-to-nuts stranglehold that extends from its well-placed campaign spending in Congress.”

On Aug. 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the FCC must reexamine its health and safety guidelines for 5G and other wireless-based technologies. The case was filed in early 2020 by the Environmental Health Trust.

The court ruled that the FCC’s decision in 2019 that its 1996 radio frequency emission guidelines adequately protect the public was capricious, arbitrary and not evidence-based. The court also found that the analysis provided by the Federal Drug Administration, on which the FCC relied for its decision, was also not evidence-based.

The court ordered the FCC to provide a reasoned explanation for its decision to retain its testing procedures for determining whether cell phones and other portable electronic devices comply with its guidelines; address the impacts of RF radiation on children; address the health implications of long-term exposure to RF radiation; and address the impacts of RF radiation on the environment.

“To be clear, we take no position in the scientific debate regarding the health and environmental effects of RF radiation — we merely conclude that the Commission’s cursory analysis of material record evidence was insufficient as a matter of law,” the court order stated.

“I don’t want to believe my cellphone is hurting me,” Chamberlin said. “I love my cellphone and probably a lot of you do also, so people don’t want to believe the harm, but I think people are wising up.”

“This is a purely educational presentation,” Lenox Board of Health Chairwoman Dianne Romeo stated at the outset. “We won’t enter into any discussion or debate between us and we won’t offer an opinion in any way on this civic project that’s been brought forward to the town.”

The presentation can be viewed on demand at CTSB (Community Television of the Southern Berkshires) or as scheduled on Channel 1303 for Spectrum cable customers.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.