Battle against cell towers includes health concerns

By JULIE ANN GRIMM | The New Mexican
May 6, 2007

Panel explores dangers of wireless technology; local officials wrestle with other tower issues

A widely known doctor and neural therapist who formerly practiced in Santa Fe is among those who want more doctors and scientists across the globe to recognize what they argue are devastating health effects from electromagnetic fields and wireless technology.

“This is a huge problem,” said Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, speaking Saturday at the Eldorado Hotel during the annual meeting of the World Congress of Integrated Medicines, called “Electromagnetic Factors in Health: An Invisible Pandemic.”

“It’s bigger than mercury. It’s bigger than Lyme disease. It’s bigger than anything we’ve dealt with in medicine, yet physicians, some of whom are in the room, are not looking into this,” Klinghardt said.

Klinghardt pointed to his work at the Seattle-based Institute for Neurobiology that treats autistic children by lessening exposure to electromagnetic fields including certain electric wiring in their homes.

He also urged people to investigate data about how communications towers for cellular telephones cause abnormal EKG readings in children as far away as 1.6 miles. Each person in the United States is affected by as many as 50 such towers — including those now commonly hidden in church steeples or made to look like trees — in any given location, he said.

Other speakers said cell phones and wireless technology are the cause of myriad disorders including cancer, insomnia, fatigue, immune system problems, low sperm count and high blood pressure.

People in Santa Fe are already up in arms about the potential health hazards of wireless devices and communication towers, with a handful of people affected with electromagnetic sensitivity leading a charge against a city plan to employ wireless Internet in government buildings and perhaps at large in the downtown area.

An informational presentation by Wi-Fi opponent Arthur Firstenberg is planned for 7 p.m. May 14 at the Santa Fe Woman’s Club, 161 Old Pecos Trail. Firstenberg regularly speaks out against projects including cell towers proposed for erection.

Local elected officials, however, indicate federal rules about communication devices don’t allow them to impose much authority. Santa Fe County, for example, has had recent challenges in dealing with a company that wants to erect new communications towers and with neighboring landowners who oppose the idea.

While Edgewood residents dropped an appeal of a New Cingular Wireless tower earlier this spring, the county commission is set to deliberate a proposed tower in Madrid again in the coming months.

The board first denied the company permission to build a tower on a hilltop on private land in Madrid, south of Santa Fe. When Cingular filed a District Court appeal, the board then voted in December to reconsider the case. Commissioners have not discussed the case in a public meeting since then, and it is not listed on an agenda for Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

In the meantime, the county and Cingular met with people in Madrid who opposed the siting of the tower.

Heather French, who lives near the proposed site, was one of several community members on the committee. French said efforts to negotiate another site failed when Cingular refused to change its proposal.

French said she’s also been frustrated that federal rulings prohibit much local decision-making power based on health concerns. Plenty of other problems with the proposed site make it objectionable, she said, chief among them is that the location is in a historic district.

Set to expire next week is a second court-approved delay in the county’s deadline to respond to the appeal, but county spokesman Stephen Ulibarri said state District Judge James Hall has already agreed to allow another stay.

In Edgewood, it was local residents acting without an attorney who appealed the county’s decision in October 2006 to allow a 36-foot cell tower on land near an elementary school. But by this spring, two of the three plaintiffs, Ellen and Lynette Curley-Roam, had dropped the appeal and moved away; the third didn’t want to continue alone. The Curely-Roams were not available for comment.

Contact Julie Ann Grimm at 986-3017 or jgrimm@

Informant: James River Martin


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