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For the first time in the United States, a municipal board of health has ordered a company to ''eliminate all activities and operations'' of a cell phone tower that it deems "a public nuisance, a cause of illness." Since its erection, 20 neighbors of the Verizon Wireless tower, including three cancer patients who chose not to formally fight it, have experienced nausea, dizziness, insomnia, headaches and tinnitus that thousands of studies published since the 1950s attribute to electromagnetic radiation emitted by the antennas.
The 115-foot tower with six antennas - and room for 48 - was erected early in the pandemic in a wooded area adjacent to the house where Herman Melville wrote his prophetic 1851 novel Moby Dick, about man's dominion over nature. The story takes place in the residential neighborhood of Shacktown in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

''Horrible'' symptoms
"The morning the antennas were activated, in early August 2020, my 10-year-old daughter, whose room was closest to the tower, woke up with dizziness, headaches, a buzzing in her head and general malaise," says teacher Courtney Gilardi, whose home is about 450 feet (137 m) from the tower. We've seen our healthy, happy, active children sleep with a vomit bucket next to their bed. I myself developed horrible migraines, like a knife piercing my skull, and dizziness so severe that I could not drive my car. My two daughters and I began to suffer from insomnia. I would wake up at night with heart palpitations. My little one got rashes, her skin was so itchy she thought bugs were crawling around. One day she walked directly into a wall because she was so dizzy. This was not my daughter, who skates and does gymnastics. She was so nauseous that she had no appetite and started to lose weight. The illness and time away from school took away her confidence. I asked the Ministry of Health to investigate but we were completely ignored. No child in pain should be ignored!

Medical recognition
Her family doctor, however, took her seriously and advised her to move, as did some of her neighbors with similar symptoms. "I didn't want to believe that the beautiful house where my children were born was making us sick. Then we found an Egyptian study on the effects of antennas that described all the symptoms we were experiencing."
In April 2021, the family began sleeping in a 100-year-old house with broken windows and water heater, electrical and plumbing problems, a leaky roof and an infestation of rats, mice and squirrels. "We put mattresses on the floor and our health gradually improved, the girls were no longer sleeping in their vomit. I never thought I would get better... The cottage had no phone nor Internet, so the girls were schooling remotely by Zoom during the day. We also ate and showered at home, but had to go back to the cottage at night to recover. Finally, in August 2021, we resigned ourselves to living full-time at the cottage."
Dr. Sharon Goldberg, associate professor of internal medicine at the University of New Mexico, diagnosed Courtney and her daughters as suffering from classic symptoms of electrohypersensitivity experienced by many people living especially within 1,450 ft (500 m) of cell towers1. The same symptoms have been experienced by radar operators since the 1950s, by many citizens around the world, by firefighters working under antennas, and by over a thousand American and Canadian diplomats based in Cuba and China, among other places. Radio frequency (RF) radiation in the microwave frequency range is the "most plausible" cause of the symptoms experienced by these diplomats, a panel of experts from the US National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded in 2020.

The Verizon cell tower was erected at the beginning of the pandemic in a wood part of the Shacktown residential neighborhood of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. © Berkshire Eagle

Avoidance is the only solution
In its order2 sent to Verizon Wireless on April 11, 2022, the Pittsfield Board of Health notes that the latest U.S. classification of diseases recognizes "radiation sickness" resulting from injury from non-ionizing radiation. After 20 months of analyzing the case, the Board concluded: "The evidence shows that involuntary wireless radiation exposure directed at Shacktown residents in their homes has effectively expelled several residents injured by pulsed and modulated RF radiation; they have no choice but to leave...because the constant exposure causes them severe pain, prevents them from functioning, and materially endangers and compromises their health and safety...Based on the evidence, avoidance of the [wave] exposure is the only effective management. "
Along with chemical pollution, oxidative stress and genetic damage from RF radiation contribute to the development of inflammatory, autoimmune, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, premature aging, cataracts, rheumatoid and cardiac arthritis, and acute conditions such as stroke, according to Dr. Cindy Russell, author of the 2015 California Medical Association wireless resolution and founder of Physicians for Safe Technology.

Scientific controversy
The Pittsfield Board of Health rejected the argument of the expert hired by Verizon Wireless as lacking credibility. "The immutable laws of physics" mean that cellular waves cannot cause the symptoms that neighbors of the tower are complaining about, said Eric S. Swanson, a physics professor who has no expertise or publications in biology or medicine.
Instead, the council singled out the more than 1,000 "credible, independent, peer-reviewed" studies submitted by experts on the harmful effects of RF at exposure levels 10,000 times lower than national and international limits that are intended only to avoid the thermal effects of these waves. Several experts, including the former President of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the former director of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, have called for exposure limits based on non-thermal effects to protect children and others more sensitive to electromagnetic pollution. In 2018, the US National Toxicology Program and the Italian Ramazzini Institute concluded RF radiation caused the same types of cancers in rats as seen in some long-term cell phone users.
Measurements of RF radiation in the neighborhood by a firm hired by the City of Pittsfield found that the average wave density was 98.34% below the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) exposure guideline against thermal effects. Ontario Toxicology Professor Emeritus Magda Havas explained in a letter to the Director of the City's Health Department, "The FCC provides a short-term guideline that monitors average levels for a 30-minute period for public exposure (uncontrolled environment) and for a 6-minute period for occupational exposure (controlled environment). As a public health specialist, you should know that organisms respond to extremes rather than averages. If you place your hand in boiling water and then pour cold water over your hand, the average temperature of the water will be much lower, but the damage from the burn will still be apparent."
Verizon Wireless had seven days to respond to the ordinance and it did not. The company and the City would not comment on the matter. The Board of Health has asked Pittsfield's elected officials for $84,000 to hire environmental and telecommunications litigation attorneys.

1. https://cdnsciencepub.com/doi/10.1139/A10-018
2. https://ehtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/Pittsfield-Health-Board-Cell-Tower-Order-to-Verizon-April-11-2022-FINAL-REDACTED.pdf