Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Short Address For Fairfield City Property Committee

This post is in regards to the March 18 2009 meeting of the Fairfield property Committee, 7:30 PM at City Hall.

I had initially misunderstood the purpose of this meeting. I believed that it was on the topic of the current proposed cell base station installation. In a telecon with the committee Chairman Mr. Revolinski, I have come to the understanding that the meeting is focused on future projects and setting policy in place for those.

I had prepared a few short remarks for the meeting which I will (most likely) not be speaking out. Therefore I have included those remarks here on the blog. In the remarks I make a specific recommendation regarding the proposed cell phone base station.

=== Here is the text of those remarks...
Good evening ladies and gentlemen of FF, members of the committee, Mr. Chairman.

I have organized a few words into 4 points. After Point 3 I will offer my recommendations. Then I will end with a very short additional note. I would like to go through these points uninterrupted and then open for any questions.

1] Very briefly, I will recap. In the past few weeks I was contacted by many concerned and even frightened friends who wanted my opinion on the proposed tower. I carefully studied the literature that was being circulated, and spent an entire work day following and reading references on the Internet that were given in the circulated literature. In short, almost none of these references, articles, reports, etc. addressed cell phone base stations (cell towers if you prefer). Again, from the circulated literature, I found that no case made for potential hazards from this proposed installation. NOTE: this is not a statement that there is no research for cell tower biological hazards, only that the circulated literature did not make a case for it.

I called the organizers of the civic action group that wanted the tower site moved to offer free counsel and consulting. They were too busy to speak with me and I did not even get to offer help. They told me to just come to the public meeting. I had no interest in attending a meeting that could potentially be emotionally charged with people who were already on a mission, and try to persuade them stop in their tracks and to listen to some boring facts of physics.

As a result, I chose to write an article and make it available to my friends.

My article pointed out that the circulated literature was not making a case for a threat to the public. My article corrected the popular erroneous belief, as is evidenced by numerous web sites, that the maximum FCC allowed power for a human, would be or could be imposed on the public by a cell phone base station (tower).

I carefully qualified my remarks to be the case of a free standing tower and referenced the RF power density on the ground. Specifically, I did not address cell phone base station antennas on top of buildings and I did not address the RF power density from a free standing tower to the upper floors of multi-story buildings in the vicinity of the tower.

I never said that cell towers were safe or unsafe and I have continued with that. I worked very hard to make my article understandable by non-technical folks. I wrote it in a completely dispassionate way, and I organized 11 other scientists and community leaders to peer review my article before publishing. I included all of their input. I am a scientist of 39 years, and this is how we work. And oh yes, I again offered free help.

In just the last week, there has been a great deal of literature circulated that is to the point of this issue. These are articles, reports and studies specifically on the topic of the RF power from cell phone base stations and negative biological effects of low level, continuous RF radiation as is present from a cell phone base station. There is a great deal of this information. This must not be ignored.

It is possible, that my article was in some way a catalyst for the locating and circulating of this information.

2] At any point, in the immediate vicinity of a cell phone base station, the received RF power will, in general, be greater if the person receiving the power is in an elevated position, up to and including the height of the antenna. This of course means that if there are multi-story buildings near the cell base station, people on the upper floors will be receiving more RF power than someone on the ground at those same coordinates. This increase in RF could be considerable. The carrier can provide this information. This point was not addressed in my original article but this point is crucial and must not be ignored.

3] There is concern that the carrier could start out with certain transmitter powers on the proposed site and later increase the number of transmitters and add other carriers to the tower. Is this likely? Of course.

Here is a quick case-in-point. East of FF there is a US Sprint cell phone base station tower just by the towing company. Approximately 3 years ago they had an East West coverage on their antenna - east and west along Hwy 34. Their coverage did not actually cover FF city. One of my customers, the Dexter company had most of their company cell phones with Sprint and were quite unhappy with the coverage at their West Grimes location. Sprint sent 2 engineers to survey the problem. As a result, Sprint added another antenna to their site giving it coverage for Fairfield city. In addition, 1 more set of antennas have been added to that site making the total of 2 increases in transmitters in the last 3 years. This point must not be ignored.

I will now offer my recommendation and end with a very short closing 4th topic.

We are a model community. And this is true in a global sense. We have and we must continue to strive for excellence in every avenue of life, including our environment.

The question before us, is not whether the proposed cell base station should be moved or not. The question is, how far should we move it.

There has been some discussion of the Iowa Malleable site. I would not vote for that. I would vote for moving it to the edge of town. All of the other cell towers are on the periphery of town and they seem to work just fine. Let’s keep it that way.

4] I want to take this opportunity to strongly encourage all of the citizens in FF to perform your own research for the other sources of RF radiation. Specifically: cell phone handsets, cordless phones, wireless networking, wireless Internet, wireless telephone headsets, blue tooth earpieces etc. There is a great deal of use of these devices in business and personal life here in FF and I ask you to perform your own research and see for yourself if there is a reason to minimize your use of these. Indeed, for some of them, see if a case can be made for not using them at all.

I thank you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Proposed Cell Phone Base Station (Tower) In Fairfield, Iowa USA

This post addresses the proposed installation of a new cell phone base station (cell phone tower) in Fairfield Iowa. I am writing this post as a measure of efficiency. I have received many emails and one-on-one questions regarding this topic and I am repeating myself, over and over.

This post is intended to present certain facts (classical physics) concerning the microwave radiation from a US based cell phone base station. This information will be presented in a way that allows a non-technical person to "get a physical handle" on the radio frequency (RF) radiation from such a base station and assess it along side of many other sources of radiation that are present in the modern world.

In addition, this post will address information that has been presented by various other sources, e.g. websites. All too often, information has been presented in such a way that the general public can easily come to an inaccurate conclusion. Specifically observations will be made as to the appropriateness and specificity of those sources of information as regards this proposed installation in Fairfield, Iowa.

It is *not* the purpose of this post to make an assessment of danger/safety of the proposed installation. The definition of "safe" is not at all agreed-upon.

Executive Summary
  • A great deal of information has been circulating in the community which does *not* address the perceived threat of this proposed cell phone base station (tower) installation. This information does, though, frighten people.
  • The actual Radio Frequency (RF) power (power density) at ground level, of this proposed cell base station, is very likely much lower than the "circulated information" would lead you to believe.
  • There are definitely numerous other RF sources that radiate (to ground level) an intensity quite a bit more than the typical cell phone base station (tower), and therefore might be a better focus for people to take in protecting their bodies.

Intended Audience
The intended audience is my friends who keep asking me questions. I will make a concerted effort to make this post understandable by non-technical individuals.

Here we go .....

The Problem
The proposed cell phone base station (cell phone tower) is in the center of town. It is feared that this will have a negative effect on the health of the populace. Civic action groups are working to somehow block the construction of this facility

I want to personally acknowledge the many individuals who are pursuing this civic action initiative. I want to appreciate your interest in public health and thank-you for your efforts to pursue a noble cause. May God bless you in every way.

I want to thank the 11 scientists and community leaders who provided a peer-review of this article prior to making it public. I have incorporated all of their insights and suggestions.

I have organized my offering of information into various topics. If you only read one topic, read the last one "The Irony Of It All".

Topic 1 - The Presentation of Information Regarding This Cell Base Station Proposal

A great deal of information has been supplied with regard to this topic. Emails have been broadcasted with citations and references to various papers, news items, reports, etc. Papers and posters have been made available with various citations.

All of this information has been presented in a way that can only frighten people. A great deal of mentioning of dread diseases and serious conditions has been put forth. When people are frightened they can lose sight of simple facts and thereby can fail to make logical decisions.

It does not take a scientist to make some simple assessments of this information. Here are examples of such assessments.

Example 1
These documents that have been circulated often have many, many references to "prove the point" that this cell phone base station is a threat. If you look at the nature of the references you will find:
  • A large percentage are simply a mention of some other civic group's action. While that could be a call to action for our community, if we have no way to assess whether their (the other community's) efforts were well founded or not then it means very little. Most importantly, it does not address the radiation strength of the proposed base station and hence the threat to this community.
  • A large percentage are oriented to cell phone handsets. Yes it is the same type of radiation, but it also does not address the radiation strength of the proposed base station and hence the threat to this community.
  • A large percentage are documentation of epidemiological effects of microwave radiation, and again, does not address the radiation strength of the proposed base station and hence the threat to this community.
Do you see the point?

Think of it this way. Do you think that you could get far enough away from a cell phone base station so that the radiation strength could not possibly hurt you?

What is that radiation strength? How far would you have to go?

My point is that the references above do not seem to address this at all. They vilify microwave radiation, point to others who are concerned and presume that this proposed base station must somehow pose a threat.

Example 2
Many references mention that the US standard (set by the Federal Communications Commission, FCC) for maximum allowable radiation strength at the cell phone frequency of 1.8-1.9 Ghz, is 1000 microwatts per square centimeter.

These references point to other countries around the world that have lower standards (lower max. allowed power). The verbiage in the references strongly states that somehow the US is negligent and putting the general public at risk because of the 1000 microwatts per square centimeter specification.

Here is the point. The references imply that the 1000 microwatts per square centimeter specification means that the general public is being exposed to such a radiation intensity from this cell phone base station. This is far, far from the truth. It is actually thousands of times less than 1000 microwatts per square centimeter specification. More on this later.

Example 3
The references mentioned above offer a strong implication that because some other country has a reported maximum level that is less than the US level, that the US is therefore deficient in protecting the general populace.

My point is not an argument that the US maximum exposure level is acceptable or not. This is a simple statement that the existence of someone else's lower level really does not mean that the US level is wanting in any way. It proves nothing.

Furthermore, some of these specifications are for the maximum allowed radiation for a pulsed RF signal and are *not* comparable to US cell phone radiation.

Example 4
Links ( are offered to Dr. Neil Cherry's radio broadcasts in S.F. The text titles of the links to these audio broadcasts, say "Cell Phone Tower ...". Many of the still photos in the recording are of cell towers. These Neil Cherry broadcasts do not, though, address cell phone towers.

The Neil Cherry broadcasts speak of radio and television transmitter sites that have millions of watts of transmitted power (see Note 1 below). According to the FCC, a typical (single) cell phone base station transmitter operates at 5 to 10 watts of power. That is a great deal less.

In addition, these Neil Cherry radio broadcasts also focus on believed epidemiological effects of radio frequency radiation. This does not address the assessment of a potential risk from the proposed cell base station.

Once again, much information is supplied that will frighten the reader but not address the risk of the proposed installation. How did these radio broadcasts audio files get the titles "Cell Phone Tower ..."?

Summary of Topic 1
The various distributed information is very heavily weighted with information that is not directly concerned with the issue at hand and the populace therefore will probably not make "informed decisions". Information in references and citations has been presented in such a way to allow a reader to draw inaccurate conclusions.

Topic 2 RF Falls Off Rapidly With Distance

Radio frequencies (RF) decrease rapidly in strength as you move away from the antenna. For those technical readers, it falls off as the inverse square of the distance.

I will construct a simple example.
You are talking on a cell phone handset and it is transmitting at its full power.
You are holding the cell phone 1 inch from your head and the received RF power density is 500 microwatts per square centimeter.
Now you move the cell phone to 10 inches from your head.
The power density will be 100 times less: 5 microwatts per square centimeter.

Do you see how quickly it falls off with distance? 500 down to 5.

Topic 3 The RF Power Density From A Cell Phone Base Station (Cell tower) At Its Base

The FCC specifically addresses the measured power density at the base of the tower of a Cell Phone Base Station. Please note that they are referring to a traditional free-standing tower, like the one proposed for Fairfield. Please see Note 2 below. In the FCC paper I am referring to, they cite a typical power density as:

1 microwatt per square centimeter.

Pause here for a moment and let that digest ..... only 1 microwatt per square centimeter,
at the base of the tower.

There are many documents, websites, papers etc. that lambaste the FCC for having a maximum allowed exposure of 1000 microwatt per square centimeter.

That does not mean that this proposed cell phone base station, or any other base station for that matter, produces the 1000 microwatt per square centimeter power density at ground level.

Indeed the specification is mostly pointed at the cell phone handsets.

Also, reflect upon the many articles that you may have read that offer praise to other countries for their specifications that are lower than 1000. Some are 100, 20, 5, etc.

At the base of a cell base station the FCC has measured 1 ... just 1 microwatt per square centimeter.

NOTE: 1 microwatt per square centimeter can be written: 1 uW/cm2

Here is a quote from the below cited FCC document:
For example, measurement data obtained from various sources have consistently indicated that "worst-case" ground-level power densities near typical cellular towers are on the order of 1 µW/cm2 or less (usually significantly less).

CLICK HERE For the FCC document.

Topic 4 What (really) COULD Be Dangerous ?

There are quite a few transmitters that are common in this modern life that subject people to RF power densities much, much greater than "ground level of power densities of a cell phone base station". Included among them are:
  • Cell phone handsets
  • Any PDA that transmits on cell frequencies
  • Cordless phones, particularly the 2.4 Ghz and 5.x Ghz
  • Wireless networking in your home, business, restaurant, airport, etc.
  • Blue Tooth ear pieces. These are the worst of the worst.
  • High power television and radio transmitters
  • Radar transmitters, e.g. airport radars
Special mention is offered for wireless networking. This is the scheme where you don't have to connect wires (like Ethernet) to your computer in order to connect to the Internet, and other local computers. There will usually be something called a "wireless router" that connects you. The frequency of these is most often higher than cell phones. Often they are in the Industrial Scientific and Medical band of 2.4 Ghz. Yes that is the frequency for microwave ovens.

Depending upon how you set up your computer and your wireless router, you could be bathing yourself in 2.4 Ghz energy much of the time or possibly all of the time. The power level of a wireless router is somewhat less (0.2 to 1.0 watts) than a cell phone handset. Remember, also, that your PC has a similar transmitter in it to "talk to" the wireless router.

Topic 5 A Recommendation To The Civic Action Organizers

If it has not already been done, contact the carrier in question for the proposed cell base station and have them send you the data for the worst-case (highest) ground level power densities from the base of the proposed site out to 1 mile, and we'll have a look at them.

Topic 6 The Irony Of It all

Topic 6a
These remarks are appropriate to people who actually use cell phones. The irony, is simply that more cell base stations (towers) that there are, the lower the received radiation !

Cell phone handsets adjust their transmitted power so that they transmit with the least power that is needed to reach the base station. With more base stations, the average distance from your handset, to the nearest base station, will be less - so your cell phone handset will transmit with less power, and your body will receive less power from the handset. The power your body receives from the base station itself will be thousands to millions of time less than the radiation from the handset, so only the handset radiation is of significance here.

Topic 6b
People wonder why we don't lower the FCC limit of 1000 microwatts per square centimeter. Well, we (as a nation) could. If we want to have the same coverage - the same ability to serve the same number of people - you guessed it, we would need more cell base stations.

Topic 7 A Personal Note

I have a cell phone. I keep it off most of the time. I use it, typically for 3 minutes per month. I almost always use it in the speakerphone mode so that I can hold the phone away from my body.

When I see other people talking on cell phones, held against their head, for a great deal of time, I often wonder if I should try to make them aware of what they might be doing to themselves. One of the peer reviewers of this article is a Dad and an electrical engineer (both like me). He asked me to urge all parents to insist that their children who have cell phones, use them in speakerphone mode and hold the phones at arms length. Bravo, I say!

Blessings to all,
Robert Palma

My resume can be found here.

A micro-resume of only RF related work is below.
  • Age 20, still in engineering school at UVa. Served as Chief Engineer of Wccv FM a commercial 50,000 watt stereo FM broadcast station. Responsible for all transmitter facilities and measurement of broadcast field strengths.
  • Graduated with BSEE (electronic engineering). First job with US Navy. Designed first RF instrument for RF strength measure for use on Navy aircraft carriers to prevent inadvertent initiation of explosives from RF. Later used throughout US Navy.
  • Joined Naval Research Laboratory. Designed spacecraft and launch vehicles for 23 years. One of my specialties was design of electroexplosive systems. These are inherently sensitive to inadvertent RF initiation. Did extensive work in measuring and characterizing RF - always with safety as the goal.
  • Was one of 5 engineers on blue-ribbon team to re-write specification for preventing inadvertent initiation of electro-explosive devices for the US Space Shuttle program (Mil-STD-1512-tailored). Received an award for this, here.
  • Operate microwave laboratory with brother Greg Palma. Designed/tested various devices for lowering the electromagnetic fields for humans, including a cell phone safety device that reduces RF exposure to the head - here.
  • Performed assessments of suitability for Maharishi SthapatyaVeda of various properties in the Fairfield, Iowa area for electromagnetic environments from 60 Hz power line frequencies to the microwave frequencies. One of these studies was specifically in regards to the proximity of several cell phone base stations (towers). All projects were approved.

= = = Notes

1] In Example 4 above, reference is made to the Neil Cherry radio broadcast where he speaks of a broadcast (tower) site with megawatts of transmitted power. In this article I simply reference what he said and have not attempted to verify that it is correct. I will note that there has been for many decades, broadcast sites (towers) where many, many different broadcast services (transmitters) operate on the very same tower. Indeed in some case they share the very same antenna. This would allow there to be a single tower that does indeed radiate megawatts (millions of watts) of power.

2] This article has addressed the cell phone radiation topic for the proposed cell phone base station (tower) in Fairfield. This is a traditional free-standing tower-site. The towers are typically 80 to 300 feet in height. This means that persons on the ground, near the tower, are quite a distance from the base station antennas. I am including this note because in other locations around the world, cell phone base stations are sometimes mounted on the top of buildings. They may be mounted there on fairly short towers or masts. This could pose a radiation hazard for people working on the roof of the building or even people working or living on the upper floors of the building, because these people are so close to the antennas.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Understanding Radiation – 101

Understanding Radiation – 101

This article addresses radiation with a focus on Radio Frequency (RF) waves. A RF wave (RF energy) is a specific variation of the broad category of: electromagnetic waves. The focus here will be in the arena of RF energy (waves) associated with handheld communication devices such as Cell Phones, wireless telephones, etc.

Radiation is the movement of some force or influence in an outward direction. Sound waves radiate out from a loud speaker. Radio Frequency waves radiate out from a broadcast station antenna. A magnetic field radiates out from bar magnet. Light radiates from the Sun, the Moon, stars, or from a light bulb.

Here is a very brief discussion on atoms, electrons and ions so that you can have an understanding of the difference between ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. I will attempt to make this not-too-complicated. It will be helpful to understand this.

Think of an atom as a nucleus (the center part) and some electrons orbiting around the nucleus. The nucleus has protons that have a positive charge(s). The electrons have a negative charge. If there are the same number of protons (in the nucleus) and electrons (orbiting around the nucleus) then their charges balance out – they cancel each other.

If though, there are too many electrons then the atom will have an overall negative charge. This is called a negative ion.

If there are not enough electrons, then the atom ha an overall positive charge. This is called a positive ion.

In the human body, if ions are formed for any reason, they can go on to react with other atoms in the cell, causing damage.

Ionizing Radiation
Ionizing radiation, as you have probably guessed, is a type of radiation that can create ions in the human body. Common types of ionizing radiation are: x-rays, cosmic rays, Beta particles, etc.

Non-Ionizing Radiation
Non-ionizing radiation includes ultraviolet (UV), visible light, infrared (IR), radio frequency (RF), microwave (a part of the RF waves), and extremely low frequency (ELF).

Non-ionizing radiation, does not cause the formation of ions when it impacts living tissue. There are other damage mechanisms that can occur from non-ionizing radiation. This article will not discuss those damage mechanisms. Non-ionizing radiation is the radiation from cell phones, wireless telephones, wireless Internet and Local Area Networks (LANs), walkie-talkies, RF remote controls, radio and TV station broadcast antennas, radars, 50 Hz and 60 Hz power lines, etc.

This article was written pursuant to further articles that will discuss ways to reduce the cell phone radiation to the cell phone user’s head. Here is an example of a radiation absorbing device that has demonstrated significant effectiveness.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Urban Legend, Cell Phone Danger While Charging

I received quite a few panic emails from friends about a danger associated with using a cell phone while it is charging. It seemed that people just madly forwarded this piece around to everyone.

I have included, in italics, at the very end of this post, the email that I received many, many copies of.

Here is my take:
ANY appliance that is plugged into the utility power line (A.C. power line) could conceivably give a shock to a person who is touching/holding the appliance. This would probably be due to leakage currents from the power supply. In the case of an appliance like a cell phone, the power supply is the small box that typically plugs into the A.C. wall socket. A well made, properly tested power supply will not do this unless it has been mistreated. Mistreating includes, but is not limited-to, allowing a liquid (water, coffee, soda pop, etc) to drip or pour onto it (the appliance).

Furthermore, if the person who is touching the appliance had wet hands or was standing in water, this risk of shock could be more.

I emphasize that this can happen with any appliance that plugs into the A.C. line. Consider electric razors, hair dryers, curling irons, electric coffee pots - just to name a few.

I would categorize this as something of an Urban Legend because the email (see below) seems to implicate cell phones, whereas in reality this situation could occur with any appliance. To come away from reading the email (below) with the idea that using them while plugged in is bad, and simultaneously not appreciating the inherent danger of any appliance, is something of a hysterical episode.

I frequently use my cell phone while it is plugged in. I do not use curling irons, though - I am bald

Here is the text of the email that I received.

I've done this too! Never thought about how dangerous it might be.

Recharging Cell Phones

I went to to ! be sure it wasn't an urban legend &
it's not. It is very true! And I do this all the time! Not anymore!!!!

This seems important enough to forward to others. It's wise to
be safe and safe being wise. This was also on ?Pittsburgh's WTAE
4 News.

Never, ever answer a cell phone while it is being CHARGED!!

few days ago, a person was recharging his cell phone at home.
Just at that time a call came and he answered it with the instrument
still connected to the outlet. After a few seconds electricity flowed
into the cell phone unrestrained and the young man was thrown to the
ground with a heavy thud. His parents
rushed to the room only t! o find him unconscious, with a weak
heartbeat and burnt fingers.

He was rushed to the nearby hospital, but was pronounced dead
on arrival. Cell phones are a very useful modern invention. However, we
must be aware that it can also be an instrument of death.

Never use the cell phone while it is hooked to the electrical

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cell Phone Radiation Protection

There are billions of cell phones in the world. They have offered us unprecedented communications abilities.

Many feel that the cell phone radio frequency energy cause a cell phone safety or cell phone health problem.

I really do not want to enter into the fray of whether this is true or not. There are arguments on both sides.

As a scientist and research and development engineer, I know that scientific data can be presented in a way to "show just about anything" is true, or at least possibly true.

Having said that, and having my own opinion of the safety issue, I decided to come up with a "scientifically credible" technology to lessen the impact of radio frequency energy on the human body - specifically the human head.

I have decades as a hardware and software design engineer. You can read my resume, most of which describes my rocket scientist days.

Robert Palma Resume

There were many areas that I designed within. Electro-explosive device firing circuitry and switch mode power converters were two of these. By necessity of these design responsibilities, I had to become an expert in Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) and the flip side of that, Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC).

Without getting to carried away, in the late 1970's and early 1980 I (in the Navy) and others (in the Air Force and NASA) came up with an approach to test the effectiveness of absorbing materials - electromagnetic absorbing materials.

This led me, today, to the cell phone radiation protection device known as the Noble1 RF absorber.

There is various engineering and test data on the site for this product. If you want to reduce the radio frequency energy to your head from a cell phone - you need to visit this site. Reduce Cell Phone Radiation To Your Head. Hope this is helpful to you.

Okay for now.

Blessings and prosperity to all.

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Welcome all

This is the my first posting. I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge with those who are interested. I am equally looking forward to your responses of all types.

The title of this Blog indicates the areas where I feel that I can offer useful, even enlightening knowledge and advice.

Blessings to everyone.