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(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

April, 2006


MERA And Electromagnetic Pollution In Marin
By Karen Nakamura

This paper has been investigating the effectiveness of the newly installed and expensive ($23 million and counting) Marin Emergency Respond Authority (MERA), The MERA system is a series of radio transmitters and receivers which allows first responders to communicate with each other during a disaster. This lack of ability greatly hampered rescue efforts during Katrina.
However, MERA has hit a few snags as it moves towards full implementation. Bolinas, Tiburon, Fairfax, San Anselmo and San Rafael have all seen organized protests against antennas being built in residential areas. These efforts have either been dismissed by the courts, such as San Rafael, or effected sites changes, as in Bolinas and Tiburon.

The problem is a growing fear of the effects of electromagnetic frequencies, EMF, or electromagnetic radiation, EMR, on the human body and living tissue in general. "Leakage" of EMF into the neighborhood surrounding an antenna is a real possibility. The Federal Communications Commission in 1996, for instance, found that voltages higher than 10,000 volts per meter are strong enough to penetrate the skin and have possible biological effects on living cells. Studies by the US Navy confirm the danger of high voltage frequencies.

However, on emissions from emergency response systems, most government officials tend to dismiss these fears as baseless and without merit. "The voltage is so low, it won't hurt anything," is the usual respond.

The question then is how much voltage/EMF leakage is likely to occur at any one site or across a given area? In other words, who's right, the protesters or the agencies? That's difficult to assess. Information is not readily available and requires an understanding of voltage and megahertz. However we'll look into those levels as they apply to MERA and possible overlaps in our next issue. In this issue, we are looking at reasons for the fear of residents that emissions from high voltage may harm themselves and their loved ones.

And there is another question. While some may agree with the official assessment of low emissions, what many fear is the accumulative effect of electromagnetic waves building one upon the other. This was a substantial part of the San Rafael protests where the MERA antennas overlap with radio, television and wireless transmitters. Bolinas ultimately moved its antenna site away from proximity to a children's playfield and park.

Others fear being within sight of antennas because sight-to-sight is the transmission method for certain emissions. If you can see the antenna, which many Marinites can, you are receiving emissions. Some look at the human body as a living antenna. Even the FCC has stated it is dangerous to be exposed to electric transformers or to work on power line repairs.

Microwaves, which are a major component of the MERA system, average 850 Megahertz, (that's 850 million) and register in the mid-to-high range of non-ionizing waves. They reside between radio and television frequencies and the infrared range. The electromagnetic spectrum consists of electrical energy traveling in waves of different lengths. These lengths are divided into two parts: the radioactive ionizing portion and the non-ionizing portion, which includes the visible spectrum and longer wavelengths. At the lowest end are the extremely low frequency waves, which are used in power lines. The highest, shortest waves are x-ray and gamma rays. Energy throughout this spectrum is closely regulated.

Voltage, also called electromotive force, is the difference in charge between two points in an electrical field, the greater the voltage, the greater the flow of electrical current. Voltage can be direct or alternating. The FCC states power lines transporting 750,000 volts are quite common. Some carry 1,500,000 volts. Power lines are dangerous because they are constantly losing energy.

One advocate for reduced EMF is Dr. Andrew Michrowski, president of the Ottawa based Planetary Association for Clean Energy, an association composed of 3,600 scientists from 60 countries. The Association's main position is that the world doesn't realize the seriousness of electromagnetic pollution. Its scientists are searching for alternatives to power lines and local and long distance transmissions. Dr. Michrowski says, "We can do this and yet have all, if not more, of the benefits of civilization that we know today."

According to Michrowski, electromagnetic pollution is an important problem because it alters the natural "Schumann resonant frequency" of the earth, 7.8 hertz, which everything that lives on earth, from a simple cell to a human being, uses as its term of reference. The human body uses good frequencies between 7 to 9 hertz, but frequencies outside this range cause biological damage to living organisms. Fortunately, human beings naturally produce the 7.8 hertz signal when they are healthy and mentally balanced."

He goes on to explain, "In addition to the electromagnetic fields, which we produce artificially, we are also influenced by variations in magnetic fields produced by the earth itself, called geomagnetic fields. Many people near power lines are affected adversely because there is a synergistic effect between geomagnetic fields and the electromagnetic fields produced by power supply and certain electrical appliances (that is, they enhance each other). This can be a serious problem, especially when there is geomagnetic variation.

"The United States Navy conducted [a] Éstudy, published in 1984, Éshowed that exposure to harmful [extremely low frequency found in power lines] electromagnetic frequencies resulted in altering the behavior of cells, tissues, organs and organisms; altered hormone levels, altered cell chemistry, altered immune processes, affected calcium ion bonding in cells, modified human brain waves, caused defects in chick embryos, and caused sterility in male animalsÉ [The] results have been reproduced in numerous laboratory tests, but these studies are not very well known publicly."

About electromagnetic radiation, Michrowski states, "Since all living organisms on earth are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, it is urgent to establish standards of acceptable exposure levels for various frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. Cancer, birth defects, decreased immunity to disease, even new sicknesses have been linked to extended exposure to electromagnetic fields of specific frequencies and intensities."

Next month, we'll get review MERA and radio/television emission levels.

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