Letters: Cell town represents a danger; funding needed for anti-smoking efforts

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Are we in a danger zone because of a downtown cell tower?

The residents of Bennington, my family included, are being exposed to an unknown amount of electromagnetic radiation, being emitted from the cell tower located behind the old blacksmith shop at 215 South St. This tower does not appear on the Federal Communications Commission map and is not registered with the FCC. There is no accountability for emissions.

In 2006, Dan Monks made a presentation to the Select Board regarding the leasing of the old police station tower to Verizon Wireless. The board had little discussion on it and all agreed it was a good idea. At the next board meeting, the town manager was authorized to sign the contract. The purpose of signing so quickly was to allow Verizon a year to get their permits, according to meeting minutes.

Verizon replaced the existing tower, moved an antenna belonging to the police department, moved an underground storage tank, and added generators, electrical lines, and transformers, plus three small antennas. The only permit they got, jointly with the town, was from the Development Review Board. According to Mr. Monks, there were two "public hearings," as required. However, these public hearings were part of the normal meeting schedule and therefore required no special notice to residents. Abutting property owners were notified but the rest of the neighborhood was not.

Sometime in 2007, the tower was activated. My husband began experiencing insomnia, severe headaches, and syncope which caused him to fall and injure himself several times. He sought medical attention and no one could determine the problem.

In March, 2011, the Design Review Board approved the addition of three more powerful 4G antennas to the existing structure. Since that time, my husband’s health has declined rapidly and his quality of life has suffered greatly. Being dismissed by doctors, time and again, has not helped.

What are the symptoms of electromagnetic radiation toxicity? Common symptoms include severe headaches, difficulty focusing and finding words, nausea, syncope, heart irregularities, visual disturbances, changes to the cellular structure and DNA, skin changes, nerve pain, muscle cramping, and tremors. The rate of cancer, especially leukemia, increases dramatically the closer one lives or works to a cell tower. Melanomas and other cancers are also linked, according to some studies.

There are those who argue they need scientific proof. Look to the European countries, and Sweden, for proof. Long-term studies are virtually nonexistent in the U.S., but there are a growing number of American physicians and scientists who warn of the dangers. The Department of Public Health has told the FCC the current acceptable levels need to be changed to reflect the growing health crisis caused by this technology.

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In 1996, the government passed into law the Telecommunications Act, which I believe allows cell towers anywhere with complete disregard to the health impacts. Furthermore, it protects the telecommunications industry from any accountability for harm caused to people living near cell towers. Since three of the four governing members of the FCC are in the telecommunications industry, it isn’t too hard to figure out who they are protecting. It seems they knew already that there were risks and dangers.

It took me many weeks to get any answers from town officials on the cell tower timeline. It seems quite clear there was little discussion by either the Select Board or the Development Review Board and no one discussed possible health impacts on the residents living and working near the cell tower. The fact that there is an exact correlation between onset of symptoms/illness and activation of antennas, for my family, tells me we should be concerned.

Since we were traveling and away for several months for five of these years, we also always noticed an improvement in our health when we left here and exacerbation when we returned. I don’t think these are coincidences.

Since the radiation from cell towers extends for a 2.5 mile radius, according to studies, the South Street cell tower could be impacting the health of many of Bennington’s residents, just as it is ours. Of course, we live in the extreme hazard zone, which even the FCC does not recommend.

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The town receives $24,000 annually from Verizon. My life, and yours, is worth more than this.


Bennington More funding is needed to fight tobacco use

The American Lung Association’s 2012 State of Tobacco Control report highlights Vermont’s need to increase its investment in the comprehensive tobacco control program.

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Although Vermont has been a leader in reducing the burden of tobacco use, the state falls short in tobacco control funding. The Legislature allocated $3.4 million this year, over a million dollars less than the previous year, and a 37 percent cut since 2009. Although the ALA applauds the governor for proposing to level fund the program next year, it is not enough. The administration also plans to divert the remainder of the Tobacco Trust Fund, created to sustain future tobacco control efforts, to address other budget shortfalls.

Annually, 700 kids start smoking, 800 Vermonters die from tobacco-caused illness, and the state spends $233 million in related health care. A recent study in Washington showed for every $1 spent on tobacco control, the state saved $5 in related healthcare costs. In order to continue reducing the burden of tobacco use, the ALA calls for lawmakers to increase tobacco control program funding to $4.9 million.

Maintaining the status quo is penny wise and pound foolish when you look at the return on each dollar spent on tobacco control.



Leadership Board

American Lung Association



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