In Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where author Herman Melville penned Moby Dick, while peacefully contemplating the pristine rolling Berkshire Hills, residents have been fighting an imposing cell tower affecting residents health for over 2 years. They argue the cell tower was not permitted properly and has caused severe symptoms in 17 nearby residents in the town. After careful deliberation the Pittsfield Board of Health agrees with the later and has recently sent Verizon a cease and desist order to resolve the issue of RF emissions from the large 116-foot monopole antenna complex which abuts a residential neighborhood. It is the first time in the United States that a Board of Health has made the courageous determination that cell towers could cause adverse health effects and should be turned off and relocated. A school board in Ripon California, however, terminated it’s cell tower agreement on school grounds due to concerns of a cancer cluster.

Symptoms from Cell Tower Radiation

After the Pittsfield cell tower was turned on in 2020 the nearby residents, including children, developed classic symptoms of electromagnetic injury. Courtney Gilardi and her 2 children as well as residents living near the cell tower, began experiencing a constellation of symptoms including stabbing headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, “buzzing in the head”, and insomnia so severe her family had to move to the next town and into a house with no heat and no hot water to escape the sickness.  Other neighbors drove an hour away to sleep at a relative’s house or slept in their cars away from the tower.

A Mother and Preschool Teacher Leads The Fight

Preschool teacher Courtney Gilardi has bravely led the effort to remove the cell tower to protect her property, her family’s health and her community’s health, despite industry efforts to discredit and downplay symptoms and health harms. Courtney states she and her neighbors were called “collateral damage” by some workers building the tower.  She gathered studies, signatures and experts to educate the community and city leaders, hoping they would acknowledge and address the issue. In carefully doing so the Pittsfield Board of Health has opened the door for other public health agencies to examine this issue, as cell tower installations mushroom around the nation and residents continue to fight Big Telecom companies, that offer no meaningful surveys, monitoring, protection or mitigation for the wireless radiation emitted from their antennas.

Amelia Gilardi, Courtney’s 13-year-old daughter, who wrote Children: Amelia’s “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Cell Tower Days”, asked the Board of Health to make February 2, 2022, or day #547 since the Pittsfield cell tower was turned on, to be the Day of Change. This was the day the cease and desist order was given. She and the neighbors of Pittsfield thanked the Pittsfield Board of Health for “hearing us and helping us”.

Levels of Radiation are “Safe”?

Levels of radiation measured in Pittsfield were 1.66% of the FCC limits and are considered “safe” by the FCC and the FDA. These agencies measure only average levels, not peak levels that have been found to cause the biologic harm, and also do not consider non-thermal biological effects of non-ionizing radiation.  

 A joint lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was filed on July 30, 2020 by the Environmental Health Trust and the Children’s Health Defense for failure to protect human health and the environment by dismissing scientific evidence of harm from wireless radiation. The lawsuit was won by the Petitioners, as per the DC Court of Appeals Decision, on August 13, 2021 with the decision by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals stating, “The Commission failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its determination that its guidelines adequately protect against the harmful effects of exposure to radiofrequency radiation unrelated to cancer.”

The Pittsfield Story

In March of 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, Courtney Gilardi and her neighbors saw large trucks on her previously quiet street that were clearing trees and building a road to the nearby Herman Melville Farm called “Arrowhead”. Her kids rode their bikes up the road on the dead-end street where they lived and saw a clearing on the “Farm”.

After city officials could not answer her questions about the site, Courtney called the construction company and learned it was slated for placement of a cell tower. The address stated the tower was on a 45acre property abutting the residential neighborhood and was listed as uninhabited. It was not officially in the heart of the city of Pittsfield, but listed at 877 South Street and seemingly far from where the neighborhood was, yet the tower was adjacent to Alma Street where Courtney lived.

She learned the cell tower was approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals in 2017. She also learned the property was owned by Farley White South Street LLC, a real estate company who bought the 45 acres in 2011 for $1,050,000. In a Berkshire Eagle article Paul Dalton, whose family lives closest to the tower, stated,  “None of the local officials that we talked to had any idea what was going on either. That started to set off alarm bells.”

Courtney took photos as the cell tower was being built. Construction workers building the tower later knocked on her door, Courtney said, and took photos of her, calling Courtney and her neighbors “collateral damage” and just “the cost of doing business”.

Pittsfield Neighbors Sue Verizon

On April 17, 2020, 12 neighbors, excluding Courtney and her family, sued the city, the property owner and Verizon Wireless to stop construction of the tower due to improper notification. The resident’s attorney, Jeffrey Scrimo, estimated 60% of the residents abutting the tower were not notified of the project. The attorney for the city said that it “fulfilled its requirement” to mail the notice.

The neighbors on the other hand made comments to the local paper. Neighbors said,

“They claim that letters were sent, but nobody we’ve talked to remembers getting any,” ;

“How are we going to be able to sell our home, if we wanted to, with an eyesore like that right next door?” ;  “I chose this property because it’s off the beaten path and secluded. It came as a real surprise.”

Neighbors Plead for Help from the City Council

In May 2020 the neighborhood sent information packets, with letters to the editor, articles on property values near cell towers and health effects, via certified mail to the Pittsfield City Council asking for help and also to set up meetings with the town Councilors.  The neighborhood group filed an injunction to stop construction of the cell tower which eventually made it to the Berkshire Superior Court in August 2020. The cell tower, however, was completed and began operating August 2020.

Cell Tower Turned ON and Illness Began

Courtney stated that requests to notify the neighbors when the cell tower were never answered, but one day in August Courtney’s daughter woke up dizzy, with a headache, a “buzzing” in her head and just not feeling well. Courtney called Berkshire Wireless to see if the cell tower was turned on but could not get any information. A week later Courtney called Verizon and learned that the day her daughter first developed symptoms was the day the cell tower was ‘fired up”.

Courtney later testified, “Both my children were sick. We watched our healthy, happy, active kids now sleep with a vomiting bucket besides their beds.  My little one developed skin rashes when she was in her room, which was on the side of the house closest to the tower. We had to move her bed out of her room and place it furthest from the tower. My child, who was an excellent eater and sleeper, no longer could do either. She was so nauseous she did not have an appetite and started to lose weight. She had a hard time falling asleep and tossed, turned, cried out at night and woke often. I held her hair back while she vomited. She missed school and hated not being well enough to attend. Her sickness and time away from school took away her confidence. Both my children are very conscientious and it was hard for them to miss school because of sickness.”  

The Gilardi’s Move Out of Their House but Keep Fighting

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After 7 months of illness and deteriorating health, Courtney, her husband and her 2 daughters finally moved out of their house at the end of February 2021. She said she was tired of being sick in her own home and watching her “children vomit in their beds.”  They moved to the next city over into a 100-year-old cottage with several broken windows, no heat or hot water and a rat infestation. Despite the discomforts, her children began to recover and were able to sleep well. Initially they just slept there and went back home during the day to shower and for the kids to do their homework, but as the symptoms worsened they had to permanently move out of their own house. Communications continued with the Pittsfield Board of Health examining the issue and receiving oral and written testimony from residents and scientific experts. 

City Council Asks the Board of Health to Investigate

After repeated presentations by Courtney Gilardi and others at city council meetings the Pittsfield City Council asked the local health department to investigate the issue in February 2021.  The City also asked the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to intervene and provide a toxicology expert, perform a health survey or meet to discuss the issue. The DPH declined. The Pittsfield Board of Health began investigations in April, 2021, in a meeting where local residents spoke about their health effects. 

At an open May 5, 2021 meeting the Pittsfield Board of Heath met with residents as well as experts over Zoom.  Another 40-year resident of Pittsfield, not near the Alma street tower, recounted his development of microwave illness when a cell tower base station was placed on nearby Berkshire Community College in 2017, prompting him to eventually move. Unlike Courtney, he was not able to have his symptoms taken seriously.  Experts testifying that day included Dr. Paul Heroux, a physicist and toxicologist from McGill university and Sheena Symington, Executive Director of the Electrosensitivity Society. At the end of the meeting the Board voted to hire a company to take measurements of the radiofrequency radiation emissions from the tower.

Board of Health Begins Investigation

June 3, 2021 the Pittsfield Board of Heath held another informational meeting. Experts testified as to the health effects experienced by Courtney and her neighbors.  Many letters were written to the Board of Health.  Spectrum News reported some of the neighbor’s symptoms. Mark Markham commented, “Getting up in the morning, being nauseous, headached, when I get home, after an hour of being home getting that headache. I never had headaches before, now I’ve got headaches all the time.”  Dr. Sharon Goldberg, an associate professor at the University of New Mexico who testified before the Pittsfield Board of health pointed out, “There’s a lot of clarity on symptoms and effects of microwave exposure in humans, and their symptoms are completely consistent.” The public health director indicated they would take measurements of the radiofrequency radiation and inform the legislature and the governor. 

Written Testimony Highlighted Science and Common Symptoms

Pittsfield isn’t the only community affected. Letters to the Board of health were compelling and provided evidence that these symptoms have been seen worldwide when cell towers are placed. Dr. Cindy Russell’s letter noted that physicians in Germany asked for an investigation of cell towers in 2005. Dr. Waldmann-Selsam stated in his letter to the German State Chancellor in 2005, “Many humans get sick from emissions far below the recommended limit values, which consider only thermal effects, and we have a sickness picture with characteristic symptom combinations, which are new to us physicians,” The letter notes that cell tower health studies show impacts from cell towers with symptoms within about 1500 feet of the cell towers. Pearce et al (2019) recommended a “500 Meter buffer around schools, hospitals and homes “Limiting liability with positioning to minimize negative health effects of cellular phone towers.”

A Maine Health Survey of Smart Meters was performed by Richard Conrad, PhD, a John Hopkins biochemist in 2012. He testified after the wireless radiofrequency smart meters were installed residents developed a constellation of “severe” symptoms of electrosensitivity including fatigue, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, headaches, agitation, ringing in the ears, pressure in the head, tingling burning skin, heart racing, arrhythmia, memory problems.  Ed Halteman, PhD also submitted substantial testimony to the FCC regarding smart meters.

Fireman are fighting cell towers as well, and the International Association of Fire Fighters wrote a 2004 IAFF Resolution to prevent first responder cell towers on their fire stations when firefighters in the station developed neurological symptoms compatible with electrosensitivity. They successfully lobbied to have language placed in California’s AB 57 (Quirk 2015) and AB 537 (Quirk 2021) to exempt fire stations from installing cell towers due to health concerns.The military has documented similar symptoms for many decades in radar workers.

Dr. Golomb Links “Havana Mystery Illness” to Pulsed Radiofrequency Radiation

The critical work of UCSD professor Dr. Beatrice Golomb was underscored as she has been researching electrosensitivity for decades. She wrote the most comprehensive report on the cause of the “Havana Syndrome” that has been a mystery illness to some, but not to Dr. Golomb. She contributed her peer reviewed article, Diplomats’ Mystery Illness and Pulsed Radiofrequency/Microwave Radiation.(2018) as well as  briefs to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, noting consistencies with electromagnetic injury.  She explained that the cause of these symptoms of headaches, dizziness, memory loss and ringing of the ears in diplomats abroad could be pulsed radiofrequency radiation, noting that the peak pulses are what cause the harm and the average levels typically measured for RFR do not reflect this and are usually within the FCC guidelines, despite reported symptoms at lower levels.

Environmental Effects of Wireless Technology in the News

One Pittsfield neighbor, Charlie Hertzberg, testified that he has had a garden for many years and since the tower went in there have been no bees in his yard. He stated that he has to pollinate his own plants. That was not an outlandish observation.  The evidence for harm to animal, birds, reptiles, marine life, insects and plants from wireless radiation has been steadily growing over the decades,  along with predictions of a future of Wireless Silent Springs

Last year a three-part article by noted experts, Blake Levitt, Henry Lai and Albert Manville, took all that research and compiled it into the most comprehensive report to date on the broad effects of low-level radiofrequency radiation on flora and fauna in addition to discussing the flaws in current RF emissions standards and the need to define “air as habitat that would serve to protect many, though not all, vulnerable species today.”  

The authors include a discussion of the catastrophic consequences of 5G space satellites and cell towers in space if this is not conscientiously studied and regulated with planetary safety in mind rather than the commercialization of space for fast 5G broadband speeds,  space tourism , data streaming, data mining and mineral mining for corporate control and profit, think “Don’t Look Up”. This would require an independent committee and collaboration with other countries rather than continuing the thoughtless and misguided Dr. Strangelove-esque space race.

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RF Measurements Done in Pittsfield

July, 2021 Measurements of radiofrequency radiation were done by V-COMM, a New Jersey-based telecommunications consulting firm hired by the city. Residents were not notified that this was happening but several residents saw an unfamiliar man in a car stopping at locations and holding a device out his window, presumably measuring radiofrequency radiation.

At a council meeting, Stephanie Koles, a representative of V-COMM, presented the results and acknowledged that the cell tower had multiple typical bands for cell phone communications (900MHz to 2100 MHz). The report stated that multiple measurements were taken throughout the Alma street neighborhood. The total measurement reported was 1.66% of FCC limits and well within the FCC standards for exposure limits.

Dr. Magda Havas, professor emeritus of Trent University, wrote a detailed response to the Pittsfield Health Department regarding the measurements.  She explained, “The FCC provides a short-term guideline that monitors average levels during a 30-minute period for exposure of the public (uncontrolled environment) and during a 6-minute period for occupational exposure (controlled environment).  As a person with expertise in public health, you should be aware that organisms respond to extremes rather than averages. If you place your hand in scalding water and then pore cold water on the hand, the average water temperature will be much lower but the damage from scalding will still be apparent.  She continues, “The two levels of guidelines that the FCC recognizes is occupational and public exposure. What they fail to recognize is exposure of sensitive populations, despite the fact that they have been aware of microwave illness among radar workers since the 1950s (Glaser 1971; https://www.magdahavas.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Navy_Radiowave_Brief.pdf). Radar, like cell phone antennas, uses microwave radiation as a carrier wave. “

Pittsfield Board of Health Asks Verizon Wireless to Dismantle the Tower

In October 2021 the Pittsfield Board of Health asked Verizon Wireless to dismantle the communications tower at 877 South Sreet. The Berkshire Eagle reported that the interim health director Andy Cambi and Board of Health member Brad Gordon met with Verizon to consider the request to remove or relocate the tower and Gordon later said, ““it was unlikely” it would be honored.” It was not.  The City Council later sent a letter to the state attorney general to investigate the situation. Several city council members felt “deceptive practices were being used.” They hoped the attorney general’s office would at least examine this. To date there was has been no action taken.

Members of the Board of Health moved beyond local politics by sending a letter to the state legislature in support of Massachusetts bill S 186 to form a special commission to research the impact of electromagnetic (EMR) and radiofrequency (RFR) radiation, similar to the New Hampshire 5G Commission.

Pittsfield Board of Health Issues Cease and Desist Order to Verizon

In a unanimous decision on Feb 3, 2022, the Pittsfield Board of Health voted to issue a cease and desist order to Verizon. The order asked for a notification to the Board in the next 7 days that Verizon is “willing to come to a discussion and demonstrate significant commitment that they will- Significant commitment, and to do something to resolve the issue to the board’s satisfaction.”   Some Board members expressed doubt that Verizon would take action on behalf of the residents. Board of Health Chair Bobbi Orsi noted, “There is a very good chance that we will not win this… you know, and in some ways, we know that Verizon is following the FCC guidelines in some way, which right now we know are not protective of enough of public health.”

A news report details the meeting and in an interview, a Verizon representative responded to them with this statement, [Verizon’s] “telecommunications equipment and networks comply with all health and safety standards established by the FCC. We have met on multiple occasions with the Pittsfield Health Department and members of the community to address their concerns with this site. All of Verizon’s equipment at the Pittsfield tower operates well under the FCC’s conservative limits, as confirmed by the city’s own RF study from last summer.”

The New Hampshire 5G Commission Completes Report

As the Pittsfield cell tower was being deliberated the first commission formed in the United States to study the environmental and health effects of 5G technology was formed. The  Commission to Study the Environmental and Health Effects of Evolving 5G Technology was mandated after the passage of New Hampshire HB522. The Commission issued  their comprehensive final report November 1, 2020.  The report  included 15 recommendations addressing the need for public education about wireless hazards, RF health studies, RF measurements, cell antenna setbacks, fiberoptic rather than wireless deployment, commercial warning signs and wildlife protection. Kent Chamberlin, committee member, provided a summary of the HB522 New Hampshire Commission on 5G Report in August 19, 2021.

New Hampshire Bill 1644- Cell Tower Setbacks

Another product of HB 522 and the New Hampshire Commission Report of 5G is to further identify those affected by radiofrequency radiation and add protections for residents with regards to chronic exposure to cell tower emissions.  They carefully looked at the available science to give specific requirements.  HB 1644 was introduced in 2021 and would ensure a 1640 foot (500ft) setback of  “telecommunications antennas” from residentially zoned areas, parks, playgrounds, hospitals, nursing homes, day care centers, and schools.”

Environmental Effects of Wireless Technology in the News

One Pittsfield neighbor, Charlie Hertzberg, testified that he has had a garden for many years and since the tower went in there have been no bees in his yard. He stated that he has to pollinate his own plants. That would not be an outlandish observation.  The evidence for harm to animal, birds, reptiles, marine life, insects and plants from wireless radiation has been steadily growing over the decades,  along with predictions of a future of Wireless Silent Springs.  Last year a three-part article by noted experts, Blake Levitt, Henry Lai and Albert Manville, took all that research and compiled it into the most comprehensive report to date on the broad effects of low-level radiofrequency radiation on flora and fauna in addition to discussing the flaws in current RF emissions standards and the need to define “air as habitat that would serve to protect many, though not all, vulnerable species today.”  This has now reached the news in Santa Fe.  

The authors include a discussion of the catastrophic consequences of 5G space satellites and cell towers in space if this is not conscientiously studied and regulated with planetary safety in mind rather than the commercialization of space for data streaming, and data mining for corporate control and profit. This would require an independent committee collaboration with other countries rather than continuing the a thoughtless Dr. Strangeloveesque  space race.  

I Have A Dream…The Promise of Health Safety and Equitable Protections for All

January 18, 2022 Courtney Gilardi presented oral testimony for  the New Hampshire House of Representatives Science, Technology and Energy Committee on New Hampshire bill HR 1644  . She stated, “There is no preemption when it comes to health and safety…The only thing that is unlawful and a violation is our government officials’ failure to act… There are no, absolutely no, safety standards for radiofrequency radiation, not from one tower and no established safe levels of wireless radiation from the cumulative exposure of all the  sources of wireless radiation we are exposed to today.”

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Amelia Gilardi, Courtney’s now 15 year old daughter, gave the most compelling testimony. She first quoted Martin Luther King then stated,

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and look at the people who are being injured by wireless radiation and who have a medical diagnosis of harm by their doctors and instead of treating them with shame and stigma our legislators will deliver us the promise of health, safety and equitable protections for all.”

The Saga Continues

While the Pittsfield Cell Tower saga continues in Massachusetts and many cities in the U.S., education and outreach also continue. Groups such as Americans for Safe Technology have not only been engaged in gathering a citizen action coalition of those communities affected by and fighting cell towers across the country, but also petitioning the FDA to investigate the issue of health harms from wireless radiation. They join the Environmental Health Trust, California Brain Tumor Association, Physicians for Safe Technology, Massachusetts for Safe Technology, SaferEMR and many others that offer a perspective different than industry or TV ads that push this invasive technology upon an unquestioning public already too dependent on these modern convenient but often problematic devices.  

The telecom industry and the government agencies that are controlled by them have little regard for an honest examination of the multiple issues connected with the infrastructure and use of wireless communications including, health and environmental harm, massive energy consumption, privacy and surveillance, interference with aviation and weather forecasting, insurance liability, conflict minerals and weaponization that threaten human and planetary health.

There is an old saying “The meek shall inherit the earth…when it is no longer of any value.” The Pittsfield Board of Health was not meek in addressing this issue. We commend them as well as the Pittsfield City Council for their due diligence, integrity and courage.  The dream and hard work continues.

Current Bills Massachusetts on Wireless Technology

MA S 186  (2021) Senator Julian Cyr. 

Resolve relative to disclosure of radio frequency notifications: There shall be a special commission to research the impact of electromagnetic (EMR) and radiofrequency (RFR) radiation on consumer protection, public health, and technology in the Commonwealth. https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/S186

MA S 2204  (2021)  Senator Michael O.  Moore. An Act relative to smart meters:

gives ratepayers a choice, without fee, to have a non-radiation emitting utility meter for electric, solar, water and gas services. In addition utility companies must to obtain the ratepayer’s written consent before installing wireless meters. https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/SD163/Bills

MA H 115 (2021) Representative Dykema. An Act relative to best management practices for wireless in schools and public institutions of higher education: The board shall develop best practices and guidance for the purchase and installation of wireless internet service in public institutions of higher education. In developing these guidelines, the board shall consider and prioritize practices that protect the health and safety of public institutions of higher education students and staff. https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/H115/BillHistory

NH HB 1644 (2021) Representative Abrami. AN ACT relative to the placement of telecommunication antennae and establishing a registry for residents who are experiencing biological symptoms from wireless radiation exposure.

 http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/billinfo.aspx?id=1725&inflect=2

See Also

Cell Tower Health Effects https://mdsafetech.org/cell-tower-health-effects/

Electrosensitivity Science- https://mdsafetech.org/science/es-science/

5G Telecommunications Health Science https://mdsafetech.org/5g-telecommunications-science/

Web Links

Pittsfield Cell Tower Concerned Citizens. Facebook Group fighting cell tower

Articles

Articles Other

Videos

June 15, 2021 Pittsfield Massachusetts Morning Drive Community TV with Bill Sturgeon – WTBR  on the Pittsfield Cell Tower Health Symptoms enlightening discussion with Dr. Paul Heroux of McGill University and Courtney Gilardi. http://www.pittsfieldtv.net/CablecastPublicSite/show/38790?channel=1

July 7, 2021 Pittsfield Board of Health Meeting  http://www.pittsfieldtv.net/CablecastPublicSite/show/40992?channel=3 Pittsfield Board of Health Amelia Gilardi speakshttps://www.facebook.com/pittsfieldcell/videos/833134733976089

January 18, 2022 New Hampshire House of Representatives House Science, Technology, and Energy meeting on New Hampshire 5G Bill HB 1644- Testimony. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnFBpyh0OCo&t=7576s

Courtney Gilardi at 2:02;30  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnFBpyh0OCo&t=7576s

Amelia Gilardi I have a dream speech at 2:07

Ken Wells, Endover, NH at 1:050  Former House committee. Former teacher of Physics and researcher at  University of Pennsylvania.

Physicians for Safe Technology