Firefighters are the first responders in emergencies. Every community depends upon their strength, bravery and clear quick thinking to extinguish fires, rescue people and perform medical assistance, in order to protect our lives and property. What happened when first responder cell towers were placed on fire stations to facilitate communications between police and medical persons?  Within a week of installation many firefighters developed unusual symptoms of headaches, fatigue, insomnia, memory loss, confusion, nausea and weakness. After a time, firefighters in stations with adjacent cell towers were found to have forgotten CPR or became lost responding to a fire in a city they grew up in. A neurologic study was commissioned by the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), led by Dr. Gunnar Heuser, to determine if there was any evidence of brain dysfunction in those exposed for long periods to first responder cell towers. Firefighters then began fighting cell towers as well as fires.

Neurologic Symptoms in Firefighters Match Brain SPECT Scans

The study by Dr. Heuser was described in a 2004 IAFF Resolution . “ A pilot study was conducted in 2004 of six California fire fighters working and sleeping in stations with towers.  The study, conducted by Gunnar Heuser, M.D., PhD. of Agoura Hills, CA, focused on neurological symptoms of six fire fighters who had been working for up to five years in stations with cell towers. Those symptoms included slowed reaction time, lack of focus, lack of impulse control, severe headaches, anesthesia-like sleep, sleep deprivation, depression, and tremors.  Dr. Heuser used functional brain scans – SPECT scans – to assess any changes in the brains of the six fire fighters as compared to healthy brains of men of the same age.  Computerized psychological testing known as TOVA was used to study reaction time, impulse control, and attention span.  The SPECT scans revealed a pattern of abnormal change which was concentrated over a wider area than would normally be seen in brains of individuals exposed to toxic inhalation, as might be expected from fighting fires.  Dr. Heuser concluded the only plausible explanation at this time would be RF radiation exposure.  Additionally, the TOVA testing revealed among the six fire fighters delayed reaction time, lack of impulse control, and difficulty in maintaining mental focus.”  Susan Foster, who organized the pilot study  filed a formal affidavit to the FCC.

 IAFF Resolution to Ban Cell Towers on or Near Fire Stations 2004

Research on health effects of radiofrequency radiation was gathered by the IAFF and presented to their Division of Occupational Health, Safety and Medicine. The extensive review included a large body of international science showing evidence of non-thermal effects of radiofrequency radiation emitted from wireless devices and cell towers. This review, along with their own observations and study, prompted the IAFF to write a detailed amended IAFF Resolution  No. 15, dated August 2004, to prohibit cell towers from being placed on their fire stations.

The AFF  Resolution No.15 titled,

Position on the Health Effects from Radio Frequency/Microwave (RF/MW) Radiation in Fire Department Facilities from Base Stations for Antennas and Towers for the Conduction of Cell Phone Transmissions, easily passed.

The Resolution states, “The International Association of Fire Fighters’ position on locating cell towers commercial wireless infrastructure on fire department facilities, as adopted by its membership in August 2004, is that the IAFF oppose the use of fire stations as base stations for towers and/or antennas for the conduction of cell phone transmissions until a study with the highest scientific merit and integrity on health effects of exposure to low-intensity RF/MW radiation is conducted and it is proven that such sitings are not hazardous to the health of our members.”

The resolution includes the following:

WHEREAS, the brain is the first organ to be affected by RF radiation and symptoms manifest in a multitude of neurological conditions including migraine headaches, extreme fatigue, disorientation, slowed reaction time, vertigo, vital memory loss and attention deficit amidst life threatening emergencies; and

WHEREAS, most of the firefighters who are experiencing symptoms can attribute the onset to the first week(s) these towers/antennas were activated; and

WHEREAS, RF radiation is emitted by these cellular antennas and RF radiation can penetrate every living cell, including plants, animals and humans;

WHEREAS, firefighters are the protectors of people and property and should be protected under the Precautionary Principle of Science and therefore, unless radiation is proven safe and harmless, cellular antennas should not be placed on or near fire stations; therefore be it…

RESOLVED, That the IAFF oppose the use of fire stations as base stations for antennas and towers for the conduction of cell phone transmissions until such installations are proven not to be hazardous to the health of our members.

Firefighter Stations Have Been Given Legal Exemptions for Cell Towers: AB 57

For the safety of the citizens whom they are responsible to protect, the firefighters are asking for exemptions from cell tower placement on their facilities. Armed with the 2004 IAFF Resolution, firefighters have requested and have received an exemption on cell towers on their fire stations. The firefighter exemption is codified in California’s AB57 (Quirk 2015) to rapidly deploy and have a deemed granted provision for “small cell” towers and was proposed in SB649 (Hueso 2017), to further streamline placement of cell towers.  SB649 passed both legislative bodies in California but was the last bill vetoed by Governor Brown in 2017. In addition, firefighters have reportedly asked for an exemption or protections in Palo Alto, as a new Wireless Telecommunications Facilities Ordinance for “small cell” towers is being amended (Sept 2019).   CBS news video interviewed Dr. Heuser as well as Assembly member Bill Quirk, author of AB 57. Dr. Heuser cautioned placement of cell towers in cities. Assemblyman Quirk, admitted he did add the provision for firefighters, as they asked him to do so. He was then questioned about teachers. “So if school teachers and parents had a strong lobby and they ask you to pass something that would prevent these from going up near schools, would you do that?” He responded, “If I couldn’t get the votes any other way!” CBS News Video

AB57- Firefighters have gotten an exemption to have cell towers on or adjacent to their facilitesCA AB57 (2015) Legiscan Text of Bill.  ” Section 65964.1.  (f) Due to the unique duties and infrastructure requirements for the swift and effective deployment of firefighters, this section does not apply to a collocation or siting application for a wireless
telecommunications facility where the project is proposed for placement on fire department facilities. “

SB649- They also received an exemption in California’s SB649 (2018), a bill that was to streamline placement of cell towers on utility poles,which was vetoed by Governor Brown.  SB 649 California (2017) Wireless Telecommunications Facilities – 65964.2. “(a) A small cell shall be a permitted use subject only to a permitting process adopted by a city or county pursuant to subdivision (b) if it satisfies the following requirements: ….(3) The small cell is not located on a fire department facility.”

Health Effects in Firefighters with Nearby Cell Towers: What About Citizens?

There is a clear body of science that supports the experience of the firefighters, and points not only to neuropsychiatric symptoms (commonly referred to as Electrosensitivity) and neurologic injury, but also to cancer, hematologic abnormalities and hormonal disturbances. The Ripon School Cell Tower in California was shut off in 2019 due to several cases of cancer in students and teachers. The investigation is ongoing.

In 2014 Los Angeles Firefighters Fought Cell towers

Letters were written by the Los Angeles firefighters in 2014 to fight the cell towers over health concerns with long term exposure to close proximity radiofrequency radiation from the structures. ABC7 News: LA Firefighters Halt Cell Towers on Fire Stations Due to Radiation Concerns.  News Coverage Video of Los Angeles Firefighters and Cell Towers

See also:

Cell Tower Health Effects:

Electrosensitivity Science:

Cellular Mechanisms of RFR Oxidation:

Cellular Mechanisms of RFR Calcium Channels:


News Articles

Scientific Articles

Physicians for Safe Technology