Consultant questions public safety of RF emissions in Bend, Ore.

As broadcasters around the country continue their buildout to meet the FCC-mandated deadline for conversion to DTV transmission, they may want to keep in mind the on-going hearings in Bend, Ore., and the testimony of environmental consultant Cindy Sage of Sage EMF Design.

Oregon Public Broadcasting transmits from one of the towers at the Awbrey Butte site near Bend, Ore., from which EMF consultant Cindy Sage claims harmful RF radiation will emanate. (Photo courtesy of Everett Helm, Oregon Public Broadcasting.)

At issue is whether to grant a request by Awbrey Towers, LLC to add new towers and raise existing towers atop Awbrey Butte over the next 10 years in part to allow broadcasters to comply with their federally mandated deadlines for conversion to digital television service. (Another reason for the build-out was to clear up interference problems and address public safety issues.)

According to KTVZ general manager Jim DeChant, who spoke at the meeting earlier this month, his station will begin low-power DTV service June 20 and will need the Awbrey site expansion to meet its 2005 deadline to begin full-power over-the-air digital service.

Using FCC standard formulas and the services of consultant Gerald Moore, Sage told city hearings officer Karen Green and those in attendance, she built a computer model to estimate RF radiation from the broadcast towers at many locations in the area. Her calculations show that sites atop Awbrey Butte will exceed the RF exposure standard for areas with uncontrolled public access.

Those favoring the expansion say it complies with federal standards. Green asked Sage if on-site testing to compare existing RF levels to what the computer model predicts would determine the accuracy of the model. Sage said such tests would show lower levels than predicted because they focus on exposure at six feet from the ground and her experience finds higher RF levels closer to the ground that would affect children and shorter people.

Sage also said various federal agencies are “openly doubting” the ability of current standards to protect the health of the public. One federal agency is studying RF radiation as a carcinogen, she said. Sage told the meeting other damaging health effects, including DNA damage, high blood pressure, diminished immune function, sleep disorders, lack of concentration and headaches can result from RF radiation.

No action was taken on the request, and the hearing was continued until July 15 to give all sides more time to testify and voice their positions.

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