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Report on Broadcast Towers' Impact on Avian Mortality Finalized

Radio World's Paul McLane has a good review of the FCC's Final Programmatic Environmental Assessment for the Antenna Structure Registration Program. He includes data from the report showing that towers cause an insignificant amount of bird mortality compared to windows, cats, power lines, hunting, automobiles and pesticides.

The FCC, however, is likely to require environmental assessments for towers that meet certain conditions at a cost estimated to range from $5,000 to $15,000 per assessment. The Commission will also have to hire more people to review and process Environmental Assessments, or tower applications will be delayed. The report does not address the cost of modifying existing lighting from steady burning red to flashing red.

The Report contains interesting information on RF and birds. It notes, "Some researchers have suggested that indirect effects on migratory birds may include possible effects from RF radiation." It says, "The USFWS has expressed concerns that non-ionizing RF radiation, even at levels too low to cause thermal effects, could be harmful to migratory birds." Research on wild birds at cellular phone tower sites in Valladolid, Spain found strong negative correlations between levels of tower-emitted microwave radiation and bird breeding, nesting, and roosting in the vicinity of the electromagnetic fields. Other studies showed "house sparrows, white storks, rock doves, magpies, collared doves, and other species that had historically been documented to roost and nest in these areas subsequently exhibited nest and site abandonment, plumage deterioration, locomotion problems, and even death among some birds found close to cellular phone antennas." The symptoms were not observed prior to cell phone tower construction.

Laboratory studies found radiation at the same frequency and intensity used in cellular telephones in the United States appears to have resulted in the death of domestic chicken embryos. "These laboratory studies have been interpreted to suggest that non-ionizing RF radiation at levels far below the existing exposure guidelines for humans may have harmful effects on wild birds."

The FCC Report stated that "the evidence is insufficient to support a finding of adverse impacts" on migratory birds from RF exposure. The examples and this Report could, however, be used in local hearings on tower permits to support objections to local approval of specific towers.

Read the Report for an overview of the impact towers (and predators) on birds. Even the open area around a tower could be a problem for some birds because predator birds can perch on the tower and attack the other birds before they can find shelter.