About the Author
Do Your Research
David Goergen, August 10, 2012 | Public Works
By David Goergen
Interim Assistant Public Works Director
Like many of you, I read the letter to this week’s Sun-Current urging residents to research Edina’s new water meters. I totally agree that you should educate yourself about as many issues and ideas as possible. To quote Faber College’s motto in “Animal House,” “Knowledge is good.”
Where do we find our information? I’m dating myself here (I’m 38), but when I was a kid we were taught how to use the library. I used reference books: atlases, encyclopedias, dictionaries, scientific journals and almanacs. You could depend on the information in those books to be correct. The information and data had been culled from professional academic papers and research, meticulously critiqued by professors and editors. With the internet, I fear those books are collecting dust.
Ahh, the internet! With a couple of quick keystrokes, we are able to find anything we’d like (and a lot of stuff we don’t). Don’t get me wrong, I use Google and Wikipedia on a daily basis. But as we all know, just because it’s on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s true.
Which brings me to the letter in the Sun-Current. The reader states that “microwave radio frequency has been classified as a 2B carcinogen, according to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine.” First, the water meters the City is installing do use radio frequency, but not in the microwave radio frequency. Regardless, since knowledge is good and I’d never heard of the AAEM, I went to their website and found the paper the reader had referenced. I read their report and found the quote attributed to the World Health Organization (WHO). I have heard of them. I then looked up the footnoted article attributed to WHO. However, it was not from WHO, but from a group named the International Agency for Research on Cancer. I’d never heard of them, so I read that article, too. There was no reference in the article to WHO, but at the very end, someone had placed WHO’s logo.
I decided to go to the horse’s mouth and check what WHO had to say about radio frequency. The WHO notes in Fact Sheet 304:
“To date, the only health effect from radio frequency (RF) fields identified in scientific reviews has been related to an increase in body temperature (>1 degree C) from exposure at a very high field intensity found only in certain industrial facilities, such as RF heaters. The levels of RF exposure from base stations and wireless networks are so low that the temperature increase is insignificant and does not affect human health.”
OK, that’s interesting. Radio is regulated by the government, right? I checked into the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). I’d heard of those guys, too — they get mad if a DJ says a bad word on a morning show. Anyway, turns out the FCC has lots of rules. One of their rules states that “the general population exposure limit set by the FCC for the frequency range utilized by meters/radios and other devices such as cordless phones and baby monitors is 0.6 milliwatts per centimeter squared (mW/cm2) at 902 MHz.” The FCC limits have been endorsed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). I’ve heard of them also.
The R900 device the City is installing emits 0.06 mW/cm2 for less than one minute a day in 7 millisecond increments or approximately 10 times lower than the exposure limit set by the FCC.
So, please do your research as the reader urged. I would recommend checking more than the first site that pops up on your search engine, though. It probably wouldn’t hurt to knock some dust off the old Encyclopedia Britannica, either…