Monday, April 21, 2014

Your Cellphone Could Be a Major Health Risk, and the Industry Could Be a Lot More Upfront About It

(AlterNet article on cellphone EMF risks follows these links re proposed legislation or regulations.)
There have been attempts in U.S. cities and states to protect against cellphone radiation. But there have been ups and downs with these attempts.
Legislation has passed in Maine, but in a March 2014 legislation review, key Democrats switched sides after the bill passed both houses and killed the bill.
Yet legislation was passed and later killed in San Francisco in May 2013.
(Of related interest: FCC finally opens review of cell phone safety standards Nine months after the FCC said it would take a closer look at its standards for cell phone safety to see if the agency needs to revise the 15-year-old guidelines, it finally opened the official inquiry. CNet, March 29, 2013)  
CNN Anderson Cooper report:

From Cellphone Radiation Digest  

Call for Action to Reduce Harm from Mobile Phone Radiation, January 24, 2013

Europe has issued a warning that users globally should heed.
The European Environment Agency published a major report today to alert governments about the need to attend to early warning signs about technology health risks, including mobile phones.
The 750-page volume, “Late Lessons from Early Warnings,” includes twenty new case studies and has major implications for policy, science and society.  Although the report was prepared by the European Environment Agency to provide guidance to the EU nations, its implications are global. 
 . . . .
Martin Blank,
The science is becoming clearer: Sustained EMF exposure is dangerous.
The following is an excerpt from  “Overpowered: What Science Tells Us About the Dangers of Cell Phones and Other Wifi-age Devices” by Martin Blank, PhD. Published by Seven Stories Press, March 2014. ISBN 978-1-60980-509-8. All rights reserved

Key excepts, but read the valuable book:
You may not realize it, but you are participating in an unauthorized experiment—“the largest biological experiment ever,” in the words of Swedish neuro-oncologist Leif Salford. For the first time, many of us are holding high-powered microwave transmitters—in the form of cell phones—directly against our heads on a daily basis.
Cell phones generate electromagnetic fields (EMF), and emit electromagnetic radiation (EMR). They share this feature with all modern electronics that run on alternating current (AC) power (from the power grid and the outlets in your walls) or that utilize wireless communication. Different devices radiate different levels of EMF, with different characteristics.
What health effects do these exposures have?
Therein lies the experiment.
 . . . .
What we know
The science to date about the bioeffects (biological and health outcomes) resulting from exposure to EM radiation is still in its early stages. We cannot yet predict that a specific type of EMF exposure (such as 20 minutes of cell phone use each day for 10 years) will lead to a specific health outcome (such as cancer). Nor are scientists able to define what constitutes a “safe” level of EMF exposure.
However, while science has not yet answered all of our questions, it has determined one fact very clearly—all electromagnetic radiation impacts living beings. As I will discuss, science demonstrates a wide range of bioeffects linked to EMF exposure. For instance, numerous studies have found that EMF damages and causes mutations in DNA—the genetic material that defines us as individuals and collectively as a species. Mutations in DNA are believed to be the initiating steps in the development of cancers, and it is the association of cancers with exposure to EMF that has led to calls for revising safety standards. This type of DNA damage is seen at levels of EMF exposure equivalent to those resulting from typical cell phone use.
The damage to DNA caused by EMF exposure is believed to be one of the mechanisms by which EMF exposure leads to negative health effects. Multiple separate studies indicate significantly increased risk (up to two and three times normal risk) of developing certain types of brain tumors following EMF exposure from cell phones over a period of many years. One review that averaged the data across 16 studies found that the risk of developing a tumor on the same side of the head as the cell phone is used is elevated 240% for those who regularly use cell phones for 10 years or more. An Israeli study found that people who use cell phones at least 22 hours a month are 50% more likely to develop cancers of the salivary gland (and there has been a four-fold increase in the incidence of these types of tumors in Israel between 1970 and 2006). And individuals who lived within 400 meters of a cell phone transmission tower for 10 years or more were found to have a rate of cancer three times higher than those living at a greater distance. Indeed, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated EMF—including power frequencies and radio frequencies—as a possible cause of cancer.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

As Fracking-Quake Link Becomes Clearer, Ohio Requires Stricter Seismic Monitoring

In the context of increased seismic activity, Ohio is citing fracking as the "probable" cause for several earthquakes in March, 2014. This is all the more reason to have regulations against fracking. From ThinkProgress:

As Fracking-Quake Link Becomes Clearer, Ohio Requires Stricter Seismic Monitoring


Fracking was the “probable” cause of a series of small earthquakes that shook northeast Ohio last month, state officials announced on Friday. This is the first time gas drilling in Ohio and local quakes have been linked. Previous studies have only found connections between the underground injection of fracking wastewater and tremors.
In March, Houston-based Hilcorp Energy was ordered to halt work at seven wells in Poland Township, near the Pennsylvania border after two small earthquakes, 3.0 and 2.6, rattled nearby residents. With no wastewater injection sites nearby, investigators focused on whether fracking itself had caused the ground to shake, and they now believe it did.
The news came as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources released strict new guidelines for monitoring seismic activity in the state.
The rules will require companies to install seismic monitors before beginning to drill within three miles of a known fault or in an area that has experienced seismic activity greater than a 2.0 magnitude. If seismic monitors detect a quake of 1.0 or more, regulators will suspend fracking and investigate whether drilling is connected to the quake. Humans can generally feel earthquakes of magnitude 3 and above.
A recent article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out that the threshold for halting drilling operations was low enough, at magnitude 1, that the Seattle Seahawks Fans might jeopardize drilling. At the NFL playoffs, 67,000 football fans at CenturyLink Field managed to create just such a tiny quake by stamping their feet. This talking point has already been adopted by those who oppose the new rules.
[Go to the original ThinkProgress article for continuation of the story.]

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why Do Bosses Want Their Employees’ Salaries to Be Secret?

This is all about breaking unions, breaking worker solidarity and consciousness. From The Nation.
Opening excerpt.

Michelle Chen
April 11, 2014
The Nation
In a narrow vote this week, the Senate politely smothered the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have protected workers’ rights to compare and discuss their wages at work. Aimed at dismantling workplace “pay secrecy” policies, the legislation built on the 2009 Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which strengthens safeguards for women and other protected groups against wage discrimination.
Asking someone at a party how much they make in a year might get you a weird look. Asking someone about their salary at work might get you fired. Seem unfair? Don’t bother complaining: Washington just once again reaffirmed the boss’s inalienable right to punish workers for talking about whether they’re being treated fairly.
In a narrow vote this week, the Senate politely smothered the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have protected workers’ rights to compare and discuss their wages at work. Aimed at dismantling workplace “pay secrecy” policies, the legislation built on the 2009 Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which strengthens safeguards for women and other protected groups against wage discrimination. Both measures aim to fill gaps in the enforcement of longstanding civil rights laws, which, half a century on, are still failing to combat the most insidious forms of discrimination—the subtle labor violations that grease the gears of economic inequality. Wage discrimination has persisted in large part because workers are routinely discouraged or outright banned from discussing compensation levels with coworkers.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would have shielded workers from retaliation if they discuss their salaries with coworkers. Employers would have had to “prove that pay disparities exist for legitimate, job-related reasons,” according to the National Partnership for Women & Families. In addition, the bill would have closed disparities in the legal remedies available for violations of the Equal Pay Act, so workers could claim the same kinds of damages provided under other wage discrimination laws. And overall, workers would have had an easier time seeking compensation in federal court, rather than the bureaucracy of the National Labor Relations Board, which tends to yield weaker penalties.
The bill would also have directed the Labor Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to proactively gather data and investigate wage discrimination on a broader scale.
To partially offset the Senate defeat, President Obama signed two executive orders that placed similar mandates on federal contractors, but while that would cover a substantial chunk of the workforce, many millions of workers may remain effectively gagged at work.
Yet making pay fair is not just a matter of correcting payrolls. Despite all the handwringing on Capitol Hill around the oft-cited seventy-seven-cents-to-a-dollar figure, the restrictions of speech in the workplace attest to a more systemic power imbalance.
According to a 2003 study, “Over one-third of private sector employers…recently surveyed admitted to having specific rules prohibiting employees from discussing their pay with coworkers. In contrast, only about 1 in 14 employers have actively adopted a ‘pay openness’ policy,” which explicitly protects workplace discussion of wages. A 2011 survey estimated that 50 percent of workers are subject to some kind of restriction on discussing their pay with coworkers—slightly more women than men, with the largest concentration among private sector workers (about 60 percent, compared to less than 20 percent of public workers). The gaps vary along demographic lines: women workers, single parents and married childless women tend to face higher rates of these secrecy controls than do married mothers. And although civil servants generally had far lower rates of pay secrecy, the practice was more prevalent among women in the public sector.

Many of these workers will never even know that they’ve unfairly benefited from or suffered from unequal pay. Ultimately, the big winner in this game of secrecy is the boss, who profits directly from the ignorance and pliability of workers who don’t grasp their own economic situation.
So there’s a gap between what’s fair and what’s legal. Discussing wages in a private workplace isn’t technically covered by any First Amendment guarantee against censorship, but the issue of pay secrecy raises crucial questions about workers’ freedom to learn and communicate about their labor conditions.
In unionized workplaces, where there is additional protection for organizing-related activities, the National Labor Relations Board and the civil courts have consistently sided with workers, ruling that under the National Labor Relations Act, wage discussions should be considered “concerted activity for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”

 . . . . 
Read the rest of the article at The Nation.

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