Yellowstone Cell Tower Emits Excess Radiation

The cell tower at Mount Washburn in Yellowstone National Park emits radio frequency (RF) radiation in excess of federal safety standards, according to documents released May 4 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), an organization that has been drawing attention to the proliferation of cell towers throughout the national park.

On March 22, 2005, Brandon Gauthier, the park's safety officer, sent an e-mail to park officers warning that expanding cell phone coverage in Yellowstone would be "pushing the edge of safety up on Mt. Washburn."

Gauthier made this assessment based on a survey conducted by OSHA's National Health Director Bob Curtis that found radio frequency radiation levels at Mt. Washburn in excess of the general population safety standard 1mW/m3 established by the Federal Communications Commission.

In a June 10, 2004, report, Gauthier offered several recommendations made by Curtis, including:

  • Closely evaluating all additional antennas that might be installed to prevent employee exposure to RF.
  • Installing RF warning signs on the lookout gate and lookout door.
  • Training the lookout ranger, telecommunication worker, electricians, area rangers and maintenance workers on RF hazards and hazard areas on the upper levels of the lookout.

Yellowstone National park spokesman Al Nash told OccupationalHazards.com that park employees are aware of the excess of RF levels in the areas, as they signed a form stating they were aware of it. He said that although the limit is higher than what they would like, the radiation is no more than the amount received when a person uses a cell phone.

"The fact that Yellowstone managers need to be repeatedly reminded about the dangers to their own employees as well as visitors is less-than confidence inspiring," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "The panoramic locations that cell phone companies crave to maximize their towers' coverage may also be putting those who visit these vistas at risk."

According to PEER, park officials are moving ahead with an industry-designed plan to nearly double cell tower installations in Yellowstone and envisions bringing radio and TV signals into the park. But such allegations are completely false and unfounded, according to Nash.

"Not fair to suggest that we are planning to dramatically increase cellular coverage in the park," Nash said. "That would be pre-decisional"

Nash explained that Yellowstone is working on an environmental assessment covering all wireless communications in the park, but the plan is still in its early stages and they don't know what the final draft of the plan would look like. But, he explained, the park needs a plan that would allow it to make decisions for requests such as additional cell phone coverage or wireless Internet.

"We have to have a solid, thoughtful plan in place to allow our managers to assess those requests and appropriately determine if any additional service could be offered in light of our responsibility to protect the national resources and visitors in Yellowstone," he said.

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