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12.14 Approved Minutes

CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO

COMMISSION ON THE ENVIRONMENT

POLICY COMMITTEE

 

REGULAR MEETING

APPROVED MINUTES

MONDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2009, 5:00 P.M.

CITY HALL, ROOM 421

SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94102

 

COMMITTEE MEMBERS:  Commissioners Johanna Wald (Chair), Ruth Gravanis (Vice-Chair), Jane MarieFrancis Martin

 

ORDER OF BUSINESS

 

1.      Call to Order and Roll Call.  The Policy Committee meeting convened at 5:07 p.m.  Present:  Chair Wald (5:20 p.m.), Vice-Chair Gravanis and Commissioner Martin.

 

2.   Approval of Minutes of the November 9, 2009 Policy Committee Regular Meeting. (Discussion and Action) Upon Motion by Commissioner Martin and second by Vice-Chair Gravanis, the November 9, 2009 Meeting Minutes were approved without objection (AYES: Vice-Chair Gravanis and Commissioner Martin; Absent:  Chair Wald) (Explanatory Document: November 9, 2009 Approved Minutes)

 

3.   Public Comments:  Members of the public may address the Committee on matters that are within the Committee’s jurisdiction and are not on today’s agenda.  There was no public comment at this time.

 

4.   Consideration of Draft Resolution File 2009-06-COE to be presented to the full Commission on Recommendations for Policy Options to Educate the Public about Cell Phone Radiation. (Explanatory Document:  Draft Resolution Revised (Word) and Policy Options Amended and Distributed in Committee Meeting (PDF)) SPONSOR:  Chair Wald, Director SPEAKERS:  Debbie Raphael, Department of the Environment Toxics Reduction Program Manager (10 minutes) and Ms. Renee Sharp, Environmental Working Group (5 minutes) (Discussion and Action)

 

Ms. Raphael reported that the Department of the Environment is taking the Precautionary Purchasing Principle into consideration and believes there is sufficient evidence of the danger of cell phone use to take action in this area.  A December 13, 2009 KTVU Channel 2 News Report by Reporter John Fowler was shown on “Growing Evidence That Cell Phones Create Tumors” (Explanatory Document: Article http://www.ktvu.com/news/21966323/detail.html), and material was distributed from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Center for Environmental Oncology on “Frequently Asked Questions About Cell Phones (PDF).” Ms. Renee Sharp with the Environmental Working Group who spoke about the research and findings in this area was introduced.

 

Ms. Sharp reported that the Environmental Working Group has reviewed literature on this issue extensively over the past year and found that all initial research was on short-term exposure to cell phone use--people who were using their cell phones for five to ten years.  In the last couple of years, studies have become available on long-term exposure on people who have been using their cell phones for more than ten years.  Ms. Sharp stated that it was important to consider long-term use, because brain tumors have a very long latency period so you wouldn’t expect to see anything before ten years, and even ten years may be early.

 

Ms. Sharp explained that a review of literature proved that the evidence was still mixed, but studies reviewing long-term facts are proving to be of concern.  Certain studies, particularly the ones conducted by independent researchers and not paid for by the cell-phone industry are seeing increased rates of salivary and brain tumors, particularly increased rates on the side of the head where the phone is held. 

 

Ms. Sharp stated that it has been found that current government standards are probably inadequate since they were based on animal studies that do not account for uncertainties in the margin of safety equation from animals to humans and differences between the brains of adults and children. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) standards did not take into account that children’s brains are known to absorb more cell-phone radiation than adults because they have thinner skulls and the composition in their tissues in their brains are different.  These factors mean that the current standards are not effective enough.  It does not mean that cell phones cause tumors, but does show that there is reason to take precautionary action now. 

 

Ms. Sharp reported that other countries have recommended or have taken action on cell-phone safety, and the United States is behind in this regard.  It was also found that the government does not actually require cell-phone manufacturers to disclose their radiation levels on phones to consumers.  Manufacturers have to test their phones for radiation levels and report to the government, and the government then basically passes data.  It is difficult for consumers to make informed choices because cell-phone stores do not include a listing of the cell- phone radiation level on the product.

 

Ms. Sharp stated that the Environmental Working Group has produced an online report and database so that the public can look up the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) level of certain cell phones.  Ms. Sharp discussed the public’s interest in this information, stating that in the first week that this database was online, there were two million hits on the website and their server crashed many times.  Since September, there were another two million hits, so there is great interest in this information.  Ms. Sharp stated that even though this particular report and database are available on the website, there is still insufficient access by consumers to information, since not everyone has internet access and not every phone on the market is listed. She stated that it is important for consumers to have the ability to walk into the store and readily see the information in front of them. 

 

Director Blumenfeld inquired about the United Kingdom scientific report by Sir William Stewart on cell phone safety.  Ms. Sharp reported that a number of years ago Sir William Stewart’s report raised concerns about long-term cell-phone use. One of their specific recommendations was disclosure to the public at the point of sale.  She stated that this is not the first time that the government has made recommendations, but does not believe that any action was taken.

 

Commissioner Martin inquired about the radiation levels of earlier cell phones in comparison to newer models.  Ms. Sharp stated that earlier cell phones were higher in radiation and that levels went down in time, but is unsure whether studies include information on this topic.  Public comment request on this question:  Mr. Lloyd Morgan stated that he has been studying the science in this area for the past fifteen years.  He stated that the earlier analog phones emitted two watts of power continuously in comparison with newer cell phones that are typically lower in radiation. He explained that findings show that cell phones will maximize their power in rural areas or when driving in a car. Studies show that people who live in rural areas are at a higher risk of brain tumors than those living in urban areas because their cell phones have to use more power to reach the base station.

 

Public Comment

 

Mr. Morgan stated that cell phones are causing brain tumors.  Every study whether industry funded or independent of industry that has reviewed more than ten years of cell phone use is showing an increased risk of brain tumors. There are studies of animals that are showing DNA breaks and cellular studies showing genotoxic effects.  Science is showing there is reason for concern at the human level, the animal level, and the cellular level.  Utilizing a wired headset and just holding the phone six inches away from your head can reduce the radiation to your brain by a factor of 10,000, which is an inverse square law. Any way you keep it away from your body is dramatically important. 

 

Mr. Morgan reported that the state of Maine has introduced emergency legislation requiring that any cell phone sold in the state will include a warning label on it and on the packaging.  He would urge that the Commission request that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors consider the same type of legislation.  Ms. Raphael stated that this could not be done on a local level but a request could be made to the state to require warning labels be placed on the packaging.

 

Mr. Morgan stated that placing a cell phone against your head is equivalent to smoking three packs of cigarettes a day, and recommended that the City ban Wi-Fi and other forms of wireless in any City facility.  He does support Policy Options 2-6 but would change Policy 1 to read “Federal government should conduct a review of cell-phone exposure limits based on peer-reviewed science showing biological effects from cell-phone radiation resulting in reduction of the existing SAR exposure limit of the lowest SAR value showing biological effects combined with the safety margin for this value.” 

 

Mr. Morgan stated that boys like to carry their cell phones in their pocket, and there are at least eight studies showing deleterious effects on sperm.  Again, proximity is everything—the cell phone should be kept away from the body. There is one study showing testicular cancer risk.  If you keep it in your left pocket, there is a cancer-risk to the left testicle--if it is in the right pocket, there is a risk to the right testicle.

 

Ms. Elizabeth Kelley, Managing Secretariat, International Commission for ElectroMagnetic Safety, presented and read her testimony (Explanatory Document: Testimony).  She (1) requested that the proposed Resolution refer to high school as well as elementary students; (2) discussed the lack and need for federal government standards; (3) discussed the Microsoft promotion of cell-phone technology as an educational tool in classrooms; (4) her organization of a scheduled presentation at the Main Library on January 17 co-sponsored by the Department of the Environment and the Stegner Environmental Center moderated by Teens Turning Green. There would be a film premier that gives safety tips to teenagers about their cell-phone use as well as a public service announcement and a featured talk by Dr. Debra Davis from Washington D.C. More event information can be found online http://teencellphonesafety.eventbrite.com/.  Additional discussion can be accessed in the explanatory document above.

 

Ms. Ellie Marks thanked the Commission for their attention to this matter and discussed her personal story relaying her 56 year old husband’s plight with a malignant brain tumor caused by what medical experts believe to be his continuous use of a cell phone to the same side of the head for the past twenty years. Ms. Marks reported that Senator Kennedy’s family requested research be done because they believed that his tumor was also related to cell-phone use.  . 

 

Ms. Marks presented the following information:

·         Findings by researchers show that there is a 240% increased risk of a meningeoma in people who have used their cell phones greater than ten years for less than an hour a day;

·         Children and teens are at higher risk because their skulls are thin and their cells are developing rapidly; 

·         High-quality studies show that if a child or teen starts using a cell phone prior to the age of 20, there is a 420% increased risk of developing a brain tumor later in life; 

·         Pregnant women must be warned because of fetal exposure to radiation;

·         Brain tumors are now the leading cause of cancer deaths for those under 20;

·         Sperm count is lowered for boys that keep phones in their pockets.

 

Ms. Marks stated that the proposed Resolution would protect life and recommended pre-safety testing, simple warnings, and applying the Precautionary Principle. She suggested that (1) cell phones include headsets and warnings about the risks involved; (2) that a precautionary pamphlet considering cell phone health risks and safety strategies should be made available online and in print form; (3) cell phone marketing should not be directed toward children; and (4) cell phones should not be allowed in schools. 

 

Ms. Diana Scott stated that she has been involved with this issue for at least five to eight years.  In 2005, a San Francisco State University professor held a seminar regarding possible effects of antennae radiation, which she believes is applicable to the cell phone topic being discussed. Ms. Scott stated that she is happy that Supervisor Campos will be addressing antennae radiation. She stated that she recently received an article regarding a teacher in Georgia that encouraged students to use cell phones to do research and recommended addressing that cell phones not be used as the modality of increased research for projects. 

 

Ms. Scott stated that she does not carry a cell phone and has not needed one until pay phones disappeared.  She questioned whether there is a potential for secondary radiation caused as a result of antennae broadcasting 24-7; and cell-phone use from someone sitting next to someone else in a confined place and talking for an extended amount of time.  Ms Scott recommended that schools set up areas that are cell-phone free in order to minimize risk to exposure.  She also recommended that the Resolution be made as strong as possible because politics may play a role in decreasing its effectiveness. 

 

Mr. Michael Krantz, Glen Park neighborhood homeowner, thanked everyone for the care and rigor that is being taken in studying this issue. He stated that he promised his neighborhood that he would attend this meeting because a few weeks ago, a cell phone relay tower went up on a telephone power poll about 20 feet from his house, and people are upset about it .  One of his neighbors just moved here from France and spent a lot of money on a house and someone else now has this massive relay tower sitting at his window.  Mr. Krantz stated that most importantly, he has a four-year old daughter who is going to be living next to this pole and is concerned for her safety.  He has not had time to do serious research to have a serious opinion about what the studies say, but will be studying this issue further.

 

Mr. Krantz discussed legislation that the Board of Supervisors is considering that has not yet been ruled on that would require that these relay towers not be installed until the local neighborhood has been notified so there would be an opportunity for public comment. He stated that there is some sort of legal loophole that prevents these certain types of technologies from requiring any type of public hearing, and a lot of the Telecoms are now taking advantage of the loophole to install the relay towers. Mr. Krantz stated that many people have a significant incentive to see technology advance, but the process for the installation of these relay towers seems wrong.  He requested that the Commission consider this issue and indicated that he would return to a future meeting more educated on this topic.  Vice-Chair Gravanis requested that the Committee discuss this issue at a future meeting and track down the legislation to see what loophole prevents public hearings on these installations.

 

Director Blumenfeld discussed the prohibition on cell phone use at hospital intensive care units and emergency rooms and when taking off on a plane to prevent equipment interruptions.  He stated that there are precautionary practices already in place as they relate to cell phones and recommended that the practices be extended to making schools kindergarten through twelfth grade cell-phone free.  He recommended Resolution language “to work with the school district to implement a system to protect the children from cell phone radiation.”    

 

Ms. Raphael, Director Blumenfeld, and Commissioners considered proposed amendments to the Resolution and amended Policy options that were distributed in Committee to include in the Resolution (Explanatory Document:  Draft Resolution and Amended Policy Options).  Upon Motion by Chair Wald and second by Commissioner Martin, Resolution File No. 2009-06-COE was approved for recommendation to the Commission on the Environment with amendments and incorporation of Policy Recommendations as discussed in Committee (Explanatory Document:  Amended Resolution File No. 2009-06-COE)

 

5.   Director’s Updates.  Speaker:  Jared Blumenfeld, Director (Informational Report and Discussion)

 

Director Blumenfeld reported that this Policy Committee meeting would be his last meeting before he begins his new assignment at the Environmental Protection Agency.  He stated that the Department started with the Precautionary Principle eight years ago and ending with the cell-phone issue is symbolic in that the Precautionary Principle is being implemented through balancing the current science on this issue with public policy options. He thanked the Commissioners and commended the Policy Committee for their continued good work in airing issues for the Commission to create balanced public policy.

 

6.   Announcements. (Discussion)

 

Vice-Chair Gravanis announced that there was a newspaper article published about the good work performed by Commissioner Martin with the PlantSF program.  She relayed her special appreciation on behalf of the Policy Committee to Director Blumenfeld for his leadership and indicated that the Policy Committee would have also liked to have approved a commendation Resolution.  Chair Wald stated that she is happy to have Director Blumenfeld at the Environmental Protection Agency.  

 

7.   New Business/Future Agenda Items. (Discussion)

 

Ms. Raphael recommended that the Green Building team present on current activities surrounding existing buildings. 

 

Commissioner Martin requested that a discussion be held on the cell phone relay tower issue and requested an update on Dark Skies.

 

Vice Chair Gravanis recommended: 

·         Candlestick Point Environmental Impact Report (EIR) discussion and request for extension of public comment deadline.

·         Pharmaceutical update.

·         Referenced the recent newspaper article on solar panels on roofs and fire-fighter safety.  Director Blumenfeld stated that fire-fighters are able to identify solar panel locations through GPS systems and SF Solar Map before going to the fire.  Ms. Danielle Murray, Department of the Environment Renewable Energy Program Manager, stated that she had attended a Bay Area open forum for solar, and a topic of discussion was on developing guidelines and holding workshops for firefighters. She would provide a report when additional information is available.

·         Promote conservation as a priority to generating more energy. Treasure Island is proposing ground-mounted solar panels that would use up acres of potential open space. People are becoming aware that solar panels are not necessarily the most benign program environmentally because of what is involved in mining, manufacturing, and transporting the material to produce panels.  She stated that solar panels are better for the environment than fossil fuels, but it is still important to keep energy and water conservation on the list of priorities.  Ms. Raphael stated that green building guidelines for existing buildings include conservation efforts, e.g. retrofitting with better windows and caulking.  Commissioner Gravanis stated that solar should be used only when appropriate.

·         Strategic Plan updates.

·         Review of questionnaire responses from environmental organizations.

 

Chair Wald recommended:

 

·         A discussion by PG&E and the Public Utilities Commission on ways to promote conservation.  Director Blumenfeld stated that the Department’s Energy Watch program addresses this issue.  Ms. Raphael recommended that the Public Utilities Commission, PG&E, and the Department of the Environment discuss conservation on existing buildings. 

 

·         Requested that an Urban Environmental Accords status report and selection of new accords for the calendar year be agendized for the January or February meeting. Director Blumenfeld reported that South Korea is already organizing a conference inviting people to attend and review accomplishments. Vice-Chair Gravanis requested an update on the Urban Accord website.  Director Blumenfeld stated that the website was active. 

 

·         Chair Wald stated that the Hunters Point Shipyard Candlestick Point agenda topic would be scheduled for the January meeting if possible.  Backup agenda items for January would include a Green Building Report, responses to the questionnaire, and a follow-up on the dry cleaning topic. 

 

Ms. Fish announced that the Commission retreat would be held on Thursday, February 25, time to be announced.  She reported that correspondence was included in the agenda packet that Ms. Leah Grant requested Commissioners receive.  Correspondence was written by Mr. Michael Lynes, Conservation Director, Golden Gate Audubon Society, on the “Applicability of the California Environmental Quality Act to Artificial Turf Playfield Conversions in San Francisco” (Explanatory Document:  Letter).  Director Blumenfeld reported that the Department of the Environment has representatives assigned to the Task Force involved with this issue who are playing an active role in ensuring that appropriate criteria is being utilized to determine when and where to site these playfields and what materials to use.  He is confident that the Precautionary Principle is being applied regarding this issue. 

 

8.   Public Comments:  Members of the public may address the Committee on matters that are within the Committee’s jurisdiction and are not on today’s agenda.  There was no public comment at this time.

 

9.   Adjournment.  The Policy Committee meeting adjourned at 7:05 p.m.

 

 

Monica Fish, Commission Secretary

TEL:  (415) 355-3709; FAX: (415) 554-6393

 

Monica Fish, Commission Secretary, TEL:  (415) 355-3709; FAX: (415) 554-6393

 

** Copies of explanatory documents are available at (1) the Commission’s office, 11 Grove Street, San Francisco, California between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., (2) on the Committee meeting website https://sites.google.com/a/sfenvironment.org/commission/policy-committee with each agenda or meeting minutes, or (3) upon request to the Commission Secretary, at telephone number 415-355-3709 or via e-mail at Monica.Fish@sfgov.org.

 

*Approved:  January 25, 2010

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