Report from Gauss Network Dec’04, Japan

Pat Ormsby wrote:

Report from Gauss Network Dec’04

Base Station Siting

In Japan recently there have been a few small victories in terms of recognizing citizens’ to an improved EMF environment, but there have also been setbacks. Plans by Docomo were dropped for a base station in Kasugai, near Nagoya, due to opposition from the local citizens. It is a rural area, and the plans involved a 30 meter tower to improve reception. This is a hopeful sign. Usually Docomo can and does just run over the rights of local citizens. Meanwhile, citizens in Kanagawa Prefecture are taking Vodafone to court in an effort to have a base station removed from the grounds of an elementary school there.

In an ongoing court case in Fukuoka City , Kyushu, a Prof. Nojima, acting as witness for Docomo, simply denied the relevance of famous studies carried out worldwide regarding biological effects of EMF. An extension has been granted to hear further arguments against Prof. Nojima’s position, which have already extended to more than three hours of testimony.

Phoning while Driving

On November 1, 2004, a law was enacted in Japan against driving while talking on a hand-held cell phone. Penalties are stipulated on the level of minor traffic violations. It is still a common sight, and police caught 300 people in violation in the first two weeks in Hokkaido alone, but demand is up for hands-free sets, which can be used as long as they do not impair hearing. Hokkaido recorded 90 accidents caused by drivers talking on cell phones in 2003. Many people suspect the figure is much higher, as it is natural for people to become embarrassed and deny their carelessness.

According to the Shinano Mainichi Shimbun daily of Nagano Prefecture, however, the number of accidents caused by people using hands-free sets exceeded the number being caused by hand-held users in Nagano Prefecture even before enactment of the new law. From January to August 2004, there were twenty accidents reported as caused by a driver using a hand-held phone, with 33 injuries but no fatalities; but during the same period there were 26 accidents reportedly caused by drivers using hands-free sets, injuring 34 people. In September, there was a report of a truck driver using a hands-free set, losing his concentration and colliding with a passenger car stopped ahead of him, injuring the driver of the latter vehicle. The article notes that although a clear cause-and-effect relationship has not been established, these statistics indicate a danger from using hands-free sets as well as hand-held. The police commented that if hands-free sets are not allowable, conversations with passengers in the car would also have to be prohibited.

The December 8, 2004 issue of Gauss Tsushin reported on the ongoing controversy. An engineering professor at Daido Kogyo University in Nagoya studied reaction times of drivers to a flashing lamp in front or to the side. Prof. Keisuke Suzuki divided subjects into non-phone using, hand-held using and hands-free using drivers. He found no significant differences when the lamp was flashed in front of them, but when the lamp was to the side, he found reaction times increased by 2.2 times and 1.7 times for hand-held and hands-free users, respectively, compared to drivers not using a cell phone. He postulates that when people concentrate on the conversation, their field of view is constricted, and says that hands-free is not necessarily safer.

I wonder why he doesn’t run the same test with drivers having non-phone conversations. Is he afraid of what he might find, or is he simply negligent?

Annoyance on Public Transportation Facilities

One of the main topics of discussion at the Gauss Network was the ongoing problem of cell phone use aboard trains and other transportation in Japan. If you have seen pictures of white-gloved station attendants pushing people onto overcrowded trains in Japan, you are aware of what a problem the addition of cell phones can be. It is so packed that it is difficult to breathe, and people have been known to break ribs. When the shirt pocket of the guy pressed against you starts making tinny music, you can’t move away. He’ll manage to wiggle up a hand and answer the darned thing! Let’s say you have a pacemaker. What are you going to do? Step on his toes?

I tolerated the crowds for years, but the cell phones and my awareness of my own negative reaction to them put an end to it. I’m a peaceful person, but I truly fear I could not avoid committing a certain level of violence in this situation.

There are a lot of people like me to one degree or another. Persons with pacemakers feel anxiety when people around them are holding cell phones. In Japan, 36% of people still do not own a cell phone, and 49% find their use on trains a nuisance. Based on this, it would be desirable to obtain prohibition of their use on alternate cars on the trains in recognition of people’s right not to be forcibly irradiated. To accomplish this, we need to make the dangers of EMF more widely known, but of course, we face severe opposition from corporations. Then, of course, there are people who want to be a nuisance. For example, most of society now recognizes the right to a smoke-free environment, but some young people light up just to be a nuisance and there is nothing you can do about them. They are utterly unapproachable. They are aware cell phones are also a nuisance, and they use them just to be defiant.

Anyway, attempts by Gauss Network members to get a dialogue going with the train companies are getting nowhere. The companies just don’t respond. Ideas were discussed, including holding a forum, inviting key decision makers to discuss the problem with us. They may be unaware of the reasons for people’s concerns over cell phone radiation. However, these people are so hard to reach.

Another idea was to continue trying to reach them through the mass media, but they are afraid to touch on problems that do not have broad recognition already, for example, casting cigarette butts out car windows or the chattering and sudden ringing of phones, but not the risk to health in either case. (Also, in the recent set of earthquakes that hit Niigata, cellular service was lost to about 60 base stations, but that was downplayed. All of the publicity touting the necessity of cell phones in emergencies went silent at that time. They didn’t want this to become a topic of public discussion.)

Another idea was use the need of authorities to appease the public to a certain degree. If we are persistent enough, they cannot just ignore us. Or the problem could be associated with the “barrier free” concept, asking people with pacemakers or EHS to speak as witnesses. It was noted, though, that we would need to get a large number of EHS to come, or we risk having them considered as nothing but cranks.

Regarding buses, one company asks people to turn off their phones because the buses are very crowded. It was not known if people actually obey this (probably many don’t). Also, there are about 100 bus companies in Tokyo alone, many associated with railway companies, so policies may vary a lot.

New Books

The new books being published on EMF related topics in Japan are mostly discouraging at this time. “Netto-Oji to Keitai-Hime” (“Prince Internet and Princess Cellphone”) (2004, Chuokoron-shinsha, Inc.) written by psychologist Rika Kayama and journalist Ken Mori, focuses on societal problems caused by IT, and suggests ways of using them ‘wisely’ but ignores the EMF problem.

Another book, “IT ni Korosareru Kodomotachi” (“Children Killed by IT”)(2004, Kodansha), focuses on measurements of alpha and beta waves in children playing computer games, discusses neuronal activity, and mentions sleepless children, but says nothing about the EMF problem.

Really saddening, though, is “Uwasa no Kagaku” (Rumor Science)(Kawaide-shobo, 1998), written by Misa Matsuda, currently a professor of literature at Chuo University, and reported on by Tetsuo Kakehi of Gauss Network in the December issue of Gauss Tsushin. It is not new, but the author continues appearing at EMF-related seminars, espousing her point of view. She claims that dangers from EMF have not been demonstrated scientifically and are therefore nothing by rumors. She classifies such concerns with stories of UFOs, the Loch Ness monster, the abominable snowman and other gee-golly party conversation topics. This drew outrage from Prof. Yo Yamazaki who was in charge of EMF research at IARC (currently at Kansai University Graduate school) for considering seriously conducted research the same as the search for ‘Nessie.’

Mr. Kakehi criticizes her style as that of celebrity gossip columnists. On November 29, he talked with her directly. She said, “Even if something is just a rumor, it sometimes happens to be true, it is not necessarily a lie. I am just saying that fanning fears of danger is not the right way to inform people of reality.”

On a far more positive note, there is “Denjiha Kagakubusshitsu Kabinsho Taisaku” (“Treating Electro- and Chemical Sensitivities”) (2004, Ryokufu Shuppan), by Yasuko Katoh, who is herself EHS. I hope to have a copy of it soon.


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Dezember 2004

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