Phone Booths Replaced by New WiFi Kiosks in NYC Are Dangerous Radiating Hotspots

“Free super fast Wi-Fi. And that’s just the beginning.” The beginning of what, one may ask?

You’ve probably seen them popping up all over New York City’s sidewalks – tall, sleek, modern kiosks where old-school phone booths used to exist. But this is no mere parking meter upgrade. This is LinkNYC – a new $200 million communications network contracted through CityBridge that plans to install 7,500 Wi-Fi kiosks across the five boroughs.

At over 9-feet tall, each kiosk, or “Link,” provides lightning fast, free public Wi-Fi, phone calls, device charging and tablet access to city services, maps and directions. Links deliver gigabit speed connectivity at 1,000 megabytes per second, which is 20-50 times faster than most home broadband networks, and 100 times faster than typical public Wi-Fi speed. Sure, free connectivity sounds urban, efficient and productive. But none of this comes for free when you factor in the public health costs of omnipresent, and cumulative, electromagnetic pollution.

The kiosks intensify an already over-indulgent amount of city-wide public wireless transmitters, including antennas on buildings, in subways, at rent-a-bike stations, in elevator shafts of modern high rises, and free Wi-Fi hotspots in stores, cafés, and even parks. Add this to the density of NYC business wireless networks, and millions of personal Wi-Fi routers, tablets, cell phones, game consoles and home smart systems, and we have a city swimming in Radiofrequency radiation (RF), with 20-year-old outdated FCC safety standards, and a majority of the population unaware of the detrimental health effects (See The Wireless Elephant in the Room for an overview of the biological and health risks.)

As a point of comparison, Matthew Waletzke, Certified Building Biology Environmental Consultant (BBEC) at Healthy Dwellings measured the Radio Frequency Power Density (RFPD) outside at both 2nd Ave and 11th Street and Astor Place. The Radiofrequency Radiation readings obtained were over 20,000 microwatts per square meter. Building Biology safety guidelines recommend < 0.1 microwatts per square meter as a safe level for indoor environments, for a frame of reference; while > 1,000 microwatts per square meter is considered of “Extreme Concern.” With ambient radiofrequency levels 200,000 times higher than what makes for a safe living environment, NYC residents should question the sensibility of adding even more Wi-Fi tech to the city.

Teri Bloom, an environmental consultant with Wireless Safety Solutions expresses, “As a longtime NY City resident who has watched more and more wireless structures go up year after year, I think it’s time for the city to step in and create a commission to oversee the proliferation of wireless technology to ensure our health is not being compromised.  This commission should evaluate emissions from existing radiating infrastructure, establish a permitting process that includes resident approval rights for new wireless infrastructure, and bring together public health and medical professionals to evaluate the total amount and cumulative effects from of this radiation.”

Bloom says, “Given the number of people who live and work here, NY city should be at the forefront of safety and set the pace nationally on telecommunications innovation that protects people’s health.”

Investors and city planners boast the new high-speed LinkNYC project to be first of anything like it in the entire world. New Yorkers certainly love being trend-setters. But, without any biological research on this new high-speed WiFi, or ethnographic studies on other cultures or urban centers exposed to this unprecedented blanket of public Wi-Fi, this also means New Yorkers have been unwittingly thrown into a city-wide health experiment. A mounting body of peer-reviewed research points to radiofrequency radiation (emitted by cell phones, all wireless transmitting devices (WTDs) and antenna infrastructure) as both biologically harmful and, according to both the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer and the NIH’s National Toxicology Program, possibly carcinogenic. Who really wants to be one of New York City’s irradiated guinea pigs?

To date, public concern and media coverage over this burgeoning wireless citywide infrastructure has focused on personal information privacy rights (are the kiosks spying on us?), security breaches (can my data be hacked on the public network?) and improper web browsing (homeless and their lewd websites). Sufficient public outcry over the Links’ usage as a free-for-all porn hub led to the removal of the kiosk’s built-in tablet web browser function. Great. No more Wi-Fi-induced indecent exposure. But New York City residents need to consider their exposure risks beyond cyber security attacks and salacious behavior.

In particular, people living or working near these kiosks (and CitiBike stations, as well), especially those on the first and second floors, need to be aware of the increased RF exposures and be on alert for possible effects. Headaches, fatigue, attention problems and insomnia are some of the more common culprits. (See What is Electrosensitivity?) Parents with young children or babies in cribs walking the streets, pregnant women (and couples hoping to conceive), elderly people, and people with cancer and other health challenges would best give these kiosks a very wide berth, as well as minimize exposures at home. (And, very importantly, people living near roof top antennas should actively pursue shielding opportunities to prevent the radiation from coming into their living spaces).

At the time of this writing, there are presently 522 active Links around the city, with an additional 96 installed Links awaiting activation, and thousands more planned in development according to the Office of the Mayor. In an ironic twist, the city’s old wired phone booths are being replaced by futuristic icons that wirelessly microwave a population of over 8 million people. This heralded move toward a smart city? Not so health smart.

Write to Your Representatives in Government!

Office of the Mayor

Mayor Bill de Blasio
City Hall
New York, NY 10007
Online Messaging (300 words max)

New York City Council

Margaret Chin 1 Manhattan Democrat
Office of District 9 9 Manhattan
Daniel R. Garodnick 4 Manhattan Democrat
Corey Johnson 3 Manhattan Democrat
Ben Kallos 5 Manhattan Democrat
Mark Levine 7 Manhattan Democrat
Melissa Mark Viverito 8 Manhattan Democrat
Rosie Mendez 2 Manhattan Democrat
Ydanis Rodriguez 10 Manhattan Democrat
Helen Rosenthal 6 Manhattan Democrat



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