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February 05, 1978 - Image 14

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1978-02-05
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Page 4-Sunday, February 5, 1978-The Michigan Daily

The Michigan Daily--Sunday,



Your radar
range is out
to get you

By Stephen Selbst


By Paul Brodeur
W. W. Norton and Co.: New York
T HOUSANDS OF people who use the
University Library system each
day may be encountering a health
hazard capable of affecting their be-
havior and inducing cancer. The threat
comes from microwaves, high-
frequency electromagnetic radiation
that can penetrate human bodies and
cause a spectrum of health problems.
Library patrons are likely being
irradiated-or zapped, as it is
called-by the display screens of the
microfiche system, which have been
found in other locations to leak small
but significant levels of radiation, and
are suspected to have caused cataracts
in workers who used them daily.
That example illustrates how abun-
dant microwaves are in an urban en-
vironment; they're literally
everywhere, from the radio-television
transmitters found in most cities tothe
microwave ovens in homes and
Paul Brodeur, a staff writer for The
New Yorker, has written a book entitled
The Zapping of America, which
describes the public health dangers of
microwaves and advances his theory as
to why the public isn't alarmed at being
exposed to this hazard.
Although microwaves have a variety
of domestic uses, Brodeur argues, by
far the largest user of microwave
technology is the military, whose entire
communications and radar network
employs microwave devices. Brodeur
argues that the radiation leakage stan-
dard used by the military is unsafe, but
because the military has such vast
sums invested in microwave equipment
it is unwilling to replace that equipment.
Moreover, he writes, the cost ofnaking
existing communication systems safe is
high enough that the military wants to
continue using equipment that is
demonstrably unsafe. For that reason,
Brodeur concludes, the military has
systematically tried to suppress infor-
mation about the true dangers of
microwave radiation, in the process
ignoring an accumulating base of scien-
tific data that indicates microwaves
are capable of causing chromosomal
damage, cancer, sterility, cataracts,.
and a host of emotional disorders.
Stephen Selbst, a former Daily
editor, is a first-year University law

Brodeur's anger is honest, but in the
long run it gets in the way of his book,
and I think it also distorts his con-
clusion. In the book Brodeur isn't con-
tent to merely present the data for his
audience and let readers draw the
inescapable conclusions. His style is
almost prosecutorial; it fairly screams
"See, see, see, this proves what I've
been saying."
Granting him the legitimacy of his
anger, it's still an annoying stylistic
device. Brodeur has done an admirable
job of marshalling data to support his
conclusion; the evidence is sufficently
self-explanatory that his annotations
are unnecessary.
I THINK Brodeur's anger made him
see a conspiracy where none exists.
Brodeur reached the answer to the
question of why the military doesn't
want to use safe equipment; it's simply
economics. It would cost too much
money, such enormous amounts of
money that the Defense Department
would be faced with the choice of
scrapping its communication system or
finding an alternative to it. As far as
suppressing data goes, Brodeur does
show that the military has cancelled
and interfered with studies in this,
country on the effects of radar and
other defense-related communication
systems using microwaves, but there's
a significant literature .in this country

understood as trying to exonerate the
defense community. It's hard to ignore
the conclusion that the government has
tried hard to obfuscate the facts con-
cerning its own microwave operations,
but to say it has tried to quash other
scientific inquiries seems to be
Brodeur's book begins with a section
I found particularly well-written and in-
teresting. In it he describes briefly the

CRMATCHED INTO THE painted steel frame of
the front door, the words "to hell with this"
provide a striking contrast to the carefully
painted mural in an adjacent vestibule of a
boy stretching up to a mountain range. Taken
together, the graffiti and the artwork hint at the suc-
cesses and failures of Community High, the city's
alternative secondary school.
Wedged into a generation driven by the relentless
drum of convention, Community students retain a
warmth, a spontaneity and a questioning spirit that
seems lost on their peers in more traditional in-
stitutions-at times they seem to have almost
bypassed their era.
But of course that is not possible. Despite the long
hair and frayed jeans taken from their older brothers
and sisters, the people of Community High, and the
school itself; are vastly different from what they
were six years ago when the school first opened its
Faced with a decreasing enrollment and a student
body which many believe is less academically
prepared or motivated to cope with the flexibility of a
non-traditional school, Community High students
Elaine Fletcher is an Associate Editor of the
Sunday Magazine.

find themselves smack among the dominant
educational problems of the decade.
Meanwhile, a moral controversy surrounding one
teacher, who is fighting an administration charge
that she maintained an unprofessional relationship
with a student, has put a tear in the fabric of carefully
woven human ties which hold the school intact. Just
how far can Community go in its search for alter-
natives-both in the realm of education and human
relationships-before being called on the rug by a
system which expects teachers to assume the role of
society's moral templates? It is a question left unan-
swered for the moment.
* * **
Opened at the beginning of the decade in a conver-
ted elementary school near the center of town, Com-
munity High served a two-pronged purpose: to
accommodate a flood of baby boom students so
severe it was already bursting the seams of the
newly-built Huron High, and to satisfy the demand
for a school which would fit the needs of bright but
alienated youngsters spawned by the unrest of the
'60s. One wonders if the school's founders would have
dared dub it "Community High" had they been able
to foresee the future. But as the name implies, the
school grew up around a structure designed to give
students, teachers and community people an equal'

voice in the educational machinery, and to create
close personal bonds between those same three
entities. ,-
HE SCHOOL 'community' is centered around
"forums" of some 20 students led by a
teacher responsible for everything from
personal and career counseling to the co-
ordination of leisure-time activities. The catch
phrase, 'every teacher is a counselor' is frequently
heard. In a broader sense, the 'community' of the
high school extends out to local volunteers. Under the
auspices of the Community Resources (CR)
Program, these people meet with students in-
dividually or in groups to give instruction in such
areas as dance choreography and psychology. Wiley
Brownlee, former Dean of Community High and now
Assistant Superintendent of Schools, says the two in-
novations are both the strengths of the school "and
the things which-are probably giving it the most
A heavy blow was dealt to the Community Resour-
ces Program last year when the- district ad-
ministration decided that a student who paid for
some sort of private instruction should not be able to
receive credit for it. "It wiped out one-third of our CR
courses just like that," laments one student,
See COMMUNITY, Page 11

. 'Library patrons are likely
being irradiated - or
zapped-by the display
screens of the microfiche '
system, which are sus-
pected to have caused
cataracts in workers who
use them daily. '

lucidity, gi
grid of ele
der the soi
the purpos
plan woul
affected ir
grid wouk
and othe
Although ]
data about
tric fields
animals e)
fields of
produce h
tion with n
into effect
grants tha
always an,
radiation i
level of im.
our envir
greater U

on the adverse effects of microwaves in
domestic settings. There also exists
much research on the effects of
microwave radiation done in foreign
countries, particularly in eastern
Europe. Indeed, the relative ease with
which Brodeur was able to find
material to docun:t the assertions in
his book undermi ! his thesis.
Although I thi! ,'rodeur overstates
his conclusion a oit the degree to
which the military has tried to sup-
press information, I don't want to be

rise of radio technology in this country,
defines microwave radiation, and laun-
ches into some case studies of how doc-
tors initially began to suspect
microwaves of causing cataracts and
sterility in workers who had been ex-
posed to radar during World War II.
Scientific journalism is a notoriously
difficult field, for it entails explaining in
simple English highly. sophisticated
ideas and technology. At this, Brodeur
excels; in contrast to the section on the
alleged conspiracy of silence, in

plea for
hazard o


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