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4 Takeaways from the Tewksbury Board of Health Meeting

All members were present

The first order of business was new tobacco regulations. Chair Ray Barry pointed out that the town’s rules must be equally or more stringent than the state’s, so the town had to bring its tobacco regulations inline. 

“The state promulgates certain regulations that the local health department has to enforce, and local boards of health are able to make their own regulations,” said Barry. “Really the key thing in this is that the state had a much higher fee structure, or a penalty structure, for tobacco sales violations, where Tewksbury had a $100, $200, $300 fine based on occurrence and a 24-month look back, which meant if someone had a sales infraction in less than 24 months since the last one, that would have counted as their second infraction. The state has a 36-month look back window, and their penalty fees are $1,000, $2,000 and $3,000 per violation.”

The town used a template from the Mass. Association of Health Boards.

“This is just an administrative rewrite of the regulation to match what the state has,” said Barry.

In response to a query by member Susan Amato, Ron Beauregard, the town’s tobacco control agent, explained that while “public spaces” refers to inside locations, outdoor smoking may be prohibited if it causes smoke to be pulled into a workplace, such as through a window or vent.

The board voted unanimously to amend the town’s tobacco regulation and then to adopt the regulation as amended. There will be a notification sent to retailers.  

Barry stated that he would like to have someone from the Tewksbury Police Department come before the board to discuss the Front Line Initiative. Obesity prevention and nutrition, elder care and overall “wellness and prevention methodologies” are among the other topics he would like to schedule for future meetings.

In response to elder care, member Bob Scarano stated that the Senior Center has implemented a program to assist seniors in using their electronic devices; that education is presented by the Library’s technology volunteer and is available on Tuesdays and Fridays, as shared in the most recent Council on Aging newsletter.

Member Melissa Braga has secured a speaker on “EMFs,” or electromagnetic fields, for an upcoming meeting.

“There’s gonna be a speaker from Mass for Safe Technology,” said Braga. “She’ll be speaking about wireless education, understanding EMFs and radiation. So that’ll be next meeting.”

Barry added that “partly the focus” for the discussion is 5G technology.

“Naturally, this is sort of coming from, because if you’re getting increased bandwidth out there, through the air, that means there’s higher strength signals propagating,” said Barry. “The concern is, then, lower strength wireless signals will now be amplified by having stronger signals.”

Braga said the speaker will be educational.

“A lot of the communities and towns and cities surrounding us are are upping, they’re changing their regulations on places because of the amount of 5G especially in front of schools, and homes,” said Braga. “So personal homes and schools were a big trigger for people.”

Scarano referenced towers and suggested 5G cells may soon become prevalent.

“Because you can imagine, as they do with cell towers, they’ll want to put them [5G devices] on every pole,” he said. “I’m sure there’s been a tremendous amount of interest in looking at a mapping situation and how that’s regulated.”

The science underlying this topic is complex.

The Massachusetts for Safe Technology group, which has no affiliation with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and does not list on its website any scientific or medical professionals on staff — or, in fact, any staff at all — operates under the 501(c)3 umbrella of the “Scientific Alliance For Education,” which reported $150 in assets in its most recent IRS filing. 

The primary speaker for “Massachusetts for Safe Technology,” Cece Doucette, has degrees in technical writing and interpersonal and organizational communication. She often speaks on how she and a parent “independently discovered wireless technology is hazardous to our health,” with that tech including home Wi-Fi.

In regard to ordinances, in 2019, the Federal Communications Commission expressly prohibited state or local regulations that “materially inhibit” the provision of wireless telecommunication services. In addition, the Federal Communications Act of 1996 states that towns cannot reject projects based on concerns over environmental or health effects of RF emissions as long as the proposals meet federal safety standards. Burlington’s Select Board recently approved a 5G installation at Lahey Health, for example.

For residents interested in learning more about this topic, The Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology recently published a review of vetted research into low-level RF fields above 6 GHz. Midband 5G, the most commonly deployed, operates between 2.5 and 4.2 GHz. Tewksbury currently has only partial 5G coverage, according to SignalChecker.

Finally, the next meeting of Tewksbury CARES will be Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. at the TPD.

The full meeting is now available on TewksburyTV.

Lorna is a 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

2 Comments

  1. George Ferdinand George Ferdinand January 20, 2023

    Good Job Melissa

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