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School panel votes against Maui cell phone tower
Hawaii Created: 28 Apr 2007
PUKALANI The board of directors of the Carden Academy of Maui has unanimously voted against having a 35-foot cell phone tower erected on Grace Church property leased by the school.
"As a physician with a background in biophysics, I am extremely concerned about the long-term effects of low-dose microwaves on the children of Carden Academy," said Dr. George Martin, president of the board. "Children at the school would be exposed to close proximity (less than 150 feet) microwave energy for over six hours a day, five days a week, for over nine months a year."
Martin and board Vice President Michael Maloney sent a letter to Grace Church Pastor Robb Finberg, informing him of the board's opposition to the tower and asking him to end church efforts to have the tower placed on its property, The Maui News reported.
Finberg declined comment Thursday until he had a chance to review the letter and talk to Martin.
"We're certainly disappointed the school has taken this step and voted against the site," said Kathleen Dunleavy, spokeswoman for Sprint, which owns Nextel. "We will continue to try to work out a solution. . . . One thing we need to do is provide coverage to our customers in the Upcountry area. In order to do that, we need to build towers and put up an antenna."
Last week, Honolulu-based Nextel consultant Carl Young said microwave emissions from the tower would be low and that exposure to much higher levels of microwaves in urban areas have not been found to cause adverse health effects.
On Wednesday, Martin questioned that, pointing out that workers who service towers emitting microwaves wear detectors that give off a warning signal when they are exposed to microwave energy over a certain accumulated level.
"If microwaves are safe, then why wear the detectors?" he asked.
Martin, who is a dermatologist and is board certified in internal medicine, said the board took its position against the tower because there are no long-term studies of more than 15 years on the effects of levels of microwaves on children.
The private school has an enrollment of 130 students in kindergarten through 8th grade.
School leaders don't want to risk the future health of children at the school, he said.
"Tanning booths were thought for decades to be 'safe,' and it is only over the last 10 years that we realize that they cause skin cancer and deplete the skin of its immunity," Martin said.
Children may be most vulnerable to the emissions from a cell phone tower, he said.
"Growing cells are more susceptible to damage than cells fully matured," Martin said.
The use of cell phones has not been commonplace long enough to give scientists a firm handle on the health effects of exposure to the specific microwaves used for cell phone traffic, he said.
Neighbors also oppose installation of a cell phone tower in the area. They raise health concerns as well and say the tower would be an eyesore.
Young said the tower would be disguised as a fake Mexican palm tree.
Dunleavy emphasized that Sprint/Nextel would continue working with the community on the cell phone tower project, including a possible relocation of the proposed site from the Grace Church property to a Maui Electric Co. facility already used by a Sprint antenna.
Young indicated the problem with the MECO site was that it would face a more lengthy approval process, including a review by the Public Utilities Commission.
Dunleavy said a lengthy approval process "might be something that would deter us."
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Source: The Maui News, BRIAN PERRY, 27 Apr 2007

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