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Do cell towers really pose health problems?
Philippines Created: 20 Aug 2008
New People’s Army targets include cell phone towers. The telecommunications company owners (and their insurance companies) hate it. So do the wireless system clients and the people of the local community.

But should they? They don’t realize it but maybe Ka Roger’s people are promoting their good health.

In the United States, more and more communities are campaigning against cell phone towers being built in their midst.

The city of Newport News, in Virginia, is a recent example.

Telcoms usually disguise the towers to look like large trees or tall flagpoles. In America’s “cowboy states” they are made to look like “monstrous cactuses,” writer Sabine Hirschauer says in a report of July 16, 2008 about how the city’s Planning Commission are facing up to the matter of cell towers.

Here are excerpts from her report:

Cell tower complaints are loud and clear
By Sabine Hirschauer

NEWPORT NEWS: They can look like tall flagpoles. Or oversized trees. Or monstrous cactuses out West.

But no matter how they’re disguised, they’re still cell towers.

And as they increasingly dot the landscape, the towers face growing opposition from critics who say they’re ugly and unaesthetic misfits that drive down property values and may be harmful to one’s health.

While there are dozens of towers on and around the Peninsula, the Newport News City Council recently denied a request from nTelos to wedge a 131-foot tall cell tower between a pool and playground at Magruder Elementary School in southeast Newport News.

“Schools are inappropriate places for cell towers until they are proven to be safe,” Johnson said.

There is no conclusive evidence that low radio frequency transmissions from cell towers harm people at the levels that are allowed by the Federal Communications Commission, which also has to approve the towers.

But Johnson finds himself among a growing number of people and groups nationwide who are worried about what effect the towers might have on people. In 2000, the Los Angeles Unified School District banned cell towers on school properties because “there continues to be considerable debate and uncertainty within the scientific community as to the potential health effects to individuals, especially children, from exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic and radio frequency radiation,” according to the board’s resolution.

Since 2004, the International Association of Fire Fighters has prohibited cell towers on fire department facilities for the same reason.

And the American Cancer Society states “we do not have full information on health effects . . . in particular, not enough time has elapsed to permit epidemiological studies.”

While Johnson may have won a battle, it’s too soon to say whether he and others will win the war against cell towers too close to home. Today, the Newport News Planning Commission will discuss an application from T-Mobile to put a 135-foot tower on the Nelson Elementary School property in northern Newport News.

Another T-Mobile application for another tower—a brown “slick-stick,” which means all antennas will be located inside—awaits more information. It would be located on the grounds of Sanford Elementary School in central Newport News.

Peninsula residents usually don’t rally against cell towers unless they end up in their backyards, planners in Hampton, York and James City counties said.

In April, the York County Board of Supervisors denied T-Mobile’s request for permission to construct a 180-foot tower near the intersection of Dare Road and Railway Road after residents packed county meetings, worried the tower would push property values into the ground in the Lakes of Dare subdivision.

But with more and more people dropping their land lines and switching to cell phones to save money, officials in Poquoson said providing sufficient cell phone coverage, not health and aesthetics, drove their recent cell tower discussions.

“We wanted to make sure people can call 911 [with cell phones] and get the help they need,” said Poquoson Mayor Gordon C. Helsel Jr. Poquoson recently approved its second cell tower.

Newport News’ policy has been not to recommend towers on elementary school sites because they are usually in residential neighborhoods, said City Manager Randy Hildebrandt. Elementary school sites are also usually two to three times smaller than high schools.

In May the City’s Planning Commission voted against the Magruder application because of the concerns of area residents and the proposed tower’s proximity to the elementary school’s pool and a playground, said Planning Commissioner Victor Albea.

Representatives of nTelos did not return calls to comment.

So far, the city has three towers at schools with two of those sitting on high school property and one between the former Briarfield Elementary School and Heritage High School.

Installed from 2002 through May 2006, the towers are being used by several cell phone companies and fetched upfront lease payments to the schools of $9,000 to $120,000. As part of the agreements, the payments grow annually from $10,350 in the first five years to as much as $47,223.24 in coming decades.

“It’s not worth the money if it hurts our kids,” said new City Councilwoman Pat Woodbury, a former School Board member.

During her tenure on the Newport News School Board, Woodbury emerged as the sole dissenting vote against cell towers on school property.

“I voted against them every time,” she said. “And I will vote against them on City Council.”

Woodbury said she had researched in particular the health effects of cell towers and worried how radiation from the cell towers affect children.

If the city gives the go-ahead for the Nelson Elementary School cell tower, T-Mobile would pay Newport News Public School System $24,000 up front to lease the land, followed by $27,600 for every year of the first five years.

The School Board has already approved towers at Sanford and Nelson elementary schools.

“Do you put a monetary value on the health of our kids,” Johnson said. “I don’t think so. It’s an outrage.”

Why are cell towers controversial?
• Often considered eyesores
• Residents fear they’ll cause drops in property values
• Health effects such as brain tumors are feared, but studies remain inconclusive about cell tower radiation
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Maila Times, 17 Aug 2008

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