Cell Tower at Schools
Cell Tower at Schools: The Science and Policy on Health Effects
Cell towers, 5G and cell antennas emit a type of non-ionizing radiation called radiofrequency (RF) radiation. The companies say it is safe to put these antennas on school grounds because the radiation emissions meet federal government FCC guidelines for allowable human exposures to the public.
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Hundreds of scientists are warning that safety is not assured because of numerous studies on people living near cell towers, on people exposures to cell tower radiofrequency radiation and in animal experiments which have found harmful effects from this type of radiation including cancer, memory impacts and oxidative stress.
“An Egyptian study confirmed concerns that living nearby mobile phone base stations increased the risk for developing: Headaches, Memory problems, Dizziness, Depression, Sleep problems”
A study of twenty kindergartens in Australia found that children in kindergartens with nearby telecommunications antenna installations had nearly three-and-a-half times higher RF radiation exposures than children with installations at least 300 meters away.
The New Hampshire State Commission on 5G Health and Environment investigated the issue of RF radiation for a year and issued a final report recommending that the state reduce children’s RF exposure and that the state enact a 1640 feet cell tower setback for homes and schools.
Since 2004, the International Association of Firefighters has officially opposed cell towers on their stations “until a study with the highest scientific merit and integrity on health effects of exposure to low-intensity RF/MW radiation is conducted and it is proven that such sitings are not hazardous to the health of our members.”
In California, firefighter unions repeatedly and successfully lobbied state lawmakers to remove fire stations from the list of 5G cell tower fast track sites.
Insurance company reports compare the RF radiation issue to asbestos and repeatedly rate cell tower, 5G and RF radiation as “High Risk” and this is why insurance companies exclude coverage for health damages from the RF radiation as industry standard.
Wireless companies themselves define RF radiation as a type of “pollution” in their phone protection plans for consumers.
Companies warn their shareholders of the financial risk from lawsuits related to health impacts in their annual reports but they do not warn people who live near their towers.
Verizon’s Annual Report states for example, “Our wireless business also faces personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits relating to alleged health effects of wireless phones or radio frequency transmitters. We may incur significant expenses in defending these lawsuits. In addition, we may be required to pay significant awards or settlements.”
The school districts halting cell towers on school grounds include the Los Angeles and Palo Alto Unified California and West Linn-Wilsonville Oregon School districts which have resolutions prohibiting cell towers on school property. Montgomery County Maryland stopped new cell towers on elementary schools and Prince George’s County Maryland did not renew a leasing agreement which allowed their middle and high schools to be marketed as cell tower sites after community outrage.
The EPA School Siting Guidelines lists exposure to electromagnetic fields and the fall distance as “potential hazards” from cell towers. The EPA guidelines recommend schools “identify and evaluate cell towers within ~200 feet of prospective school locations.”
The EPA has stated that U.S. FCC RF radiation limits unchanged since 1996 do not address possible risk from long-term, nonthermal exposures.
Many experts say FCC limits allow too much RF radiation exposure to properly protect children. They caution that FCC limits do not protect against long term health effects nor do they consider children’s unique vulnerability.
The Los Angeles California School District Office of Health and Safety developed a “cautionary level” for radiofrequency radiation 10,000 times lower than FCC regulations because, “it is believed that a more conservative level is necessary to protect children, who represent a potentially vulnerable and sensitive population.”
Several countries including Italy, Israel, Russia, China and India have outdoor RF exposure limits 10 to 100 times more stringent than the US FCC limits. Numerous cell antennas now installed in front of homes and schools in the US would be prohibited in these countries because of the elevated RF radiation levels.
Many communities restrict cell towers near schools and homes:
- Shelburne, Massachusetts: 3,000 feet for schools and 1,500 feet for homes.
- Copake, New York: 1,500 feet from homes, schools, churches and public buildings.
- Sallisaw, Oklahoma: 1,500 feet from homes.
- Stockbridge, Massachusetts: 1,000 feet for schools, playgrounds and athletic fields. 600 feet for residential.
- Walnut City, California: 1,500 feet setbacks for schools, parks and residential zones.
- Bar Harbor, Maine: 1500 feet setback for schools.
- Bedford, New Hampshire: 750 feet from nearest residentially-zoned property.
Balmori, A. (2022). Evidence for a health risk by RF on humans living around mobile phone base stations: From radiofrequency sickness to cancer. Environmental Research, 214, 113851.
Dode et al. (2011). Mortality by neoplasia and cellular telephone base stations in the Belo Horizonte municipality, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. The Science of the Total Environment, 409(19), 3649–3665.
Falcioni L, et al. (2018). Report of final results regarding brain and heart tumors in Sprague-Dawley rats exposed from prenatal life until natural death to mobile phone radiofrequency field representative of a 1.8 GHz GSM base station environmental emission. Environmental Research Aug;165:496-503.
Levitt, B., & Lai, H. (2010). Biological effects from exposure to electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell tower base stations and other antenna arrays. Environmental Reviews, 18, 369–395.
Pearce, J. M. (2020). Limiting liability with positioning to minimize negative health effects of cellular phone towers. Environmental Research, 181, 108845.
Roda, C., & Perry, S. (2014). Mobile phone infrastructure regulation in Europe: Scientific challenges and human rights protection. Environmental Science & Policy, 37, 204–214.
Rodrigues, N. C. P., et al. (2021). The Effect of Continuous Low-Intensity Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields from Radio Base Stations to Cancer Mortality in Brazil. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(3), 1229.
Zothansiama, Z. et al. (2017). Impact of radiofrequency radiation on DNA damage and antioxidants in peripheral blood lymphocytes of humans residing in the vicinity of mobile phone base stations. Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, 36(3), 295–305.
The above is a short sampling of published research. For a longer list of studies please go to ehtrust.org/cell-tower-radiation
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