Letter: Cell phone towers don’t belong at schools

As a concerned citizen, teacher and parent, the idea of having a 199-foot cell phone tower only 84 feet from Rappahannock High School is troubling at best. Without concrete evidence that there are absolutely no health and safety risks from such close proximity to the tower, we must err on the side of caution when it comes to our children.

Children are much more susceptible to all types of toxic exposures than adults. International studies have linked electromagnetic radiation to substantially higher risks of leukemia, brain cancer, DNA damage, reproductive disorders, depression, attention disorders, sleep disturbances and behavioral changes.

The fallback zone of the tower is in some places less than the recommended setback of 70 feet. If this tower were to fall, it could easily topple onto the school. I also question the safety of the tower itself at a place where “senior pranks” are a yearly occurrence.

As a community we have a right to the assurance that our children will not be placed in harm’s way. Let AT&T find a safe alternative, far from our county’s children.

I urge the Rappahannock Board of Supervisors to vote against the proposed cell phone tower at the school. I also urge the school board to rethink the issues of health and safety in regard to the tower.

Please join CARE (Concerned About Radiation in Education) for a community discussion from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 5) at the Rappahannock County Library.

Pamela Chovnick
Flint Hill

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  1. Now the issue is conducting ‘experiments’ on our children. No matter the opinions of the American Cancer Society, World Health Organization, National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, etc.

    Some of the concerns about health risks from living near transmitters is directed toward symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, and frequent headaches. Yesterday, I was at the VHLS Bull Run wrestling tournament at Manassas Park HS – an experiment in the shadow of a cell phone and whatever else tower.

    Despite my support of the AT&T proposals in Rappahannock I couldn’t keep myself from wishing that some of the Manassas Park wrestlers might have the aforementioned symptoms. If they did, they sure didn’t show it. They won the tournament leaving second place Strasburg in the dust almost 20 points behind.

    These so called experiments began about 1/4 century ago. They have been conducted over and over again with the same conclusion. Is there any number of times and/or length of time that an experiment can be conducted before one stops calling each new instance an experiment as though it were something completely new?

  2. I’ve already responded to Mr. Rowe’s insults in a previous posting, so I’ll cut to the chase. Our county is dealing with a very major change, which some feel is progress and others of us feel is anything but
    progress. You would have to live under a rock to not know that cell phones, cell towers, and cell transmissions create problems, and that the convenience they provide involves a trade-off. It may or may not be true that a majority of folks here want this marginally increased cell service. It may be that most folks here think that it is regressive in several ways. It may even be that most folks don’t care one way or the other, but I don’t think that has ever been the case in Rappahannock.
    I have not been able to attend the meetings and put in my two cents worth, but I have been able to
    write to the paper and raise Cain about it. I feel it is incumbent upon our B.O.S. to take a bit of time
    to more thoroughly consider the ramifications of this decision from every angle. This is a big deal, and it is on a track that is much too fast.
    Since I have said about all I can say about it, let me share some words from some old friends of yours and mine:

    “And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
    Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
    Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking
    Mister Peabody’s coal train has done hauled it away…”
    John Prine

    “The land was always ours
    Was the proud land of our fathers
    It belongs to them and us
    Not to any of the others
    Let them go, boys Let them go, boys
    Let them go down in the mud
    Where the rivers all run dry…”
    The Pogues

    “Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone
    They paved Paradise, put up a parking lot….
    Joni Mitchell

    Yours truly,
    Ben Jones

  3. Mr Rowe apparently is too busy to take the necessary time to actually expose himself to any facts that might be construed as contrary to his chosen point of view. I can think of no other reason why he would consider the topic and the pertinent information which is available, (if you look), as “silly and ridiculous”. ON the other hand he does seem to see many of his neighbors as both “extremists” and “idle rich”. In this respect Mr Rowe has been consistent. It would also appear, that for Mr. Rowe, if you express support for reason and caution then you are automatically both “ridiculous” and an “activist”.

    Advancement in “Technology” can bring both the good and the bad. The proliferation of those “advancements” always bring to us a quandary. One of those is trying to balance the benefits with the damages. Rapid deployment intensifies the criticality of the trade offs we make. In our society we often choose to emphasize benefits that accrue to our economic view of life. The incentives in our entire system are ones that favor this. When the use of a technology brings things that are found by many to be “cool” and “neat” and particularly “seductive” and “addictive” our business bias favors an exploitation of those characteristics for market share and profit over any caution about possible consequences.

    Mr. Berio, the DONOHUE & STEARNS front man for AT&T, has posted on Rappnet, what appears to be a refutation of any concerns which might disrupt the AT&T lease arrangement with the Rappahannock School Board. Mr. Berio has made it clear to our Representatives that in the process of approval for the proposed towers or monopoles, the LAW prohibits the consideration of possible negative health impacts from EMF exposure in any decision that would be a rejection of their proposal. The law does not prohibit the School Board from making it an issue when they are the lessor.

    Perhaps this is good place to address Mr. Berio

    Mr. Beiro,

    Thank you so much for that data point. Or was that a set of data points? Those FCC adopted standards you reference were based on exactly what?

    Is that the same exposure standard for micro-wave heating?

    What is the SAR, and is it calculated the same for exposure from personal devices as the exposure from the facilities that provide the infrastructure that supports their use?

    How is an absorbed value for RF different from a measure of exposure to a strong or weak localized magnetic field (a non-thermal effect)?

    If the SAR is based on the principle of “safe heating”, which is the microwave standard, then is it possible that there are other areas of impact via the RF energy that are not covered by the standard?

    Are there things that might result from other than than just the “cooking” of tissues?

    Are there other “non-thermal” effects that might be cause for concern, even and especially with the limited period of examination? Inquiring minds want to know.

    All the information instead of just the part that highlights your clients “good side” would be appreciated.

    When transmitting, is the signal generating equipment so matched to the antennae and the feed lines that all of the energy is transferred to the antennae? That would be quite remarkable if it is the case. Generally there is a portion of the energy that forms a standing wave along the facilities involved. I am sure that the AT&T operation attempts to minimize this situation but is it eliminated? If not, is this non-antenna-directed reflected energy wave accounted for in your average exposure that occurs in the vicinity of the facility? Does that SWR increase and decrease with weather and time of year? Are there not magnetic components that are present that are not considered in the FCC standards?

    Will the transmission levels used for the 199 foot tower at the High School, at the distance it is to be from the closest network repeater, be the same as those used at the other facilities you cite?

    Are those other monopoles you cite in Fairfax as tall as the one that is being proposed at Rappahannock High School?

    As a cell phone gets farther away from a repeater or encounters an environment that absorbs more of the transmitted energy, it has to increase its power level. Are the distances between your facilities here comparable to that encountered in a common urban environment?

    As weather and seasons change will the AT&T transmission power levels change?

    Given that this particular range of frequencies (1 ghz to 5 ghz – actually frequencies up to 300 ghz) is relatively low in the amount of radiation that we are exposed to routinely from the cosmos; this new proliferation of frequencies we are generating in that range, and of course the subsequent routine exposure to them, would constitute a new condition of exposure intensity that has only been present in our environment in a very recent time frame. To base an exposure limit to these frequencies, as has been done by the FCC, solely on the “thermal” effects would seem to be a bit myopic, premature, and perhaps even irresponsible. It took a half century or more of tests and observable and directly attributable impacts to cigarette usage for us to fully respond to the adverse health effects of Tobacco. Exposure to asbestos has taken us three generations to fully appreciate the danger it presents to us. How can the few years that have been the time span for the existing tests and studies on cell phone frequency exposure be anywhere near definitive and indicative of the real situation?

    Caution, even if, in the long run, everything turns out to be hunky dory, would seem to be a more responsible course to set than one relying on a “current lack of evidence to the contrary” in order to justify and to assert that there is “no verifiable” danger.

    Does attempting an experiment of this magnitude on our youth really make sense?

    Does doing the experiment in yet another location because it is being conducted in many other locations seem sound?

    Platitudes and numbers of other schools that have put themselves into an experimental category should not be a reason for our School Board to place Rappahannock High School in the test group.

    Mr. Pagano

  4. Mr. Rowe,
    Cellular and broadband internet service are obviously an integral component of
    modern telecommunications. No one here denies that.
    But the fleas come with the dog, and the enormous boom in cellular tower building
    has come with very real problems which have been seriously documented. Your
    insults (“environmental extremists and idle rich”) do indeed qualify as ridiculous.
    And if you don’t know the difference between prohibiting texting and driving and the use
    of computers by law enforcement, then perhaps you shouldn’t be lecturing anyone
    about anything. Besides, I thought you were selling your farm and moving
    to Chile.
    I hope everyone involved in this debate will try to separate the wheat from the chaff.
    Hard scientific evidence exists on the radiation issue. Cold hard fatality statistics exist
    on automobile fatalities due to texting and driving. And towers do collapse.
    I confess, if proceeding cautiously in the face of these realities shows a lack of
    “common sense”, then I am guilty. In my opinion, this is a huge miscalculation for
    our county, one that you can reflect on when you are down in Chile, I reckon.

    Ben Jones

  5. This is silly and ridiculous. The environmental extremists and idle rich in the county have been defeated by the forces of common sense which say we need cell service and internet. First they tried to say texting and driving should be prohibited even while the police have computers in their cars. Now they are trying to say that cell phone towers are dangerous to the health of high school students. If that was the case then kids in the city where cell phone towers are ubiquitous would decamp to the country to get out of range of the radiation. There is an upside to the actions of these activists which is to demonstrate how ridiculous they are to the rest of us so that their opinions matter less as the country at large tries to retool and rebuild after the economic collapse–a long process of which cellular and broadband internet service is an important step forward.

  6. I hope you find the following testimony of some help in your fight. Many more references, etc in my report at the website link.

    Dear County Affairs Subcommittee Members,

    I write to express my support to the proposed – Wireless Telecommunications Towers – Prohibition on Public School Property

    I am a health advocate and work on the issue of non ionizing radiation exposure in the radio frequency (RFR) band. I have a personal stake in this work, as I am one of the growing numbers of people who have become functionally impaired due to prolonged chronic exposure to RFR from a base station near to my home. For additional references and resources on this issue please refer to my report: CELL TOWERS AND WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS – LIVING WITH RADIOFREQUENCY RADIATION

    Children are more susceptible to environmental toxins, absorb more RFR into their bodies and face longer cumulative exposure than adults. This greater danger is being taken seriously by many scientific and governmental agencies.

    In April 2009, the EU Parliament adopted a resolution on health concerns associated with RFR, which includes criteria for setting up Cell Towers. They state: “In this context, it is important to ensure at least that schools, nursery schools, retirement homes, and health care institutions are kept clear, within a specific distance determined by scientific criteria, of facilities of this type.” (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P6-TA-2009-0216+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN )

    In January 2008, the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, issued a report saying that we do not know enough about the potential health risks of long-term exposure to RF radiation from cell phones, cell towers, television towers, and other components of our communications system. The scientists emphasized, in particular, the unknown risks to the health of children, pregnant women, and fetuses as well as of workers whose jobs entail high exposure to RF radiation. The report states:

    “Wireless networks are being built very rapidly, and many more base station antennas are being installed. A crucial research need is to characterize radiated electromagnetic fields for typical multiple-element base station antennas and for the highest radiated power conditions with measurements conducted during peak hours of the day at locations close to the antennas as well as at ground level.” (http://www.nap.edu/catalog/12036.html )

    The RF radiation levels from a cell tower may be 100 times lower than the FCC standards. This means the RFR level would be 10 microwatts per centimeter squared (µW/cm2). This is the maximum allowable RFR exposure level in Russia, China, Switzerland, Italy and Monaco. These levels do not take into account additional transmitters, which further increase the RFR levels. In addition the reflective and amplifying nature of RFR in the environment leads to localized RFR hot spots that may exceed the FCC standard.

    The wide variance in RFR exposure limits around the world is due to the fact that some countries, such as the United States, dismiss non-thermal biological effects from RFR exposure. The limits only protect against thermal heating. Many countries have lower limits that factor in the non-thermal cumulative effects, which have been shown to occur at levels thousands of times lower than the thermal effects.

    According to Norbert Hankin, an environmental scientist in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Radiation and Indoor Air, who has studied the effects of RFR for 33 years, the FCC’s standards are “thermally based, and do not apply to chronic, non-thermal exposure situations…Therefore, the generalization by many that the guidelines protect human beings from harm by any or all mechanisms is not justified.”

    The BioInitiative Report, published in 2007, provides detailed scientific information on health impacts when people are exposed to EMF/RFR hundreds or even thousands of times below the limits currently established by the FCC. The authors reviewed more than 2000 scientific studies and reviews, and concluded that the existing public safety limits are inadequate to protect public health. Their conclusion is that: From a public health policy standpoint, new public safety limits, and limits on further deployment of risky technologies are warranted based on the total weight of evidence. Their recommendation is to set an exposure standard of 0.1 microwatt per centimeter squared (µW/cm2) limit. This is 10,000 times lower than the FCC standard of 1,000 µW/cm2 and 100 times lower than estimation of the RFR levels from cell towers. (http://www.bioinitiative.org/ )

    The non-thermal biological effects of RFR have been documented by the international scientific community and the military since the 1950s. As Dr. David Carpenter, Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, State University of New York, lead author of the BioInitiative Report, Advisor to the President’s Cancer Panel and the Executive Secretary of the New York Power Lines Project, coveys quite well in his report Setting Prudent Public Health Policy for Electromagnetic Field Exposures: “Clear evidence has emerged from animal and cell culture studies that [RFR] has biological effects. Furthermore, such effects occur at intensities commonly experienced by humans. We know a number of ways in which EMF’s alter cell physiology and function. Electromagnetic fields affect gene transcription, induce the synthesis of stress proteins, and cause breakage of DNA, probably through the generation of reactive oxygen species. Changes in the blood-brain-barrier and in calcium metabolism have been demonstrated for various RF frequencies.and such effects occur at exposures that do not cause significant heating. Any one of these actions might be responsible for the carcinogenic and/or neuro-degenerative actions of EMF’s[RFR].” (http://www.scribd.com/doc/4090137/Setting-Prudent-Public-Health-Policy-for-Electromagnetic-Field-Exposures )

    In addition, 10 out of the 14 peer-reviewed epidemiological studies analyzed, and conforming to the specified WHO/ICNIRP standards of scientific quality, including their assessment criteria of consistency and replication found significant increases in ill health effects. Included in this database are only those studies that are about cell tower exposures. (Kundi, 2008 at the London EMF International Conference). Populations close to cellular antennas show an increase in the effects of ill health in those closest to the antennas with the risks factors dropping off as distance and RFR levels decrease. Symptoms ranged from sleep disturbances to breast and brain cancers. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TBB-4VRWNH1-2&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=b22f07bbd6f4e2076bdc07dbc4e94df6 )

    In closing I refer the subcommittee to the following report. I strongly urge a full reading of the report, however I have copied some excerpts below.

    Environ. Rev. 18: 369–395 (2010) | doi:10.1139/A10-018 | Published by NRC Research Press / Publié par les Presses scientifiques du CNRC
    Biological effects from exposure to electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell tower base stations and other antenna arrays by B. Blake Levitta and Henry Lai (November 2010)


    …Both anecdotal reports and some epidemiology studies have found headaches, skin rashes, sleep disturbances, depression, decreased libido, increased rates of suicide, concentration problems, dizziness, memory changes, increased risk of cancer, tremors, and other neurophysiological effects in populations near base stations.

    …Absorption of RFR depends on many factors including the transmission frequency and the power density, one’s distance from the radiating source, and one’s orientation toward the radiation of the system. Other factors include the size, shape, mineral and water content of an organism. Children absorb energy differently than adults because of differences in their anatomies and tissue composition. Children are not just “little adults”. For this reason, and because their bodies are still developing, children may be more susceptible to damage from cell phone radiation. For instance, radiation from a cell phone penetrates deeper into the head of children (Gandhi et al. 1996; Wiart et al. 2008) and certain tissues of a child’s head, e.g., the bone marrow and the eye, absorb significantly more energy than those in an adult head (Christ et al. 2010). The same can be presumed for proximity to tower…

    … according to the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) Health Effects of Exposure to EMF, released in January of 2009:

    … recent studies of whole body plane wave exposure of both adult and children phantoms demonstrated that when children and small persons are exposed to levels which are in compliance with reference levels, exceeding the basic restrictions cannot be excluded [Dimbylow and Bloch 2007; Wang et al. 2006; Kuhn et al., 2007; Hadjem et al., 2007]. While the whole frequency range has been investigated, such effects were found in the frequency bands around 100 MHz and also around 2 GHz. For a model of a 5-year-old child it has been shown that when the phantom is exposed to electromagnetic fields at reference levels, the basic restrictions were exceeded by 40% [Conil et al., 2008]….

    …It might be more realistic to consider ambient outdoor and indoor RFR exposures in the same way we consider other environmental hazards such as chemicals from building materials that cause sick building syndrome. In considering public health, we should concentrate on aggregate exposures from multiple sources, rather than continuing to focus on individual source points like cell and broadcast base stations. In addition, whole categorically excluded technologies must be included for systems like Wi-Fi, Wi-Max, smart grids, and smart metering as these can greatly increase ambient radiation levels.

    … The present U.S. guidelines for RFR exposure are not up to date. The most recent IEEE and NCRP guidelines used by the U.S. FCC have not taken many pertinent recent studies into consideration because, they argue, the results of many of those studies have not been replicated and thus are not valid for standards setting. That is a specious argument. It implies that someone tried to replicate certain works but failed to do so, indicating the studies in question are unreliable. However, in most cases, no one has tried to exactly replicate the works at all. It must be pointed out that the 4 W/kg SAR threshold based on the de Lorge studies have also not been replicated independently. In addition, effects of long-term exposure, modulation, and other propagation characteristics are not considered. Therefore, the current guidelines are questionable in protecting the public from possible harmful effects of RFR exposure and the U.S. FCC should take steps to update their regulations by taking all recent research into consideration without waiting for replication that may never come because of the scarcity of research funding. The ICNIRP standards are more lenient in key exposures to the population than current U.S. FCC regulations. The U.S. standards should not be “harmonized” toward more lenient allowances. The ICNIRP should become more protective instead. All standards should be biologically based, not dosimetry based as is the case today.
    Exposure of the general population to RFR from wireless communication devices and transmission towers should be kept to a minimum and should follow the “As Low As Reasonably Achievable” (ALARA) principle. Some scientists, organizations, and local governments recommend very low exposure levels — so low, in fact, that many wireless industries claim they cannot function without many more antennas in a given area. However, a denser infrastructure may be impossible to attain because of citizen unwillingness to live in proximity to so many antennas. In general, the lowest regulatory standards currently in place aim to accomplish a maximum exposure of 0.02 V/m, equal to a power density of 0.0001 ?W/cm2, which is in line with Salzburg, Austria’s indoor exposure value for GSM cell base stations. Other precautionary target levels aim for an outdoor cumulative exposure of 0.1 ?W/cm2 for pulsed RF exposures where they affect the general population and an indoor exposure as low as 0.01 ?W/cm2 (Sage and Carpenter 2009). In 2007, The BioInitiative Report, A rationale for a biologically based public exposure standard for electromagnetic fields (ELF and RF), also made this recommendation, based on the precautionary principle (Bioinitiative Report 2007).
    Citizens and municipalities often ask for firm setbacks from towers to guarantee safety. There are many variables involved with safer tower siting — such as how many providers are co-located, at what frequencies they operate, the tower’s height, surrounding topographical characteristics, the presence of metal objects, and others. Hard and fast setbacks are difficult to recommend in all circumstances. Deployment of base stations should be kept as efficient as possible to avoid exposure of the public to unnecessary high levels of RFR. As a general guideline, cell base stations should not be located less than 1500 ft (~500 m) from the population, and at a height of about 150 ft (~50 m).

    Thank you for your consideration of this important legislation.


    Angela Flynn

  7. A Camp’s response to Ms.Chovnick’s letter leads to some interesting internet surfing on the issue
    of cell tower dangers. I’ve been researching the issue since the AT&T proposal came up, and the more
    I read, the more I feel we are making a terrible mistake here.
    This is a watershed moment for our extraordinary county. Make no doubt about it, these cell towers will create a marked change in the character of Rappahannock and in the sensibilities and priorities of our citizens. And a look at the Public Notice section of the paper shows that more are on the way.
    Scores of citizens have made thoughtful and valid points in opposition to AT&T’s plan, and have
    been treated with unhearing disregard at best, and, at worst, the visceral attacks of anonymous
    proponents who may or may not have a financial interest or some other sort of agenda in mind.
    Y”all, we are talkng aboiut our children here, our families! It just seems to me that there
    is something very wrong in all of this, in the way it has been presented as a fait accompli, and in
    the way that public concern has been met with silence. This pedantic and paternalistic attitude
    reminds me of the “Boss Hogg” politics of Hazzard County. I know most of these elected and
    appointed commissioners, and I like them. But like the rest of us, they can be wrong headed and
    fallible. We should be telling AT&T what we will accept, and not the other way around.
    Tim Pagano’s recent response to “Contemplation” made more sense than any thing I’ve heard
    from our “public servants.”
    We not only owe this to the folks who have come before us here, and who protected this place
    from this kind of cultural destruction, but we owe it to the next generation, who deserve the same
    kind of community of which we are so proud.
    Just sayin’, is all…..
    Ben Jones

  8. Ms. Chovnick has good reason for concern. If anyone is interested in learning about (1) the potential adverse impacts of Cell Towers, and (2) what communities, schools and PTA’s are doing to protect their schoolchildren from same, go to AntiCellTowerLawyers.com and visit their “Links” and “Questions and Answers” sections. The Links section includes a School News section which addresses how others, across the Country, are dealing with the issue of Cell Towers near schools.

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