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Putting Cell Phone Antennas Near Schools Is Too Risky

All of them found statistically significant relationships between exposure to radiation and health effects. The findings are from 2002 and 2004. It is important to note that cell phone antennas emit microwave radiation all the time and may act as a chronic stressor at low exposure levels. Two of the studies did measurements in subjects' bedrooms and found significant increases in stress-related symptoms as well as neurological symptoms above exposures to 0.005 microwatts per centimeter squared. This is roughly 500,000 times slower than U.S. exposure standards for cell tower radiation. The main symptoms reported by our study were depression, fatigue, sleep disorders and concentration difficulty. These symptoms were related to exposure levels, not distance from the antennas.

Concerning cellular phones, recent research from a project called EU-Reflex, or European Union Risk Evaluation of Potential Environmental Hazards From Low-Frequency Electromagnetic Field Exposure Using Sensitive In Vitro Methods, shows that cells exposed to cell phone radiation exhibit chromosomal damage well below the exposure guidelines of the World Health Organization. Also, a new study by Swedish researchers confirms previous findings that long-term exposure to cellular phones increases the risk for acoustic neuroma, a benign type of brain tumor.

Exposure guidelines proposed by the World Health Organization are based only on short-term effects and are not designed to protect the public from long-term effects and non-thermal effects.

There is increasing evidence showing that microwave radiation is a threat to well-being and health. Schools and all other places where humans, and especially children, stay for long periods should have safe exposure levels. Before an antenna is mounted, it is possible to calculate the theoretical exposure. It should be noted that under the antennas there can be higher exposure levels because the side lobes of radiation touch ground in close proximity to the radiation source.

In order to reduce the health risks from cell towers significantly, the public health department of Salzburg in Austria recommends exposure levels not exceeding 0.001 microwatts per centimeter squared outside and 0.0001 microwatts per centimeter squared inside buildings. The basis of this recommendation is the empirical evidence that is backed by all three epidemiological cell tower studies.

Because children's bodies are developing and research is not complete on the health effects of microwave radiation, greater caution should be taken in siting cell towers near places where children spend considerable amounts of time. As a general rule, cell towers should not be placed near schools.

Gerd Oberfeld, MD

Public Health Officer for Environmental Medicine

Province of Salzburg, Austria

On Nov. 18 and Dec. 2, Fairfax Extra published guest columns discussing both sides of a debate about the Fairfax County School Board's commercial venture to build cell phone towers at schools. The columns prompted the following letters from two researchers on radio frequency radiation.

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