Some neighbors in the Palisades area are fighting a mobile phone company's plan to put up a 100-foot antenna beside a nearby church playground, citing health risks that phone company officials dispute.

At issue in this neighborhood of rolling hills and high-priced homes are none of the customary complaints about creeping commercialism or the aesthetics of a tower the height of a 10-story building.

Homeowners along Foxhall Road, MacArthur Boulevard and Whitehaven Parkway NW point to four school campuses within 250 feet of the tower site and say the safety of 6,000 students is at stake.

Gary Groat, a vocal critic who lives 200 feet from the site, said he and his wife waited for their first child for 15 years. "We didn't wait all this time to have this child and then to have her be exposed to this," he said.

Cellular One officials say they are surprised and steamed by the community's reaction. More than a year ago, they signed a $20,000-a-year lease with St. Patrick's Episcopal Church on Whitehaven Parkway NW to put up their equipment beside a parking lot and playground, and there was no opposition, they said.

The tower, which is key to improving service to subscribers, has won all the needed zoning approvals. And now the neighborhood, which has one of the highest rates of car-phone use in the city, is interfering.

"It's the old story," said Amy O'Rourke, director of real estate for Cellular One. "Fix my service, but not in my back yard."

Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency have hedged on the risks of electromagnetic energy emitted from power lines, household appliances and cellular equipment. Until recently, the EPA's position had been that there was no link between cancer and exposure.

But a report the agency will release later this summer effectively reverses that. It says a correlation is possible between cancer and exposure to power lines and common electrical appliances.

The report also was to have warned of possible links to cancer of exposure to the type of low-level energy emitted from cellular phone equipment, until White House officials pressed to have those warnings removed for further study, according to a report in Microwave News, a New York City health advocacy newsletter.

"Cellular towers are going up everywhere," said Louis Slevin, Microwave News editor. "We don't know what the cancer threshold is, and almost no one is interested in finding out."

Cellular One also uses EPA literature to defend its position that there are no health risks from exposure to the equipment.

Armed with an environmental impact study by Versar Inc., a Springfield research firm, and photos of towers in other places, including one beside a school in Kensington, they argued their case before a neighborhood meeting last week.

But some parents quickly shouted them down. "No! Not here!" they yelled.

They noted that The Lab School of Washington, a school for children with learning disabilities, is across the street from the site. Mount Vernon College is next door. And both Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church and St. Patrick's have elementary schools.

"It's the yuppie-car-phone thing versus our kids' health," said Robert Aber, who has a 7-year-old enrolled at St. Patrick's school.

"We will do anything -- spend anything -- to keep it out," said his wife, Jan Aber.

Bowing to community pressure, the St. Patrick's church board of trustees has said it wants out of its contract with Cellular One.

Meanwhile, the city's Board of Zoning Adjustment has approved the plan, dismissing concerns about health and a petition with 230 signatures of opponents.

And Cellular One officials contend they hold a valid contract, signed more than a year ago.

O'Rourke said the company tried to put the antenna at many other sites before approaching the church, including the tops of about a dozen commercial buildings. But everyone turned it down.

"Space considerations, for the most part," she said.

A tower in Palisades would serve about 6,000 customers who live in, work in or drive through the area, said O'Rourke. Service is poor there now, she said, because the area sits in a bowl surrounded by ridges that block the signal.

Cellular telephone use is growing rapidly in most metropolitan areas. But Washington and its suburbs comprise one of the busiest markets in the world, with close to a million potential users, according to market estimates. Some analysts predict that 95 percent of telephone users in the D.C. area will become cellular users within 15 years.

Officials from Cellular One said they want to work with the community and have hinted that they would consider another site -- or two sites for two, possibly shorter antennae. But higher antennae actually keep the electromagnetic energy farther away from people, they said.

"We think it's possible to resolve this so everybody's happy," said James R. Michal, the attorney for Cellular One.

But Joyce W. Waid of the local advisory neighborhood commission said the community is adamant. "I think he {Michal} was just getting me to cool my jets," she said. "{But} this is just the wrong location."