A proposed T-Mobile cellphone tower on school grounds has triggered plenty of controversy. A group of parents and nearby residents vehemently opposed to a cell tower believes the emitted radio-frequency waves will cause cancer and other health problems over a long period of time. T-Mobile has snapped back, defending their towers with studies and questioning the validity of contrary evidence.
While this debate over cell towers may be confusing, it is missing a simple truth: if we look around us, there are radio wave emissions everywhere, from gigantic radio towers to TV sets. In the big scheme, one weak cell tower would be relatively harmless.
On the flip side, a cellphone tower would bring better service to the area and money to MCPS. Ten other schools in MCPS have already installed cell towers on school grounds, and Whitman’s PTSA should approve the same.
Evidence of health effects is often speculative; cellphone towers “might” cause cancer, “could” pose a danger to our children and “may” be an unappreciated threat. A few studies correlate radio wave exposure to a higher rate of health problems, but long-term studies will take years to prove or disprove the danger.
Meanwhile, an international conference of radio-communication health experts held at the beginning of February concluded that there is no evidence for health effects from exposure to radio waves.
Opponents compare cell phone towers to smoking, saying the full health risks of smoking were unknown 50 years ago. While this analogy might put things into perspective, radio waves from cellphone towers are nothing like the toxic smoke inhaled from a pack of cigarettes each day.
Most cell sites emit less than one percent of the maximum exposure the Federal Communications Commission allows, and T-Mobile claims their sites emit less than a thousandth of a percent, making a tower less dangerous than cordless home phones and WiFi routers.
Even if FCC limits are too high, as many claim, cell towers are within safe emission levels recommended by experts. Ultimately, cellphones and two-way radios that are only inches from us are bigger concerns than a weak antenna 150 feet above our heads and hundreds of yards away.
Putting a cell tower on school grounds has many advantages. T-Mobile users in the area would get a boost in coverage within a current dead zone. In the future, other cell companies may add extensions to the cell tower to increase their coverage as well.
The athletic fields are the ideal site for the proposed tower. The cell tower could be built into an existing light pole instead of towering over the neighborhood, keeping the tower as far away as possible from people’s homes and minimizing exposure to radio waves.
Finally, T-Mobile would pay $24,000 a year to MCPS, two-thirds of which would be split between Whitman and its cluster schools. With Montgomery County’s $401 million budget shortfall, schools need extra revenue more than ever.
Radio waves surround our area and many others around the nation. While it’s understandable to worry about the effects of these waves, a cellphone tower at Whitman isn’t going to be the straw that gives all of us cancer. Instead, it would probably be one of the least worrisome sources of radio waves around.
The PSTA should approve the construction of a cell tower, and be rest assured that they are not condemning the next generation to death by it.
To read more about the proposed tower, click here.