TONY HAYS, San Clemente
The presentations by experts at the workshop on Nov. 20 in the city council chambers provided a lot of information, including the distance that is considered safe from a small cell tower for a human with continuous exposure to radiofrequency (RF) energy.
One expert presenter stated that 12 feet is a safe distance. The presenter also pointed out that radio frequencies used by cell towers are non-ionizing—i.e., any harm is caused by heating, and they do not cause cancer.
It is impossible to guarantee that anything is perfectly safe. Residents must weigh the evidence of experts, and the evidence suggests that the probability of harm is very small. The American Cancer Society (ACS) is probably the most trustworthy source of information on this subject.
To quote from the ACS website, “High levels of RF waves can cause a warming of body tissues, but the energy levels on the ground near a cell phone tower are far below the levels needed to cause this effect. So far, there is no evidence in published scientific reports that cell phone towers cause any other health problems.”
The city of San Clemente’s draft ordinance requires that small cell towers are discouraged from being within 100 feet of a residential property line, and 500 feet from a school. The draft ordinance does not include any justification for these numbers, which have the effect of adding to the concerns of residents but without adding any measure of safety.
In fact, the opposite may occur. The further away a cell phone user is from a cell tower, the higher is the required transmission power of the cell phone, whose effect on the body is much greater than that of the transmission from the cell tower itself.
The American Cancer Society website states, “IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) also noted that exposure to the brain from RF fields from cell phone base stations (mounted on roofs or towers) is less than 1/100th the exposure to the brain from mobile devices such as cell phones.”
The transmission power of a small cell is at least another factor of five less that of a tower-mounted cell, so the exposure from a small cell would be less than 1/500th that of a cell phone.
So for those who are concerned about RF emissions from small cells in the neighborhood, the first step should be to stop using a cell phone.
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