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Perspective on Cell Tower Radiation

Editor,

This past Jan. 12, the Planning Commission was scheduled to review a proposal to install a new 4G microwave antenna at a residence in the Arch Beach Heights area. This residence already houses Sprint and (in twin faux chimneys) AT&T towers. The 4G microwave antenna is to be, I have been told, an addition to AT&T’s previously approved technology at the site.

In my correspondence with the city, and with the owner of the property, I have been told that the base level radio frequency (RF) radiation of the Sprint tower alone is almost undetectable. The reality, according to a report prepared by Hammett & Edison, Inc. and submitted to the City of Laguna Beach on July 21, 2010, is that the level is alarmingly high: 1,300µW/m².  (For a point of comparison, my Blackberry Storm cell phone emits, when transmitting, between 1,200 and 1800µW/m².)  In other words, at “base” or ground level at the site, one is exposed 24/7 to RF levels one would be exposed to when holding a transmitting Blackberry to one’s head or around one’s body.

When my husband and a technician who measures RF for a living monitored the area around the site (when only the Sprint tower was operational), they found RF levels of 1,000 and higher within 500 feet, and this includes the soccer field up at Moulton Meadows Park.

The report states that the proposed 4G tower would not significantly raise the cumulative RF at the site. Regardless of whether or not any of us are personally concerned about the possible dangers of sustained exposure to RF radiation, several undeniably concerning issues emerge from this scenario in Arch Beach Heights, including the following:

1. The City seemingly believes that the existing base level RF radiation is “undetectable” because the report skews numbers and cites the FCC limit. By representing the existing maximum in mW/cm² (rather than in the more common µW/m²), the number looks tiny or “undetectable” (0.00013 vs. 1,300). The report claims that this number is only 0.065 percent of the FCC’s public limit, which is true, but the FCC’s limit is 2,000,000µW/m²!  To be exposed to 2,000,000µW/m² you would need to hold about 1,530 of my Blackberries to your body at one time. The FCC limit should not be used as a measure against which RF radiation readings are determined “detectable” or “undetectable.” (Of note, several European countries have drastically lower limits.)

2. If one resident in Laguna Beach can lease her property for financial gain to telecoms, what’s to stop every other resident from doing the same? We need a city-wide ordinance mandating that cell tower facilities be set back 1,500 feet from residences, schools, and parks. We should also consider passing an ordinance prohibiting residents from profiting off of the installation of telecom facilities.

I urge anyone in the community who is concerned about these issues to write City Council and Planning Commission members.

Charmaine Craig, Laguna Beach

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