Georgia state legislators have introduced bills that would hinder construction of cell-phone towers throughout the state and ban many altogether. House Bill 1128 would ban construction of cell-phone towers on public school properties, and Senate Bill 498 would require local governments to conduct public hearings at least 45 days prior to leasing public property to a cell-phone companies and other private entities.
The bills were introduced in response to an agreement between T-Mobile and the state’s DeKalb County School Board to place towers on the property of nine county schools. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), says HB 1128 is an effort to protect children from radiation emitted by cell phone towers, which she calls “electronic smog.”
Telecommunications engineers and technology experts at the Federal Communications Commission, however, dispute Drenner’s assertions of towers emitting radiation in doses sufficient to cause harm to humans.
Safety and Property Values
Rep. Drenner introduced HB 1128—entitled “Prudent Avoidance”—on February 27 after gauging opinion of the DeKalb and T-Mobile agreement at a public hearing the previous week. Her bill is cosponsored by Reps. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta), Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody), Judy Manning (R-Marietta), “Coach” Williams (D-Avondale Estates), and Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta).
“The long-term effects of exposure to the type of radiation produced by cell-phone towers are not fully known, but initial data indicates cause for concern,” said Drenner in a statement. “Placing cell towers on school property unnecessarily places our children in potential danger and could even be viewed as experimenting with our children’s health. I am strongly committed to stopping these efforts to put cell-phone towers on school property.”
The Georgia Senate is considering a counterpart to the Drenner bill, which was introduced March 28 by Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur), the eldest grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. Senate Bill 498 is cosponsored by Senators Fran Millar (R-Atlanta), Steve Hensen (D-Tucker), Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain), Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur), and Curt Thompson (D-Tucker).
According to the Georgia Senate’s description of SB 498, the bill “aims to close a zoning loop hole currently being exploited by the DeKalb County school board to claim they are exempt from local zoning laws and therefore can allow T-mobile to build cell-phone towers on school property without following proper notification procedures or comply with rules already in place to ensure the safety of the residents as well as protect property values.”
HB 1128 ‘Junk Science’
Richard Bennett, a senior research fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonpartisan research and educational institute located in Washington DC, said it is a very good thing to place cell phone towers on school grounds because it reduces children’s total exposure to radio frequency emissions.
“Lawmakers and advocates who oppose this practice rely on junk science or no science at all,” Bennett said. “Most of the RF emissions we absorb from cell phone use—over 99 percent—come from the phone itself, not the tower. This is because the phone is so much closer to the brain than the tower, and electromagnetic energy disperses exponentially with distance,” he said.
“The farther away the tower, the stronger the signal coming out of the phone, and the more RF energy to the brain,” he noted.
The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology, which is required to evaluate the effects of RF emissions, released its Interphone Study in May 2010. The study found no risk increase associated with mobile phone use. In addition, studies by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization concluded there is no scientific evidence of health risks from cell-phone RF emissions.
“Misguided activists who seek to protect developing brains from the unproved hazards of cell phone use by increasing those very hazards need a basic physics course,” Bennett said.
Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.
“Radio Frequency Safety,” Federal Communications Commission Office of Engineering and Technology: http://transition.fcc.gov/oet/rfsafety/
“Residents Protest School Cell Phone Towers at Drenner Hearing,” Jonathon Cribbs, North Druid Hills-Briarwood Patch, February 21, 2012: http://northdruidhills.patch.com/articles/live-cell-phone-towers-hearing-in-atlanta
“House Bill 1128: Prudent Avoidance,” Rep. Karla Drenner, February 27, 2012: http://www.scribd.com/doc/82892268/HouseBillPrudentAvoidance-dekalb-county
“Senate Bill 498,” Sen. Jason Carter, February 28, 2012: http://www.scribd.com/doc/83268690/Senate-bill-498-Close-zoning-loop