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Friday, June 02, 2006

"School Board Member Clarifies Concerns on Cell Towers" by Susan Hopkins in the Portland Forecaster: May 31, 2006

To the editor:

The “Deering High School to have cell tower” story in The Forecaster does not accurately represent the concerns that I raised at the May 16th Portland School Committee meeting about the cell tower contract. I did not voice a concern “about the lack of conclusive scientific evidence” between radio frequency radiation and adverse health effects. I made a motion to delay the vote on the cell tower lease for another week so that we could look at evidence on the health effects of this type of radiation. We, as a legislative body, didn’t look at any evidence. In support of my motion, I cited reports from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (which is one of the National Institutes of Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

I specifically cited the EPA’s 2002 letter that said that US exposure standards are not up to date with the latest research and the fact that the radiation levels of the proposed tower were set by legislation passed in 1996.

I also asked whether we knew if the International Association of Firefighters has lifted their moratorium on placing cell towers at fire stations, as they were concerned about the adverse health effects. I quoted health policy analyst Karl Polzer’s “Washington Post” op-ed piece in which he said, “If cell towers are too risky for firefighters-- who are paid to enter burning buildings and who are routinely exposed to toxic fumes-- then it makes no sense to put cell towers near schoolchildren.”

I said that, despite the low levels of radiation, I have questions about whether the impact of exposure to this level of intensity of radiation is cumulative. I question the wisdom of exposing students and employees to that, especially with such a low-fee lease with no indemnity clause coming from the cell company.

The leading researcher in this field said that he wouldn’t live next to a cell tower. If we could have explored some of that evidence, as a deliberative committee, my next question would be, once we actually review the evidence, do we as a School Committee want to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard when it comes to deciding whether having cell towers on Deering High School is safe or a higher standard like “clear & convincing” or “beyond a reasonable doubt”?

I’m obliged to support the decision of the School Committee, so I propose that to ensure the safety of the children attending our public schools, we must look at the research more thoroughly and be prepared to re-visit this contract if we are unable to say that our students on Stevens Avenue are 100 percent safe.

For more information see

Susan Hopkins

Portland School Committee, At-Large Seat

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