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State Rep. Says Cell Towers Could Pose Threat to Children

Rep. Karla Drenner, District 86, is holding a hearing today to question the erection of cell phone towers on a number of school sites countywide.

When frustrated DeKalb County residents gather in a small meeting room in downtown Atlanta this morning to listen to a hearing about cell phone towers on school grounds, they'll have a significant new ally – the state representative who organized the meeting.

Months after groups of parents organized to protest a DeKalb County School System plan to put cell phone towers on a number of school sites across the county, Rep. Karla Drenner, District 86, has come out in the last week against the proposal between the school system and T-Mobile, breathing new life into the controversial issue.

"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," Drenner said in a statement last week. "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."

In an interview with North Druid Hills-Briarcliff Patch, Drenner said she is introducing two bills into the state legislature. The first bill would prevent cell phone towers from being built on school property anywhere in Georgia. Her second bill would only ban the practice in DeKalb County.

The DeKalb County Board of Education approved in July towers at several schools in the county, including Lakeside High School, Briarlake Elementary School and Margaret Harris Comprehensive School. Residents surrounding the defunct Medlock Elementary School were able to get a tower there removed from the proposal. Since then, parents near Margaret Harris and Briarlake Elementary have been publicly fighting the proposal, but board members and school system officials have essentially turned their backs, saying the T-Mobile contract is binding.

Drenner, however, has a background in radiation physics and said she believes the school system didn't act with necessary caution approving the deal. She said she has a bachelor's of science in radiation physics from West Virginia State University and a master's and a doctorate in environmental science. She also said she has worked as a radiation safety officer in California and calculated radiation exposure at a uranium enrichment facility in Ohio.

"I'm pro-nuclear, but I'm not pro-cell phone towers around schools," Drenner said. "We're used to seeing cell phone towers. However, the placement with regard to schools is an issue because, again, children... they're growing. As a parent myself, I would not want my child in a school where a cell phone tower is active."

Drenner said she admits there is legitimate research that says cell phone towers cause no adverse health effects, but with so many factors to consider, she said she believes it's hard to say for sure. The American Cancer Society says scientists agree it is unlikely that cell phone antennas and towers cause cancer. The organization also says there have been few human studies.

Regardless, Drenner said it's best for school system to avoid cell towers and not welcome cell phone companies like T-Mobile to construct them on school grounds.

"I'm not disputing cell phone towers. I'm disputing where they're being placed right now," she said. "The cell phone tower companies are going to say the distance... minimizes the exposure to the children. That's a valid argument, but they don't talk about the magnetic fields being created when the tower is being used. ... The chances of creating chromosomal aberrations [in children] increases."

Drenner's hearing will begin at 11:30am today in Room 415 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, which is located across the street from the Georgia State Capitol. Check back to North Druid Hills-Briarcliff Patch for live coverage.

Cheryl Miller February 21, 2012 at 01:52 PM
If the school board or T-mobile or any of the alleged "pro-cell tower" folks would have stepped forward to explain why these towers were a good idea, perhaps they would be worth defending. But, the very fact that they crafted a memo that was designed to garner low or no attendance at their so-called public meeting should let everyone know that even they know that there is something that the people would have objected to if they would have been permitted to actually provide input with advance knowledge of the subject matter. If they can't look us in the eye and tell us why we should not be concerned, then that speaks volumes all by itself, doesn't it?
Louis Kiphen February 21, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Why is NON-ionizing radiation so difficult a concept to grasp? Drenner may be qualified to quantify radiation exposure in a given scenario, but clearly not to assess the human consequences in the same case. As far out of bounds as Drenner's position is, being clearly against the concensus in the scientific community and ignoring overwhelming amounts of persuasive evidence, Drenner might as well be denying evolution or global warming. Cell towers are not going to give your kids cancer!
Marshall Jackson February 21, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Drenner is clearly playing a political game. With her qualifications, she knows that cell towers pose NO health risks. However, he constituants want to see her 'fighting their cause'. Since the ignorant vocal hypocritical minority think the voodoo from cell towers is going to harm them because they don't understand science and technology, Drenner is standing up for them in a battle she can't win. The jurisdiction can't deny a cell tower based on percieved health risks. The telecommunications act of 1996 will not allow that. So. . . Drenner looks like a hero to the ignorant folks she claims to be looking out for, and T-Mobile will get their tower!
Cerebration February 21, 2012 at 07:51 PM
As a member of "the ignorant vocal hypocritical minority", I have to say, "GO REP DRENNER!!! I do not want a cell tower on my child's school property, next to their playground, on top of their nature trail or anywhere near them. The school system has NO BUSINESS subsidizing anyone's business. The laws exempting schools from zoning regulations were intended to allow schools to easily build additional space for LEARNING. Paul Womack, however, has trumped the citizens and the law, instead, greedily subsidizing his corporate friends all the while saying it's "for the children"... THAT is criminal, IMHVHM(humble,vocal,hypocritical,minority)Opinion.
Marshall Jackson February 21, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Oh, come on Kim! Fall and catch fire? Let's see, trees are known to fall and catch fire! Keep your kids away from trees! Risk? Do your kids ever get in a car with you? Cars get into accidents. Keep kids out of cars! Your evaluation of risk is orders of magnitude from reality. FYI, availability of cellular communication has saved MANY MANY lives and prevented a great deal of property damage. First responders (firemen and EMTs) will tell you how much faster they can arrive at the scene of an incident due to cell communication. It should be against the law for schools NOT to have this safety equipment.
Kim Manning February 21, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Marshall, I deleted my post before you responded, I wish I hadn't now! But, show me a 150 ft. tree near our schools. And, seriously, we DO need cell towers! I am not opposing cell towers! I am opposing a cell tower being built at my local elementary school and high school. I agree, the RFR issue is unclear. The World Health Organization is investigating it as a possible human carcinogen - and other possible human carcinogens include coffee and pickled vegetables (but also DDT and car exhaust). They feel like it's worth further study, and that children are at particular risk of exposure, so that gives me pause. But the biggest reason I oppose the towers is that T-Mobile is skirting zoning laws by using the schools. The schools are exempt from zoning laws so that they can build educational facilities without having to jump through hoops - NOT so that they can lease space to commercial entities who would otherwise be unable to build in the area. Our school yard is small and they are taking up valuable playground / outdoor classroom space for this, which does nothing to improve the quality of education at my local school.
Marshall Jackson February 21, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Good point Kim. I can certainly appreciate the value of school ground space. It's a pitty that our society (everywhere I've been in the US) doesn't place a higher value on eduction. Teachers are underpaid, facilities are often inadequate, outdated, and not maintained. That is both a reason for and against this cell tower. Sacrificing space for funding for other areas in the school? Perhaps it's a good tradeoff, perhaps not. We can only hope our elected officials have weighed the pros and cons from that standpoint. With regarding to zoning, I disagree that schools are skirting zoning rules to conduct commercial activities that would otherwise not fly. Cellular infrastructure IS a public utility. It's no different than electric utility poles, cable tv, gas lines, water lines, etc. Whether you use any of the utilites or not, the public utilities are designed to serve the majority of the populace. Do the schools have electricty and water on campus? Of course they do. In fact, in most places, if you put solar panels on your property, and your panels produce more energy that you are using during the day, you can 'sell' your excess energy back to the utility company (your meter runs backwards). Does that make the property owner a commercial enterprise?
Lucy Mauterer February 22, 2012 at 12:28 AM
For those of you who argue for cell towers, saying unequivocally that they do no harm, how do you know that? What expert are you listening to? The American Cancer Society? They have a history of self interest and have grown from being a small gathering in 1913 of businessmen to being the center of a bloated billion dollar industry that hasn't cured cancer, nor is it interested in seriously promoting prevention. There are serious questions about the safety of the radiation from cell towers. Research is still ongoing. Those of you who still insist there is no risk, are you willing to use my grandchild or a teacher's unborn child as a guinea pig, just so the trillion dollar telecommunications industry can have another cell tower? Children today are already exposed to thousands of times more EMF/RF/microwave radiation than I was when I was a child. Why add to that when we don't have all the facts yet?
Zoe February 22, 2012 at 01:56 AM
I'm sure that we can all recall the history of cigarette smoke. At one time in the 40s it was relaxing, stylish and great for digestion! A Camel Cigarette ad from 1946 said "More doctors smoke camels than any other cigarette, Trust Me I'm Your Doctor, Have Another Cigarette". So now are we to believe the companies that are the RJ Reynolds of our time? Go ahead build another tower, really, there will never be any harmful side effects, I'll bet my life on it. Besides, everybody in my neighborhood will then get great reception on their cell phone. I would advise anybody that is an advocate of cell towers to call Vodofone/T-Mobile/Omnipoint and let them know that it's really OK to build a 150 ft cell tower 100 ft from the back door of your home or your child's school. So you can bet your life and your child's life on it! By the way Marshall, running gas line or water lines thru schools are really not an analogous public utility structure as a cell tower. A cell tower is more akin to a water treatment pumping station with 150 kV of power running to it.
Marshall Jackson February 22, 2012 at 05:07 AM
Excellent Logic Zoe! so, you are saying that because smoking tobacco causes lung cancer, cell tower radiation must cause brain cancer. That's hard to argue with. You really seem to have your facts in order. And, calling T-Mobile evil, just like RJ Reynolds, is more sound logic. All large companies are obviously evil. (along with the FCC and the American Cancer Society). They are all out to get you. By the way, we are all being irradiated every day with a known cancer-causing form of radiation. . .. and it comes from the Sun. Wear your sun-block everyone! Over and out!
Felicia N Trujillo, ND February 22, 2012 at 05:37 AM
I just wish WE had a Rep. that was this well-informed and gutsy! The Board of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine opposes the installation of wireless "smart meters" in homes and schools based on a scientific assessment of the current medical literature (references available on request). Chronic exposure to wireless radiofrequency radiation is a preventable environmental hazard that is sufficiently well documented to warrant immediate preventative public health action. Children are placed at particular risk for altered brain development, and impaired learning and behavior. Existing safety limits for pulsed RF were termed "not protective of public health" by the Radiofrequency Interagency Working Group (a federal interagency working group including the FDA, FCC, OSHA, the EPA and others). Emissions given off by "smart meters" have been classified by the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a Possible Human Carcinogen. If your community is smart, they will make her Governor as soon as possible!
Kierstin Ann February 22, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Slim, go get yourself an education in what the DL is with cell towers...you will retract your above comment.
Kierstin Ann February 22, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Finally someone with a voice of reason.
Kierstin Ann February 22, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Thank you Lucy for pointing out that the research in America is squelched. This is the most comprehensive site I have found for cell tower research outside of the USA..... http://www.chronicexposure.org/research.html
Kierstin Ann February 22, 2012 at 10:54 PM
http://www.chronicexposure.org/research.html READ THE RESEARCH.
Kierstin Ann February 22, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Slim, here is the research...the most recent research http://www.chronicexposure.org/research.html
Kierstin Ann February 22, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Marshall, read the research..... http://www.chronicexposure.org/research.html Your ignorance on this issue Marshall is staggering.
Kierstin Ann February 22, 2012 at 10:57 PM
If anyone is interested here is the MOST UP TO DATE RESEARCH on cell tower radiation and WHY it can and will harm children and adults. http://www.chronicexposure.org/research.html
Kierstin Ann February 22, 2012 at 11:01 PM
If after reading the research you decide there may be something to the fact that T-mobiles parent company won't put up cell towers near their own children in Germany maybe you should sign these petitions.....and get in contact with Drenner before a tower ends up next to your childs head or in your backyard. Or better yet....start calling you commissioners..... http://www.change.org/petitions/no-cell-towers-on-school-grounds
Zoe February 23, 2012 at 01:54 AM
We're still waiting on that address Marshall so that we can inform T-Mobile that you want the tower 100 feet from your backdoor.
Kierstin Ann February 23, 2012 at 11:32 AM
http://www.ajc.com/news/gwinnett/cell-phone-tower-to-1249298.html Marshall all of us made it hrough before the advent of cell phones. Give me a break.
Kierstin Ann February 23, 2012 at 11:36 AM
Slim, I guess you decided not to read the research. Instead you are being ridiculous and extreme. It's all good Slim.
Concerned in Minnesota February 23, 2012 at 02:12 PM
The World Health Organization (IARC) in May, 2011 stated that radiofrequency radiation is a possible carcinogen, the category that also contains lead, DDT, and asbestos. The only reason, if you read the literature, that it wasn't made a probable carcinogen, is that there is not yet "proof" of the way that it causes cancer. Should a government put something that is a possible carcinogen in a place where it exposes everyone without consent? Another good website is www.powerwatch.org.uk. If you scan the abstracts that are marked with a "P" these show biological effect. If you read about 100 of them you get the picture. There are approximately 10,000-15,000 studies showing biological effect of non-ionizing radiation. Many of these studies were done by people in the military (for example Zory Glaser, U.S. Navy researcher) or in other government positions. Some of these people are now speaking out, since they are now retired. (Barry Trower). Parents can choose whether to have WiFi, cell phones, cordless phones, etc., but if their child is in school 8 hours a day or so, under a tower, there is not much parental choice there. (Not much is your school has WiFi, either). As to Slim--I do check the places where towers are and choose places that are tower free for my children to play. I am lucky enough to have my children go to a school where they take this issue seriously and have tried to shield the children from as much exposure as they can.
Cheryl Miller February 24, 2012 at 02:27 AM
"Slim" or whomever might be reading his/her ridiculous and hostile comments should consider the facts of the events happening in DeKalb County before pretending to live here. First of all, elementary school children do not carry cell phones so there is no logic in your claims that the phone against their heads is more harmful. All radiation is harmful. And 5 year olds do not carry cell phones nor do their schools use wireless technology, or at least not yet. The fact that you would ridicule a parent for wanting to protect their own child or a homeowner from objecting to a massive industrial structure being placed without any public notifcation in the middle of a residentially zoned community makes your education and upbringing more suspect than anyone else's. Wireless communication is a luxury, not a right. It is absolutely not deemed to be a public utility. The money paid are solely for the profit and bottom line of private entities and they are not regulated and rarely are they even checked for emissions levels after their initial application. In the case we are discussing, T-mobile didn't even provide pole, mount or emissions documents that are current with the code requirements of the industry. They are skirting the law, escaping the commercial taxes they would normally pay and avoiding public confrontation at all costs because they know they are wrong.
Cheryl Miller February 24, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Read more about the efforts to stop the cell towers in DeKalb County at www.GETtheCELLoutATL.org. Rep. Drenner is very well educated on this subject and will get the support she needs to take this legislation forward. Next time there is a hearing, show up in person and explain why 155 cell towers in a 4 mile radius of a school for the mentally and physically disabled children in Atalnta is not enough to provide you the luxury of driving while distracted in our neighborhoods and near our schools. There is no need for another tower. There are no promises that any of these schools will ever receive a dime. And there is no exemption by state law for the construction of a for-profit structure on public property paid for by our tax dollars for the education of children. When we elected our school board, we didn't check to see if they had civil engineering degrees or knowledge in the zoning laws and codes to ensure they would be fit to trump our own county commissioners when it comes to placing HAZMAT materials next to our homes and schools. Steve Donahue, who headed up this committee, is a former principal who stated that his only construction experience was working as an apprentice to a carpenter while he was putting himself through college. Doesn't that make you feel safe?
Kierstin Ann February 24, 2012 at 10:28 AM
Thank you Cheryl!
Kierstin Ann February 24, 2012 at 10:32 AM
The dekalb county BOE needs to be dethroned. We need to find new represenatives for the children of dekalb county. It is obvious that the current BOE doesn't care. Furthermore, those on the BOE who exchanged the removal of their school for a YES VOTE to install towers on the other 9 schools need to go too. Endangering children to get elected again because you got your school removed isn't worthy of office either. We need to remember this come election time and spread the word.
Decaturette February 24, 2012 at 03:48 PM
To me, the issue is not whether cell towers are a health risk or not. The issue is that either a playground area and/or outdoor classroom will be sacrificed without any benefit to the students. That is wrong in itself.

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