Cell Towers Risk To Kids Countywide

Even as a group of parents of children attending Rancho Cucamonga’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church School are stepping up their efforts to keep a cellular tower from being constructed on parish grounds, several other schools and cities around the county host cell towers proximate to their campuses, playgrounds and parks.
In this way, thousands of children are being exposed to electrical fields, microwave frequencies and magnetic radiation of a density many believe put those children at risk.
In 2011, the Diocese of San Bernardino, Sacred Heart Church and Verizon began discussions about a cell phone tower to be erected on church grounds. Without any consultation with or notification of parents of children attending the parochial school, the church and diocese entered into an arrangement with Verizon. In January 2012, the Rancho Cucamonga Planning Commission gave approval to the placement of a cellular phone tower next to the Sacred Heart Parochial School playground.
In late November, several parents of students at the school learned of the plans for the yet-to-be-completed tower on the church grounds near the northeast corner of Foothill Blvd. and the I-15 Freeway.
To lesser and greater degrees, some of those parents expressed concern that the tower’s electrical field could negatively impact the health of their children. The more vocal of those parents were scathing in their assessment of all of the parties involved in the approval of the cell tower and its placement.
Verizon was faulted for considering locating the tower so close to where children congregate. The city of Rancho Cucamonga and its planning commission were criticized for approving the erection of the tower next to a school. The Diocese of San Bernardino and its bishop, Gerald Barnes, fell under criticism for their action in the matter. And the pastor of the church, Father Benedict Nwachukwu-Udaku, and the  parochial vicar at Sacred Heart, Father Augustine Amadi, were lambasted for their insensitivity to the wellbeing of the students entrusted to their parish’s care.
While the church, diocese, city and Verizon all maintained that the cell tower represented no real threat to the children and that the emissions from the tower would be about ten times below the radiation safety threshold set by the Federal Communications Commission, parents were insistent in their importuning and demands that the tower be relocated. In January, the church relented and agreed to instead place the tower at the northern end of the church parking lot, a spot more removed from the playground.
That change, however, did not mollify most of the outraged parents, who doubled down, insisting that the church renounce hosting the cellular tower altogether. They are trying to enlist members of the Rancho Cucamonga City Council in their cause, having chastened those officials for the involvement of the city and the city’s planning division in having gone along with putting a cellular tower next to a schoolyard in the first place. At present, the city’s politicians have yet to fully commit to supporting the parents, even as indignity over the issue has spread beyond the parents at Sacred Heart to other elements of the Rancho Cucamonga population, some of whom have lent support to those parents’ demands, transforming the Verizon playground cell tower into a potential political tar baby that will besmirch and adhere itself to any politician who suggests the planning commission acted appropriately.
The issue is indeed a sticky and thorny one, as Verizon locked in its entitlement to erect the tower with the planning commission’s approval and the city does not have authority, under its codes, ordinances, policy, or state law to revoke the approval.
There is some justification for the parents’ concerns. Studies done in Scandinavia show a relation between the proximity of high intensity electrical fields and elevated levels of leukemia in children. Other studies completed at the University of Colorado at Boulder show that continuous exposure to electrical fields can have deleterious health consequences.
On the other hand, Verizon and city officials maintain the level of radiation put out by the tower will have no negative health impacts.
At well over a dozen other spots around San Bernardino County, cell towers have been erected in proximity to where school aged children are being taught or at recreational facilities many youth frequent. A less-than-exhaustive inquiry into the matter by the Sentinel turned up no less than 20 such examples.
In Fontana, that city has leases with both T-Mobile and Verizon for the placement of cellular towers at 14 of its municipal parks.
A Verizon cell tower is built into a flagpole at Rollins Park next to Terrace Hills Middle School.
In June 2009, the Loma Linda Planning Commission denied a request from T-Mobile for a 65-foot tower proposed at Leonard Bailey Park near Bryn Mawr Elementary School. Nevertheless, in May 2010 the city council overruled the commission, allowing T-Mobile to place the tower by the tennis courts instead of next to the soccer field.
In the High Desert, the Apple Valley Unified School District has entered into a deal with Metro PCS Communications allowing that company to maintain four cellular towers on its school campuses. One of those is at Sycamore Rocks elementary, which borders a city park. Another is located at the Academy of Academic Excellence, an elementary school. Another is on school district property next to Corwin Park. More recently, the district allowed Metro PCS to put in a cell tower that has the outward appearance of an old-West water tank. It is emblazoned with the school district’s logo and is well removed from the main part of the school, on the opposite side of Newt Bass Football Stadium.
The district is paid $2,000 per month for each of the hosting sites.
Conversely, at least one city in San Bernardino County has taken action to ensure that cellular towers are well removed from residents. In 2009, the Rialto City Council passed an ordinance requiring that cell towers be erected at least 500 feet away from residential areas and that they be camouflaged to match their surroundings.

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