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Petitioning Minneapolis Public Schools and the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education

Stop allowing cell towers at — or near — our schools.

Cell towers are being placed on public-school property throughout Minneapolis. Specifically, Minneapolis Public Schools has contracted with Verizon Wireless and other vendors to construct cell towers on top of several school buildings and is proposing that many more schools, including Clara Barton Open School (K-8), have cell towers.

The economic and business realities of this unfortunate nationwide trend are obvious — school districts are chronically cash-strapped, and wireless companies compete aggressively to extend coverage into residential corridors. However, Minneapolis Public Schools and the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education have failed to consider the adverse health effects of constructing cell towers on school grounds.

A raft of peer-reviewed studies have shown that the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) radiating from cell towers place children at increased risk for a number of health problems, including leukemia, headaches, behavioral problems, and DNA damage. In fact, the association between childhood leukemia and chronic, low-level exposure to cell towers and other wireless devices is one reason the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, in 2011, classified radiofrequency radiation (RFR) and microwave radiation as a “possible human carcinogen.” 

Adults living near cell towers have also exhibited a wide range of negative health effects; however, study after study has shown that children are much more vulnerable due to their developing brains and thinner skulls. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated: “The differences in bone density and the amount of fluid in a child’s brain compared to an adult’s brain could allow children to absorb greater quantities of [RFR] energy deeper into their brains than adults. It is essential that any new standards for cell phones or other wireless devices be based on protecting the youngest and most vulnerable populations to ensure they are safeguarded through their lifetimes.”

Several new cell-tower studies show that these adverse health effects occur at exposure levels that are 1,000 to 10,000 times lower than what is currently considered safe by the FCC. Moreover, the current FCC standards are based on results from short-term exposure studies (about 30-60 minutes) and not on the long-term exposure school children would experience, i.e., continuous and prolonged RFR emissions eight hours a day, five days a week, all-school-year long. It’s little surprise, then, that Gerard Hyland, PhD, a former nominee for the Nobel Prize in medicine, recently said that “existing safety guidelines for cell towers are completely inadequate." 

Martha Herbert, PhD, MD, a pediatric neurologist and neuroscientist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and on staff at the Massachusetts General Hospital, wrote a letter earlier this year to the Los Angeles Unified School District about the health impacts of EMF/RFR exposure on children.

“Powerful industrial entities have a vested interest in leading the public to believe that EMF/RFR, which we cannot see, taste or touch, is harmless, but this is not true,” Herbert wrote, adding that that EMF/RFR from “cell towers can exert a disorganizing effect on the ability to learn and remember, and can also be destabilizing to immune and metabolic function. This will make it harder for some children to learn, particularly those who are already having problems in the first place.”

Although there are a wealth of studies showing adverse health effects of EMF/RFR exposure, the wireless companies point to studies that show no health effects and state that the evidence is contradictory. Experts like Herbert counter that many of the studies industry cites only take into account the thermal risk of EMF/RFR exposure (i.e., from heating of tissue) and ignore the vast array of non-thermal health effects that have been documented in thousands of peer-reviewed studies.

Due to increased awareness and concern about cell-tower radiation, many communities across the country are organizing and pushing back. In 2009, the school board in Los Angeles voted to prohibit cell towers near schools. Recently, in Dekalb County, Georgia, more than 75,000 residents voted in a referendum to keep cell towers off school grounds. And, entire towns like Bar Harbor, Maine, and Hempstead, NY have followed the example of many other countries around the world who have already banned, or are in the process of banning, the installation of any cell towers within 1,500 feet of schools and child-care centers. 

Despite the potentially profound health implications of cell-tower radiation on children, Minneapolis Public Schools and the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education have failed to effectively inform parents and school staff that their schools are slated for cell towers and antennas. Many parents at Minneapolis schools have no idea their school is slated for a cell tower until they look up one day and see it on the school roof. At the very least, say concerned parents, the public should have some say in where these cell towers are placed. Some say we should follow the example of Connecticut, which last year passed a state law giving municipalities more time for public input when it comes to deciding where to site cell towers.

We believe this issue needs a public airing in Minneapolis. We are calling for a two-year moratorium on ALL cell-tower contracts and construction at or near Minneapolis public schools — including Barton Open School — until parents, school staff, and health experts are able to study the issue and offer input. Common-sense prohibitions against liquor stores near schools and the use of certain pesticides on school grounds have been in place for years, and we believe that there is a similar need to regulate the placement of cell towers near our schools. To that end, we plan to meet with education leaders at the Capitol to discuss legislation mandating that cell towers be placed at least 1,500 feet from school grounds.

In the absence of conclusive evidence that this type of radiation is NOT harmful for our kids, we should, in the words of Herbert, “please do the right and precautionary thing for our children.” To put it bluntly, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Please join us in telling the Minneapolis Public Schools and the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education that we are not willing to experiment with the health of our children and that we do NOT want cell towers at or near our schools.

Thank you, from the organizing parent group,

Stephanie Malcy
Anjula Razdan
Keiko Veasey
Sheila Eldred
Fiona Pradhan

ADDENDUM:

Thousands of studies over the past four decades have shown the potential health harm from EMF/RFR. In the past five years alone, about 1,800 new scientific papers have been published that show adverse health effects. For more on these peer-reviewed studies, please go to the BioInitiative Report 2012 (www.bioinitiative.org), a report written by 29 independent scientists and health experts from around the world on possible health risks from wireless technologies and electromagnetic fields. 

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