From the Editor: No Cell Tower at WAHS

Diagram of the proposed tower from the Milestone presentation. Photo: Mike Marshall.

The cell phone tower proposed to loom over the home bleachers at Western Albemarle High School should not be permitted, or if allowed, should be moved to the most remote corner of the property possible.

Federal Communications Commission rules prevent local governments from opposing cell towers over concerns about possible health risks, and Albemarle’s ordinances therefore are based on aesthetic criteria. For obvious economic reasons, the government wants the cell phone infrastructure to be built up and, presumably, dealing with possible health risks will come later. The government once wanted intercontinental railroads built, too, and it needed roaming herds of buffalos wiped out to keep them from interfering with trains. Are we buffalos?

A survey of official government websites on the subject of tower radiation health risk says that so far study results are “inconclusive.” At one time the government also thought that tobacco, asbestos and thalidomide posed no harms. Meanwhile, a German study says that cancer rates are three times higher within 400 feet of a cell tower, an Israeli study says four times higher within 350 feet of the tower, and reports from India and Brazil also point to clear cancer risks. The radiation is slicing up DNA in cells as it passes through the body and cells are supposed to repair the breaks correctly—only every time.

Recent news stories, such as in the Wall Street Journal and the Daily Mail, have advised us not to carry a cell phone on our body, to use one in hands-free mode and to strictly limit children’s exposure.

In the future, when the dangers are finally acknowledged, our posterity will be astounded and appalled that we actually built slow-roasting radiation sources near our schools and exposed our still-developing children to the effects.

And this for the $40,000-a-year check to the schools? In a $188.5 million annual budget, that barely amounts to one part-time position.

And the advantage of broadband connectivity? How did we educate ourselves without it? If we’re just supposed to look everything up on our phones in the future, why do we need school buildings at all? Learning something used to mean that you didn’t need to look it up any more.

The county should say no. Nothing can make the tower pretty enough to be at a school. Cell towers are “necessary” to us now, but they should be in remote locations where the radiation field is unlikely to reach people. One tall tower is better than several shorter ones.


  1. “FCC…prohibits…opposition…based on health risks” …pretty much sums up the situation. So, why an editorial opinion based largely on (unproven) health concerns? It is a wireless world we live in. Why should Albemarle County plant a foot against the tide? We, who were schooled pre Internet, are in a weak position to judge the true value of the networked planet. I sometimes mourn the degradation of my cursive skills since I learned to keyboard. Soon, I will miss keyboard as I speak voice to text.


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