Health Risks of Cell Towers
While consulting with our clients, we are often asked the question, "What are the harmful side affects of cell tower or radio frequency emissions?" or "Can cell towers cause harm to my health?"
The short answer is we don't know. We are lawyers by training, not scientists, and we have never conducted our own studies to make a determination. We have also read some of the many articles and studies on the internet supporting and opposing cell towers. Notwithstanding, we cannot say for certain what the long term impact of cell towers are on one's health.
What we do know is that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Congress have pre-empted local zoning boards from using health and safety as a criteria when reviewing applications for cell towers in their jurisdiction. Specifically, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 creates a non-rebuttable presumption that towers and their associated antennas that operate within their legally authorized spectrum or limit are safe. This conclusion was made, in part, to prevent local zoning boards from unjustifiably denying tower applications based on health reasons.
To date, there has been no successful litigation on the part of plaintiffs claiming harmful side effects from exposure to radio frequency emissions caused by cell towers. In addition, courts have not found credible scientific evidence to support this theory.
Although I have not seen any factual evidence to support such a claim, I have been told by radio frequency engineers that an individual who holds a cell phone to his ear for multiple hours a day may have greater exposure to harmful radio frequency emissions than an individual living within a short distance from a cell tower. It should also be noted that most antennas, when placed on a building or tower, project outward, not downward and the FCC prescribes what it believes as safe distances from antennas for people. Those distances that are generally considered unsafe are within a few feet of the antennas (rather than tens or hundreds of feet). Indeed, the cell phone carriers regularly monitor their tower sites and are regularly monitored by the FCC for compliance with these levels of output. Finally, most of the cell phone carriers are usually willing to provide a health and safety report at the request of the landowner prior to entering into a lease.
If you are concerned about the health risks of cell towers and would like more information, we encourage you to google search the keywords "cell tower health" which should provide many articles. Our partner company Steel in the Air has also compiled useful research notes on the health risks of cell towers.