Sunday, March 16, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Savvy readers might remember that debate about a cell phone tower going up at a day care center in the south part of the Las Vegas Valley.
Didn’t Clark County commissioners approve that?
Yep, over the protests of nearby residents. Neighbors said the tower was inappropriate for the area, which is mostly residential. Some also questioned the potential health effects of the tower. But commissioners approved the day care center’s request in September after a county attorney said federal law prevented them from taking health effects into account.
So what? That’s old news, right?
Apparently not for some parents of children at the day care center, called Kids R Kids.
Matt Smith pulled up Monday to drop off his 8-month-old son and noticed a massive pole being erected in the parking lot.
“What is that monstrosity?” he asked day care staff.
They told him it’s a cell phone tower, cleverly disguised as a flag pole.
Although neighbors were aware of the plans — about 40 signed a petition opposing the tower — Smith said day care owners didn’t tell him. A Google search led him to Web sites about the unknown effects of exposure to cell tower emissions. He was astounded.
“I’m not an alarmist,” said Smith, an audio engineer. “The long-term effects are unknown. Why would you gamble with my child’s life for a pure monetary gain?”
He went to day care center owner Michael Thompson.
“He said, ‘I can show you all kinds of literature that will put your mind at ease,’ ” Smith said. “I said, ‘I can show you all kinds of documents that will do the contrary.’ ”
He’s pulling his son out. He gave two weeks’ notice, but the day care center said he could go ahead and withdraw his son Friday.
“I don’t want my kid sitting there 50 hours a week,” Smith said. “The thought of it just makes me sick to my stomach.”
So are cell phone towers really dangerous?
Time for a science lesson.
Cell towers send out radio frequency energy. Directly in front of a cell tower’s antenna, the energy is strong enough to heat human molecules to dangerous levels. But the strength of the emission drops drastically with distance, and thermal effects disappear. The question is: Can long-term exposure to radio frequency energy cause negative health effects?
Experts have told the Sun there is no evidence that cell towers threaten residents’ health. The World Health Organization also says there’s no information attesting to such risks.
Other researchers, however, said more study is needed to be sure low-level exposure over a long period is safe.
What does the day care center say about all this?
We called the center. A man named “Michael” said he had no comment and hung up. We called back and a woman said she would give a message to the owner, but that he probably wouldn’t want to talk either.
We also called the day care center’s corporate parent, based in Georgia. An employee said the company is aware of the issue, and higher-ups would call us back. We never heard back.
We did get in touch with Joe Moscola, a local cell phone tower provider. His company can even disguise them as palm trees. He dismissed the health concerns.
“Cell phone towers do not harm humans at a distance,” he said. “There is more radio frequency coming out of a microwave oven.”
But some neighbors of the day care center tower remain unconvinced.
“If the science is uncertain, why would you take any risk of putting young children in harm’s way?” said Brian Rakvica, an environmental engineer who lives nearby.
Plus, he said, the faux flag pole design isn’t cutting it for him.
“Aesthetically, it’s disgusting,” he said.