California Residents Concerned About Small-Cell Networks

A telecommunications company’s plan to rebuild an antenna site in San Anselmo, Calif., is drawing fervent opposition from residents who say they are concerned about negative health effects from wireless technology.

by Matthew Para, The Marin Independent Journal / February 21, 2020
Shutterstock/Lisic

(TNS) — A cellphone company’s plan to rebuild an antenna site in San Anselmo, Calif., is drawing fervent opposition from residents who say they are concerned about negative health effects from wireless technology.

AT&T is seeking a permit to replace its equipment at 32 Red Hill Ave., where the company has two cellular antennas attached to a 62-foot flagpole. Though AT&T hasn’t submitted a formal application to San Anselmo, the company provided the town with a preview of its plan, which calls for replacing the flagpole with a 60-foot pole disguised as a eucalyptus tree and installing nine antennas on the post.

More than 50 people showed up to protest the proposal on Thursday during a community meeting at the site with an AT&T spokesman. Many said they were concerned that adding new antennas could be detrimental to residents’ health.

“We’re concerned,” said Linda Brauner of Forest Knolls. “What’s happening is killing people, literally.”

Brauner and several others said the frequencies emitted by cellular antennas can cause symptoms ranging from headaches to cancer to death.

Alan Rasooli, who owns Spotless Cleaners, located on the same property as the antennas, said the facility “has affected my quality of life.” He said the electromagnetic frequencies, or EMFs, emitted by the antennas have hurt his health.

“I basically work at this location at least 10 hours a day,” he said. “Being bombarded by these EMFs is driving me crazy. And it’s going to get worse.”

The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the telecommunications industry, prohibits local governments from restricting wireless-transmitting hardware on the basis of health concerns. The commission has determined what it calls safe levels of emissions and says that technology that complies with its standards can’t be prohibited.

Some protesters said they were especially concerned that AT&T would eventually add antennas that support the fifth-generation wireless technology, known as 5G, to the new pole.

“My primary concern is that this is a gateway to 5G,” said Fairfax resident Tom McAfee.

AT&T spokesman Shane Woodruff, however, told the crowd on Thursday that the new facility wouldn’t include 5G.

The new technology, which hasn’t yet arrived in Marin, operates on higher radio frequencies than older iterations of wireless. Critics of 5G in Marin say the technology might exacerbate their health concerns.

Woodruff said AT&T has identified coverage gaps in Marin that the new antennas would help close.

“I understand that there’s not one person here that’s in favor of this,” he told the crowd. “I will communicate all the feedback that has been given here.”

San Anselmo Mayor Ford Greene attended the meeting and asked Woodruff to schedule another community session before the company submits a formal application to the town. He said residents weren’t given enough notice prior to the meeting, and that the 10:30 a.m. event wasn’t scheduled at a convenient time for working San Anselmo residents.

©2020 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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