T-Mobile expert: Chadds Ford cell phone expansion poses no health risk

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After October furor, few residents show at second part of hearing
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com

CHADDS FORD — Using a typical cell phone exposes people to many more times the amount of radiated radio frequency than would proposed additions to an existing cell phone tower off of US 202, an expert testified before a special hearing Wednesday night — as opposition to T-Mobile adding to a township cell tower dwindled.

In response to residents’ fears about dangers from RF emissions from cell towers, Dr. Kenneth Foster, a nationally regarded expert, testified before a special hearing of the Board of Supervisors about the power of the signals being radiated from the tower as compared with using a typical cell phone. Only a handful of residents attended Wednesday night’s meeting — even though a month earlier, the meeting was packed with concerned residents.

Foster said the site complies with all Federal Communications Commission standards — which means the township has no jurisdiction to reject the tower over RF emissions issues — and that that typical exposure near the tower would be one microWatt (one millionth of a Watt) per square centimeter, or about 1/1000th the power a user experiences from using a cell phone. That radiated power, which is highly directional and aimed at the horizon, attenuates, or drops off, with distance and inside buildings. The total radiated power of the tower, Foster said, is 50 Watts — as compared with local commercial radio and television broadcast antennas, which start at 5,000 Watts and can go as high as 50,000 watts.

Although Foster did not testify about this, a typical home WiFi wireless network outputs between 50 and 100 milliWatts (a milliWatt is 1/1000 of a Watt, or one thousand times more powerful than a microWatt). Typical cordless phones can be in the same range. Bluetooth, used in mobile earpieces and in various mobile applications, emits about 1 microWatt — or offers about the same exposure as standing on the ground next to the cell tower.

Similar fears about the alleged hazards of cell towers scuttled a proposed tower on the edge of Unionville Park, which would have benefited the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company and fixed a notorious cell dead spot in the Unionville area that, among other things plagues the area around the Unionville Recreation Association fields. That outcry is costing East Marlborough taxpayers some $18,000 in extra taxes in 2011, as the township agreed to, for at least one year, make up the funding lost to fire the department.

While some residents were concerned about the alleged RF issues, the supervisors were more concerned about landscaping issues — allegedly caused by PECO trucks (the cell tower is on a PECO high-voltage power line tower) — and that boulders and other barriers be installed to force maintenance workers to use the driveway, instead of driving over the planted trees, which were part of previous site agreements with the township. T-Mobile shares the site with MetroPCS — which was before the supervisors later in the evening to talk about expansion of one its antenna sites off Creek Road — and the supervisors made it clear that they expect the two companies to work together to make sure all landscaping agreements are met.

Editor’s note: in addition to covering many environmental issues as a reporter, columnist and assignment editor for various daily newspapers, Mike McGann also covered the emergence of the digital technology era for various magazines and Websites, and served as Executive Editor of Home Theater magazine and Technical Editor and Editor-In-Chief of E-Gear magazine.

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