March 13, 2019
We all want for our kids to go to great schools, but at the bare minimum, we want them to go to schools that are safe. So when parents in Ripon, California, became concerned that a cell tower near their children's school could be linked to cancer, they (understandably) demanded answers.
Four kids from Weston Elementary have been diagnosed with cancer since 2016, according to CBS 13, and many concerned moms and dads fear it's because of radiation caused by a cell tower near the campus. The school district had several tests done saying the cell tower is safe and meets federal regulations, but an outside expert hired by parents disagrees.
"I wouldn't send my kids there at all, it absolutely is dangerous," Eric Windheim, an electromagnetic radiation specialist, told CBS 13. "Children are still developing and their cells are still being divided. It's the worst possible time in their life to be exposed."
According to the American Cancer Society, there is "very little evidence to support this idea" that cell phone towers cause cancer. Still, the organization notes that some research agencies have made statements about radiofrequency radiation. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified RF fields as "possibly carcinogenic to humans," and although there's no conclusive evidence to support this, the small possibility of this being a potential danger is obviously troubling to parents.
"Kids shouldn't be guinea pigs, and we shouldn't be taking chances with the children's lives," said Joe Prime, whose son Kyle was diagnosed with cancer in 2016.
On Monday, about 200 parents attended a Ripon Unified School District board meeting. According to the Modesto Bee, board president Kit Oase said in a prepared statement that the school district sympathizes with the families but has no "out" clause in its 25-year lease agreement with Sprint, the owner of the cell tower.
The Ripon Unified School District confirmed they receive a negligible amount of revenue from providing campus space for the tower, but they're working with Sprint to have it moved away from Weston Elementary School. No definitive contract changes have been made yet, but Adrienne Norton, a representative for Sprint, told the Modesto Bee in an email, "When it comes to the deployment of network infrastructure, we always strive to achieve a win/win process with local municipalities and residents...We have been working with the community in Ripon to address their concerns."
Until the cell tower is moved, though, some parents are unwilling to take any chances. For Monica Ferrulli, whose son Mason was the second child from Weston Elementary to be diagnosed with cancer, the possible risk just wasn't worth it.
"We pulled him from Weston immediately after his diagnosis and the discovery of the cell tower, and he has never returned," Ferrulli told Parents.com.
Mason, 10, is "currently still fighting brain cancer, but he is feeling good overall,' said his mom. Still, Ferrulli is frustrated with the school district and their response.
"[They're] not communicating with us at all," she said. "We wish we could work together to solve this problem, but that has never been an option. They have never reached out and rarely return our messages when we contact them!"
On Wednesday afternoon, Ripon Unified School District posted a statement to their website in regards to the cell tower at Weston Elementary. In it, the district reiterated that “[s]tudent safety is always the primary concern for all of us” and confirmed that they are working with Sprint “to come to a mutual resolution” on the cell tower’s placement.
The school district’s statement reiterated that “multiple independent tests” confirmed the cell tower was operating safely and noted that the district’s 25-year contract with Sprint was put into place approximately a decade ago by previous board members and administrators. The full statement from Ripon Unified School District can be found on their website.
A representative for Sprint told Parents.com the telecommunications company "designs, constructs and operates its wireless telecommunications facilities to comply with the Federal Communications Commission rules and regulations regarding radio frequency exposure to humans."
More information the FCC rules and regulations pertaining to RF emissions can be found on the FCC website.