Parents’ worries about radiation halt activation of new 5G cellphone antennas at Point Loma Christian school
Rock Church holds up the use of nine newly installed antennas on a portion of the Rock Academy roof that it leased to T-Mobile.
Activation of nine newly installed 5G cellphone antennas in Point Loma has stalled following an outcry from parents concerned about the possible health effects on nearby schoolchildren.
Parents of students at the Rock Academy, a private Christian school at Liberty Station that has more than 500 students in preschool through high school, say they believe the equipment may pose a threat because of the wireless radiation in 5G technology.
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In April 2022, Rock Church — which runs the Rock Academy on its campus at 2277 Rosecrans St. — entered an agreement with T-Mobile in which it leased a portion of the academy roof to the company, allowing it to install cellphone antennas.
Mei Ling Nazar, director of public relations and social media for Rock Church, said the decision was made to generate additional income for the ministry. A brief notice was sent to parents via email, and the antennas were set to be activated around March this year.
But a group of parents whose children attend the school fear the radiation used by the 5G network is dangerous and that the proximity of the new equipment to the Rock Academy and other schools nearby may harm the health and well-being of their children.
After communicating with parents about their concerns, Rock Church sent a letter dated March 13 that notified T-Mobile that “neither T-Mobile nor any of its contractors or representatives will be allowed to enter the church property for any purpose related to the further installation or activation of the antenna facilities.”
T-Mobile did not respond to the Point Loma-OB Monthly’s request for comment.
Rock Academy parent Tiffany Fletcher, who launched a petition on Change.org that has accumulated about 770 signatures in two months, said radiation is “not good for you.”
“That’s why they put lead aprons on children when they go in [for X-rays] ... and why you don’t want a ton of MRIs,” Fletcher said. “So to me it’s a no-brainer to not want a bunch of radiation around.”
The radiation used in a medical setting usually operates at a high electromagnetic frequency and is identified as an “ionizing” form of radiation. At certain wavelengths, ionizing radiation has the potential to damage DNA and cause cancer.
The radio frequencies at which wireless networks operate are far below frequencies known to ionize on the electromagnetic spectrum and are thus considered “non-ionizing.”
San Diego County’s Radiological Health Program, which enforces both state and federal radiation control regulations, only regulates ionizing radiation sources.
“5G ... are not ionizing radiation sources and therefore do not fall under their jurisdiction,” according to Tammy Glenn, assistant director of the county communications office.
The San Diego chapter of Children’s Health Defense, a group that has championed caution about vaccines and suggested that acetaminophen can contribute to autism, is offering counsel to Rock Academy parents in their campaign to challenge the 5G installation.
Beverly Raimondo, chapter ambassador for CHD San Diego, was first made aware of the issue by a flier for a March 2 town hall meeting between parents and Rock Church and was asked by parents to work with them.
“I live in [Ocean Beach] and I have friends who have students at High Tech High, which is right next to [the Rock Academy], which is another concern about this,” Raimondo said.
Raimondo said a litany of health hazards is associated with wireless network radiation, including delayed development of fine motor skills, memory and attention deficits, an increase in Type 2 diabetes, brain tumors and heart rates, and neural and psychiatric problems.
Raimondo cited a scientific article edited by Devra Davis, founder and president of the think tank Environmental Health Trust, that contends the electromagnetic radiation associated with wireless networks should be regarded as potentially carcinogenic.
“Cancers tend to have multiple contributory causes which can ebb and flow over time,” the article reads. “Although explanations for these patterns will certainly be multifactorial, wireless radiation is one of the factors that should be more widely explored.”
The article acknowledges that because 5G operates at higher frequencies of radiation than previous generations of networks, such as 3G and 4G, there is a lower chance of tissue penetration.
“New 5G networks are using the same frequencies of previous generations, but they can in addition employ higher submillimeter and millimeter wave frequencies,” the article says. “The higher the frequencies, the less the radiation penetrates the body. But less penetration does not mean little or no biological impact.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, the federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training, the only consistent biological effect of radio-frequency radiation absorption that humans may experience is heating to the area of the body where a cellphone is held.
“However, that heating is not sufficient to measurably increase core body temperature,” the NCI says. “There are no other clearly established dangerous health effects on the human body from radio-frequency radiation.”
The article Raimondo cited says wireless radio-frequency radiation was designated in 2011 as a Class 2B possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization and the International Association for Research on Cancer. IARC defines substances listed in Class 2B as having “some evidence that it can cause cancer in humans but at present it is far from conclusive.”
Other possible carcinogens designated in this class include pickled vegetables, aloe vera and, until 1991, coffee.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency contends that the few scientific studies that have connected wireless radio frequencies to health effects have not been able to repeat their outcomes and are therefore inconclusive.
Laura Buckley, a parent involved with the group against the antennas at the Rock Academy, raised questions about the project’s permitting process at the city of San Diego.
“T-Mobile’s nine cell antennas ... are on and extremely close to several schools, including Rock Academy, the Rock’s Early Education Center, HT [High Tech] Middle, HT High and HT Explorer Elementary,” Buckley said in an email. “I’m confident T-Mobile failed to disclose the proximity of the antennas to these schools in its application before the city, and it doesn’t appear the city thoroughly examined who was going to be impacted by these powerful antennas, including those most vulnerable.”
The federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits the city from evaluating applications based on health-related concerns as long as radio-frequency emissions are within Federal Communications Commission limits.
Perette Godwin, communications program coordinator for San Diego, said the city’s Development Services Department is subject to the San Diego municipal code, which says wireless communication facilities are permitted on premises that do not contain residential development. The Rock Church property at Liberty Station is zoned as commercial.
“The proximity to a school in this instance does not have any impact on the decision process under the city’s current [municipal code],” Godwin said in a statement.
Rock Church’s letter to T-Mobile does not cite potential health effects from wireless radiation but says “parents of students at the academy and members of the Rock Church began raising concerns.” The letter raises the issue of whether the project meets a city requirement of a 100-foot setback, given its proximity to both the Rock Academy and the Early Education Center.
“I think that appeased a lot of people, and I don’t feel like many parents have been active since,” Fletcher said.
If the equipment remains on the building and is activated, Fletcher said, she would move her children to another school. “Myself and other parents have already been looking at other schools,” she said.
Nazar said in a statement that Rock Church is continuing regular communication with parents to address their concerns as it seeks a resolution to the matter.