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Complaints of Poor Cell Reception in Palm Coast Shift to Complaints About New Towers’ Health Risks, But on Slim Evidence

| August 13, 2019

How harmful? (Chad Horwedel)

Palm Coast government can’t win. For years, residents complained that the city was a dead zone for cell reception and that city government was impeding improvements by overregulating cell-tower placement. 


That changed two years ago. The city loosened regulations, enabling taller towers and towers in closer proximity to residential zones, and it contracted with a cell-tower builder. Diamond Communications built or is building four new towers this year, breaking a decade-long drought of the steely structures. Now residents are raising alarms that the city is cooking them with radiation and that the local cancer rate will spike. 

“If you look at Israel, and you look at Germany, who have already decided to disband their cell towers, they noticed a 400 percent increase in cancers by anybody within five miles of those towers, so they are dismantling theirs,” Sonya Snyder told the Palm Coast City Council this morning. She described Palm Coast’s amenities, “but you’re going to have cancer rates four times the national average” if the towers go in residential areas, and cited the case of a cell tower in Israel where 45 students developed cancer over three years. 

The concerns are not isolated: For a decade and a half concerns have been raised and aired in innumerable articles and TV news stories about a possible link between cancers and radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, the very low level but constant emission of low-grade radiation from phones and tablets that communicate with cell towers, and from cell towers themselves. 

Snyder was one of three residents addressed the council to that effect, but in language as dire as it was general, and inaccurate in key regards. 

Israel and Germany are not dismantling their cell towers. If anything, Israel is at the cutting edge of the 5G rollout (which can deliver data at 1,000 times the speed of 4G), having played a key role in its development. It sees the technology as vital to its economic strategy, as do many nations. Germany launched its first 5G network last month, with coverage due in 20 cities by next year. The network depends on more, not fewer, towers, albeit towers or structures not nearly as tall, but extremely frequent: booster antennas are necessary at 500 feet intervals, though neighborhood electric lines emit their own share of electromagnetic fields. 

And the cancer numbers Snyder used could not be found anywhere, even after following her suggestion (“just Google, ‘dangers of cell towers’”) at least not from sources not prone to fringe conspiracy theories. 

But the possibility of a connection between cell-tower radiation and cancer isn’t zero. It just is far more nuanced, uncertain and inconclusive than alarmist claims based on unverified and anecdotal information can make it sound. The two common themes in studies on the subject are that the technology has not been around long enough to produce conclusive research, or that a causal link is possible, but always associated with many qualifiers.

“A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk,” the World Health Organization concludes in its briefing on cell radiation and health, citing the nearly 7 billion devices in use currently. “To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.” 

The organization concluded similarly regarding towers and “base stations.” To date, it concludes, “the only health effect from RF fields identified in scientific reviews has been related to an increase in body temperature (> 1 °C) from exposure at very high field intensity found only in certain industrial facilities, such as RF heaters. The levels of RF exposure from base stations and wireless networks are so low that the temperature increases are insignificant and do not affect human health.”

Last month a small city government east of San Francisco convinced Sprint to move a tower away from an elementary school where parents claimed the tower had triggered a cancer cluster (14 cases reported in the whole town in 10 years, some of them at the school), though neither the city nor Sprint conceded a cancer risk. And some parents questioned the presence of a chemical in the water, not the cell tower, as a cause of elevated cancers among children. 

The World Health Organization addresses the anecdotal phenomenon directly: “Media or anecdotal reports of cancer clusters around mobile phone base stations have heightened public concern. It should be noted that geographically, cancers are unevenly distributed among any population. Given the widespread presence of base stations in the environment, it is expected that possible cancer clusters will occur near base stations merely by chance. Moreover, the reported cancers in these clusters are often a collection of different types of cancer with no common characteristics and hence unlikely to have a common cause.

But last month Scientific American summarized a set of studies making a link between the heat that cell towers and cell devices emit and slightly elevated cancers in lab rats–again, with caveats: researchers could not rule out other reasons, and “the radiation-treated animals also lived longer than the nonexposed controls.”

Snyder was preceded by another resident who saw a new cell tower rise near his home. He referred to the city’s contract with Diamond Communications. “God bless, you’re making $100,000, God knows how much they’re making,” he said. (Palm Coast is receiving $25,000 per tower as a one-time fee from Diamond. The company is building the towers at its expense, and reaping whatever revenue from it that it can generate.) “But, you’re going to be damaging the people in the area. Everyone is going to get sick, then we’re talking class-action suits, you’re going to be talking, you know–people are dying,” the resident said. 

He did not cite evidence, and the council members did not address the claims before moving on to other issues. Nick Klufas, the council member usually conversant with those concerns, was on vacation. 


17 Responses for “Complaints of Poor Cell Reception in Palm Coast Shift to Complaints About New Towers’ Health Risks, But on Slim Evidence”

  1. Don Brown says:

    It isn’t killing the buzzards that roost on them every night. So I say that statement doesn’t hold water

  2. Carol L Pagliuca says:

    People are always going to complain about something. First they want more cell towers, then they complain it causes cancer with no solid proof. Smh

  3. Dave says:

    The illness and symptoms caused by long term exposure the these towers have been known for a long long time and if you do your research you will find some very high up people have been trying to bring awareness. I personally have been against these towers since the beginning but they will soght your safety through emergency services to get these towers in place knowing they will cause serious negative effects to individuals health. REMOVEBTHE TOWERS!

  4. Stretchem says:

    Okay conspiracy theorists of Palm Coast, for fits and shins lets just say they do cause cancer. A cancer so deadly and prevalent so as to grow basketball sized tumors in 40 out of every 40,000 people. Now what? Gonna turn your phone in to the, um, phone medics? Send up smoke signals (pun intended) should your house catch on fire instead of radio or cellular dispatch?

    I for one will play those odds and keep my phone thank you. Don’t want to take the chance? Feel free to find a lovely countryside cottage where you’ll not have to worry about interaction with the other humans. In our modern society with thousands of people per mile, bring on the YouTwitFace, cancer be damned.

  5. Name (required) says:

    No problem, just build a Faraday cage around the house using wire mesh and aluminum foil. Heck, it might even look like a giant tin foil hat! Seriously tho, they are ugly.. wonder if they’ll look like phony trees with plastic branches? Lol.the bright side is you can tweet and e-crusade even faster! The people need the data! The need the gigabytes! All trade-offs are fair in the love affair with the almighty digital connection, you know it! Embrace the wholesome times….

  6. Keith Sullivan says:

    it does not make sense to me why the city would agree to a one-time payment of $25,000 per tower instead of a $25,000 per tower payment plus residual income through licensing fees ECT.

  7. Kenneth says:

    But microwaves are ok…

  8. Agkistrodon says:

    Evidence has found that living in and around transmission lines, and Microwave antennae is Not a “great” idea. But I reckon the convenience of cell phones out weighs science. Personally I wish cell phones were never invented. These so called “smart” devices have seemed to have made people less “smart”.

  9. Dave says:

    Stretchem your comment is deplorable, so you are ok with 40 people getting cancer and dying as long as you get your service!? yet you suggest we go back to the country cottage where we came from if we dont like it?! If these towers give just one person a seizure or cancer it is not worth having the towers.

  10. Petrichor says:

    The solution to ugly cell phone towers is to plant on them Boston Ivy, English Ivy, Trumpet Vine, Clematis montana, grapevines, or, morning glories depending on what climate & soil you have.
    Just cover the thing with vegetation and you won’t notice it.

  11. palmcoaster says:

    The cell towers are needed. Now my question is can they be built in NO in residential parcels or near residential parcels? Why so close to homes if the cancer data is correct?
    I know places like Palm Coast Plantation affluent gated community has a very bad reception like other gated developments around. Then if they need towers install them in the vacant lots of those communities not in old Palm Coast C, F and other sections..? Just common sense.

  12. Jonathan D Strawser says:

    To the ones complaining about the towers. Just remember that wifi generates RF power. Better get rid of it if you’re worried about RF poisoning.

  13. Michael H. Brown says:

    Take a deeper look. Cell towers certainly do pose certain threats, as do the phones themselves. Use earbuds and hands-free. Look up the recent literature on the surge in testicular cancer (as in: cell phones kept in front pockets)

  14. snapperhead says:

    In a long term study done by the Snapperhead Center of Meaningless Studies it was proven that people that get poor cellular reception live less than people who live near cell towers. Poor cell reception causes physical and emotional stress and anxiety, which causes cancer. As you know, and many people tell me, Googling “dangers of cell towers” causes cancer too. Believe me!

  15. capt says:

    So everyone that is complaining, please give up your cell phone. There case closed.

  16. Bird of Paradise says:

    I notice the Buzzards that roost on those towers have been having deformed babies. The baby buzzards are being born with 2 mouths and 4 legs. Hell, I guess that’s good for cleaning up the road kill quicker !

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