What is happening to all of the district cell towers?


Nidhi Nair, Editor-in-Chief

Over the past several years, the school district has been working closely with service providers and local corporations to manage the LOSD cell towers. Several contracts that were proposed years ago confirm the extension of leases and removal of the cell towers at LOJ and LOHS, which will officially be enforced this year.

A main reason for the district’s decision was due to an external agency’s evaluation of present levels of electric and magnetic fields (EMFs). These are invisible forms of radiation caused by differences in voltage that are usually emitted from sources such as electrical appliances and lighting. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences said, “The few studies that have been conducted on adults show no evidence of a link between EMF exposure and adult cancers.”

The school district has been completing EMF testing with Design Well Studios, a local company offering environmental safety, testing equipment and services to maintain healthy homes and workplaces. LOSD’s EMF report from the Design Well Studios said that “radio-frequency and microwave-frequency EMFs, such as from cellular phones and towers, involve a much higher frequency than power lines and most electrical appliances.” 

The report additionally stated that over 80 percent of the electromagnetic fields that people are exposed to on a daily basis originate from cell towers, which can result in cancer. The main recommendations suggested for the district were to have students either switch off their cellular devices or put them on Airplane Mode in class to reduce the frequencies emitted, and to consider removing the cell towers from school property based on when the lease would be complete.

Furthermore, Stuart Ketzler, the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, said “Radiofrequency emissions from antennas used for cellular and PCS [personal communications service] transmissions result in exposure levels on the ground that are typically thousands of times below safety limits. These safety limits were adopted by the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] based on the recommendations of expert organizations and endorsed by agencies of the Federal Government responsible for health and safety. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that such towers could constitute a potential health hazard to nearby residents or students.”

The EMF report also claimed that “There are no federal standards limiting work or home exposure to EMFs,” which directly contradicts Ketzler’s statements about safety limits being adopted by the FCC. The rest of the report continued with more information and data about the school’s high radio frequencies, effects of high radiation levels, extension requests for the two long-term ground lease extensions at LOJ and LOHS from American Tower and several proposals for the ground leases. These extensions pertained to renting the ground lease to remain at $2630 per month, escalating by 15 percent per term and enforcing six additional lease periods, all commencing on Mar. 5, 2022.

Updates have been provided within the most recent school board packet from Feb. 22, 2022 as a follow-up to the lease agreement for the cell towers in the corner of LOH’s track and field. Within the section, health physicist Andrew Thatcher, who was requested to review LOSD’s EMF report, also provided an update with new discoveries pertaining to Design Well Studios’ proceedings mentioned earlier. “The Design Well EMF Report is a poorly performed paper that makes a number of basic errors in detailing the results and then claims to show evidence of harm by referencing a few non peer reviewed papers that cannot stand up to even a cursory review,” said Thatcher.

The end of the report consisted of research conducted by David Witkowski and Dr. Ralph B. McLaughlin of Joint Venture from July 2021, which found zero factual proof that cell towers negatively impact nearby residential properties.

William Chapman, the State of Oregon’s Statewide Interoperability Coordinator, stated that the majority of the public, emergency management officials and safety agencies heavily rely on cellular service from cell towers. “Without cellular service, our ability to inform the public is drastically reduced… This connectivity enables telehealth, comprehensive distance learning, and remote work, all of which have become increasingly important throughout the pandemic.”


April 2021 board packet

Feb 22, 2022 board packet (5.7)