The 1996 Federal telecommunications act states clearly that:
“No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions...”
Thus the local government can't consider health effects when considering a cellular tower. This is hardly comforting. We've all read about health effects of cellular service, and questions about health are definitely legitimate. However it is important to make a distinction between cellular handsets and cellular towers.
Cellular handsets are constantly transmitting signals, even when nobody is talking. The phones search for and communicate with the nearest towers. Now imagine a phone located in the center of Kensington, perhaps at the community center. Signals from this phone will ripple out like waves in water, washing over the entire town to reach relatively distant towers (probably at Solano Avenue and the top of Moeser Lane).
Now what if you wanted to lower the intensity of cellular radio signals in town? You could outlaw cell phones, outlaw mobile data plans or, surprisingly, add more towers. Each handset will send out a weaker signal, as phones are designed to minimize both battery usage and interference with far away towers.
Radio signals, and any potential health effects, drop off as the square of the distance. Cut the tower distance in half and the radio intensity drops to one-fourth the strength. So if you're concerned about health effects of cellular service, consider demanding more towers, not less. Spread those towers through the area, sharing the burden of visual blight.
Cellular service may have health effects, but the ironic effect of opposition to tower siting is to increase total radio emissions. As the American Cancer Society writes on cancer.org: "The amount of exposure from living near a cell phone tower is typically many times lower than the exposure from using a cell phone." Thus the strongest exposure you're likely to experience is when a phone is near your head, in an area with distant towers like Kensington.
The Kensington Municipal Advisory Council considers a proposal for nine AT&T "micro" towers on Tuesday, Feb 26.
Bryce Nesbitt's background includes work on a very early "car phone" (the predecessor to cellular phones). He does not work for or have financial interest in any current cellular product or company. He is a former resident of 99 Ardmore Road in Kensington, and presently wishes for less patchy AT&T cellular service near his home in Berkeley. Bryce recommends forcing cellular companies to share towers, to minimize visual blight and to reduce the proliferation of fake cell phone trees.