Are administrators at the Oregon City School District more concerned with their personal convenience than they are with the potential health risk from low-level radio-frequency radiation for elementary school students?

After conversations with three different members of the Oregon City School District administration, I'm beginning to sense that the cellular-telephone tower, the school district is proposing be built on the McLoughlin Elementary School property, is as much for their personal convenience as it is for the potential income that it would provide to the district.

During each conversation, the individuals representing the school district, voluntarily shared with me that they are unable to use their school district provided cellular phones, when they are at the school. AT&T, the cellular carrier the district has chosen, does not provide service to customers in this area. Many residents in the area, including myself, use other cellular providers, that do provide service in this area.

I don't call a cellular phone when contacting McLoughlin Elementary School personnel. I call their land-based line at 503-785-8650. I've never had a problem contacting them. Try it yourself: It works!

Health risks from low-level radio-frequency radiation, are at this time unknown. There are strong feelings on both sides of this issue. The American Cancer Society, believes they are not hazardous. The World Health Organization, another highly respected group of experts, believes them to be harmful, especially to young children. Some medical professionals consider the World Health Organization to be a more reliable source than the American Cancer Society.

Dr. Keith Black, chairman and professor of the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, states, "Children's skulls and scalps are thinner. So the radiation can penetrate deeper into the brain of children and young adults. Their cells are dividing at a faster rate, so the impact of radiation can be much larger."

Historically we have faced similar issues and concerns regarding lead-based paints and asbestos. Today both of these are acknowledged to be hazardous to our health.

All school districts should have the health and safety of the students as their No. 1 priority. The administrators with whom I spoke assured me that they regard the student's health and safety as their primary concern and responsibility. Wouldn't it be better to ere on the side of our children's safety?

Anyone traveling on South End Road is aware of the large amount of vacant rural land that AT&T could potentially lease, within less than a mile of McLouglin Elementary School. A base station and 75-foot cellular tower does not need to be located within 65 feet of a school building. We should try to remember that our children are in that building many hours each week. Why take the risk?

It is frequently said, "Actions speak louder than words." Parents and neighbors shall be awaiting the actions taken by Oregon City School District administrators.

Tom O'Brien is an Oregon City resident.

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