An application to install a rooftop wireless facility in North Berkeley, which was filed in December 2019 by Verizon Wireless with the city of Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board, has been met with health concerns.
The proposed site is Lawrence Moor Manor, a senior living facility on Cedar Street. The installation is proposed to be a macro cell site, a 4G facility that will provide further connectivity for Berkeley, according to Verizon spokesperson Heidi Flato.
“As more people are doing more things, in more places, with more mobile devices, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in voice and data traffic on our network,” Flato said. “We only expect that trend to increase. To support the growing demand, it’s often necessary to build new wireless facilities … where customers want and need to use our service.”
According to Joel Moskowitz, director of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health’s Center for Family and Community Health, long-term exposure to cell signals increases the likelihood of health effects including concentration problems, sleep disturbance and diabetes in children. Moskowitz added there is evidence that exposure to cell signals could increase childhood diabetes. These health concerns, however, impact individuals differently.
Cell phones emit more radiation if there is bad service, Moskowitz said. Thus, there is a level of necessity for cell phone towers.
“So, the general advice is to keep cell towers, cell antenna sites at least 500 feet away from facilities that would house seniors, children, schools, day care centers,” Moskowitz said.
Flato added that the presence of this macro cell site installation will provide an amenity that is desirable to prospective residents. Flato cited a survey by RootMetrics that found cellular service is of “major importance” and is “more important” than school district preferences when looking for a home, especially for millennials.
Ultimately, according to Moskowitz, the main goal should be to educate the public on the effects of everyday use.
“We need to educate the users how they can reduce their exposure,” Moskowitz said. “A lot more could be done to spread awareness to pay attention to health tips about reducing exposure.”
Julie Madsen contributed to this article.