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Editorial: Science says don't worry

It is perhaps fitting that a new Verizon cell tower at Southern Oregon University will be installed on the roof of the Science Building, because ... well, science.

Despite claims to the contrary, science says there is little evidence that the electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell towers poses any danger to human health. The kind of radiation emitted by cell towers — called  non-ionizing radiation, which includes radio and television signals — is not powerful enough to break the bonds in DNA molecules the way ionizing radiation does. Ionizing radiation includes x-rays, gamma rays and ultraviolet light.

What's more, a cell tower placed on top of a building won't increase ground-level radiation appreciably because the signal is emitted parallel to the ground. And the energy level of cell tower emissions is very low. The American Cancer Society says "Levels of energy from (radio frequency) waves near cell phone towers are not significantly different from the background levels of RF radiation in urban areas from other sources, such as radio and television broadcast stations."

That doesn't stop opponents of cell towers from expressing fear that the radiation emitted poses a threat to their health. If they're really worried, we hope they don't use cellphones themselves, because holding a phone to one's ear exposes the user to more radiation than they would get from a cell tower.

SOU officials note emissions from the tower will be 1.6 percent of the maximum allowed by the Federal Communications Commission. In scientific terms, that's really small.