Activists step up call to remove cellular antennas from near schools

Parents' organizations ask people to submit photos of antennae affixed to educational institutions.

cell antenna 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
cell antenna 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Parents' organizations and activists issued a call over the weekend for people to send in photographs of cellular antennas affixed to school buildings and other sensitive institutions. "The Education and Environmental ministries are surrendering responsibility for the health of the children," Avi Dabush, coordinator of the Forum for Sane Cellular Usage, told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night. "Instead of supporting the parents' organizations, they're supporting the cellular phone companies." "What do [the ministries] want, that we prove to them that it's dangerous?" asked Eti Benyamin, the head of the Jerusalem Parents' Organization, who also spoke to the Post on Saturday night. "They want to wait 15 years and see what happens to our children? There aren't enough studies in the world showing [the antennae] are dangerous?" she asked. What activists are calling a "call to arms" comes a year after protest against the placement of cellular antennas near schools led to legislation, as part of the Non-Ionized Radiation Law, that authorized the environment minister to determine minimum distances between broadcast antennas and schools or other sensitive institutions such as retirement homes and hospitals. The law becomes effective at the start of 2007 and will require that regulations be drafted regarding the placement of antennas. In November 2005, the three main cellular phone companies - Orange, Pelephone and Cellcom - promised the chairman of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, MK Yuri Shtern (Israel Beiteinu), in a letter that they would dismantle antennas located near schools. According to activists, that never happened, so they decided to act. "I hope within days to begin an all-out war against this," Benyamin said. "If we have to remove them physically, we'll do that." "We're asking the parents' organizations to send us pictures and to map out all antennas within 150 meters of the schools," said Dabush. Shtern told the Post, "It's important to make certain and chase after" the cellular companies to make sure they remove the antennas. Once the law is in force, Shtern said Saturday night, "new regulations will require a transition period." That's a shame, Shtern said, since the cellular companies "should have removed them this year and spared people a year of radiation exposure." "The main thing now is to create the regulations for implementing the law," he said, since "we left these details for experts in the government ministries." The Environment Ministry could not be reached by press time, but ministry representatives have said in the past that not all antennas are a threat to health. Officials said the main source of radiation was the cell phones themselves. The more antennas there are the less radiation is emitted by the phones during use, they said. Shtern agreed. "We investigated this issue," he told the Post, "and we decided that this perspective would be part of the law. More or less, this was the recommendation of a committee of experts, which the [Knesset] committee adopted." "But," Shtern said, "we decided that [the cellular phone companies must] remove large antennas [from the vicinity of educational institutions] and put very small ones in their place. These must be very small ones, because with the companies, large antennae are considered small."