A cell tower controversy in Vineyard Haven

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Updated August 27

To the Editor:

Verizon has proposed to increase the height of a cell tower located on the corner of Vineyard Haven–Edgartown Road and Winyah Lane in Vineyard Haven. The current tower stands approximately 75 feet tall, and has been poorly maintained over the years, with flapping fabric and bird’s nests built at the top. Verizon is now proposing to increase the height of the tower to 130 feet.

The literature on the impact of radio frequency (RF) waves is mixed with the Federal Trade Commission claiming that there is little to no risk. According to the American Cancer Society, very few studies have focused specifically on cellular phone towers and cancer. The medical literature has studies that show some increased risk of cancer, specifically brain tumors. One study of 2,600 children showed that those who lived in a town that could expose them to higher than average RF radiation from cellular phone towers in the previous five years had a slightly higher risk of cancer. The study found that at very high levels, RF energy is dangerous. This high energy is found near certain equipment, such as powerful long-distance transmitters.

While some studies suggest that exposure at ground level has not been shown to cause health problems, other studies suggest that proximity to a tower may be harmful. The jury is out. We don’t really know. So why build a tower near residential homes? Instead, why not move the tower to a site that does not impact a neighborhood?

There is enough literature to support the potential risks of living near a cell phone tower.

Property values are a secondary issue. Property values will clearly be impacted if a new, taller tower is installed in a residential area. The current tower is barely visible, but a much taller tower will be in view of the neighbors. For those of you who own property on Martha’s Vineyard, would any of you agree to a unsightly tower and its attending potential health risks as your closest neighbor?

Based on what we know, I suggest the MV Commission and the Tisbury board of selectmen give further consideration to this proposal. Thank you for your attention to Verizon’s concerning proposal.

Dr. Nancy Langman
Vineyard Haven

Updated to correct height of existing tower and proposal. -Ed.