George Boardman: Western Nevada County tin-foil hat update: Cell towers, vaccinations |

George Boardman: Western Nevada County tin-foil hat update: Cell towers, vaccinations

Observations from the center stripe: Kickoff edition

BY REFUSING to stand for the National Anthem, Colin Kaepernick is drawing attention away from the point he is trying to make … DENVER BRONCOS GM John Elway is a leading candidate for goat of the year after letting the successor to Peyton Manning get away; the team is going to start a quarterback who hasn’t thrown a pass in the league … THE NFL, frequently referred to as the No Fun League, seems to be lightening up a little bit. Check out the commercial for NFL GamePass that includes a picture of dour Bill Belichick while the Pointer Sisters sing “I’m So Excited”… STANFORD RUNNING back Christian McCaffrey is one of the few college players I’d pay money to watch play … DONALD TRUMP should take it easy on Huma Abedin; a lot of women can relate to her dilemma … WHENEVER A hurricane is approaching, you always see news footage of people stocking up on plywood. What happened to the plywood they bought for the last hurricane? … COMPANIES LIKE Apple have been criticized for years for stashing profits overseas to avoid paying American taxes, but apparently it’s OK if they can avoid paying European taxes …

Nevada City staff has been directed to prepare two reports on the proposal to erect eight cell towers on the roof of a downtown building, apparently because the city Planning Commission can’t figure out what to do after two long meetings on the subject.

The reports making the case for and against the project are due at the commission’s Sept. 15 meeting, when the project will be considered again. Given the concerns raised to date, the reports will probably cover the town’s general plan, aesthetics of the project, and health issues.

It’s hard to figure out the downtown aesthetic standard, particularly when the two most prominent structures — city hall and the courthouse — are examples of Art Deco architecture. I’m guessing nothing resembling the Art Deco style existed during the 1850s, along with paved streets, electricity and other modern amenities in the part of town that strives for historic authenticity.

Some people claim those eight short towers that most people won’t be able to see will cause downtown property values to plunge. The commissioners might want to ask the owners of retail and office space in the area what spotty cell phone service would do to the value of their property; we already know the lack of high-speed internet access is hobbling local economic development.

Then there’s the health issues, a topic that really lights up the tin-foil hat crowd. One person claimed at the last planning commission meeting that if someone lives within 1,500 feet of a cell tower, he or she “has a 300 percent chance” of getting cancer. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for proof of that claim.

If city staff has to address the health issue in its report, it might want to review an advisory issued in May by the American Cancer Society, an outfit that has a serious interest in the causes of cancer.

The advisory points out that the energy from RF waves emitted by cell towers is “thousands of times” less than FCC limits at street level, and even less inside a building where a base station is mounted.

RF waves are much safer than gamma rays, x-rays, and ultraviolet (UV) rays. “The energy of RF waves given off by cell phone towers is not enough to break the bonds in DNA molecules, which is how these stronger forms of radiation may lead to cancer,” the society said.

But don’t expect that kind of information to lead to a reasonable discussion of the health issues.

Don’t relax yet

Recent reports that practically all kindergarten and seventh grade students in western Nevada County showed up on the first day of school with the required vaccinations might lead people to believe that our problem with unvaccinated students is behind us.

People were paying close attention because a new state law prevents parents from claiming a religious or personal belief exemption if they don’t want their children vaccinated, a big issue in a county that is well short of the 90 to 95 percent vaccination rate required to achieve protection against major outbreaks of disease.

But the legislation also included a grandfather clause that exempts students from meeting the vaccination requirements if they’ve already been granted a religious or personal belief exemption.

That means the 18 percent of local kindergarten students with exemptions who started school last year don’t have to get vaccinated until they reach the seventh grade, and the 11 percent of seventh graders with exemptions last year can finish high school and go out into the world without the recommended shots.

But don’t assume this problem is unique to Nevada County. Skepticism about vaccinations is a growing trend in the United States, according to a recent survey of its members by the American Academy of Pediatricians.

Some 87 percent of the doctors who participated in a 2013 survey said they had parents who questioned the need to vaccinate their children, up from 75 percent in 2006. In 2006, parents were concerned about the now debunked link between vaccinations and autism. Now, parents are refusing vaccines on the grounds they are “unnecessary.”

“In a way, immunization has been a victim of its own success,” said Dr. Sydney Spiesel, a survey participant. “If you don’t see terrible things happening, you’re not seeing the risk” of failing to vaccinate.

The AAF said this “parental non-compliance is an increasing public health concern,” and is now recommending that its members consider turning away patients whose parents won’t let them be vaccinated. Think about that the next time your child becomes sick because he or she isn’t vaccinated.

George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at

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