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Board to Let Parents, Principals Study Electromagnetic Hazards

September 14, 1990|SHANNON SANDS

FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Faced with complaints about the potential danger of electromagnetic fields caused by high-tension power lines near schools, the Fountain Valley School District board agreed Thursday to let parents and officials at each campus examine the problem and recommend measures to avoid possible health risks.

Committees from each school will report back to the board, which will have final authority over what measures are taken. Those actions might include roping off parts of the campuses, rearranging lunch tables or changing seating in some classrooms.

The board's decision came after it was presented with the results of tests on electromagnetic field levels at six of the district's 11 schools.

The tests, conducted late last month by Southern California Edison Co. officials, found electromagnetic levels ranging from 2 milligauss to as much as 130 milligauss outside a restroom at Samuel Talbert Middle School. A milligauss is a unit of measurement of magnetic-field strength.

School officials said Edison will be testing at the district's other schools, but no dates have been scheduled yet.

Some scientists have contended that long-term exposure to electromagnetic fields higher than 3 milligauss might be linked to childhood cancer. But a recent report issued by the state Department of Health Services suggests that it is not possible to label any particular level "safe" or "dangerous."

School board members have been reluctant to take any action until standards are established or action is recommended by state health officials.

But Jack Sahl, a Southern California Edison research scientist, said he thinks it would be reasonable to investigate the reading of 130 milligauss and take some action.

"My position would be: Let's find out what's going on here," Sahl said.

Some parents were not happy with the board's decision.

"I don't gamble with my child's life, and I don't think the district has the right to make that gamble either," said Barbara Emerson, one of the parents.

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