The Santa Cruz County Planning Department approved plans to modify an existing AT&T cell tower on the campus of Cabrillo College to expand LTE wireless data service.
The tower, which is located at the horticulture center on the hill above the main Cabrillo campus, will be disguised as a tree to visually blend with the existing landscape.
A half dozen Cabrillo students and members of the public spoke at Fridays hearing against the plan to increase microwave output on campus, and blamed the existing tower and others like it for a host of health problems.
"I might need to quit school in order to be well again," said Cabrillo student Andrea Thomas. "No person should be made to choose between success and their health. This is the decision I am faced with as my once healthy body becomes sicker with each passing school day."
Another woman who lived near Cabrillo said smart meters and the cell towers forced her to move to a different area.
"I had perfect health all my life, I slept great, never had any issues," she said. "Then in the late 90's I didn't sleep for three years, I had constant headaches, heart palpitations, dizzy, lots of memory loss. I actually had to leave my house."
Bettye Saxon, director of AT&Ts external affairs said the emissions from the new tower will be well within federal guidelines, and will not pose a health risks to the community.
"I would like to direct people to FCC.gov. There are people out there, there are scientists who have done studies, and we are fine," said Saxon.
Rachmat Martin, a long time resident of Santa Cruz and engineering graduate from Stanford who worked for 30 years in telecommunications said the reason cell tower radiation is so dangerous is because of the slow, covert nature of the damage it inflicts.
"The industry would like us to believe it is all safe. I would like to assure you what we have here is not safe. What we have heard today is just the tip of the iceburg of people who have experienced health problems," Martin said.
"It's my understanding that the reason for this are that the effects are slowly cumulative," said Martin.
"People start off with headaches, which are the hallmark of this kind of thing, then auto-immune disorders of all kinds, and then cancers. Most people don't get sick all at once. They creep up over a period of months and years. "