A mobile phone mast was relocated due to local concerns about school cancer cases

31 March 2020
What was claimed

A 5G mast next to a school was removed after four young elementary school students develop cancer.

Our verdict

A mobile phone mast was removed from the grounds of an elementary school following local concern over several cases of cancer. However, there is no evidence linking the cancers to the mast. The mast did not use 5G technology.

A link to a YouTube video with the heading “5G tower next to school is removed after 4 young elementary school students develop cancer” has been shared over 25,000 times on Facebook. 

This video is a real news story about the relocation of a mobile phone mast in the USA, but some clarifications about the heading of the post are needed.

Firstly, it was not a “5G tower”—this technology was not around when the mobile phone mast was built and is still not in most of the USA today. Additionally, as reported in the video, there is no evidence that the mobile phone mast caused the cases of cancer.

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This is a true news story about the relocation of a mobile phone mast

The video is a news report—originally aired on 4 April 2019 by an American TV show, CBS This Morning—about the relocation of a mobile phone mast from the campus of a primary school in California.

What is a mobile phone mast?

A mobile phone mast (or tower) is a freestanding structure with a base station mounted to it. Base stations are radio transmitters with antennas, which produce radio waves to connect mobile communication devices.

The mobile communications technology associated with base stations has developed through several generations (G). 5G is the newest of these, and started to be rolled out in the USA in late 2018. The mobile phone tower referenced in the video was installed in 2009 by the USA communications company, Sprint.

5G is not mentioned in the CBS news story.

As we’ve written in previous fact checks, there is no evidence to suggest that 5G or previous generations of wireless network technology is dangerous to humans.

Why was the mobile phone mast removed?

Pre-existing concern by parents about the location of the mobile phone mast was heightened when several cases of cancer appeared amongst pupils in the school.

A petition to remove the tower was created in 2017.

An independent safety test of the mobile phone mast by an engineer in 2017 found that the levels of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields were “well below the federal standard”. The maximum observed power density for a person on the ground nearby was estimated as 0.0016 milliwatt/square centimetre, 120 times below the limit.

However, at a school board meeting in early 2019, parents reportedly demanded that the tower was removed. School officials then asked Sprint to take down the tower, which they agreed to do. In March 2019 the antennas were turned off and in July 2019, Sprint was given official permission to relocate the tower to a local strawberry farm.

Parents of pupils at the school have also raised the idea that the cancers may be linked to chemicals in the groundwater. An investigation by the local water board found “elevated concentrations of tetrachloroethylene”, a toxic chemical formerly used in the dry cleaning industry. The water board writes, “additional investigation is warranted”.

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