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Superintendent issues correction: EPA has not issued recommended EMF safe levels.

Meetings Feb. 23 and 25  will address EMF issues in Alpine.

By Miriam Raftery

February 20, 2016 (Alpine)—The Alpine Education Foundation has agreed to fund hiring a professional independent expert to measure electromagnetic frequency (EMF) readings along the route of the buried Sunrise Powerlink in Alpine, AEF president George Barnett has informed East County Magazine.

 “It provides `we’ in Alpine to have some ownership in the matter,” said Barnett, who adds that implications of earlier, informal readings are “worrisome. They suggest radiation levels in excess of current guidelines for public safety.”

The Alpine controversy arose after a study conducted by engineer Robie Faulkner and contractor Michael Milligan found high EMF levels along Alpine Blvd – so high that the authors recommended that children in Alpine be tested regularly for leukemia, which some studies have linked to EMF exposures, though some other studies found no link or were inconclusive. Levels over 4 mG (.4 microtessla)  were found to double the risk in a couple of studies, with a slight increased risk at somewhat lower levels.  Just how low is safe for long-term exposure remains an open question.

The Alpine Union School District asked the County Office of Education to take separate measurements. Last week, the COE did arrange for testing at 18 sites.

Initially a letter from the Superintendent said all levels were under 2.5 mG (equivalent to .25 microtessla), in some cases, far under that level. That was a slight exaggeration (View data and map of tested areas here. )  Sixteen of those measured under 2.5 mG.  But two sites measured over, one substantially, though not at classrooms.  A bridge on the school parking lot measured 6.6 mG, while a landing between the upper and lower lots measured 2.9 mG.  These are areas closest to Alpine Blvd. and farther away the levels dropped off sharply. The County expert in this field is expected to visit the site Tuesday to offer an assessment. 

Alpine Union School District Superintendent Bruce Cochrane,  in a  letter to parents last week regarding testing on electromagnetic frequencies at Alpine Elementary School, stated that the results showed levels “within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -recommended limit of 2.5 milliGauss (mG).”  But the U.S. EPA website states, “In the United States, there are no federal standards limiting electromagnetic fields from power lines and other sources to people at work or home.”

We asked Superintendent Cochrane to back up his statement. He responded, “Hours have been spent diving into all the particulars of international scientific guidance around these guidelines. After reviewing all that can be found, I think it may have been better stated that the generally accepted guidance is 2.5 milliGauss (mG). This is another reason why we are working with the San Diego County Office of Education to bring out an actual expert in this field. Our hope is to have this person assess AES on Tuesday, because we want to make sure we are doing right by our students.”

Cochrane earlier forwarded several websites listing generally accepted guidelines of 2.5 milliGauss, stating that some based on a Swedish set of guidelines. Here are the links:

Barnett elaborated in an e-mail to ECM, “Generally, the EPA comments appeared to be directed at being reassuring.  What this all says to me is that we individuals don’t know much at all; but that the matter is unsettling and worrisome until parents and residents are told something more definitive.  I would hope that is based upon facts specific to Alpine’s situation.  Bruce is trying to signal the Alpine community that the district is pretty promptly getting on top of the issue, and that the County and the County Board of Education are involved.  AEF thought that a professional 3rd party measurement to specific technical guidelines and an assessment will help in any determinations.  AEF thought we could be of service by agreeing to fund that.  It provides `we’ in Alpine to have some ownership in the matter.” 

Barnett, who also serves on the Alpine Community Planning Group, said planning Group members have also voiced concerns and several have taken actions as individuals after the first report’s results were presented at last month’s meeting.

Also, an APCG member working in consultation with the Alpine Education and Alpine PTA president has worked to help select a professional, licensed technology firm to solicit an independent proposal for EMF measures along Alpine Boulevard and permanent EMF monitoring at Alpine Elementary, Barnett told ECM in an e-mail.

Note: Barnett also corrected a misstatement made to our media outlet last week, when he indicated the ACPG had taken action.  After Alpine resident Lou Russo pointed out that the EMF issue was not on the agenda last week and no vote was taken, Barnett clarified, that rules prohibit formal action on non-agendized items regardless of urgency, “even in the face of potentially serious matters such as radiation exposure to the community’s children.”“Since rules prohibit action on a non-agendized item, individual board members stepped forward to voice concerns to the county and school district.”

He praised the efforts of Alpine Union School District Superintendent Bruce Cochrane, the County Department of Education and others. “The local and county government agencies have responded with alacrity, depth of understanding and with great concern regarding people’s fears for their children first, and then for the rest of the community residents.”

The tests thus far have focused only on the street itself and the Alpine Elementary School site.  But street measurements near the site of the proposed Alpine High School site were much higher than in front of Alpine Elementary. There are other schools along Alpine Boulevard, including Alpine Charter High School and a preschool.

In an e-mail to ECM, SDG&E media relations spokesperson Allison Torres indicated that SDG&E will perform EMF measurements if asked by a customer at the customer's premises.  "For customer privacy reasons, the results will only be shared with the customer," she added.  The utility has also set up an EMF center to provide answers to customers' questions on EMF issues. 

SDG&E has  noted that no California or U.S. federal agency has adopted health-based standards for magnetic field exposure, nor has the World Health Organzation.  (WHO has, however, listed EMFs as a "possible carcinogen." )

According to, about 60 countries have some standards in place for EMF exposure, though those standards vary significally. Their site has links to the standards adopted in each country:

Two public meetings this week will address community concerns on the issue.

On Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m., a community meeting hosted by the AUSD and Supervisor Dianne Jacob and staff will be held at Alpine Elementary School.

On Thursday, Feb. 25 the Alpine Community Planning Group will meet at 6 p.m. the Alpine Community Center. The agenda includes the EMF issues.


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Accuracy? George Barnett is not the President of AEF, Chris Newcomb is. George made a "misstatement"? Bruce issues a "correction"?