Is Telecom Tower Radiation Really Dangerous…????

Harmful effects of radiation emitted by telecom towers has been a topic of debate for many years now. A lot has been written by proponents of both sides but the general public is still unaware and undecided about the matter. In the currents times when the overflow of information has left people confused and exasperated, it is very difficult to believe what is right and what is wrong. The on-going discussion of harmful effects of telecom tower is one such issue that is confusing people for many years now. Many health risks have been associated with the telecom tower radiations like Irreversible infertility, DNA damage, Effects on Stress Proteins, Tinnitus and Ear Damage, Uveal Melanoma, Melatonin Reduction, Sleep Disorder, Salivary gland tumor, Cancer Risk etc. Considering the menaces that are associated with cell towers, it seems that radiation emitted by these towers is even more dangerous than the one emitted by nuclear energy.

Many health risks have been associated with the cell tower radiations like Irreversible infertility, DNA damage, Effects on Stress Proteins, Tinnitus and Ear Damage, Uveal Melanoma, Melatonin Reduction, Sleep Disorder, Salivary gland tumor, Cancer Risk etc.

But the things aren’t as bleak as portrayed by self-proclaimed environmentalists. Cell phones and cell towers communicate through radio frequency waves, a form of energy in the electromagnetic spectrum between FM radio waves and microwaves. These waves cannot cause cancer by directly damaging DNA because like FM radio waves, microwaves, visible light and heat they are form of non-ionizing radiation and are different from stronger types of radiation like x-rays and gamma rays, which can break the chemical bond in DNA. At very high levels, RF waves can heat up body tissues but the levels of energy used by cell phones and towers are much lower.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer IARC noted that exposure to the brain from RF fields from cell phone base stations (mounted on roofs or towers) is less than 1/100th the exposure to the brain from mobile devices such as cell phones.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer IARC noted that exposure to the brain from RF fields from cell phone base stations (mounted on roofs or towers) is less than 1/100th the exposure to the brain from mobile devices such as cell phones.

Another aspect to be considered here is that cell towers or Base stations antennas use higher power levels so the level of exposure to radio waves at ground level is very low, as the energy from antennas is directed toward the horizon (parallel to the ground), with some downward scatter as well and signals are transmitted intermittently, rather than constantly. So at ground level the amount of RF energy is thousands of times less than the limit set by the international organization and regulatory authorities. Exposure levels are likely to exceed if a person is directly in front of the antenna, if this is the case the problem could be solved by limiting the access to that particular area.

The results revealed that power level of radio waves of all BTSs surveyed is much below the prescribed danger limits and in line with the policy directives of Ministry of IT & Telecom, World Health Organization (WHO) and International Commission on Non- Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines.

Very few studies have focused specifically on cellular phone towers and health risks and all point to the same direction that telecom towers are not dangerous to the environment. Experts have given three arguments to justify this claim:

First, the energy level of RF waves is relatively low, especially when compared with the types of radiation that are known to increase cancer risk, such as gamma rays, x-rays, and ultraviolet (UV) light.

Second, RF waves have long wavelengths, which can only be concentrated to about an inch or two in size. This makes it unlikely that the energy from RF waves could be concentrated enough to affect individual cells in the body.

Third, even if RF waves were somehow able to affect cells in the body at higher doses, the level of RF waves present at ground level is very low – well below the recommended limits. Levels of energy from RF waves near cell phone towers are not significantly different from the background levels of RF radiation in urban areas from other sources, such as radio and television broadcast stations.

According to PTA’s annual report 2014, cellular mobile operators cover almost 92% of the land area of Pakistan.

A survey was recently conducted by PTA along with Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) in seven major cities of the country including Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) to check the omission of power level from transmitters and receivers of Base Transceiver Stations (BTSs)/Towers installed by mobile companies. The results revealed that power level of radio waves of all BTSs surveyed is much below the prescribed danger limits and in line with the policy directives of Ministry of IT & Telecom, World Health Organization (WHO) and International Commission on Non- Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines.

Since 2009 four nationwide surveys have been conducted to remove the misconceptions regarding hazardous effects of towers.  It has been revealed that the towers have been installed and are working within the specified parameters defined by the regulator as well as the international bodies concerning the issue.

According to PTA’s annual report 2014, cellular mobile operators cover almost 92% of the land area of Pakistan. A total of 37,576 cell sites have been erected by the cellular operators across the country as of June 2014 which is 4.7% more than the 35,889 cell sites reported at the end of FY2013. Now that 3G/4G services are in place the number of cell towers will defiantly increase over the years but the good news is that these towers will not affect the wellbeing of people and environment in any way.

 
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states:

“At very high levels, RF energy is dangerous. It can heat the body’s tissues rapidly. However, such high levels are found only near certain equipment, such as powerful long-distance transmitters. Cellphones and wireless networks produce RF, but not at levels that cause significant heating. In addition, RF energy decreases quickly over distance. At ground level, exposure to RF from sources like cellphone towers is usually very low.

Rizwana Khan

Dreamer by nature, Journalist by trade.
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