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EMF Studies

09 September 2013

Why Cell Phone Towers Are So Bad For Your Health

"The Precautionary Principle or Principle of Prevention needs to be followed whenever there is a possibility of harm to human health an exposure rises."

Why Cell Phone Towers Are So Bad For Your Health?
by Dr. M. Sirish, The Big Picture, 1st October 2010

Cell phones heat the brain while users make and receive calls. Cell phones scramble the brain and play havoc with the nervous system. This can cause high blood pressure, which leads to strokes. If cell phones are used for longer periods of time, they can damage long-term memory and even cause brain tumor [1-2]. On the other hand, cell towers are considered more harmful to people particularly those living within the radius of 500 meters as they continuously emit electromagnetic radiation (EMR) 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, and 365-days an year [3-5]. Towers emit radio-frequencies (RF), a form of EMR, which is essentially the same frequency radiation as microwaves and microwave ovens, for a distance as large as two miles. Low levels of radiation emitted by mobile phone towers are harmful. Scientists at the School of Public Health of Harvard University say that the radiation from cell phone towers is a serious health hazard [6].

Studies have shown that low levels of radiation can cause brain tumor, cancer, depression, miscarriage, insomnia, Alzheimer’s disease, apart from damaging cell tissues and the DNA. People living close to mobile towers will have disturbed sleep, headache and their immune system could be affected. The nearby apartments could become very hot. Television displays could show flickering images. Massive increase in radiation in the environment due to these towers is associated with increase in the incidence of diseases such as asthma, learning disabilities, anxiety disorders, attention deficit disorder (ADD), autism, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), epilepsy, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, cataracts, hypothyroidism, diabetes, malignant melanoma, testicular cancer, heart attacks and strokes [7-13]. Although radiation exposed by a person during a mobile phone call is 10 times higher than the exposure from a cell tower, mere standing in a wi-fi enabled area is equal to talking on your mobile for 20 minutes [14].

A collage depicting potential health risks associated with prolonged exposure to electro-
magnetic radiation from cell phone towers.

Several studies as well as the newspaper reports in the recent past shows the desperation of people who wants to escape this health hazard. Low-level microwaves have a cumulative effect on cancer promotion as well. An article published in Sunday Mirror reveals that scientists have carried out several blood tests on public near cell towers to check their neutrophil levels. Surprisingly, they found that the neutrophil level of those living near cell towers dropped to 3 or below when compared to the average neutrophil level of 5 to 9 for general population. Furthermore, when a person moves from his/her bedroom to an area in the home away from the mast the neutrophils are seen increasing and finally returning to normal levels when he/she spends time away from the area altogether. A study conducted in Germany on people living close to cell tower transmitters reveals that those living within the radius of 400 meters from the tower were exposed to the radiation, which is 100 times more than those living in far off places. Based on such studies, scientists have recommended that the cell tower antenna should be at least 500 meters away from the inhabited properties. People living within the radius of 400-500 meters of mobile towers should get their houses tested for radiation and take appropriate precautions if necessary. In another study conducted in Poland between 1970 and 1990 among soldiers exposed to microwave radiation from military equipment has shown that mobile users are more likely to develop a whole range of cancers 10 years earlier than those who had not been exposed to the radiation [15]. The majority of those involved in the study had been exposed to between 1 Watt/m² and 6 Watts/m² of microwave radiation. The European limit for mobile phone radiation is at present set at 4.5 Watts/m². Majority of mobiles give off between 2 Watts/m² and 4 Watts/m². 

If cell phone service providers set up their towers on the terrace of a nearby building the high level of radiation transmitted by the towers is a potential health hazard. Any single cell phone tower may carry a multitude of antennae, each of which emits its own pattern of microwaves on its own set of wavelengths. Consequently, a single tower can emit several different patterns of relatively intense signals to homes, schools and businesses within hundreds of feet from the tower. A French study conducted among people living within 300 metres of cell phone towers shows an increased incidence of tiredness within 300 metres; of headache, sleep disturbance, and discomfort within 200 metres; and of irritability, depression, loss of memory, dizziness, and libido decrease among others within 100 metres. It is worth noting that French Telecom giant Orange has suspended operations at a school cell tower site in Paris after eight cases of cancer were confirmed among children in the district [16]. Moreover, a French local council prohibited erection of cell towers within a radius of 300 meters from the schools. It should be recalled here that the Paris Town Hall and mobile phone operators have an agreement to limit the public exposure to electromagnetic waves generated by cell tower antennae and subsequent commitment by the operators to lower the exposure levels significantly. More striking evidence comes from the documentary film called "Full Signal", which depicts a map in Israel indicating a correlation between the locations of brain tumor clusters and cell phone towers across the country [17]. This along with multitude of other studies shows the incidence of adult brain tumors occurring within 400 meters of cell phone towers.

Electromagnetic intereference from cell phone use in hospitals can result in sudden switching off 
or restarting of feeding tubes, pacemakers, ventillators, or dialysis machines.

A Dutch study on mobile phone signals found that cell phone use in hospitals can be dangerous. Researchers measured the impact of electromagnetic interference from cell phone use in hospital equipment such as ventilators and pacemakers. Signals from mobile phones significantly interfered with medical devices, and 75% of those incidents were found to be hazardous. These included the sudden switching off or restarting of machines which could mean disruption of a patient's feeding tube, ventilator, pacemaker or dialysis machine and majority of these occurred when mobile phones were within 3 cm of critical-care equipment [18]. In another study conducted in USA, the researchers measured the visual field of persons in conversations on cell phone and found that cell phone use artificially constricted the peripheral awareness. This suggests that cell phone use while driving can decrease the perceptual visual field, making the driver less aware of the surroundings and more susceptible to accident [19].

Flash points in the human body, the nervous system most
vulnerable to exposure from cell tower radiation.

Long-term effects of microwave radiation from mobile towers are not fully studied. Mobile Operators does not have scientists, nor they conduct a site survey, but erect a tower on an available site by a computer guesstimate. Pulsing of the signal, and not its energy level that enables deep penetration of the body. Only thermal effects are considered in a multi-national case-control study INTERPHONE [20] and are used for regulation while several studies indeed show biological effects of electromagnetic radiation at exposure levels far below where heating occurs (non-thermal effects) [21]. The human body reacts more complexly than acknowledged in the thermal model and is sensitive to extreme periodic stimuli. The biological system takes the "energy" as well as the "information" which is brought by the continuous pulsed modulation pattern.A cell tower antenna is emitting a pulsed signal, and it interferes with the natural pulsing of our body, via the pineal gland in the head. If the pulsing enters your bedroom, it will interfere with your sleep patterns. Regular disruption of sleep patterns will break down the melatonin process, the repairing of which takes place when the body enters a deep sleep. This will lead to a lowered functioning of the human immune system. Other reported examples of non-thermal biological effects include: changes in the electrical activity in the human brain, increase in DNA single and double strand breaks from RF exposure to 2.45 GHz, and increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier in rats.

Pregnant women and children are in greater danger from cell phone towers than the normal population. Developing organs of fetus or child are most sensitive to any possible effects of EMR exposure. The thinner skulls of kids and rapid growth rates make children more susceptible to the tower's waves [22]. A recent study on pregnant women with heavy cell phone use found behavior problems in their children. According to Dr. Om Gandhi, an eminent scientist in the area of bioelectromagnetics, cell phone radiation makes children more susceptible to DNA breakage, genetic damage, and incidence of cancer. It reduces their life span. It is very unfortunate to see huge cell towers thronging the rooftops in and around schools or educational institutions and this has become more or less a common sight in cities across India and elsewhere. This is largely because the managements at schools or educational institutions see a definite upside of income from cell towers and lease their property to cell tower companies ignoring the health risks that these towers pose on their students who in turn are prone to prolonged exposure to electromagnetic radiation. The parents associations should be very watchful and play more active role in reigning on the school boards and prevent siting of cell phone towers within or around the schools premises.

Similar is the case with home-builders and mushrooming of cell phone towers atop the residential apartment buildings. A new dimension however in this case is that most of the apartment builders claim perpetual ownership of terrace rights and thereby absolute ownership of the buildings premises and lease the terrace to the cell phone companies for a period of not less than ten years or more even before the building is handed over to the owners association thus leaving individual flat owners and residents completely in the dark about the siting of cell towers on their rooftop. This is in clear violation of Apartment Laws. Generally, terraces cannot be privately owned as they are deemed to form part of the communal areas and, as such, are owned in common by the apartment owners. Builder cannot, therefore, legally exclude other co-owners from these areas

In their efforts to get these towers removed, owners associations almost always end up fighting a prolonged legal battle while builder enjoys hefty rentals and all perks from the cell phone companies. What an irony? Furthermore, cell phone companies work hand in glove with the builders in their efforts to set up as many towers as they can and their numbers look staggering too. The city of Delhi tops this list. Out of 5,364 cell towers in the city, only 2,412 had requisite permission and the remaining 2,952 were illegal. Mumbai comes second in this list. Out of 3,489 towers built within the jurisdiction of BMC, only 1,500 are authorised. The situation in Hyderabad is much worse. Out of 2,800 towers identified in the GHMC area as on December 2008, 1154 cell phone towers are on building rooftops, 50 are ground based, and 1791 are on rooftop poles. The irony is only 500 of them have requisite documentation leaving nearly 2,000 towers virtually unauthorised entities [23]. The local municipal authorities should proactively remove such unauthorised sitings and not buckle under the bullying tactics of the big bosses of cell phone companies. The government should also tighten the laws and must not allow such sitings in the residential areas without prior approval of the local residents. This seems to be happening!! The Government of India has recently formulated a new policy on Cell Towers, the salient features of which are:

A Mumbai-based Human Rights Commission recently opined that mobile phone towers should not be erected near hospitals, schools and residential buildings because of the possible risk to the people [24]. To minimize the risk mobile towers should be at a height of 40-50 metres, above the highest point of the neighbouring buildings, as it is done abroad. Also, the minimum distance between the towers and the nearby buildings should be 100 metres. But the studies have shown that the cell towers should be at least 500 metres away from flats or buildings. If cell tower antenna is installed on the rooftop of a building, the building is virtually not salable in many countries. Estate agents are mandated to tell a potential buyer about the problem. If a cell tower antenna is within 200m to a building, or a flat the value of the building or flat drops by 50% [25].

Here is some of the internationally allowed standard levels of cell tower radiation by the countries across the world: Australian standard limits the radiation level to 200 microwatts per sq. cm.; Russia, Italy and Canada allows only 10 microwatts per sq. cm; China, six microwatts per sq. cm. and New Zealand 0.02 microwatts per sq. cm. Strangely cell phone towers in the United States are most lenient and least protective in the world - US allows 580 to 1,000 microwatts per sq. cm. [26]. In light of the serious health risks discussed above, all cell phone towers should be removed from residential areas and placed where they don’t harm people and are placed on proper height.

"The Precautionary Principle or Principle of Prevention needs to be followed whenever there is a possibility of harm to human health an exposure rises"

Dr. M. Sirish

The author is a scientist and a freelance writer.


[1]. (a) Disconnect-The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family by Devra Davis. Published by Dutton Adult (September 23, 2010). For more on this visit the website Environmental Health Trust. (b) Bryan Walch, Health: A Cancer Muckraker Takes on Cell Phones, http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2010/09/27/health-a-cancer-muckraker-takes-on-cell-phones/ September 27, 2010. (c) Martin Mittelstaedt, The disturbing truth about cellphones, The Globe and Mail, September 24, 2010. 

[2]. (a) Cell Phone Radiation Science Review on Cancer Risks and Children's Health (September 2009) by the Environmental Working Group, Washington D.C. (b) Khurance VG, Teo C, Kindi M, Hardell L, Carlberg M. (2009) Cell phones and brain tumors: a review including the long-term epidemiologic data. Surg Neurol;72:205-14. (c) Sarah J Hepworth, Minouk J Schoemaker, Kenneth R Muir, Anthony J Swerdlow, Martie J A van Tongeren, Patricia A McKinney: Mobile phone use and risk of glioma in adults: case-control study. BMJ, doi:10.1136/bmj.38720.687975.55 (published 20 January 2006). (d) Sadetzki S, Flint-Richter P, Ben-Tal T, Nass D: Radiation-induced meningioma: a descriptive study of 253 cases. J Neurosurg 97: 1078-1082, 2002.

[3]. “The Impacts of Radiofrequency Radiation from Mobile Phone Antennas", EMR Australia PL , 2008.

[4]. Santini, R., Santini, P., Danze, J.M., Le Ruz, P., Seigne, M. (2002). Study of the health of people living in the vicinity of mobile phone base stations: I. Influences of distance and sex. Pathol. Biol. 50:369-373

[5]. Santini, R., Santini, P., Danze, J.M., Le Ruz, P., Seigne, M. (2003). Symptoms experienced by people in vicinity of base stations: II. Incidences of age, duration of exposure, location of subjects in relation to the antennas and other electromagnetic factors. Pathol. Biol. 51:412-415.

[6]. A news article from the Boston Globe alerts that even Harvard University has become pro-active in opposing cell tower siting. This article appeared on page B03 of 16th June, 1997 issue.

[7]. (a) Microwave and Radio Frequency Radiation Exposure, San Francisco Medicine , Vol. 74, No 3, March 2001. (b) Navarro, E.A., Segura, J., Portolés, M., Gómez-Perretta de Mateo, C. (2003). The Microwave Syndrome: A Preliminary Study in Spain. Electromagn. Biol. Med. 22:161-169.

[8]. Bortkiewicz, A., Zmyslony, M., Szyjkowska, A., Gadzicka, E. (2004). Subjective symptoms reported by people living in the vicinity of cellular phone base stations. Med. Pr. 55:345-351.

[9]. Hutter, H.P., Moshammer, H., Wallner, P., Kundi, M. (2006). Subjective symptoms, sleeping problems, and cognitive performance in subjects living near mobile phone base stations. Occup. Environ. Med. 63:307-313.

[10]. Abdel-Rassoul, G., Abou El-Fatech, O., Abou Salem, M., Michael, A., Farahat, F., El-Batanouny, M., Salem, E. (2007). Neurobehavioral effects among inhabitants around mobile phone base stations. Neurotoxicology 28:434-440.

[11]. Wolf, R., Wolf, D. (2004). Increased incidence of cancer near a cellphone transmitter station. Int. J. Cancer Prev. 1:123-128.

[12]. Eger, H., Hagen, K.U., Lucas, B., Vogel, P., Voit, H. (2004). Influence of the spatial proximity of mobile phone base stations on cancer rates. Umwelt-Medizin-Gesellschaft 17:273-356.

[13]. Meyer, M., Gärtig-Daugs, A., Radespiel-Tröger, M. (2006). Cellular telephone relay stations and cancer incidence. Umweltmed. Forsch. Prax. 11:89-97.
[14] Dr. Howard W. Fischer, "The Invisible Threat: The Risks Associated With EMFs" (2007), Wood Publishing. 

[15]. Report in Sunday Mirror, March 26, 2000.

[16]. Sarah Benson (2007). Electromagnetic Radiation ( EMR ) And Potential Adverse Health Affects.http://www.ecolibria.com.au/Resources/Electromagnetic-Radiation-EMR-And-Potential-Adverse-Health-Affects.

[17] Filmed in Ten countries and Six US states, the documentary "Full Signal" focuses on interviews with scientists around the world who are researching the health effects related to cellular technology; with veteran journalists who have called attention to the issue for decades; with activists who are fighting to regulate the placement of antennas; and with lawyers and law makers who represent the people wanting those antennas regulated and examines the contradiction between health and finance, one of the many ironies of the fight to regulate antenna placement. http://www.fullsignalmovie.com/

[18] Bao P. Dang, Pierre R. Nel, John A. Gjevre (2007). Mobile communication devices causing interference in invasive and noninvasive ventilators, Journal of Critical Care, Volume 22, Issue 2, Pages 137-141.

[19] W.C. Maples, Wes DeRosier, Richard Hoenes, Rodney Bendure (2008). Sherl Moore, The effects of cell phone use on peripheral vision, Optometry - Journal of the American Optometric Association, Volume 79, Issue 1, January 2008, Pages 36-42, ISSN 1529-1839.

[20]. A multinational case-control study, INTERPHONE, was set-up to investigate whether mobile phone use increases the risk of cancer and, more specifically, whether the RF fields emitted by mobile phones are carcinogenic. The study focused on tumors arising in the tissues most exposed to RF fields from mobile phones: glioma, meningioma, acoustic neurinoma and parotid gland tumors. In addition to a detailed history of mobile phone use, information was collected on a number of known and potential risk factors for these tumours. The study was conducted in 13 countries. Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the UK using a common core protocol. For more on this study, please see "The INTERPHONE Study Group (2010). Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of the INTERPHONE international case–control study." Int. J. Epidemiol., 1-20 and references therein.http://www.oxfordjournals.org/our_journals/ije/press_releases/freepdf/dyq079.pdf.

[21]. Haumann, T., Munzenberg, U., Maes, W., Sierck, P. (2010). HF-Radiation levels of GSM cellular phone towers in residential areas. http://no-celltower.com/German%20RF%20Research%20Article.pdf and references therein.

[22]. (a) Mobiles Risk to children, Daily Mail (U.K.), May 11, 2000. (b) Elliott, P., Toledano, M. B., Bennett, J., Beale, L., Hoogh, K. D., Best, N., Briggs, D. J. (2010). Mobile phone base stations and early childhood cancers: case-control study. BMJ, 1-7.

[23] Data obtained from press releases by the respective Municipal corporations or from local news reports.

[24]. Bembalkar, M., Londhe, M. S. Health hazards arising due to radio frequency radiation from mobile towers/antenna. www.karmayog.org/UNITE/upload/86/1/MOBILE%20TOWER.doc

[25] (a) Read this New York Times news story, "A Pushback Against Cell Towers," published in the paper's Real Estate section, on August 27, 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/realestate/29Lizo.html?_r=1&ref=realestate. (b)"The effect of distance to cell phone towers on house prices" by Sandy Bond, Appraisal Journal, Fall 2007, see attached. Source, Appraisal Journal, found on the Entrepreneur website,http://www.entrepreneur.com/tradejournals/article/171851340.html orhttp://www.prres.net/papers/Bond_Squires_Using_GIS_to_Measure.pdf. (c) Sandy Bond, Ph.D., Ko-Kang Wang, “The Impact of Cell Phone Towers on House Prices in Residential Neighborhoods,” The Appraisal Journal, Summer 2005; see attached. Source: Goliath business content 

[26] (a) Radiofrequency Radiation Health Studies, Wireless Antenna Site Consumer Information Package, Sage Associates, Montecito, CA, 2000, www. sageassocciates.net. (b) Tower concerns should be health, not aesthetics, Burlington Free Press, January 12, 2001.


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