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EMF Studies

17 April 2017

Cancer Link to Cell Towers? Studies Show It's 50:50 Call

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The Swiss minister for communication says WHO "has never considered mobile antennas as a health risk and there is no indication that this position would evolve in their disfavor".  Dr. Robert Baan, the officer in charge of the 2011 IARC monograph classifying radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as "possibly carcinogenic", has stated that this classification "holds for all types of radiation within the radiofrequency part of the electromagnetic spectrum, including the radiation emitted by base-station antennas, radio/TV towers, radar, Wi-Fi, smart meters, etc."  He adds, "an important point is the radiation level. The exposure from cellular phones (personal exposure) is substantially higher and much more focused (usually on the brain) than exposures from radio/tv towers, antennas, or Wi-Fi."

Cancer link to cell towers? Studies show it’s 50:50 callby Durgesh Nandan Jha, TNN, 13 April 2017

NEW DELHI: Is the radiation emitted by a mobile phone tower a health hazard? Telecom operators have long denied the possibility, but the global scientific community now strongly thinks it is — though there is no consensus on the duration and distance of exposure at which diseases can be triggered.

In 2004, Israeli researchers reported a fourfold increase in the incidence of cancer among people living within 350 metres of a long-established phone mast compared with the general populace. German authors reported the same year that the proportion of new cancer cases was significantly higher among patients who had lived in the past decade at a distance of up to 400 metre from cellular transmission sites compared with those living further away. A year later, research in Austria showed significant changes in the electrical currents in the brain caused by a cell-phone base station at a distance of 80 metres.

Such studies were reviewed by an inter-ministerial committee formed by the Indian government with members from the health ministry, Department of Biotechnology and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). The panel noted that laboratory studies were unable to determine a direct link between radiation exposure from cell towers and cancer. It also pointed out that it could not be fully established if radio frequency radiation led to biological effects such as DNA rearrangement in cells or chromosomal damage due to complex interaction of the different exposure parameters of age, gender, activity levels and body insulation of the subjects.

Nevertheless, the committee recommended lowering the level of radiation exposure from cellular towers from 9.2 watt/m2 to 0.92 watt/m2. DoT issued a directive to this effect in December 2012, and its website claims that the today's level of radiation exposure from the towers is not harmful.

Epidemiologists, however, disagree. "Half the evidence supports the theory that radiation exposure from towers has health repercussions, while the rest goes against it," cancer specialist Dr GK Rath told TOI. "We must not keep waiting for evidence to build up to full certainty, but adopt a more cautious attitude towards installation of mobile towers."

In contrast, Dr KK Agarwal, head of the Indian Medical Association, said there were six towers atop his organisation's headquarter. "We do not think this poses any health risks," he contended. "Mobile handsets are more harmful, especially when overused."

Rath said that long-duration radiation exposure from cell towers is associated with an increased risk of brain tumour, but even normal radiation exposure has been linked with various types of cancer.

Another scientist, who did not want to be identified, said the limit for radiation exposure from phone towers in India is still higher than in countries such as Russia (0.2 watt/m2) and China (0.4 watt/m2).

Girish Kumar, professor of electrical engineering, IIT-Mumbai, added, "Among the developed countries, the United States allows a higher rate of radiation exposure from the towers, but in areas with dense populations, the operators use smaller towers with less power. The big towers are installed only in low-density areas. Also, monitoring is much better."


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