Health Effects from Cell Phone Tower Radiation
by Karen J. Rogers – view original article
The safety of cell phone towers is the subject of extensive scientific debate. There is a growing bodyof scientific evidence that the electromagnetic radiation they emit, even at low levels, is dangerous to human health. The cell phone industry is expanding quickly, with over 100,000 cell phone towers now up across theU.S., which is expected to increase ten-fold over the next five years. The industry has set what theysay are “safe levels” of radiation exposure, but there are a growing number of doctors, physicists, andhealth officials who strongly disagree, and foresee a public health crisis.Many towers have been built recently in Siskiyou Colorado, with dozens more planned, astelecommunications companies rush to corner markets in this fast-growing industry. These towersemit radio frequencies (RF), a form of electromagnetic radiation (EMR), for a distance of up to 2-1/2miles. They are essentially the same frequency radiation as microwaves in a microwave oven.Studies have shown that even at low levels of this radiation, there is evidence of damage to celltissue and DNA, and it has been linked to brain tumors, cancer, suppressed immune function,depression, miscarriage, Alzheimer’s disease, and numerous other serious illnesses. Children are at the greatest risk, due to their thinner skulls, and rapid rate of growth. Also at greater risk are the elderly, the frail, and pregnant women. Doctors from the United Kingdom have issuedwarnings urging children under 16 not to use cell phones, to reduce their exposure to radio frequency(RF) radiation. Over 100 physicians and scientists at Harvard and Boston University Schools of Public Health havecalled cellular towers a radiation hazard. And, 33 delegate physicians from 7 countries have declaredcell phone towers a “public health emergency”.The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is in charge of setting the standards of exposure for the public, and claims that, based on scientific studies, the current levels are safe. But itis not a public health agency, and has been criticized as being “an arm of the industry”. Many whowork for the FCC are either past, present or future employees of the very industries they aresupposed to regulate. With an explosively emergent $40 billion dollar a year industry at stake, criticshave stated “you can bet that their studies are going to show whatever they want them to show”.
Our federal government also once told us that asbestos, cigarettes, thalidomide,and the blood supply were “safe”, but which were later found to be harmful.“You can bet that their studies are going to show whatever they want them to show.”
– Cathy Bergman-Veniza, at Vermont Law School Environmental Law Center Conference, 1996
The current U.S. standard for radiation exposure from cell phone towers is 580-1,000 microwatts per sq. cm. (mW/cm2), among the least protective in the world. More progressive European countrieshave set standards 100 to 1,000 times lower than the U.S. Compare Australia at 200 microwatts,Russia, Italy, and Toronto, Canada at 10, China at 6, and Switzerland, at 4. In Salzburg, Austria thelevel is .1 microwatts (pulsed), 10,000 times less than the U.S. New Zealand has proposed yet morestringent levels, at .02 microwatts, 50,000 times more protective than the U.S. Standard. [3, 4]Contrary to what the communications industry tells us, there is vast scientific, epidemiological andmedical evidence that confirms that exposure to the RF and microwave radiation emitted from celltowers, even at low levels, can have profound adverse effects on biological systems. [5, 6, 7, 8].
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There is vast scientific and medical evidence that exposure to cell tower radiation,even at low levels, can have profound adverse effects on biological systems.
Scientists and advocacy groups say that the current FCC “safe” standards are based on 1985research, and fail to consider more recent research that found brain cancer, memory impairment,DNA breakdown, and neurological problems with RF at much lower levels. The earlier studiesconsidered only the “thermal”, or heating effects of the radiation – in other words, the level at whichthe radiation would heat tissue, or “cook” a person, in the same exact manner that a microwave ovenworks. The FCC levels may ensure our tissues are not “cooked”, but they fail to address long-termchronic exposure at low levels, or what is called “non-thermal” effects.Doctors say that RF radiation is wreaking havoc with normal biological cell functions. “RF alterstissue physiology”says Dr. George Carlo, an epidemiologist who found genetic damage in a $28million research program, paid for by the industry. He now fights to have safety levels lowered. In 1998 the Vienna Resolution, signed by 16 of the world’s leading bioelectromagnetic researchers,provided a consensus statement that there is scientific agreement that biological effects from lowintensity RF exposure are established. It says existing scientific knowledge is inadequate to setreliable exposure standards. No safe exposure level can be established at this time.
The world’s leading electromagnetic researchers say existing scientific knowledgeis inadequate to set reliable exposure standards. – The Vienna Resolution, 1998
The Salzburg Resolution, adopted in 2000 at the International Conference on Cell Tower Siting, wouldprohibit any cell site from emanating more than .1 mW/cm2 – 10,000 times more strict than thecurrent U.S. standard. This limit takes into account the growing evidence for non-thermal RFbioeffects. Cell phone towers expose the public to involuntary, chronic, cumulative Radio Frequency Radiation.Low levels of RFR have been shown to be associated with changes in cell proliferation and DNAdamage. Some scientific studies show adverse health effects reported in the .01 to 100 mW/cm2range at levels hundreds, indeed, thousands, of times lower than the U.S. standards.
These harmfullow levels of radiation can reach as far as a mile away from the cell tower location. Reportedhealth problems include headache, sleep disorders, memory impairment, nosebleeds, anincrease in seizures, blood brain barrier leakage problems, increased heart rates, lower spermcounts, and impaired nervous systems.
Long term and cumulative exposure to cell tower radiation has no precedent in history. There are noconclusive studies on the safety of such exposures, and the growing body of scientific evidencereports such bioeffects and adverse health effects are possible, if not probable.
Dr. Neil Cherry, Ph.D. biophysicist from New Zealand, reports that “There is no safe level of EMR
He said the standards are based on thermal effects, but important non-thermaleffects also take place, such as cell death and DNA breakdown. Dr. Cherry wrote a 120-page reviewof 188 scientific studies. “The electromagnetic radiation causes cells to change in a way that makesthem cancer forming.” It can increase the risk of cancer two to five times, he said. “To claim there isno adverse effect from phone towers flies in the face of a large body of evidence.”
“To claim there is no adverse effect from phone towers flies in theface of a large body of evidence.” – Dr. Neil Cherry, biophysicist
Public health officials caution that we err on the side of conservatism, given the massive public healthrisk that is possible.
Page 3 – Health Effects from Cell Phone Tower RadiationOther federal health agencies disagree that safe levels of exposure have been identified, much lessbuilt into the FCC standard. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not agree with theFCC standards, and analysts have recommended that EMR be classified as a “probable humancarcinogen”. Deputy Director of the Department of Health and Human Services, Elizabeth Jacobsen, has statedthat the safety of RF “has not been established nor has the necessary research been conducted totest it”, and cites risk of brain cancer, tumors and DNA breakdown. The California Public UtilityCommission has urged the cell phone industry to not locate towers near schools or hospitals.And the World Health Organization reports “many epidemiological studies have addressed possiblelinks between exposure to RF fields and excess risk of cancer. These studies do not provide enoughinformation to allow a proper evaluation of human cancer risk from RF exposure because the resultsof these studies are inconsistent.”
“The safety of RF has not been established, nor has the necessary research beenconducted to test it.” – Elizabeth Jacobsen, Deputy Director, US Department of Health
“Our bodies are exquisitely sensitive to subtle electromagnetic harmonics, and we depend upon tinyelectrical impulses to conduct complex life processes,” says Dr. Robert Becker, author of
The Body Electric, and Cross Currents, The Perils of Electropollution.
[13, 14]He says “at the present the greatest polluting element in the earth’s environment is the proliferationof (these) electromagnetic fields.” Radiation once considered safe, he says, is now correlated withincreases in birth defects, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, learning disabilities, Chronic FatigueSyndrome, and cancer.The incidence of brain cancer is up 25% since 1973, and this year 185,000 Americans will bediagnosed with brain cancer. Brain tumors are the second leading cause of cancer death for childrenand young adults.Yet, the United States has a de facto policy of “post sales surveillance” with respect to RF radiation.Only after years of exposure, will there be studies to characterize the health consequences.Some adverse health effects show up immediately, but it can often take 3 to 10 years for the longer term effects of RF illness to appear, such as cancer. Many researchers, public health officials andcitizens believe that consumers shouldn’t be forced to act as guinea pigs in a bioeffects experimentfor the next 20 years. In short, “we are the experiment”, for health effects.Dr. Gerard Hyland, physicist, says existing safety guidelines for cell phone towers are completelyinadequate, since they focus only on the thermal effects of exposure.  Hyland, twice nominatedfor the Nobel Prize in Medicine, says existing safety guidelines “afford no protection” against the non-thermal influences. “Quite justifiably, the public remains skeptical of attempts by governments andindustry to reassure them that all is well, particularly given the unethical way in which they oftenoperate symbiotically so as to promote their own vested interests.”
“Existing safety guidelines for cell phone towers are completely inadequate.” – Dr. Gerard Hyland, Physicist – two-time nominee, Nobel Prize in Medicine
The industry lobbied Congress with $39 million in 1996 to ensure passage of a law which essentiallygives them the right to place these towers in our neighborhoods, and makes it next to impossible tooppose them based on health reasons. It is no coincidence that EPA funding was also cut in 1996 for electromagnetic radiation health studies. Citizens and communities across the country are angered,and are protesting this imposition of involuntary, 24-hour-a-day microwave exposure, without provensafety levels. As one citizen stated, “There’s no place left to escape.”