Thursday, February 21, 2008

What are the Dangers of Living Near Cell Phone Towers?

Across the United States, opposition to cell towers has continued to grow within residential areas. More than 500 cases have been heard nationwide involving efforts to stop cell phone towers from being placed within residential zones.

Whether these cases are won or lost, the question still remains; are these cell towers safe?

Federal law eliminates one of the key arguments that some residents have against cell sites in their neighborhood; the health factor. To date, no studies have shown absolute and conclusive evidence that radio frequency [RF] emissions are harmful at levels allowed by the Federal Communications Commission. As a result, the law strictly prohibits the rejection of a cell tower based on health risk.

However, there is also a clear lack of evidence showing that these towers are in fact safe. Because of this, a fear of the uncertainty remains among many neighborhoods across the United States.

Although residents cannot argue the health issues associated with living in the vicity of a cell tower, they can make the argument that the perception of a health risk, combined with what most consider to be an eyesore, can drastically lower property values for those living near a cell site.

In recent years, there have been several different views taken on the health risks associated with cell towers.

In 2004, The International Association of Fire Fighters opposed the use of fire houses for cell tower sites “until a study with the highest scientific merit” proves they are safe.

Read their full statement here.

The American Cancer Society’s website states that “because the [cell tower] technology is still relatively new, we do not yet have full information on health effects.” However, the organization also noted there was “no known evidence of a link between low-level emissions and cancer.”

Read the entire report here.

According to the Federal Government, no studies have shown conclusive evidence that radio frequency emissions, a form of electromagnetic radiation (EMR), from cell towers are harmful.

The Food and Drug Administration states that, "RF [Radio frequency] exposure on the ground is much less than exposure very close to the antenna and in the path of the transmitted radio signal. In fact, ground-level exposure from such antennas is typically thousands of times less than the exposure levels recommended as safe by expert organizations. So exposure to nearby residents would be well within safety margins."

However, the Federal Government also declared cigarettes safe at one time. Why should residents have to be the “test group” to prove whether these towers are safe? How are we to know what the long term exposure studies will show? Why should we be forced by the Federal Government to take that risk?

Cell phone companies also maintain that no risks exist from the towers. "There are no health risks posed by the towers. Independent scientific panels around the world have reached this conclusion," said Russ Stromberg, senior manager of development at T-Mobile.

Would we expect the cell phone companies to say anything less? Big Tobacco raved about the safety of cigarette smoking for years; all the while knowing the underlying risks associated with their product. It came down to one thing; money.

So who are you to believe?

Several studies are now coming forward that seem to tell a different story regarding the safety of cell towers.

A study by Dr. Bruce Hocking in Australia found that children living near three TV and FM broadcast towers (similar to cell towers) in Sydney had more than twice the rate of leukemia than children living more than seven miles away.

Says Dr. Neil Cherry, a biophysicist at Lincoln University in New Zealand:

"Public health surveys of people living in the vicinity of cell site base stations should be being carried out now, and continue progressively over the next two decades. This is because prompt effects such as miscarriage, cardiac disruption, sleep disturbance and chronic fatigue could well be early indicators of the adverse health effects. Symptoms of reduced immune system competence, cardiac problems, especially of the arrhythmic type, and cancers, especially brain tumor and leukemia, are probable."

Biomedical engineer Mariana Alves-Pereira says exposure to cell phone towers can lead to vibroacoustic disease. "From what I understand, some of the complaints are similar in what is seen in vibroacoustic disease patients, which are people who develop a disease caused by low frequency noise exposure," she said. Symptoms can include mood swings, indigestion, ulcers and joint pain.

Dr. Gerard Hyland, a physicist who was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in medicine, says, "Existing safety guidelines for cell phone towers are completely inadequate ... Quite justifiably, the public remains skeptical of attempts by governments and industry to reassure them that all is well, particularly given the unethical way in which they often operate symbiotically so as to promote their own vested interests."

According to the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, "Studies have shown that even at low levels of this radiation, there is evidence of damage to cell tissue and DNA, and it has been linked to brain tumors, cancer, suppressed immune function, depression, miscarriage, Alzheimer's disease, and numerous other serious illnesses."

According to Dr. W. Löscher of the Institute of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmacy of the Veterinary School of Hannover in Germany, dairy cows that were kept in close proximity to a TV and cell phone tower for two years had a reduction in milk production along with increased health problems and behavioral abnormalities. In an experiment, one cow with abnormal behavior was taken away from the antenna and the behavior subsided within five days. When the cow was brought back near the antenna, the symptoms returned.

In addition, in January, 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called for a reexamination of cell phone health risks citing that long-term and low-intensity radio frequency exposure from mobile devices may be dangerous to pregnant women and kids.

Read more about the FDA & Cell Phone Health Risks:
Article 1
Article 2

So the question remains; who are we to believe? Although we as residents cannot fight this fight on the basis of health factors, we must not turn a blind eye to the facts that are presented to us.

Those who know the risks of using a cell phone and continue to use one are doing so by choice. The residents in this area did not choose to live near a cell tower. However, should a tower be placed in our neighborhood, we will have no choice but to reside in the vicinity of a tower without knowing the full extent of the health risks, if any, that we are being exposed to.

I have to ask; why should any person be asked to take that risk?