Cell tower radiation and cancer clusters
By Dr K S Parthasarathy
PF43/2013 dated March 23, 2013
Cell tower radiation has a million times lower energy than x-rays and gamma rays which can make structural changes in cells in the human body. Human body consists of cells; cells form tissues
As cell towers started appearing in different parts of the country, public started attributing all sorts of symptoms and diseases to them. On January 4, this year a leading news paper quoted the District Health and Family Welfare Officer (DHO) of Dakshina Kannada as saying that “enough number of cases of cancer and mental retardation have been found among people residing within a 500-metre radius of cell phone towers.” This observation is not scientifically supported.
Cell tower radiation has a million times lower energy than x-rays and gamma rays which can make structural changes in cells in the human body. Human body consists of cells; cells form tissues; several tissues join together to form organs.
When energetic radiation such as x-rays or gamma rays interact w gamma rays, they are able to make structural changes in the cell. Large part of radiation impinging on the body may go without any interaction. But some part of the radiation may be absorbed by the cells. It may kill a few cells. Radiation energy may partly damage them. Partly damaged cells may suffer loss of the precisely set, multiplication and growth control mechanisms. These cells may become anarchic with no rules at all or rules of their own! These rogue cells multiply rapidly and proliferate uncontrollably to cause cancer. Cell tower/phone radiations are non ionizing and are incapable of starting such disruptive action in the cell because they lack energy.
Even after several decades of study, researchers could not identify any mechanism to explain how cell phone/tower radiation can cause cancer. If there is a mechanism, it will be entirely new. Cell phone technology is new. If the interaction of radiation may cause some diseases which have a long latent period, it may take some time to manifest. This is the reason why researchers want to continue the studies for longer periods of time.
The results obtained so far are reassuring. In spite of the fact that cell phones have been used by millions of people, no notable increase in cancer or other effects have been recorded so far.
The latest scientific review by the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) in its report titled “Health Effects of electromagnetic radiation- RCE-20” published in April 2012 stated thus:
“In summary, although a substantial amount of research has been conducted in this area, there is no convincing evidence that RF field exposure below guideline levels causes health effects in adults or children.” The report can be accessed from the web site of the HPA.
Every physician must read it compulsorily. Unfortunately, many physicians like lay public, get carried away by newspaper reports and other literature. These are also freely available. A professor of electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of technology, Bombay wrote one such document titled “Report on cell tower radiation” and submitted it to the Department of Telecommunication (DOT). Apart from several unsubstantiated comments and wrong interpretation of concepts, the report contains news stories in a subsection titled “Epidemiological studies from different countries”.
One story was from Australia. Thus:
“The top floors of a Melbourne office building were closed down and 100 people were evacuated after a seventh worker in seven years was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The Australian Health Research Institute indicates that due to billions of times more in volume electromagnetic radiation emitted by billions of mobile phones, internet, intranet and wireless communication data transmission, almost one-third of world population (about 2 billion) may suffer from Cell Phone Cancer beside other major body disorders like heart ailments, impotency, migraine, epilepsy by 2020.”
I sent excerpts of the report to many specialists. “I was responsible for carrying out the EMR measurements at the building. The final result was that the incidence of cancer in that building was the same as the general population.” Mr, Chris Zombolas, the Managing Director of EMC Technologies Pty Limited, an internationally recognized company, accredited by National Association of testing Authorities (NATA), Australia, responded to this writer
“I believe that this is an alarmist report with many factual and technical errors. The assertions are made without proper evidence from peer reviewed publications.”, Mr Zombolas added.
“What is the reputation of the Australian Health Research Institute?” this writer asked him. I also asked him whether he can give any reference or publication conceding that the cancer incidence in the building which was evacuated was the same as the national rate.
Mr Zombolas asserted that he has never heard of The Australian Health Research Institute. But he sent this writer a link which claims that it is a hoax.
Regarding the evacuated building in Melbourne, he sent the announcement from a reputable source that it was not a cancer cluster. You may access the report at:
Stories on cancer clusters and other diseases near cell phone towers are spread by vested interests selling screens, shields etc against cell tower radiation. News papers unwittingly help them by publishing such unsubstantiated stories.
A typical example from the blog of such a company: “Do your family members feel nauseated or irritated at the simplest events? Is your child unable to concentrate on his/her studies? Is your home near a mobile phone tower? May be, it’s time to get your house inspected for radiation levels and replace your cotton curtains with options that could block radiation.”
The WHO is aware of scary stories on increased cancer incidence near cell towers and noted thus in its Fact Sheet No 304:
“Media or anecdotal reports of cancer clusters around mobile phone base stations have heightened public concern. It should be noted that geographically, cancers are unevenly distributed among any population. Given the widespread presence of base stations in the environment, it is expected that possible cancer clusters will occur near base stations merely by chance. Moreover, the reported cancers in these clusters are often a collection of different types of cancer with no common characteristics and hence unlikely to have a common cause.”
[ Dr K S Parthasarathy is a former Secretary, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board]