The installation of antenna towers and other transmitters for cellular phones by telecommunication companies in residential areas has become a controversial matter. Residents close to such infrastructure complain of various health hazards ranging from headaches to cancer. Companies however claim to adhere to international safety standards. This study reviews researches that have been done to understand the long-term effects of radiofrequency radiation (RFR) on people dwelling near cellular towers. These types of exposures are not easy to determine and some epidemiological research even warrants caution in the framework of RFR exposures.
It took almost a century for landline phone services to reach a consumer base of 100 million. Television took a couple of decades; however, wireless technologies have taken hardly a decade and a half to reach the mark. This explosive growth translates into a need for extensive infrastructure development. Furthermore, wireless technology has specialized with advancements in new technologies such as Wi-Max, smart grid, and broadband over powerlines (BPL). The growth of cell technology has spread antennae and cellular towers into residential areas, increasing the exposure to these electromagnetic radiations manifold. People living in proximity to these towers face 24-hour exposure, while those working near them may have about eight hours of exposure. Most studies in the past have focused on the biological effects of intense electromagnetic radiations for short durations. Only a few research works are available on understanding the effects of long-term exposure to low intensity electromagnetic radiations. The findings urge investigation of this issue from a new dimension.
- The findings of studies that covered experiments on the effects of RFR on mice to surveys conducted by governments were examined.
- The features of cellular technology, electromagnetic radiation and its parameters like RFR specific absorption rate (SAR) were highlighted with references to the context of the present work.
- Research on the biological effects of electromagnetic radiations was compiled.
- Old standards were methodically questioned and the need for developing a new approach to comprehend the topic was underlined.
- The effects of long-term exposure to RFR are different from those of short-term exposure.
- Long-term exposure was found to produce gene mutation, infertility, and increased sensitivity to radiation exposure.
- A few research papers have demonstrated the harmful effects of long-term exposure to RFRs; however, the findings are not well established.
- Most of the existing research looks at the effects of exposure in a limited, short-term way, thus not fully illustrating the potential damages.
- The U.S. governmental guidelines in prescribing standards have to be updated in line with the latest findings in the field.
The majority of experiments conducted to understand the effects of RFR are based on thermal effect (heating of tissues on exposure). This review highlights the need for developing different approaches to understand the effects of low intensity long-term exposures. Future researches have to scrutinize the effects of radiations in totality to ensure public health. The effects of these radiations may not be limited to human beings; hence, the possibility of environmental pollution through RFRs deserves immediate attention.
The rapid growth of cellular technology has made a deep impact on society. The knowledge of its implications on public health has become critical. People living close to cellular tower installations have complained of a range of symptoms like skin rashes, insomnia, depression, dizziness and other neurophysiological effects. Researchers have shown that long-term exposure to RFRs could damage DNA and turn mice infertile within a few generations. However, these findings are not completely acknowledged, as radiation parameters are not well quantified and standardized. Knowing that cellular installations are indispensable to the future, researchers have to figure out a way to quantify and qualify radiation parameters and develop a good understanding of the effects of these radiations on people and the environment.
For More Information:
Biological Effects from Exposure to Electromagnetic Radiation Emitted by Cell Tower Base Stations and Other Transmitter Stations
NRC Research Press, November 2010
By B. Levitt; Henry Lai; New Preston, Connecticut, and the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.