Are Cell Phone Towers Dangerous?

Are Cell phone towers dangerous

The number of Cell Phone Towers (also known as base stations) installed in communities has increased dramatically. This is because of the widespread use of cell phones in recent decades. These towers have electrical equipment and antennas that use Radiofrequency (RF) waves to receive and send cell phone signals.

Many people are reasonably concerned about the health impacts of the RF waves emitted by cell phone towers. This is still relatively new. There is no strong evidence that RF waves from cell phone towers cause any noticeable health effects at this time.

However, this does not imply that the RF waves emitted by cell phone towers are completely secure. Most expert groups agree that further research is needed to better understand this. Particularly in terms of any potential long-term consequences.

How are Individuals Exposed to RF Waves by Cell phone Towers?

Base stations for cell phones can be free-standing towers. It can also be  installed on existing structures like trees, water tanks, or tall buildings. The antennas must be high enough to cover a large enough area. The height of base stations is normally between 50 and 200 feet. 

Cell phones connect with neighboring cell towers primarily by RF waves. This is a type of energy found between FM radio waves and microwaves in the electromagnetic spectrum.

They are non-ionizing radiation, just like FM radio waves, microwaves, visible light, and heat. This means they don’t harm DNA inside cells in the same way that stronger (ionizing) kinds of radiation, like x-rays, gamma rays, and ultraviolet (UV) rays are said to be able to cause cancer.

A signal is delivered from the phone’s antenna to the nearest base station antenna when a person makes a cell phone call. The base station reacts by allocating an available RF channel to this signal. The voice information is transmitted to the base station via RF waves.

After that, the voice signals are routed to a switching center, which routes the call to its intended recipient. During the call, voice signals are  then sent back and forth.

When RF signals are sent back and forth to the base station during calls, the RF waves produced at the base station are sent into the environment. It exposes individuals to them.

Near a Cell Phone Tower, on the Ground

Cell phone tower antenna RF waves, like those from other telecommunication antennas, are directed toward the horizon (parallel to the ground). It goes with some downward scatter.

The power levels used by base station antennas are higher than those used by other types of land-mobile antennas. But much lower than those used by radio and television broadcast stations. 

As the distance between the antenna and the receiver grows, the quantity of energy from RF  waves drops fast. As a result, the level of RF wave exposure at ground level is significantly lower than the level near the antenna.

The amount of energy emitted by RF waves at ground level near common cellular base stations is hundreds to thousands of times. It’s lower than the safe exposure limits imposed by the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and other regulatory bodies. It’s quite rare that someone might be exposed to RF levels over these limits just by standing near a cell phone tower.

Cellular Antenna is mounted on a Roof

When a cellular antenna is put on a roof, a person on the roof may be exposed to RF levels. These are higher than those encountered on the ground. So, exposure levels that approach or exceed the FCC’s safety recommendations are only likely to be discovered very close to and directly in front of the antennas. Access to these areas should be restricted if this is the case.

Indoors, with a Base Station located on the Building’s Outside

Depending on the construction materials of the building, the amount of energy from RF waves within buildings where a base station is located is often much lower than the level outside. Antennas are angled away from the building’s side, and the energy level behind them is hundreds to thousands of times lower than in front. 

Furthermore, wood or cement block reduces RF wave energy  exposure by a ratio of roughly ten. As a result, when an antenna is positioned on a building’s side, the exposure level in the room directly behind the wall is usually much below the permissible exposure levels.

Close to a 5G base Station

The following sections address newer & smaller versions of base  stations (commonly referred to as small cells). They are used in fifth-generation (5G) cellular networks.

Can Cell Phone Towers Cause Cancer?

Some people are concerned that living, working, or going to school near a cell phone tower could increase their risk of cancer or other health issues.

There isn’t a lot of evidence to back this up right now. To be sure, additional research is  required. Checkout Can Cell Phone Radiation be harmful?

What Experts Have to Say

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has not taken a stance or issued a statement on whether Radiofrequency (RF) Radiation from cell phones, cell phone towers, or other sources causes cancer. 

  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization, looks to other expert groups to assess if something causes cancer (that is, if it is a carcinogen) (WHO)
  • The US National Toxicology Program (NTP), which is made up of components from various government agencies. It includes the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Other important organizations may also have something to say about the potential for certain exposures to cause cancer.

They Have Something to Say About Cell Phone Towers

The cancer causing potential of RF waves from cell phone towers has yet to be classified by the IARC or the NTPOn the other hand, other agencies have voiced concerns about cell tower safety.

Regarding cell phone masts near houses or schools, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has stated:

  • “Radiofrequency emissions from cellular and PCS [personal communications service] antennas result in exposure levels on the ground that are thousands of times below safety limits. 
  • The FCC approved these safety limitations based on the advice of professional organizations  and were endorsed by federal authorities responsible for health and safety. 
  • As a result, there’s no reason to suppose that such structures could pose a health risk to  adjacent homes or students.”

What They have to Say About Radiofrequency Radiation in General

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified RF radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,”. Based on limited evidence of a possible increase in risk for brain tumors among cell phone users and insufficient evidence for other types of cancer, based on a review of studies published up until 2011. 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a technical report based on the findings of studies published between 2008 and 2018, as well as national cancer rate trends.  “Based on the research that are detailed in this study, there is insufficient evidence to indicate a  causal relationship between radiofrequency radiation (RFR) exposure and [tumor formation”, the report stated.

RF radiation has yet to be included in the National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) Report on  Carcinogens. It identifies exposures that are known to be or reasonably expected to be human carcinogens.

What Research has Revealed

When trying to figure out if something causes cancer, scientists typically employ two types of studies:

  • Research involving groups of people
  • Research conducted in a laboratory (using lab animals or cell cultures)

The following is a quick run down of the most important studies that have looked at this topic so far. However, this is a complete review of all research that have been conducted.

People who Live Near Cell Phone Towers Have been Studied

There haven’t been many studies in humans that have directly looked at cellular phone towers, cancer risk, and the results haven’t been conclusive.

  • A large British study comparing families of young children with cancer to families without cancer found no link between a mother’s exposure to the towers during pregnancy. This is based on the distance between the home and the amount of energy emitted by nearby towers and the risk of early childhood cancer.
  • Taiwanese researchers compared cancer affected children to a control group of children. 

They discovered a slightly greater overall risk of cancer in people who lived in towns where the estimated RF exposure from cell phone towers was higher than the study’s midpoint threshold. 

However, this finding was less obvious when RF exposure was classified in other ways. Both of these investigations relied on RF exposure estimates.

Neither of them took any measurements of people’s actual exposure to RF radiation from adjacent cell phone towers. Because of this constraint, interpreting the findings of these investigations is more difficult.

Cell Phone Usage is the Subject of Research

The quantity of radiation emitted by living near a mobile phone tower is often far lower than that emitted by using a cell phone. Several dozen research have looked into the possibility of a link between cell phone use and cancer in humans. 

The majority of research to far have failed to find a link between cell phone use and cancer. Despite the fact that these studies had significant limitations. This is an active research area.

RF Wave Research in the Lab

The RF waves emitted by cell phone towers do not have enough energy to directly harm DNA or heat bodily tissues. As a result, it’s unclear whether or not cell phone towers might cause cancer. 

Although some research have revealed possible elevated incidences of specific types of  malignancies in lab animals exposed to RF radiation. The results of these investigations have not yet provided definitive answers.

Large experiments released in 2018 by the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) and the  Ramazzini Institute in Italy subjected groups of lab rats (as well as mice in the NTP study) to RF waves for many hours a day. Starting before birth and continuing for most or all of their natural lifetimes. 

Male rats were found to have a higher risk of malignant schwannomas. This are rare cardiac tumors, in both investigations, whereas female rats were not (nor in male or female mice, in the NTP study).

The NTP study also found a link between certain types of brain and adrenal tumors and an increased risk of death. While both of these studies had merits. They also had flaws that make it difficult to predict how they would apply to people who are exposed to RF waves from cell phone towers. 

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) concluded in a 2019 evaluation of these two research that the limitations of the investigations prevented conclusions being drawn about the possibility of RF radiation to cause cancer.

Nonetheless, the findings of these research do not rule out the potential that the RF waves  utilized in cell phone communication have an effect on human health in some way.

What About 5G Networks?

Many portions of the United States and other nations are now getting fifth-generation (5G) cellular networks. 5G networks are capable of transmitting significantly more data in much less time than previous generations of networks (4G, 3G, etc.). 

RF wavelengths less than 6 gigahertz were employed in previous generation networks (GHz). Some wavelengths in this range will be used in 5G networks. Although some higher frequency  wavelengths will be used at the lower end of the millimeter wave spectrum (which ranges from 30 GHz to 300 GHz). 

While these RF waves have a higher frequency (and therefore higher energy) than previous generations. They are still non-ionizing radiation. Also, they still lack the ability to directly damage DNA.

The higher frequency waves utilized by 5G travel shorter distances and do not pass through  obstacles as well as lower frequency waves (such as buildings or even tree leaves). As a result, 5G networks will require many more smaller base stations (also known as small cells) in some areas. Particularly in heavily populated areas. 

Streetlights, utility poles, buildings, and other structures can all be outfitted with these tiny cells. Although small cells normally operate at considerably lower power levels than bigger (macro) base stations. This could result in antennas being closer to people.

People may be exposed to more RF waves as a result of the addition of higher wavelengths from 5G networks. At the same time, because higher frequency RF waves have a reduced ability to permeate the body than lower frequency waves. They may have fewer potential health impacts. However, this topic has received little attention thus far. 

At this point, there isn’t much evidence that the RF waves used in 5G networks are any more or less dangerous than previous RF wavelengths used in cellular communication. Check out can 5G Phone use 4G LTE.

For more information on this, have a close look at Cell phone tower.

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