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Subject: Cell Phone Antennas & Health FAQs

This article was archived around: Wed, 18 Jun 2003 10:02:40 -0500

All FAQs in Directory: medicine
All FAQs posted in: sci.med.physics, sci.physics.electromag
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Archive-name: medicine/cell-phone-antennas-health-faq Posting-Frequency: monthly Last-modified: 7 June 2003 Version: 4.9.3 URL: http://www.mcw.edu/gcrc/cop/cell-phone-health-faq/toc.html Copyright: (c) 1996-2003 John E. Moulder & The Medical College of Wisconsin Author: John E. Moulder <jmoulder@mcw.edu>
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Mobile Phone Base Station Antennas and Human Health --------------------------------------------------------------------- ** Summary This FAQ addresses the issue of whether mobile phone (cellular phone) base station antennas (towers, masts) are a risk to human health. Issues surrounding the phones themselves are addressed indirectly, and some aspects of the FAQ are also relevant to other types of broadcast antennas. While discussion of general issues are international, some of the technical and regulatory aspects of the FAQ are USA-specific. Mobile phone base stations are low-power multi-channel two-way radios. A mobile phone (cell phone) is a low-power, single-channel, two-way radio. When you talk on a mobile phone, you (and perhaps dozens of other people around you) are talking to a nearby base station. From that base station your phone call goes into the regular land-line phone system. Because mobile phones and their base stations are two-way radios, they produce radio-frequency (RF) radiation (that's how they communicate), and they expose people near them RF radiation. However, because both the phones and the base stations are low power(short range), the RF radiation exposure levels from them are generally very low. The consensus of the scientific community, both in the US and internationally, is that the power from these mobile phone base station antennas is far too low to produce health hazards as long as people are kept away from direct access to the antennas (see Q13 and Q14). It is critical to be aware of the difference between antennas (the objects that produce RF radiation), and the towers or masts or structures that the antennas are placed on. It is the antennas that people need to keep there distance from, not the structures that hold the antennas. There might be some reasons to be concerned about human health effects from the hand-held mobile phones themselves (although it is not known that any risks to human health actually exist). These concerns exist because the antennas of hand-held phones deliver much of their RF energy to very small volumes of the user's body. Base station antennas do not create such localized exposures (unless you are standing directly in front of one), so the potential safety issues concerning the hand-held phones have no real applicability to the base station antennas. --------------------------------------------------------------------- The full version of this FAQ is now available on the web at: http://www.mcw.edu/gcrc/cop/cell-phone-health-faq/toc.html ***NOTE THAT "faq" is lower-case. UPPER-CASE MAY OR MAY NOT WORK This posted version contains only the table of contents and a list of recent revisions. --------------------------------------------------------------------- El documento "Preguntas y respuestas sobre antenas de telefonía móvil y salud humana" está disponible en español: http://www.mcw.edu/gcrc/cop/telefonos-moviles-salud/toc.html --------------------------------------------------------------------- Queste FAQ riguardanti "le antenne per telefonia mobile e i loro effetti sulla salute" sono disponibili in italiano all'indirizzo: http://space.tin.it/clubnet/albpales/Telefonia_mobile/toc-it.htm" --------------------------------------------------------------------- This document is available in Chinese at: http://www.ym.edu.tw/rad/cbase/ This document is available in Japanese at: http://www.iftech.or.jp/cellular/health.html --------------------------------------------------------------------- There are two related FAQs: Powerlines & Cancer FAQs: http://www.mcw.edu/gcrc/cop/powerlines-cancer-faq/toc.html Static Electromagnetic Fields and Cancer FAQs http://www.mcw.edu/gcrc/cop/static-fields-cancer-faq/toc.html ***NOTE THAT "faq" is lower case. UPPER CASE MAY OR MAY NOT WORK --------------------------------------------------------------------- What's New? v4.9, May/June 2003 - A new Australian RF radiation standard [230] and a companion Q and A document are discussed in International Note 12. - A survey of RF radiation levels around GSM base stations in Australia [231]. - Rats exposed to mobile phone RF radiation showed behavioral changes, but only if the exposure was intense enough to raise body temperature [229]. - Further studies on the claim that low level exposure to mobile phone RF radiation caused physiological effects in humans [228]. - Scientists reported [226] that they could not replicate their own earlier finding [117] of RF radiation effects on human reaction time. - A fourth letter to the editor, and author's response [216B], concerning the '02 Utteridge et al report [197] that the '97 mouse lymphoma study of Repacholi could not be replicated. - Exposure of human white blood cells to 1900 MHz RF radiation did not produce genotoxic injury [227]. v4.8, Jan-Apr 2003: - A report on mobile phone base station RF radiation safety from the U.S. NCRP [225]. - A computational method for evaluating RF radiation levels around base station antennas [224]. - Rats exposed to 1600 MHz RF radiation for lifetime showed no evidence of genotoxic injury [223]. - Clarified wording in Q12, Q13 and Q14C. - A Swedish study on mobile phone use and brain cancer is published for a third [221] and fourth time [222]. - Exposure of rats to RF radiation was reported to cause blood- brain barrier leakage and nerve damage [219]. - Eight days of exposure of rats to RF radiation was reported to cause genotoxic injury, but shorter or longer exposures did not [218]. - Exposure of human white blood cells to thermal levels of RF radiation was reported to cause genotoxic injury [217]. - Three letters to the editor, and authors' response, concerning the 2002 Utteridge et al report that the 1997 mouse lymphoma study of Repacholi could not be replicated [216A]. - A review of biophysical limits for nonthermal effects of RF radiation [215]. - A review of the reports of effects of mobile phones on brain function and behavior [214] concluded that: "Most of the reported effects are small as long as the radiation intensity remains in the nonthermal range." - Mobile phone use was associated with a drop in melatonin excretion [213]. - A report from the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment on "Managing the effects of radiofrequency transmitters" [212]. --------------------------------------------------------------------- ** Contents 1. What are mobile phone base stations; and are there health hazards associated with living, working, playing, or going to school near one? 2. Are scientists seriously concerned about possible health risks from mobile phone base station antennas? 3. Do the differences between cell phones, PCS phones, and other types of portable (mobile) phones matter when evaluating the potential impacts of base station antennas on human health? 4. Do the differences between mobile phone base station antennas and other types of radio and TV broadcast antennas matter when evaluating their potential impacts on human health? 5. Do mobile phone base station antennas produce radiation? 6. Is the non-ionizing radiation (radio-frequency radiations) from mobile phone base station antennas similar to ionizing radiations such as X-rays? 7. Is the radio-frequency radiation from mobile phone base station antennas similar to the "EMF" produced by power lines? 8. Are there safety guidelines for mobile phone base station antennas? 9. Is there a scientific basis for these radiofrequency radiation safety guidelines? 10. Are all the safety guidelines the same? 11. Does the U. S. have safety guidelines for mobile phone base stations? 12. Can mobile phone base station antennas meet the safety guidelines? 13. Are there circumstances where mobile phone base station antennas could fail to meet the safety guidelines? 14. What siting criteria are required to ensure that a mobile phone base station antenna will meet safety guidelines? A. What are some general siting criteria? B. What are the difference between a high-gain antenna and a low-gain antenna? C. What do the phrases "antenna gain", "transmitter power" and "effective radiated power (ERP)" mean? D. What is the difference between the RF patterns for high-gain and low- gain antennas? E. Is it safe to live on the top floor of a building that has a mobile phone base station antenna on it? F. Are use restrictions or "set-backs" required around mobile phone base station antenna sites and what is the "minimum safe distance"? G. What precautions need to be taken when working around mobile phone base station antennas? H. How do you assess compliance with radio-frequency radiation guidelines for mobile phone base stations? 15. Does everyone agree with the current RF safety guidelines? A. Does the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency think that the current safety guidelines for mobile (cellular) phones are adequate? B. Has an Australian group claimed that there is evidence that living near TV broadcast towers causes an increase in childhood leukemia? C. Has an Israeli epidemiologist claimed that there is evidence that low- level RF exposure causes a variety of health effects? D. Has a British group reported excess leukemia and lymphoma around a high-power FM/TV broadcast antenna? E. Has a University of Washington (Seattle, U.S.A) researcher claimed that there is evidence that RF exposure from base stations is hazardous? F. What about the claims on British, American and French TV that there is new data suggesting that cell phones might cause cancer? G. What have various expert scientific panels (UK, US, Canada, Netherlands, France) said about the safety of mobile phone base stations? H. Did microwave irradiation of the US Embassy in Moscow cause cancer or other injuries to people working there? 16. Are there epidemiological studies showing that RF radiation exposure from mobile phone base stations is safe? 17. Could modulated RF radiation produce different effects than the continuous-wave (CW) RF radiation used in many laboratory studies? 18. Are there groups (such as children or the elderly) that are more sensitive to the effects of RF radiations? 19. Will mobile phone base station antennas affect heart pacemakers, cause headaches, etc? A. Will mobile phone base station antennas affect medical devices such as cardiac pacemakers? B. Do cell phones or cell phone base stations cause headaches? C. Does radio-frequency radiation from cell phones or cell phone base stations cause physiological or behavioral changes? 20. Can radio-frequency radiation produce biological effects? 21. Is there any replicated evidence that RF radiation can cause cancer? 22. Is there any evidence that RF radiation can cause miscarriages or birth defects? 23. What do the most recent scientific laboratory studies of RF radiation and cancer show? A. What about the report that exposure of mice to cell phone radiation causes lymphoma? B. Has anyone else exposed rodents to cell phone radiation to see if they got cancer? C. What about the report that exposure of mice to cell phone radiation causes damage to the DNA in their brain cells? 24. Where can I get more information? 25. Who wrote these Questions and Answers?