Do cell phone towers present a health hazard?

brianacook

Stunt Coordinator
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Jun 13, 1999
Messages
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I recently found out that a call phone tower is to be erected on a hill behind our house. Since many communities oppose the towers saying that the emitted radiation can cause cancer, I figured I would ask the members of the HTF if this is true. Please base your answers on fact and not speculation. Thank you.

Brian
 

MickeS

Producer
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There have been investigations about whether the radiation from the cellphone itself is dangerous, but nothing conclusive. Basically, it's all speculation at this point.

I have never seen anything about the towers being dangerous.

/Mike
 

Craig Robertson

Supporting Actor
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May 12, 1999
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982
Since many communities oppose the towers saying that the emitted radiation can cause cancer
that may be their concern, but they cannot legally use that as a way to block construction. the Telecommunications Act of 1996 specificly excludes it.

the ERP (effective radiated power) of a cell site is really fairly low, since the cells are designed to cover a relatively small area. the way the antennas are designed,you can actually have a lower signal strength close to the tower than farther away. think of it like a lighthouse, as you approach the structure, you drop under the beam of light and it becomes dimmer.
 

Scott Merryfield

Film Editor
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If the tower fell over on you, it would definitely cause a few health problems.

There was a recent battle over erecting a cell tower in our city. A landowner wanted to rent some vacant land for a tower. The grounds for preventing the tower were not because of health concerns, but over the appearance of the tower in a mostly residential neighborhood. The City Council denied the tower, and are reworking the zoning ordinances to prevent this from happening in the future.
In our case, though, there is plenty of business and commercial district space to erect a tower, so the cell companies have no problem getting coverage in the area.
 

Kevin P

Screenwriter
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Jan 18, 1999
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If the tower fell over on you, it would definitely cause a few health problems.
The biggest health concern is when someone who's driving while talking on their cell phone runs into the tower!

Seriously though, the emitted signal shouldn't be a health concern. You get more radiation when standing in front of a microwave, TV set or computer monitor, and the cell phone antenna right near your head is pelting you with more radiation then you'll ever experience from the tower.
KJP
 

Danny R

Supporting Actor
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May 23, 2000
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The human body is filled with Carbon-Hydrogen bonds. These bonds can break if exposed to any light frequency shorter than that of visible light... ie ultraviolet light, x-rays, radio frequencies, etc. With enough exposure, our bodies can fail to repair the damage and cancer can result.

So yes, cell phone towers can hurt you. However you have to consider the amount of exposure you are getting. Simply standing outside is much more likely to give you cancer (skin cancer due to ultraviolet exposure) than living near a cell tower will, because the sun puts out far more radiation that reaches us than the towers do.
 

Kevin P

Screenwriter
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These bonds can break if exposed to any light frequency shorter than that of visible light... ie ultraviolet light, x-rays, radio frequencies, etc.
Actually, radio frequencies are a longer wavelength than visible light.

The electromagnetic spectrum includes, from longest wavelength to shortest: radio waves, microwaves, infrared, optical, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma-rays. Cell phones use frequencies in the radio waves spectrum. The most dangerous wavelengths are ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays, as you said, those shorter than visible light.

Exposure to strong EM signals can be harmful since they can cause heating, which is why microwave ovens are shielded (you'd cook yourself if you stood in front of one otherwise!), regardless of wavelength. But cell phone signals are too weak to cause this.

KJP
 

Danny R

Supporting Actor
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Thanks for the correction. For some reason I thought that radio was adjacent to ultraviolet.
 

Todd Hochard

Effects Supervisor
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On the frequency scale, it goes RF, Microwave, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, x-ray, gamma (generically speaking), from lowest to highest. Higher frequency energy tends to do more damage than lower (at a given power level).
Most new cell towers, running CDMA, operate at 1.8 or 1.9Ghz. The cell site output is typically a couple of watts, if that. Now, consider that for many of today's phones, they can't even maintain enough signal strength inside a house to keep a call, I think we have little to worry about. At least I hope so, since I've lived about 800 yards from one for the last eight years!

It is likely in the milliwatt range or less by the time it reaches your large melon head.
Contrast that with your typical microwave running at 900-1000 watts (while you stand in front of it waiting for your lunch to heat up), or UHF HD stations running at one MILLION watts.
The whole NIMBY thing is interesting. If a company doesn't have good coverage in your neighborhood, they suck. If they try to put a tower to correct this, they suck. No win situation.
Consider this- if you live in a mountainous region, with a high concentration of granite around, you probably receive more gamma (damaging) radiation in a year, than you'll get in a lifetime from a cell tower one mile away, inside your house.
Food for thought. Twinkies are a 100x greater risk to the average American (myself included
).
Todd
 

Todd Hochard

Effects Supervisor
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Craig,
Gee, what business are you in??
I was totally guessing my figure for that (the gamma radiation figures are accurate- inadvertantly measured in the White Mountains of New Hampshire- oops!). So, power drops in half for every 3db drop, so that's .000007x1mW or 7nanowatts.
No wonder my Sprint PCS coverage stinks.

Todd
 

Craig Robertson

Supporting Actor
Joined
May 12, 1999
Messages
982
No wonder my Sprint PCS coverage stinks.
one of the problems with 1900MHz is it is attenuated to a much greater degree by terrain and distance than 800MHz. the 1900MHz carriers need 3 to 4 times as many sites as the 800MHz carriers, and even then they still have a problem with building penetration.
Todd- good call on my line of work.
 

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