If you have always wondered if cell phone towers are safe, and if there is a safe distance your home or office should maintain from these urban towers filled with antennas, this article will provide all answers.
WHAT ARE CELL PHONE TOWERS?
Cell phone towers are found in all cities in the world, and as you might have noticed they are increasing in number day after day, popping up in our urban environments in between our buildings, parks, schools and offices.
You might have noticed they have increased in numbers in your residential areas in the last two years.
Cell phone towers usually are very tall poles that hold on top few antennas, that are sometimes hidden in fake palm tree leaves (like in the above image), or simply mounted on metal rings. These antennas give us phone connection and data we can use while outside our homes, to be always connected to whatsup, google maps and any other social media channel and video streaming.
They allows us to be always connected thanks to the millimetres waves they emit 24/7.
If these cell phone towers are essential for our communication, why should they be a concern?
*Antennas are also mounted on buildings roofs.
ABOUT INTERNATIONAL SAFETY STANDARDS
Most governments worldwide follow ICNIRP guidelines for safe public exposure to electric and magnetic fields, hence to phone towers non-ionizing radiations.
Non-ionizing means that they do not change the structure of our atoms, like ionizing radiations do, but they can damage our cells and molecules.
The safety levels with respect to general population and occupational exposure to non-ionizing radiation shall not exceed the maximum permissible exposure limit established by the international commission on non-ionizing radiation protection (ICNIRP).
ICNIRP maximum levels for radio frequency levels (radiations emitted by cell phone towers) is
9 000 000 microwatts/sqm.
However, the ICNIRP limits are based on “short term thermal effects on the body and
nerve and muscle stimulation” and “skin heating” and do not take into account the biological and neurological effects on the human body. These guidelines can also be considered outdated as they were created in the 90s, when the radiations exposure in cities was not even close to the high levels of electromagnetic pollution we have today in 2022.
The “EUROPAEM EMF Guideline 2016” and Building Biology Guidelines have been created by a team of scientists and doctors, to determine safe levels of EMF (electromagnetic fields) that would not cause health issues.
The EUROPAEM EMF Guideline 2016 are for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of EMF-related health problems and illnesses and have been created based on the biological effects these radiations have on our cells, hence they include cells inflammation studies, free radicals and blood coagulation.
The Europaem and Building Biology guidelines values show that sensitive people get
symptoms within the range of 10-100 microwatts/sqm. The average levels in our cities vary from 5000 to 2 000 000 microwatts/sqm, depending on the area and amount of cell phone towers.
If you are wondering why governments do not adjust their threshold limits and carefully plan location and intensity of the millimetre waves, by following the Europaem and Building Biology guidelines..just think about the financial and political interests around the telecommunication industry and the 5G deployment.
IS THERE A SAFE DISTANCE?
In order to talk about “safe distance”, it is important to understand how cell phone towers work.
The diagram below shows the propagation of the beam from antennas mounted on phone towers. Homes located within 300 meters radius are in the high radiation zone (black area, which is an area of high intensity), and people in these homes are more prone to ill-effects of electromagnetic radiations.
It is important to consider the amount of antennas mounted on the phone towers, each emitting high radiations towards different directions.
Reason why we cannot ensure that a home is safe if placed within 300 meters, as each antenna on the phone tower will have a different angle when emitting the signals, or you might be affected by another phone tower not fully visible from your windows.
Due to the high number of phone towers, it is hard to understand with a visual inspection only if a home is located in a safe area, reason why it is important to measure the radio frequency levels with the help of a professional. Building Biologist are usually specialized in electromagnetic fields inspections as well.
If you look outside your home window and see a phone tower right in front of you, with the antennas (white rectangular boxes) looking at you, you can assume the radiations from these antennas are affecting of your home.
The levels of penetration of these signals depend also on what type of building materials and glass windows is your home made of.
For example, double and triple glazed window reflect away radio frequencies much more than an old single glaze window.
Concrete walls, stone walls, wooden walls, and buildings made of steel structure, have all different absorption rates.
I hope now it is clear why it is nearly impossible to tell if a home is in a safe location, without a proper inspection of the outdoor and indoor spaces done by a professional EMF specialist.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF EXPOSURE TO HIGH PHONE TOWERS MILLIMETER WAVES?
Many studies have been conducted to determine the health effects, and one example is the Bavarian Study in 2010 (published and peer reviewed) which has identified significantly higher health risks within 400 meters of cell phone towers.
The main symptoms reported are:
-cells inflammation and free radicals
Each person reacts differently, based on their health history, immune system and life style, however the exposure to high millimeter waves has proven to be harmful even if no symptoms appear, as the absorption of these radiations in our body is cumulative, and you never know when you will reach the tipping point.
IS 5G WORSE THAN 4G WHEN IT COMES TO EMF EXPOSURE?
5G is the infrastructure that supports the Internet of Things (IoT). While 1G through 4G were about connecting people, 5G would connect things. It purports to interconnect the things we own, and support self-driving cars, virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
To support the exponentially higher amount of data that is needed to be transmitted and the use of these new technologies, an additional massive infrastructure of antennas is believed by industry to be required in closer proximity to our homes. It is estimated that smaller cell towers, referred to as “small c ells,” will be placed every 2-10 homes.
To be able to provide a bigger bandwidth to transmit the exponentially higher amounts of data and the quick response times that are felt to be needed for some of the new technologies, part of the 5G infrastructure will rely on antennas that transmit millimeter waves.
However, the use of millimeter waves is only one part of the infrastructure of 5G, as it will also rely heavily on the existing 4G network and on further deployment of many small cell 4G LTE antennas, particularly in residential neighborhoods. New types of antennas would be used to support new complex technologies and the infrastructure will continuously change as technology evolves.
The real problem is densified 4G and 5G antennas in residential neighborhoods, which means much higher radiations from these antennas and phone towers nearby our homes.
The intensity of the frequencies our homes will be exposed to will be higher, due to amore dense 4G network that supports the 5G network (which is on demand only and activated when requested by the users).
HOW CAN WE PROTECT OUR HOMES?
Until 5G will be fully deployed we won't be able to determine protective measures, but for now, if your home is affected by high radio frequency levels, your options are:
-move home and find a quieter and less polluted neighborhood;
-shield the rooms that are most affected with EMF shielding materials, such as shielding paint, films for glass windows, shielding canopies, and more.
If you plan to shield your home, it is recommended to hire a Building Biologist to measure the existing radiations and their sources, to then create a shielding plan for each room, including materials required, installation methods and associated costs. The recommendation will be based on the level of frequencies found and their source.
REFERENCES AND SCIENTIFIC STUDIES
If you are interested to learn more, check out the below resources.
The health risks associated to EMF have been studied and combined into the BioInitiative 2012 Report.
The BioInitiative 2012 Report has been prepared by 29 authors from ten countries, ten holding medical degrees (MDs), 21 PhDs, and three MsC, MA or MPHs. Among the authors are three former presidents of the Bioelectromagnetics Society, and five full members of BEMS.
Bio Initiative Report
If you are interested in watching some videos with information about EMF and health effects, refer to links below:
-Magda Havas You Tube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxs1UgZ6DivWUfG1dX3TELw
-ERICA MALLERY BLYTHE
“The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life“ by Arthur Firstenberg.
“The Body Electric” by Becker.