Mobile phone towers fade into that place above my eye-line where I don’t tend to take any notice… until now! After my home Wifi investigation, it dawned on me that these towers (also known as base stations and antennas) are just like my active wireless router at home but on a massive scale. They are powered 24/7, connecting our 3G and 4G devices, emitting high-frequency (microwave) radiation while we’re out and about, whether we like it or not.
If you live in the city or suburbs, you may be surprised to see how many towers are around you. Mobile phone technology uses high-frequency radio wave bands. The higher the frequency used, the less distance the shorter wavelengths travel requiring many towers to be dotted across our landscape. Typically, towers in urban areas are approx. 2km to 5km apart. More towers equal better coverage and higher frequencies mean higher levels of RF (radio frequency) radiation for us.
Out and about with my meter.
Using the website Oztowers.com.au, I can see the towers in my immediate area. You can see on this map the antennas are owned by Telstra (T), Optus (O) and Vodafone (V).
With my Acousticom 2 Meter, I took readings at some of these locations to compare with the levels of RF radiation from my Wifi router at home. Here’s what I found.
Comparative Readings – 1 meter from my home Wifi router.
Comparative Readings – 10 centimetres from my home Wifi router.
Readings from these last two locations are equal to sitting on top of my Wifi router! The middle photo here is a school with a church on site. I can’t see the antennas, so I assume they are somewhere high up on the steeple. At the shopping strip on the right, I’m standing right in the firing line of the angle of the panel antennas on top of the apartments.
Keep in mind this meter is designed to highlight levels at which people with Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity start experiencing discomfort like headaches, tinnitus, fatigue etc. My “At Home Target” of 0.05 – 0.1 volts per metre is impossible to maintain out and about in the central hubs of my suburb.
Why are antennas (towers) allowed within school grounds, hospitals and other community hubs?
The levels of radiation from these towers are still well below Australian Standards. For the frequency bands we currently use, the public exposure limits set by ARPANSA are between 41 and 61 volts per metre. Remember my meter only goes to 6 V/m.
We need to be aware that these standards are based on the thermal effects of radiation, ie when tissue starts to heat (as a microwave would cook food). They don’t take into account the possible biological effects of long-term exposure to these lower powered levels of high radio frequency which are so now so commonplace in our urban communities.
In 1994 the US Airforce published a report on the biological effects of Radio Frequency / Microwave radiation and safety standards. Here’s an except acknowledging the existence of non-thermal disturbances in human tissue;
“Nonthermal responses can be less noticeable and are often more difficult to explain than thermal effects. These responses are related to the disturbances in the tissue not caused by heating. Electromagnetic fields can interact with the bioelectric functions of the irradiated human tissue. Research conducted in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe suggests that the human body may be more sensitive to the nonthermal effects of RF/MW radiation.”
A not so fun fact.
Telcos can put antennas wherever they like.
Justifying tower locations in relation to safety standards, here’s what Telstra has to say on their website;
That is why from a public health perspective telecommunications facilities are permissible in any environment, including on apartment buildings and hospitals, and even within schools grounds.
The safety standard limits the network signal strength to a level low enough to protect all people, in all environments, 24-hours a day. The safety limit itself, recommended by the WHO, has a significant safety margin, or precautionary approach built into it.
Hmmm to think, these safety limits were last reviewed 1998, that’s 20 years ago. In 2011, WHO (the very same organisation) has since classified Radio Frequency Radiation as a Class 2B Possible Human Carcinogen!
The safety limits are recommended to WHO by the International Commision on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). Back in 2008, the Chairman for ICNIRP Poalo Vecchia attended a Radiation Research Trust conference in the UK where he was quoted as saying;
“the ICNIRP guidelines are neither mandatory prescriptions for safety, the “last word” on the issue nor are they defensive walls for Industry or others.”
Is anyone taking this seriously?
Yes! Many countries have adopted far more stringent public exposure limits as shown in this chart below. The ICNIRP safety standard adopted by Australia (and most other western nations) is represented as the red bar on the right.
Our safety standards are 1000 times greater than that of Bulgaria, 416 times greater than Italy, 100 times greater than China and 10 times greater than India.
In 2008, The European Parliament passed a resolution based on recommendations from The Bio-Initiative Report to tighten restrictions on levels of public exposure. Here is this preferred public exposure safety limit of 0.2 volts per meter (for 1800 MHz) shown on my meter.
This recommended level is 30 TIMES LOWER than the readings taken in my area!
This is the first time I’ve ever considered RF Microwave exposure in choosing where to live. At my previous address, the reading on the footpath outside my house from the phone towers nearby was greater than that of my Wifi ON reading indoors!
Using my meter to house hunt was a great tool. I’ve only moved 4 km away and I’m very happy with the 0.01 V/m reading in my new street!
This is a great result, but I know it’s not permanent. The rollout of 5G over the next few years will signal the rise of outdoor ambient levels for all urban dwelling Australians.
What will 5G mean for our exposure levels?
The Australian Government sells radio frequency bands to Telcos. To incorporate 5G into the mix of existing technologies (including 3G & 4G), we need to go higher into available radio frequency bands to accommodate 5G. So far we are looking at the frequencies of 3.6 GigaHertz and 26 GigaHertz. As we move into higher frequencies, the waveforms become even shorter and more antenna locations will be required to achieve the desired coverage. Remember the shorter the waveform, the more intense the wave and the less distance it travels. Here we can compare the difference in a range of approximate wavelengths for frequencies we currently use and the first of our new 5G frequencies.
Our current distance of 2-5km between towers will reduce to only 50 – 100s of meters between antennas in the future. 5G antennas are much smaller and will eventually be able to be mounted almost anywhere you can imagine. New 5G devices will be able to speak to several antenna locations at once, which is one of the hallmarks of the increased speed and reliability of this new technology.
What can we do?
Unless there is a great community uprising against the increased levels of public RF exposure in Australia, the best thing we can do is reduce our levels of exposure inside our own homes. Our bodies rest and repair while we sleep, so it’s a good idea to eliminate all sources of RF exposure in our bedrooms (keep all phones, devices and routers out of your bedroom!). For me personally, now my awareness is raised, I’ll be taking tower locations into account when selecting child care and schools for my son.
I think the issue of wireless technology impacting public health will become a mainstream topic over the next decade as time brings to light the results of more longterm independent scientific studies. Although we have some control over our personal exposure levels at home, it doesn’t seem fair that we have no choice but to be exposed to rising levels out and about so we can download movies in less than one minute.
I’ll sign off here with an excerpt from the International Agency of Research on Cancer Virtual Press Conference in 2011, announcing the classification of Radio Frequency Radiation as a Class 2B Possible Human Carcinogen (*IARC is part of The World Health Organisation)
This excerpt specifically answers the question of mobile phone tower radiation being included in this classification. See to the end of this video for a very interesting demonstration by Dr Magda Havas comparing radiation readings from mobile phones and towers. Press play to watch.
If you are as interested in this subject as I am, please see the list of further research links to videos and articles below.
Until Next Time!… I’ll be researching mobile phone microwave radiation and the effects on children.
Further research links
Mortality by neoplasia (tumours, growths etc) and cellular telephone base stations in Belo Horizonte, Brasil. News report video.
Sweden officially recognises Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity as a functional impairment. Article by Ollie Johannson.
The Austrian Medical Council created a guideline document to aid physicians in diagnosing unspecific health complaints which could be caused by “electrosmog”. Guideline document.
Gizmodo Article – What is 5G and how will it make my life better?