Cell Tower Health Effects

The number of cell towers in the U.S. has risen from about 900 in 1985 to over 308,334 cell sites in service in 2016, according to CTIA. The telecommunications industry places cell towers in cities but also leases rooftops on schools, churches, businesses and apartment buildings with antennas for one or more carriers. This co-location can create clusters of antennas with different frequencies in close proximity to where people live and work. These base stations emit a continuous stream of microwave radiofrequencies exposing residents to whole body exposures.

The majority of published studies in different countries have shown a relationship between distance from base stations and a variety of health complaints. They have found that the closer to the towers people live there is an increase incidence of reported symptoms including headache, lack of concentration, memory loss, irritability, depression, insomnia, fatigue, loss of libido, nausea, lack of appetite. These are the same symptoms people who have electrosensitivity report.

In the latest study from India by Zothansiama et al (2017), researchers examined abnormalities in blood samples in people living at different distances from cell towers.  They identified a significant increase blood cell damage in those living within 80 meters of a cell tower versus those living greater than 300 meters from a cell tower. They found 1) A significant increase in micronuclei, which are small remnants of DNA nuclear material appearing within blood cells and a sensitive indicator of genotoxicity and chromosomal abnormalities 2) An increase in lipid peroxidation indicating free radical formation and cell membrane damage 3) A reduction in levels of internally produced antioxidant capacity (glutathione, catalase and superoxide dismutase).

The author concluded “The present study demonstrated that staying near the mobile base stations and continuous use of mobile phones damage the DNA, and it may have an adverse effect in the long run. The persistence of DNA unrepaired damage leads to genomic instability which may lead to several health disorders including the induction of cancer.” As more base stations are deployed with higher density and with ubiquitous wireless devices at home it will be difficult to find control groups that have not been significantly exposed. The Antenna Search website allows people to identify registered cell towers in their area.

A brief review of the conclusions from some of the research listed is below:

Santini, in 2002 French study, reported an increase in fatigue at 300 meters from the cell towers and remaining symptoms at 200 meters. A follow up study by Santini in 2003 revealed that older subjects reported more symptoms and were more sensitive. Duration of exposure of 1 to 5 years did not have an effect on frequency of symptoms but after 5 years there was a significant increase in irritability reported.

In 2004, Wolf  and Wolf, investigated the rates of cancer versus distance from cell towers in small towns in Israel. He found the rate of cancer incidence was 129 cases per 10,000 persons per year in those living within 350 meters of a cell tower versus a rate of 16-31/10,000 in those living greater than 350 meters from the cell tower. Eger et al. in 2004 also found an increase in the development of new cancer cases within a 10 year period if residents lived within 400 meters of a cell tower. Their results revealed that within 5 years of operation of a transmitting station the relative risk of cancer development tripled in residents near the cell towers compared to residents outside the area.

In an Austrian study, Hutter in 2006 looked at cognitive performance, insomnia and well being in relation to power density of radiofrequency radiation versus reported symptoms in those in rural vs urban settings for more than a year.  His study showed an increase in health effects with higher radiofrequency exposure. Important conclusions were that these complaints were independent of patients concern over health effects and that at levels well below current safety standards.

In an independent cell tower study from Japan, published in 2014, researchers Shinjyo and Shinjyo looked at health effects of residents living in a condominium complex from 1998-2009, noting health symptoms before placement of cell towers, during cell tower functioning and after removal of different antennas on the rooftops. They found a significant development of symptoms with placement of the cell towers and a significant reduction in symptoms after removal. The most frequent symptoms were fatigue, loss of motivation, headaches, eye pain, deteriorated eyesight, sleep disturbances, dizziness, jitteriness, rapid heat rate, muscle aches and nasal bleeding.

Some Published Literature

  1. Impact of radiofrequency radiation on DNA damage and antioxidants in peripheral blood lymphocytes of humans residing in the vicinity of mobile phone base stations. (2017) Zothansiama et al. Electromagn Biol Med. 2017 Aug 4:1-11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28777669    
  2.   Survey of People Living at the Vicinity of Cellular Base Transmitting Stations in an Urban and Rural Locality. (2016) Sivani Saravanamuttu.  International Journal of Current Research react-text: 55 8(3):28186-28193. March https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301677652_SURVEY_OF_PEOPLE_LIVING_AT_THE_VICINITY_OF_CELLULAR_BASE_TRANSMITTING_STATIONS_IN_AN_URBAN_AND_A_RURAL_LOCALITY
  3. Effect of electromagnetic radiations from mobile phone base stations on general health and salivary function. (2016) Singh,K et al. J Int Soc Prev Community Dent. 2016 Jan-Feb;6(1):54-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=PMC4784065
  4. ** Please note: Statement of Retraction: Health effects of living near mobile phone base transceiver station (BTS) antennae: a report from Isfahan, Iran. Subsequent to publication it has been determined that the article contains overlap in the data presented in the results section with: Shahab A. Alazawi (2011) Mobile Phone Base Stations Health Effects, Diyala Journal of Medicine, 1:1, 44–52. Statement of Retraction: Health effects of living near mobile phone base transceiver station (BTS) antennae: a report from Isfahan, Iran. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15368378.2018.1492079
  5. Significant Decrease of Clinical Symptoms after Mobile Phone Base Station Removal –An Intervention Study. (2014). Tetsuharu Shinjyo and Akemi Shinjyo. http://www.slt.co/Downloads/News/1086/Shinjyo%202014%20Significant%20Decrease%20of%20Clinical%20Symptoms%20after%20Mobile%20Phone%20Base%20Station%20Removal%20.pdf
  6. Health Implications of Electromagnetic Fields, Mechanisms of Action, and Research Needs. (2014)  Sarika Singh and Neeru Kapoor Advances in Biology. Volume 2014 (2014). https://www.hindawi.com/archive/2014/198609/
  7. Subjective symptoms related to GSM radiation from mobile phone base stations: a cross-sectional study. (2013) Enrique A Navarro. BMJ Open 2013;3:e003836. http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/12/e003836.full
  8. [Increased occurrence of nuclear cataract in the calf after erection of a mobile phone base station]. Hässig M1, Jud F, Spiess B. Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd. 2012 Feb;154(2):82-6.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22287140
  9. Mortality by neoplasia and cellular telephone base stations in the Belo Horizonte municipality, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. (2011) A Dode et al. Science of The Total Environment. Volume 409, Issue 19 react-text: 71 , /react-text react-text: 72 1 September 2011 /react-text react-text: 73 , Pages 3649-3665 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969711005754
  10. Wireless communication fields and non-specific symptoms of ill health: a literature review. (2011) Röösli M et al. Wien Med Wochenschr. 2011 May;161(9-10):240-50  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21638215
  11. Epidemiological evidence for a health risk from mobile phone base stations. (2010) Khurana VG. Int J Occup Environ Health. 2010 Jul-Sep;16(3):263-7 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20662418
  12. Biological effects from exposure to electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell tower base stations and other antenna arrays. (2010) Page 374- Biological Effects at Low intensity)   Blake Levitt, Henry Lai. Environmental Reviews, 2010, 18(NA): 369-395. http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/full/10.1139/A10-018#.WYUlOHeZNo4
  13. Systematic review on the health effects of exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from mobile phone base stations. (2010) Röösli M et al. Bull World Health Organ. 2010 Dec 1;88(12):887-896. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21124713
  14. Mobile phone base stations and adverse health effects: phase 1 of a population-based, cross-sectional study in Germany. (2009) Blettner M et al. Occup Environ Med. 2009 Feb;66(2):118-23. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19017702
  15. Neurobehavioral effects among inhabitants around mobile phone base stations. (2007) Abdel-Rassoul G. Neurotoxicology. 2007 Mar;28(2):434-40. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16962663
  16. Subjective symptoms, sleeping problems, and cognitive performance in subjects living near mobile phone base stations. (2007) H-P Hutter. Occup Environ Med 2006;63:307-313. http://oem.bmj.com/content/63/5/307.abstract?ijkey=9ae18f97484bfbf95e6f8c3eb92b69fe356ef640&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha
  17. Health risks from mobile phone base stations. (2006) D Coggon. Occup Environ Med. 2006 May; 63(5): 298–299. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2092494/
  18. [Subjective symptoms reported by people living in the vicinity of cellular phone base stations: review]. (2004) Bortkiewicz A. Poland. Med Pr. 2004;55(4):345-51. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15620045
  19. The Influence of Being Physically Near to a Cell Phone Transmission Mast on the Incidence of Cancer. (2004)  Egger H et al.  January 2004. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/241473738_The_Influence_of_Being_Physically_Near_to_a_Cell_Phone_Transmission_Mast_on_the_Incidence_of_Cancer
  20. Increased Incidence of Cancer Near a Cell Phone Transmitter Station. (2004) Wolf and Wolf. Kaplan Medical Center, Israel. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=
  21. [Symptoms experienced by people in vicinity of base stations: II/ Incidences of age, duration of exposure, location of subjects in relation to the antennas and other electromagnetic factors]. (2003)  Santini R. Pathol Biol (Paris). 2003 Sep;51(7):412-5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12948762
  22. [Investigation on the health of people living near mobile telephone relay stations: I/Incidence according to distance and sex]. (2002) Santini R. Pathol Biol (Paris). 2002 Jul;50(6):369-73. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12168254
  23. Radiofrequency (RF) sickness in the Lilienfeld Study: an effect of modulated microwaves? (1998) Johnson Liakouris AG. Arch Environ Health. 1998 May-Jun;53(3):236-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=PMID%3A+9814721
  24. Microwave radiation absorption: behavioral effects. (1991) D’Andrea JA. Health 1991 Jul;61(1):29-40. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2061046
  25. Trends in nonionizing electomagnetic radiation bioeffects research and related occupational health aspects. (1977) Dodge CH, Glaser ZR. J Microw Power. 1977 Dec;12(4):319-4 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/249341
  26. Increased incidence of cancer near a cell-phone transmitter station. Wolf, R., Wolf, D. International Journal of Cancer Prevention Vol 1, Number 2, April 2004. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228490892_Increased_incidence_of_cancer_near_a_cell-phone_transmitter_station  


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