Epidemiological Evidence for a Health Risk from Mobile Phone Base Stations

This is the first published expert review of epidemiological studies on the potential health risks of populations living near cellular antennas. A new study in the International Journal of Occupational Environmental Health reports increased cancer and neurological health risks. It was not until 2003 before there was enough information for community based studies to be credibly done.

Elizabeth Kelley
Electromagnetic Safety Alliance, Inc.
Tucson, Arizona

Khurana V Hardell L Everaert J Bortkiewicz A Carlberg M Ahonen M.
Epidemiological Evidence for a Health Risk from Mobile Phone Base Stations.
Int J Occup Env Health:16- 3, JUL/SEP 2010, p 263-267.
from cell towers. Vini Khurana (Australia,
neurosurgeon) and Lennart Hardell (Sweden, oncologist) have published
a summary of ten studies that reported health effects of populations living near cell towers.

They found risks for cancer and neurological disease in eight out of ten studies -
within 500 meters of the cell antennas.

It is important to remember that not all cell tower antennas are the same, and the
RF exposures around them can vary widely. Major macrocell sites can emit 6000 watts
or more, and smaller sites can be less than 2000 watts. The distance outward from a cell
tower that creates the 'zone of RF impact' needs to be assessed on a site-specific basis.

Human populations are increasingly exposed to microwave/radiofrequency (RF) emissions from wireless communication technology, including mobile phones and their base stations. By searching PubMed,we identified a total of 10 epidemiological studies that assessed for putative health effects of mobile phonebase stations. Seven of these studies explored the association
between base station proximity and neurobehavioral effects and three investigated cancer. We
found that eight of the 10 studies reported increased prevalence of adverse neurobehavioral symptoms or cancer in populations living at distances < 500 meters from base stations. None of the studies reported exposure above accepted international guidelines, suggesting that current guidelines may be inadequate in protecting the health of human populations. We believe
that comprehensive epidemiological studies of longterm mobile phone base station exposure are urgently required to more definitively understand its health impact.

Key words: base stations; electromagnetic field(EMF); epidemiology; health effects; mobile phone;radiofrequency (RF); electromagnetic radiation.

The paper cites the BioInitiative Report findings and conclusions on the
inadequacy of existing public health standards for cell tower radiation,
and supports the BioInitiative Report recommendation (of 0.1 microwatt
per centimeter squared) by citing new publications on cell tower risks.

"In August 2007, an international working group of scientists, researchers,and public health policy professionals (the BioInitiative Working Group) released its report on EMF and health.21It raised evidence-based concerns about the safety of existing public limits that regulate how much EMF is allowable from power lines, cellular phones,base stations, and many other sources of EMF exposure in daily life. The BioInitiative Report 21 provided
detailed scientific information on health impacts when people were exposed to electromagnetic radiation hundreds or even thousands of times below limits currently established by the FCC and International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection in Europe (ICNIRP). The authors reviewed more than2000 scientific studies and reviews, and have concluded
that: (1) the existing public safety limits are inadequate to protect public health; and (2) from a
public health policy standpoint, new public safety limits and limits on further deployment of risky technologies are warranted based on the total weight of evidence.21A precautionary limit of 1 mW/m2(0.1microW/cm2or 0.614 V/m) was suggested in Section
17 of the BioInitiative Report to be adopted for outdoor,cumulative RF exposure.21This limit is a cautious approximation based on the results of several human RF-EMF studies in which no substantial adverse effects on well being were found at low exposures akin to power densities of less than 0.5 – 1mW/m2.2,5,22–26RF-EMF exposure at distances > 500 m from the types of mobile phone base stations reviewed herein should fall below the precautionary limit of 0.614 V/m."


21. Sage C, Carpenter D, eds. BioInitiative Report: A rationale for a biologically-based public exposure standard for electromagnetic fields (ELF and RF) [Internet]. 2007 [cited April 3, 2009].Available from:http://www.bioinitiative.org.
22. Kundi M, Hutter HP. Mobile phone base stations - Effects on wellbeing and health. Pathophysiol. 2009;16:123-35.
23. Henrich S, Ossig A, Schlittmeier S, Hellbrück J. ElektromagnetischeFelder einer UMTS-Mobilfunkbasisstation und
mögliche Auswirkungen auf die Befindlichkeit—eine experimentelle Felduntersuchung [Electromagnetic fields of a UMTS mobile phone base station and possible effects on health –results from an experimental field study]. Umwelt Med Forsch Prax. 2007;12:171-180.
24. Thomas S, Kühnlein A, Heinrich S, Praml G, Nowak D, von Kries R, Radon K. Personal exposure to mobile phone frequencies and well-being in adults: A cross-sectional study based on dosimetry. Bioelectromagnetics. 2008;29:463-470.
25. Zwamborn APM, Vossen SHJA, van Leersum BJAM, OuwensMA, Makel WN. Effects of global communication system radiofrequency fields on well being and cognitive functions of human subjects with and without subjective complaints. Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), Physics and Electronics Laboratory: The Hague, Netherlands, 2003.
26. Regel SJ, Negovetic S, Röösli M, Berdinas V, Schuderer J, HussA, Lott U, Kuster N, Achermann P. UMTS base station like exposure,well being and cognitive performance. Environ Health Perspect. 2006;114:1270-1275.

Elizabeth Kelley


Take care when deciding locations for cell phone towers


Informant: Martin Weatherall

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