Debunking The NBN Radiation Myth

There is often much-ado created when new communications towers – particularly for mobile internet and telephony – are proposed for erection, and the usual NIMBY-like behaviour starts.

The two most common complaints are “it looks bad and ruins our views” and “the radiation will kill us”.

The visual amenity of communications tower is a valid point, but there are ways and means to limit their visual impact in certain circumstances.

On the radiation front, a particularly dopey, unresearched, and unbalanced news report appeared on WIN News Ballarat a few days ago, presenting only one side of the story, in regards to Wendy McClelland, who believes the radiation from the proposed NBN tower in her town of Dereel will “kill her”.

The build of the tower in Dereel has been a long running saga.

The story was picked up and debunked by Nick Ross at the ABC Technology website, which was further elaborated upon over at Delimiter.

I even wrote about the issue myself a little over twelve months ago.

No mention was made of Wendy McClelland's threat to sue supporters of the tower, as highlighted on Dereel’s own community website. Absolutely zero air time was given to the opposing side of the argument, that there is no evidence such radiation causes health issues in humans.

So in the interests of balance, I present the following.

The World Health Organisation has a very clear stance on the topic:

“Recent surveys have shown that the RF exposures from base stations range from 0.002% to 2% of the levels of international exposure guidelines, depending on a variety of factors such as the proximity to the antenna and the surrounding environment. This is lower or comparable to RF exposures from radio or television broadcast transmitters.”

“Recent surveys have indicated that RF exposures from base stations and wireless technologies in publicly accessible areas (including schools and hospitals) are normally thousands of times below international standards.”

“In fact, due to their lower frequency, at similar RF exposure levels, the body absorbs up to five times more of the signal from FM radio and television than from base stations.”

“Further, radio and television broadcast stations have been in operation for the past 50 or more years without any adverse health consequence being established.”

“Media or anecdotal reports of cancer clusters around mobile phone base stations have heightened public concern. It should be noted that geographically, cancers are unevenly distributed among any population. Given the widespread presence of base stations in the environment, it is expected that possible cancer clusters will occur near base stations merely by chance. Moreover, the reported cancers in these clusters are often a collection of different types of cancer with no common characteristics and hence unlikely to have a common cause.”

“Likewise, long-term animal studies have not established an increased risk of cancer from exposure to RF fields, even at levels that are much higher than produced by base stations and wireless networks.”

“Some individuals have reported that they experience non-specific symptoms upon exposure to RF fields emitted from base stations and other EMF devices. As recognized in a recent WHO fact sheet “Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity”, EMF has not been shown to cause such symptoms. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize the plight of people suffering from these symptoms.”

“Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.”

From this article, Cancer.org feels very much the same way:

“Some people have expressed concern that living, working, or going to school near a cell phone tower might increase the risk of cancer or other health problems. At this time, there is very little evidence to support this idea. In theory, there are some important points that would argue against cellular phone towers being able to cause cancer.”

“First, the energy level of radiofrequency (RF) waves is relatively low, especially when compared with the types of radiation that are known to increase cancer risk, such as gamma rays, x-rays, and ultraviolet (UV) light. The energy of RF waves given off by cell phone towers is not enough to break chemical bonds in DNA molecules, which is how these stronger forms of radiation may lead to cancer.”

“A second issue has to do with wavelength. RF waves have long wavelengths, which can only be concentrated to about an inch or two in size. This makes it unlikely that the energy from RF waves could be concentrated enough to affect individual cells in the body.”

“Third, even if RF waves were somehow able to affect cells in the body at higher doses, the level of RF waves present at ground level is very low — well below the recommended limits. Levels of energy from RF waves near cell phone towers are not significantly different than the background levels of RF radiation in urban areas from other sources, such as radio and television broadcast stations.”

“For these reasons, most scientists agree that cell phone antennas or towers are unlikely to cause cancer.”

The only particularly valid point to re-highlight here is this one:

“Some individuals have reported that they experience non-specific symptoms upon exposure to RF fields emitted from base stations and other EMF devices. As recognized in a recent WHO fact sheet “Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity”, EMF has not been shown to cause such symptoms. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize the plight of people suffering from these symptoms.”

It is most definitely important to understand that Wendy McClelland likely falls into this category, but it should also be equally as important to point out that “EMF has not been shown to cause such symptoms.”

In a similar case in the United States, it was adjudged that “these symptoms may be due to pre-existing psychiatric conditions as well as stress reactions as a result of worrying about believed EMF health effects, rather than EMF exposure.”

The towers are not killing Wendy McClelland, and neither will the proposed new tower.

Ironically, the transmission tower erected in the early 1960s – (over fifty years ago) – for the then BTV6 to actually broadcast this story, is exposing at least as much, and probably more radiation to the people of Dereel than the proposed NBN tower ever will.

How about you report both sides WIN News?