Over 190 million cell phones are in use in the United States,
with users often scrambling to another room, building or street
to get better reception. As consumers, it is frustrating when
your cell phone reception gets dropped or is too garbled to
hear. But beyond "Can you hear me now?" is another considerably
more important question:|
Are the cell towers and antennas
popping up all over the country - -the very ones that we depend
on for clear reception and a wide coverage area -- safe?
The government and cell phone companies maintain cell towers
(and phones) are safe.
This may have been a moot issue in the past when the towers were
sparse and limited to obscure cornfields and hilltops. But the
number of these cell "sites," as they're called, has increased
tenfold since 1994. Among the more than 175,000 cell sites in
the United States are antennas on schools, churches, firehouses,
cemeteries and national parks. There's even a cell tower near
Old Faithful in Yellowstone.
"Don't Put That Tower
"Our companies are always running into this
conundrum, which is, 'We want cell phone service, but don't put
that tower here.' When you're dealing with communications
through the air, you have to have antennas and towers," said Joe
Farren, a spokesman for CTIA-The Wireless Association, the
industry's trade group.
Aesthetics aside, the primary
reason most people don't want cell sites near their homes and
communities is because they're afraid of the potential health
Already, more than 500 cases have sprung up
across the country in which people have tried to stop cell phone
sites from being constructed, according to Washington attorney
Ed Donohue, who represents several cell phone companies.
Most of the time, the cell phone companies win because, as it
stands, federal law does not allow rejection of a tower based on
Cell Phone Towers: Risky or Not?
If you ask the government, no studies have shown conclusive
evidence that radio-frequency emissions, a form of
electromagnetic radiation (EMR), from cell towers are harmful.
According to the Food and Drug Administration:
"RF [Radio frequency] exposure on the ground is much less
than exposure very close to the antenna and in the path of
the transmitted radio signal. In fact, ground-level exposure
from such antennas is typically thousands of times less than
the exposure levels recommended as safe by expert
organizations. So exposure to nearby residents would be well
within safety margins."
companies also maintain that no risks exist from the towers.
"There are no health risks posed by the towers. Independent
scientific panels around the world have reached this
conclusion," said Russ Stromberg, senior manager of development
other studies seem to tell a different story, with findings such
- A study by Dr. Bruce Hocking in Australia found
that children living near three TV and FM broadcast towers
(similar to cell towers) in Sydney had more than twice the
rate of leukemia than children living more than seven miles
- Says Dr. Neil Cherry, a biophysicist at
Lincoln University in New Zealand:
- "People living in
the vicinity of cell site base stations suffer from
effects such as miscarriage, cardiac disruption, sleep
disturbance and chronic fatigue could well be early
indicators of the adverse health effects. Symptoms of
reduced immune system competence, cardiac problems,
especially of the arrhythmic type, and cancers,
especially brain tumor and leukemia, are probable."
Symptoms can include mood swings, indigestion, ulcers and
- Dairy cows that were kept in close
proximity to a TV and cell phone tower for two years had a
reduction in milk production along with increased health
problems and behavioral abnormalities. In an experiment, one
cow with abnormal behavior was taken away from the antenna
and the behavior subsided within five days. When the cow was
brought back near the antenna, the symptoms returned.