Radiation debate rages on

Bonnie Tubbs
By Bonnie Tubbs, ITWeb telecoms editor.
Johannesburg, 29 May 2012

The debate around the effects of cellphone technology on human health rages on, as recent reports and developments once again bring to light the disparate camps of conviction.

A report by the UK's Health Protection Agency, based on the Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation's (AGNIR's) 2003 review, last month intimated there is no conclusive evidence that radiation from cellphones poses a threat to the public's well-being.

Concerned parties have since spoken up, accusing the telecommunications industry of propagating “half truths” and “wrong facts” and trying to “cover up the truth”.

Peter Heindl, a researcher and geopathologist for the Institute of Geopathology SA, says he is concerned at the “fundamental mistakes” made by industry professionals in delineating the phenomenon of cellphone radiation.

Rival perspective

Heindl refers to a statement by Strategy Worx MD Steven Ambrose in an article, “Updated report writes off radiation fears”, published on ITWeb earlier this month, in which Ambrose said, comparatively, cellphone radiation is low. Ambrose noted: “To put things into perspective, the FM radio and TV transmitters, that sit within a few kilometres of most urban homes, send out radio frequencies of a [radiation] magnitude greater than most cellular phones.”

However, says Heindl, “it is not only the level of radiation that is causing [health] problems, but also the specific frequency and the actual wave form of the signals being transmitted”.

He says, to date, all present radio and television transmission towers in SA still transmit analogue signals. “These analogue signals, at the given frequency, are much easier tolerated, even though they are a thousand times higher than the currently used signals and frequencies of cellphones - especially wireless local area network (LAN), WiFi, WiMax and Bluetooth - which are all working at 2.4GHz. The frequency used in a microwave oven, however, is 2.45GHz, which is optimised and used to excite water molecules to cook food.

“Even though the radio and TV station would be pushing out 50 000W (50kW) in comparison to the 2W (0.002kW) of a cellphone, I am still not holding it close to my ear or head/brain.

“The ordinary FM broadcast band is in the range of 87.5MHz to 108MHz and TV channel frequencies range from 41.25-253.25MHz (VHF: 30MHz to 300MHz), 470-956.75MHz (UHF: 300MHz and 3GHz or 3000MHz) - depending on the country. However, the cellphone uses the 800/900MHz and also the 1 200/1 600/2 100MHz frequency bands, which are getting very close to the actual centre frequency of your microwave oven, which works at exactly 2.45GHz (2 450MHz).”

Quiet 'cover up'

Tracey-Lee Dorny, chairperson of the Electromagnetic Radiation Research Foundation of SA and an avid campaigner against the harmful effects of cellphone technology on human health, points out that the AGNIR report mentions a number of male fertility studies. If the results are aggregated, says Dorny, 78% of the studies listed found decreased measures of male fertility or damage to sperm. She says, however, that the report separates these, making it harder to view all of the evidence for fertility together and misleading the reader.

“Protecting public health means being honest about risks so that people can make informed choices. Telling people that everything is ok when the majority of studies are finding decreased fertility is not being honest or transparent about the facts.”

Heindl says it is “quite obvious” that specific parts of industry are embroiled in a “cover up plan” - a scheme he says started when cellphones were first introduced.

“We can most certainly no longer keep quiet. [The public] has to take a stand for the sake of our own health and well-being [and that of others] who are in the dark about this.”

Heindl says the adverse effects of cellphone technology radiation are reaching an “epidemic state” abroad. “SA is closely following the US and Europe and it will take a short time until we have caught up. The circle will close when further implementations and rollouts are made, especially [with] 4G being implemented soon.”