This was the view expressed by several professors, researchers and public health scientists during a health symposium yesterday at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Faculty of Medical Sciences, Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) in Mt Hope.
The symposium entitled “Cell Tower Radiation: Is it safe?” saw a disappointing turnout especially since the health concern surrounding cell-towers was raised locally and internationally within recent time.
Members of the panel found that brain tumours, memory loss, a reduced sperm count and leukaemia were some of the effects caused by constant exposure to cell-tower radiation.
Noticeably absent from yesterday’s symposium were representatives of the country’s two cellular providers — TSTT and Digicel. The absence was noted by symposium chairman Keith Clifford.
Peter Permell, vice-president of the Association for Radio Frequency (RF) Emission and Control in TT (ArFECTT), told the audience that cell-tower radiation is one of the most important environmental concerns today.
According to Permell, ArFECTT undertook its own research into RF emissions because the group “is deeply concerned about the public’s safety.” The association, he said, also found that the symptoms subside when people leave the surrounding area where these towers are located.
Cell-towers are erected in or around densely populated areas to ensure the viability of radio frequencies on which cellular phones operate.
It was added that the towers should not be placed closer than 300 metres to where people live.
Professor Stephan Gift, of UWI’s Faculty of Engineering, told the sparse audience that his findings showed radiation caused alteration in brain waves, a two-fold increase in child leukaemia and changes in the human immune system.
He also sourced information from a “Reflex Study” done by 12 groups in seven European countries. Findings showed that radiation caused DNA breaks in exposed cells of the human body.
Gift said it was also found that in Germany, this year, there was a seven fold increase in breast cancer in an area with cell towers. He also said that 900 cell towers were demolished in Taiwan in 2005 after these health concerns were raised.
Throughout the local cell tower issue, TSTT has maintained it ensures its radio frequency emissions from cell-towers were as much as a thousand times lower than the recommended levels of the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).
However, Gift suggested that the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) reject the ICNIRP as have China, Russia and Sweden and move to a better standard when dealing with the health ramifications of these towers.
Gift said that the headaches people experience with prolonged cellular phone usage are because, “things leak into the brain, which shouldn’t.” Contacted yesterday for comment, TATT executive chairman John Prince said two members were present at the symposium as they would today brief him on what the medical experts said at the symposium.
“We have not had all of the information (regarding the amount of cell-towers in TT)...the companies (TSTT and Digicel) are supposed to lodge with us,” Prince said.
When contacted by Newsday, TSTT Communications Manager Amoy Van Lowe assured that TSTT maintains cell-tower emissions significantly lower than international standards. She added that instead of criticising the company, Gift should, “lobby to have the standards re-assessed.” Prekybines it turistines palapines palapines-pavesines.lt
The symposium also included a recording from George Carlo, a Public Health Scientist at the Science and Public Policy Institute in the United States on his findings regarding cell-tower radiation emissions.
He said over a period of five and a half years, severe effects from cellular phone usage were discovered. Carlo found that radiation from cellular phones opened up the blood-brain barrier that normally protects brain tissues from toxic chemicals circulating in the blood and also caused a disruption in DNA repair.
However, Jonas Addae, a professor at UWI’s Faculty of Medical Sciences, disputed the panel’s findings saying that in 2000, the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicated that “radioactive frequencies emitted by mobile phones and base stations are unlikely to induce or promote cancer.”
In July, Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis indicated that Government, with the help of the Army, was going to tear down 16 TSTT and Digicel cell-towers which reportedly failed to comply with existing planning policy. So far, only one cell-tower has in fact been torn down.
Attempts to contact both Robinson-Regis and Public Utilities and the Environment Minister Pennelope Beckles, for comment proved futile.