Tuesday, November 13, 2007

HAZARDOUS - Emissions From Cell Phones and Base Stations

Fear of uncertainty still envelopes users of cell phones as to whether radioactive emissions from cell phones really endanger their health.

Several unconfirmed reports from local and international research have put confusion in the minds of users, as some reports suggest that emission from cell phones and base stations could cause health risk such as dizziness, headaches, cancer, brain tumor, hearing defect, among others. But some research reports suggest otherwise, claiming that the amount of emission from cell phones and telecommunication base stations are too small to cause health risk in humans.

The cloud of confusion was, however, cleared at the weekend in Lagos, where the National Association of Telecommunication Subscribers (NATCOMS) held a one-day seminar on "radiation health risks associated with the use of mobile phones."

National President of NATCOMS, Mr. Deolu Ogunbanjo, said in his opening remarks that the seminar was organised to clear the confusion about the perceived health risk associated with emissions from cell phones. According to him, the seminar was not meant to raise fears, but aimed at enlightening Nigerians and cell phone users on the need to play safe, while communicating with cell phones.

The seminar was attended by officials from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), telecom operators, and radiation emission researchers, and cell phone users.

Presenting a paper at the seminar, Dr. Moses Aweda, research medical physicist of the Department of Radiation Biology and Radiotherapy, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, described cell phone communication as voice transmission from the antenna in form of radiofrequency radiation. He insisted that continuous use of cell phones could pose health risk to users.

According to him, frequency of cell phone radiation is between 800 and 1,990 mhz, and that the human brains may absorb up to 60 per cent of the radiation energy.

He explained that much microwave or cell phone radiation exposures could adversely affect health. Radiation, he said, is electromagnetic and consists of waves of electric and magnetic energy moving together through space at the speed of light.

"We live in a world of radiation and we are exposed to both natural and man-made radiations," he said.

According to him, Nigerians are exposed to all forms of radiations such as ultraviolet light from the sun and radio waves from radio and television broadcasts, and that the effects of cell phone radiation may be immediate or delayed. Some tissues are highly radiosensitive and each tissue has its own risk factor, he said.

Aweda advised cell phone users to spend the minimum possible time on phones even when the call is justified.

When people are not making calls, they should be able to keep the set at the farthest possible distance from the body, he said, insisting that the use of headset hand free is highly recommended, as well as other devices that reduce the power of emission reaching the body.

He, however, said that a cell phone user's level of exposure to radiation depends on several factors which include amount of cell phone traffic, quality of the transmission, how far the antenna is extended, size of the handset, among other factors.

He called on cell phone users to consider using cell phones with low power rating and ensure that they do not use cell phones with power rating higher than the national/international standard limits

Another researcher, Dr. O.B. Eletu, an associate professor of Radiation Oncology, who presented a paper on the effect of cell phone radiation on youths and children, explained that the widespread use of mobile phones is a recent phenomenon and that the use of cell phones and related technologies will continue to increase for the foreseeable future

Wireless devices such as cell phones, utilise radio waves (radiofrequency or electromagnetic fields) to transmit information, adding that reports have suggested that cell phones radiation may impact on children’s health.

Although he said the use of cell phone is important to man, he stressed that a mobile phone provides an "emotional and functional prop" for children as well increased vulnerability of preadolescent children.

According to Eletu, pre-adolescent children can be expected to be (potentially) more at risk than are adults for the following reasons:

Absorption of microwaves of the frequency used in cell phones is greater in an object about the size of a child’s head - the so-called head resonance – than in an adult’s. Smaller skull of a child allows more penetration of the radiation into the brain than in an adult. The developing nervous system and associated brain-wave activity in a child are more vulnerable to the pulses of microwaves used in GSM than in a mature adult

The increased mitotic activity in the cells of developing children makes them more susceptible to genetic damage.

The increased mitotic activity in the cells of developing children makes them more susceptible to genetic damage.

He said in Oct 2004, a Swedish research concluded that those who used mobiles for 10 years were almost twice as likely to develop an acoustic neuroma - a tumor on a nerve connecting the ear to the brain and that in Jan 2005. He advised parents not to allow children under nine to use mobiles because of potential but unproven risks.

However, in December 2006, a Danish study of people with brain tumors concluded there were no increased risks for heavy users.

Apart from cell phones, there have also been conflicting reports that emissions from base stations can pose risk to human health.

Celtel, however, said it holds tenaciously, the company’s electromagnetic emissions compliance policy.

According to mobile operator, the objective of the Celtel electromagnetic emissions policy is to ensure that the general public is, at all times, exposed to safe levels of the radio frequency fields known to emanate from its base stations. It further explained that in line with the position taken by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on what constitutes safe radio frequency exposure, Celtel shall at all times adhere to the International Commission on Non-ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) public exposure guidelines.

Culled from Independent Newspapers

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