Do cell towers post health risks? DOH, radiology society say no

Philippine Radiology Oncology Society Vice-President Dr. Johanna Cañal
Philippine Radiology Oncology Society Vice-President Dr. Johanna Cañal

Officials from the Department of Health and the Philippine Radiology Oncology Society reaffirmed that proximity to cell sites does not cause any known health risks, contrary to what many homeowners associations believe.

Addressing close to 400 medical professionals and oncology experts during a radiation safety symposium last August 3, Philippine Radiology Oncology Society Vice-President Dr. Johanna Cañal said that two decades’ worth of research showed no adverse health effects linked to mobile phone use or nearby cell towers.

She cited studies from global radiation authorities like Federal Communications Commission, the American Cancer Society, and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“So there have been many stories, but there has been no proven causality between cellphone use and cancer induction. What does the USA FDA say about this? In 2018, the current safety limit is set to include a 50-fold safety margin from observed effect on radiation. How about cell towers and base stations? The American Cancer Society says at ground level, near typical base stations, the amount of RF energy is thousands of times less than the limits for safe exposure,” Dr. Cañal said.

“In the past 20 years, have we found any causal effect? The answer is no. Texting while driving or walking will cause more harm than radiation from cell phone use or cell tower. So far, the science says, there is no evidence to say that cell phone use or a nearby cell tower causes cancer,” she added.

The above information is stated on a press release sent by Globe Telecom to Iloilo Updates.

The press release also stated that the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2011 placed radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic radiation coming from cell sites BELOW the “ban” category, which is deemed safe. The WHO agency classified RF radiation from cell sites as “2B,” wherein peanut butter, pickled vegetables, coffee, and aloe vera are also included.

Globe shared that they have long taken up the sore issue of challenges in building cell sites as they have noted that many homeowner associations (HOAs) continue to oppose cell site proposals made by the company due to alleged health hazards.

During the radiation safety symposium, Engr. Gerhard Tan, Director for Technology Strategy & Service Integration at Globe, emphasized that the Philippines badly needs to build new sites if it wants to overcome signal problems and access to internet services.

“We are urging everyone who are here to spread awareness that RF electromagnetic radiation coming from cell sites is not cancerous. Debunking this health myth will help us hasten the build of more cell sites in the Philippines, which in effect, will bring the country closer to first world internet connectivity,” said Eng’r Tan.

Strict Government Requirements

Dr. Gladys R. Cabrera, Health Physicist IV of the Department of Health insists the government is very strict when it comes to the building of cell towers or cell sites primarily to ensure the safety of people living near or around a cell site.

Aside from various permits and clearances from the homeowner groups, barangay and other local government unit (LGU) requisites, a company must also secure the permission of the Department of Health. “Prior to the installation of the cell sites, all telecommunication companies are required to secure a Department of Health safety evaluation report,” Cabrera explains.

Cabrera says the DOH safety evaluation report is a very important requirement not only to assure that cell sites will not only jeopardize the well-being of residents but to counter misconceptions and wrong impressions that cell towers cause cancer and other fatal illnesses. “It contains information about the safety distances. Ma-e-ensure po natin na protected ang individual from harmful effects of non-ionization radiation emitted from cell sites,” Cabrera says.

Aside from the long process of getting a permit to build more cell sites, ignorance and misconceptions are two of the major reasons why telecommunication companies are being stymied in building more cell sites or cell towers all over the country. Globe has long taken up the sore issue of challenges in building cell sites as it noted that many homeowner associations (HOAs) continue to oppose cell site proposals made by the company due to alleged health hazards.

Since 2001, the Health Department has maintained that no study so far has proven that cell sites cause cancer. “Cell sites do not cause adverse side effects. It is harmless,” Cabrera added.

To date, around 67 million active internet users in the Philippines are sharing 17,850 cell sites. Thus, the country is forced to serve an average of 3,753 people per cell site. This is a stark difference to some of its neighboring countries like China, where only 381 active internet users are sharing one cell site. Globe’s aggressive bid to build more cell sites is in line with its commitment to expand network coverage and capacities for better internet experience of its customers./PR

Recommended articles
Cellular Phone Towers, American Cancer Society
Mobile phone use, US National Library of Medicine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s