Why Living Close to GSM Towers Could Be Hazardous for Your Health?

There are several studies on cell tower radiation, the results of which show some disturbing conclusions about long-term exposure. As expected, it might even affect human health. There are different types of cell towers.

Do you know which system, GSM or CDMA, your mobile phone works on?

There are different types of cellular networks which are used by phone companies. One of them is GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) which is believed to be more harmful than others, according to some scientists.[1] Joel Moskowitz[2], the director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California, advised switching to CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) mobile phones in order to be safer. But what is a difference?

How does the GSM technology work?

There is evidence that mobile phones operating on GSM networks emit significantly more radiation than mobile phones operating on CDMA networks. The average user is not able to know the difference as they are only able to find the SAR value of their phone. Manufacturers are not obliged to inform users about the amount of radiation emitted from the GSM towers or that this kind of radiation might affect human health, especially in people who live near transmitters.

Mark McNeeley, co-author of the study ‘Measured radiofrequency exposure during various mobile-phone use scenarios’[3] found that GSM phone calls emit twenty-five times more radiation overall than CDMA ones. This is because the GSM communication technology constantly produces pulsed microwave radiation. Base stations are transmitting even when you do not use a mobile phone. Scientists have shown that transmission via GSM phone immediately goes to the peak power level before it is lowered down to a reasonable level. In CDMA networks, the power level is always the same, the lowest level possible.

There are a few differences within each network, for example, GSM usually uses the 850 MHz and 1900 MHz frequencies. It also may be somewhere around those numbers, i.e. slightly higher than 850 MHz. Each of these frequencies has their own advantages; 850 MHz offers better in-building coverage because the signal can better penetrate walls and 1900 MHz is best for protection against interference with transmitters nearby, it works automatically.

It is important to know that if you are living close to the GSM tower, it is safer for you to use a GSM network. The applies to those living near CDMA towers. It is often the case that a phone built for one network cannot operate on the other. You can check if your mobile phone works on both GSM and CDMA in your device settings, or online, there are several websites with specifications for different mobile phones.

Health risks of cell tower radiation exposure

It was once believed that cell phone towers do not cause health risks or environmental damages. We now have access to research which shows the opposite to be true.

  1. Research shows that dairy cows which were located near the cell towers had a measurable drop in milk yield. After relocation to a place without any transmitters, the milk yield went back to normal after five days. Then, when the cows were once again placed nearby towers, the same problems occurred. The study was published in 1998 and it is available here.
  2. In 2007, levels of serotonin and melatonin in the blood were measured in people who live close to newly activated cell towers. These hormones are responsible for sleep regulation, mood and immune system functioning. The testing was made both before and after the activation of a new cell tower. In almost all of the participants, changes in hormonal levels were observed. You can read the whole study here.
  3. Another study monitored more than 500 people living at varying distances from cell towers. This study showed changes in comfort levels depending on distance, for example, those living closest to the towers felt an increase in headaches. The results can be found here.

Worldwide policy on cell towers

In a few countries, the authorities are aware of the fact that radiation from the cell towers might affect human well-being or health. There are policies on limiting the presence of towers and antennas in residential areas. In France citizens who live close to cell towers may request that measurements of radiation be carried out in their neighbourhood. You can read more about it here. Very often the authorities decide to forbid placing towers nearby schools, hospitals and playgrounds. These decisions are based on scientific opinions that radiation is hazardous to live organisms. Regulations such as these were also provided in Chile and India. Moreover, it used to be legal in India to put cell towers close to kindergartens and playgrounds, this is now strictly prohibited. Public consciousness about the health effects of long-term exposure to radiation is still growing.

It is important to remember that cancer caused by radiation exposure is something which would develop over years, it is not instantaneous. Damage from being exposed to EMF accumulates over time and when the defence mechanisms of the human body are exhausted, problems occur. That is why being aware of radiation exposure is crucial.

In the case of GSM towers, you are not able to control anything. The radiation emitted from the cell towers is impossible to stop. Obviously, base tower radiation exposure is different to mobile phone exposure. The second one is focused on a specific brain region (e.g. while talking via smartphone and holding the device close to an ear) and the radiation coming from towers is more about constant full body exposure but in generally lower doses.

Average levels of radiation in homes are described due to results of the nationwide studies. If you read the table from the website about EMF, you’ll see that doses of radiation we are exposed to in our households are not high. For example, radiofrequency (RF) given from electronic devices, such as microwaves, is from 0.0001 to 0.5 microwatts/cm². ELF magnetic fields are 0.5 to 1.0 mG (milligauss) and ELF electric fields — 0.5 to 2.0 V AC. The amounts of radiation will be different in various houses because some of them are full of electronic equipment. It is important to use all the devices responsibly and the best advice is to keep them at a distance from a body (at least 30 cm) because that way they emit significantly lower radiation. Probably you were advised not to stand in front of the working microwave oven. That is because the closest you are to the electronic device, the highest radiation level is.

It works the same with GSM towers. The fields (both electric and magnetic) drop off with distance from the tower. At 100 m distance, the fields are at levels that are found in areas away from high voltage power lines[4]. Anyway, the phone towers always add some doses of radiation to our total exposure, especially if they are placed nearby our home. Moreover, what if you put the transmitter directly on your house? It will obviously increase the level of radiation you are exposed to. You need to be aware of the risks it may cause in the long-term. Remember about keeping the distance which can actually lower radiation and be careful of the transmitters and base station in your vicinity.

As previously mentioned, radiation from a cell tower can’t be controlled. You can’t turn off the cell tower. So it is even more important to reduce your exposure to radiation from other sources.

You can read more about how to reduce it in our earlier post here.

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● Radiation Risk: Are Some Cell Phones More Dangerous Than Others?

● Conspicuous behavioural abnormalities in a dairy cow herd near a TV and Radio transmitting antenna

● Kempten West Study 2007 — English version

● Cell Tower Health Risks

● What You Need to Know About Your Network

● The Hidden Health Effects of Cell Towers

● Cell Towers And Cell Antennae

● Is mobile phone tower radiation a health hazard?

[1]Wolchover, N. (2011) Radiation Risk: Are Some Cellphones More Dangerous Than Others? [Online] https://www.livescience.com/14755-radiation-risk-cellphones-dangerous.html (Accessed 16.08.2017)

[2]Wolchover, N. (2011) Radiation Risk: Are Some Cellphones More Dangerous Than Others? [Online] https://www.livescience.com/14755-radiation-risk-cellphones-dangerous.html (Accessed 16.08.2017)

[3]Kelsh, M. A. et al. (2010) Measured radiofrequency exposure during various mobile-phone use scenarios [Online] http://www.nature.com/jes/journal/v21/n4/full/jes201012a.html?foxtrotcallback=true (Accessed 17.08.2017)

[4] http://www.who.int/peh-emf/about/WhatisEMF/en/index3.html