Cell Antennas and Health: The State of the Science

October 18, 2012
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

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As data demands of cellular devices including smart phones and WI-FI grow exponentially, cell carrier companies install more cell antennas—eliciting health concerns from residents whose homes, schools and work places are close to these installations. Firefighters, for example, have expressed concerns about cell antennas on fire houses.

Measuring exposures from cell antennas can be dauntingly complex. So is estimating risk. Many people are concerned about the cumulative impacts of nearby commercial cell antenna installations, cell phone use, wi-fi systems and smartmeters. US law prohibits communities from considering health impacts when contesting commercial cell antenna placements.

On this call hosted by the CHE-EMF Working Group, we explored several questions: What do we know about the health effects of exposure to electromagnetic radiation emitted cellular antennas? And what are the public health implications? How do we compare risks of nearby cell antennas to other EMF risks such as cell phone use, ubiquitous wi-fi networks, and smartmeters? What factors mitigate such exposures? What practical actions can be taken to safeguard public health in the absence of more stringent national standards?

Featured Speakers

Henry LaiHenry Lai, PhD, research professor, Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington. Dr. Lai's research focuses on the biological effects of nonionizing radiation, from extremely-low-frequency to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. Dr. Lai says of his work, "My research end points cover molecular biology,  neurochemistry, and behavior. The main goals of the research are to  understand the mechanism of interaction between electromagnetic fields  and biological systems and to correlate biological changes with energy  absorption in the body. The data would be useful in the setting of  electromagnetic field exposure standards for humans. This area of  research has gained public attention in recent years because of the  increased use of electric power and radiofrequency energy. In the case  of radiofrequency radiation, the tremendous increase in the use of  cellular telephone and wireless communication systems have raised  concern on the possible health effects of the radiation."

Blake LevittB. Blake Levitt, CHE-EMF partner and award-winning journalist, is an award-winning journalist who has specialized in medical and science writing for nearly two decades. She has researched the biological effects of nonionizing radiation since the late 1970s. A former New York Times freelance contributor, she has written widely on medical issues for both the lay and professional audience. Ms. Levitt is the editor/contributing author of Cell Towers, Wireless Convenience? or Environmental Hazard? Proceedings of the “Cell Towers Forum” State of the Science/State of the Law (Safe Goods/New Century Publishing, 2001). She is also the author of Electromagnetic Fields, A Consumer’s Guide To The Issues And How To Protect Ourselves (Harcourt Brace, edition 1995; iUniverse BackinPrint edition 2007), for which she won an Award of Excellence from the New England Chapter of The American Medical Writers Association.

The call was moderated by Michael Lerner, President of Commonweal.