News for Antigua and Barbuda

"Cell Tower Study Presents Controversial Findings"
Antigua and Barbuda Created: 26 Aug 2011
"Cell Tower Study Presents Controversial Findings"
First, it is important to explain why Caribarena got considerably high readings on the cell towers, while this independent study got very low ones. In our study, as we clearly expressed in our articles, we used the IEMFA's Seletun Scientific limits for cell tower radiation. Skvarca, in his study, chose to use the “internationally accepted” ICNIRP guidelines.

The two are very different, but perhaps one needs some revision. The Council of Europe has stated that the ICNIRP guidelines have “serious limitations,” and that they need to be revised to take into account a lot of modern research. The ICNIRP guidelines only take into account thermal effects, and completely ignore all biological effects. This means that unless you are made physically hotter by the waves, there is nothing to worry about. This is crucially incorrect, as the Council of Europe has expressed.
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Source: Professor Olle Johansen/Agnes Ingvarsdottir

Cell Tower Study Presents Controversial Findings
Antigua and Barbuda Created: 23 Aug 2011
Antigua St John's - On August 19, the Ministry of Information Technology held a press conference during which Jorge Skvarca, an engineer and member of the WHO Advisory Panel on Radiation, presented the preliminary findings of his three-day study into cell phone base stations.

Unfortunately, when ABS aired the recording of the press conference for the evening news, the question and answer period was entirely disregarded. On the government website, only the introduction speeches by Dr Mansoor and Skvarca were uploaded, and there was no indication that questions had even been asked.

Caribarena, however, has put the full press conference on Youtube, along with some excerpts. In this article, we will analyze the question and answer period that followed. Caribarena promised to analyze this press conference, as well as the study done by Skvarca, and here it is.

First, it is important to explain why Caribarena got considerably high readings on the cell towers, while this independent study got very low ones. In our study, as we clearly expressed in our articles, we used the IEMFA's Seletun Scientific limits for cell tower radiation. Skvarca, in his study, chose to use the “internationally accepted” ICNIRP guidelines.

The two are very different, but perhaps one needs some revision. The Council of Europe has stated that the ICNIRP guidelines have “serious limitations,” and that they need to be revised to take into account a lot of modern research. The ICNIRP guidelines only take into account thermal effects, and completely ignore all biological effects. This means that unless you are made physically hotter by the waves, there is nothing to worry about. This is crucially incorrect, as the Council of Europe has expressed.

The ICNIRP guidelines were also written in 1998. However, Skvarca's study relies on these numbers. Another important point to note is that, according to WHO/IARC, all radio frequency EMFs (like those of cell phones and towers) are classified as “possibly carcinogenic”. As Skvarca pointed out, coffee is also in this category, but so are some pesticides.

Ultimately, it does conflict with ICNIRP's guidelines though, creating much confusion. ICNIRP guidelines are currently used in some European countries, but France, Germany, and Austria were some of the first countries to abandon ICNIRP and enforce significantly lower limits. The IEMFA limits we used are based on current, leading research, and while the limits are being accepted slowly, they offer a far more precautionary approach.

There were many surprising statements made during the press conference. The first of these is the length of the study. Skvarca arrived on Tuesday, and met with the relevant ministries, but no measurements were conducted. On Wednesday and Thursday, Skvarca, along with someone from the Ministry of Information Technology and a PAHO representative, set out at 7 am and called it a day at 8 pm, after around thirteen hours, including breaks and time spent driving between the sites.

On Friday, they again set out at 8 am and wrapped it up at 10:30 pm, giving Skvarca time to organise preliminary findings. Considering that over 63 sites were covered, this gives between 10-20 minutes of measuring per site. This is a huge error. When a base station is not handling calls, it becomes temporarily suspended, and the strength of its EMF is drastically reduced. The more calls the same tower is handling, the more power it is emitting.

Normally, 24-hour studies are conducted on individual towers, so that the tower's highs and lows can be considered. Then, the greatest value is tested, ensuring that even when the tower is most active, no one is at risk. Skvarca's study could never have conducted such lengths, and therefore may not have the truly highest values. In addition, Skvarca said the values recorded are averaged for analysis, which means the highest value isn't even used.

During the press conference, Skvarca said his guides, the Ministry of Information Technology, selected the sites, and he simply conducted measurements. However, with so much reliance on ministry personnel, is this study really independent? Shouldn't an independent study be done without any influence from the government and all other organisations? Clement Samuel, officer within the Telecommunications Division, noted that all the extreme cases spoken about in Caribarena's earlier articles were put on the list, with added weight, and according to Samuel, all were visited.

However, perhaps the most surprising of all was a sentence from Skvarca. He said that moving to 3G and other new mobile networks is good, because the higher the frequency, the lower the biological effects. This is fundamentally wrong in the world of electromagnetic radiation. Simply put, the higher the frequency, the more energy it contains. Gamma rays, X-Rays, and radar for instance are called ionizing radiation, because they carry so much energy that they can rip electrons from atoms, ultimately leading to cancer. Their high frequency demands this intense amount of energy. Non-ionizing radiation doesn't have this amount of power, which is why there are no short-term effects induced by cell phones or towers. So one of the fundamental rules of electromagnetic fields is that higher frequencies mean more power, and as such, more danger. However, Skvarca is praising the rising frequencies, stating that they have “lower” biological effects.

There were more surprises still to come. Point-to-point microwave antennas are used for base stations to communicate with other stations. They emit a beam at a very high (7 GHz and higher) frequency. This beam tends to open though, and some antennas beams can open as much as 3.4 degrees, resulting in a wide coverage area when used for distant communication. This becomes a major issue when this beam contacts people, even at great distances. However, when questioned about this, Skvarca said that the beam is very direct, and nothing can get in between, because the signal will be lost.

Not only is this incorrect, since the beam can open wide, but it is incorrect because microwave antennas' beams can penetrate through entire buildings, and some new technologies can even move around buildings. The alternative for this technology is the use of underground fibre optic cables, which are completely harmless to humans. However, Skvarca seemed to be more concerned with the price all this underground cable would cost. It is worthy to note that APUA already has an underground system in place. However, whether all of its mobile base stations are using this system is unclear.

One technique used internationally to force more tower sharing and to reduce the number of overall towers in a country is to force all operators to use two ranges, also called bands, of frequencies. In Europe, 900 and 1800 GSM bands are used, but in North America, 850 and 1900 GSM bands are used. Caribarena questioned Skvarca about whether this is a good practice. His answer was very wide, and among other things, he said tower sharing is very important; that tower positioning is not something he can speak on; and that it is important to remember that every company ultimately wants to provide a good signal, and if it does not because of government limitations, no one will use that company. Skvarca did say that how to promote tower sharing is not something he can speak on, but that seemed the only relevant comment.

Telecommunications Officer Clement Samuel also answered the question. He said it is important to remember that Antigua is a tourist country, and many Europeans and Americans come to Antigua and want instant roaming. As such, all four frequency bands described above are necessary. This however is not entirely correct. All new mobile phones have a technology called “multi-banding”. Some are dual, some are tri, and some are quad band phones. A dual band phone can support two of the above frequency bands, a tri can support three, and a quad can work anywhere in the world. This means that if Antigua had in play a combination of two GSM bands, one from the North American standard and one from European standards, all phones would work here.

The only exceptions would be phones without multi-banding. Take into consideration that the first commercial tri-band phone was made in 1999, and today, single band phones are very rare; all new phones have minimum dual band. So for those who use 13-year-old phones, there may be issues. For all others, these two frequency bands will work just fine. And even if they don't, why are tourists being put before locals? Aren't the serious health issues of locals more important to the government than tourists receiving “instant roaming” on their cell phones?

The press conference was not all negative however. Skvarca did make some very important and correct notes. First, he said that regardless of whether the reading is low, if a tower is near a school and it can be moved, it should be. This is called the precautionary principle, as described by ICNIRP. Skvarca was speaking specifically about a base station near the Urlings Primary School. Children are highly vulnerable, exponentially more so than adults, and there are still very few studies that have been aimed at these youngsters.

Perhaps the best news we heard at the press conference was delivered by Samuel. When speaking about tower sharing, we asked what the Ministry's aims or target values are as far as the number of mobile base stations. Samuel pointed out that other towers, such as internet access towers, should not be confused with mobile base stations, but the Ministry's aim would be to get the number of towers down to 40. He said that health issues aside, there is also the aesthetic issue, and the Ministry would love to get to that final figure.

Although there are still some serious issues to be addressed, it seems Caribarena's call for the reduction of mobile base stations has been heard. With the Ministry of IT setting its sights on 40 towers, the need for a more indepth study becomes clear. The health issues surrounding mobile base stations should not be dismissed, even if Skvarca says they are 20 to 100 times lower than international limits.

Related news:
Aug 2011, Antigua and Barbuda: Cancer Info Suggests Rate Increase
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Source: Caribarena, OFER SHAKED, 22 Aug 2011

Cancer Info Suggests Rate Increase
Antigua and Barbuda Created: 23 Aug 2011
Antigua St John's - Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Rhonda Sealy-Thomas has said data currently being analyzed indicates an increasing rate of cancers in Antigua & Barbuda.

She was responding to questions from during the telecommunications ministry’s press conference on August 19.

Although the focus of the conference was cell phone tower radiation, the CMO answered supplementary questions and revealed that, in co-ordination with Dr Lester Simon (former government pathologist and director of Medpath Clinic), the Ministry of Health had been carrying out statistical research into the frequency of cancers in Antigua & Barbuda.

The CMO explained that the data was sourced from existing records and covers the decade 1999 to 2009. The scope of the study covers all types of cancers. The period of data gathering has been completed, but the data is still undergoing some analysis.

While Dr Sealy-Thomas declined to reveal any of the study’s core findings prior to completion of the analysis, she did note that cancer cases in general are on the increase in Antigua & Barbuda. The CMO connected this phenomenon to the general worldwide increase in cases of cancer of all types, some of which are attributable to lifestyle factors.

For the CMO, even in a peripheral manner, to posit an increasing rate of cancer cases for Antigua & Barbuda would surely strike a somber note at a meeting called to report on the safety (or not) of cell phone tower radio frequency emissions.

While she was careful not to suggest any connection between an observed increase in cancers and any cause other than lifestyle factors, there is no logical way to escape the possibility of a connection to (for example) cell phone or other electro-magnetic radiation.

It is reasonable to infer that the Ministry of Health is expending scarce resources on research into the statistics of cancer because the matter is deemed worth studying. It would be pleasant to further infer that the ministry’s interest is sparked by a significant decline in cancer cases in the country. Research into the incidence of cancer is valuable under any circumstances, but especially so when cancer rates are judged to be increasing. finds it significant that much of the impetus to carry out research into cancer rates in Antigua & Barbuda comes from former pathologist Dr Simon. recently published statistical data that appears to show an increasing rate of cancer mortality in Antigua & Barbuda since the mid-1990s (see “Who Will Switch The Microwave Off" – June 1). The trend toward increase begins some 20 years after the Caribbean Relay Company at Lightfoot’s began (1975) to broadcast the BBC and Deutsche Welle into Latin America.

The information is provided by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). PAHO and WHO (World Health Organization) are practically joined at the hip.

Dr Sealy-Thomas indicated that the ultimate release of the cancer study findings is not far off.
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Source: Caribarena, COLIN SAMPSON, 23 Aug 2011

Microwave Silence Continues
Antigua and Barbuda Created: 27 Jun 2011
Antigua St John's - Nearly three weeks have passed since Caribarena’s last article regarding the cell phone towers in Antigua & Barbuda.

Since then, we have received no word from Minister of IT Edmond Mansoor or LIME, and contacting Clement Samuel of the telecommunications division has also proven unsuccessful. It seems that those in power are quite determined to keep the people of Antigua & Barbuda living underneath cell phone towers.

But how does one respond to such silence, if not with a louder cry? Caribarena again sent its team to conduct measurements in specific locations, where towers are not just inside residential areas, but mere yards from people’s homes.

The first of these towers is located in Golden Grove, and operated by LIME, which is renting the space for the tower from one of the residents. There are about 7-10 houses located underneath this tower, where they are continually being exposed to microwaves.

Caribarena’s team used a Spectrum Analyzer and an RF Field meter, both of which can measure the strength of microwaves in various frequencies.

If you’ve seen Caribarena TV’s video, then you know the readings taken in Golden Grove far surpass the safe limit. We have shared our findings with the people in power, yet the minister of Information Technology is unable to answer.

Minister Edmond Mansoor has chosen to ignore us. But we did not choose him for his role. The people of Antigua & Barbuda were not given the option to select an individual they deem worthy to take on the task of minister of IT. It was rather Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer who chose him, and now the responsibility falls on the prime minister’s shoulders.

PM, you selected this minister for us. Where is the justification? Why is it that when an issue does arise, your chosen minister ignores your people? Why is he still sitting in his seat after handling the situation with such childish arrogance? Why haven’t you stepped up to the plate, as our chosen leader, and taken matters into your own hands?

In the days prior to Caribarena’s first article, Telecommunications Officer Clement Samuel was easily accessible. Calling and exchanging information with him was not an issue. However, since the publication of Caribarena’s first article in the series, “Are we living in a Microwave?" Samuel has not returned any of the calls or messages left for him. It is this inability to absorb criticism and lack of responsibility that holds us back as a country.

Samuel has been sleeping in his shoes, and it is under his watch that Antigua has seen the rise and continued existence of many cell phone towers. In addition, despite the unavoidable global debate regarding cell phone tower safety, Samuel has failed to bring forth an adequate telecommunications bill that will keep us safe from the cell phone companies. Could it be that Samuel was told by his superiors not to speak to Caribarena? Are these superiors defending an interest other than public health and welfare?

However, even worse than the previous two cases is the lack of interest and disregard shown by LIME. Public Relations Officer Paula Lee forwarded Caribarena’s questions to Leeward Islands LIME manager Davidson Charles. However, this was weeks ago, and Caribarena is yet to hear any response from the company. LIME has sent out numerous press releases, including information on upcoming service improvements.

But a response on the vital issue of cell phone towers seems too much to ask of the company. It is interesting to note that LIME operates more and shorter cell phone towers than any other cell phone company. However, Digicel and APUA PCS did respond. What does this say about LIME? Are the answers to the questions sent to LIME so difficult to conjure, or are those answers simply unfavorable to the company?

As stated above, Digicel and APUA PCS did respond to Caibarena’s enquiries. Digicel’s response is that its cell phone towers are placed and operated in accordance with the IRPA/INIRC International regulations. Firstly, the “IRPA/INIRC” is not an organisation; it is a document developed by ICNIRP, the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation. Secondly, the document regulates VDUs, or Visual Display Units. These have nothing to do with cell phones, cell phone towers, or electromagnetic fields. The IRPA/INIRC is attached to this article, and can be downloaded directly from Caribarena.

Digicel’s response also states that the company considers several factors, ”such as the location of the tower; its proximity to other Digicel sites; the height of the tower/rooftop and the height above sea level – as well as the distance to areas where coverage is required.” Digicel also maintains that the company takes all necessary precautions to ensure that none of its 30 antennas are placed near schools, hospitals, or medical centres. However, the placement of several powerful antennas on the roof of Antigua Plumbing and Hardware Center in Ottos suggests leaves us with concern.

APUA PCs has attempted to evade the issue by referring us to research that seems to imply that there is no health hazard attached to cell phone tower microwave radiation. The research referred to was based on the WHO’s 2006 findings. Since then, however, the WHO itself has reversed its previous position, and now states that cell phones are possibly carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to humans. This change in the WHO’s position invalidates the evasive response submitted by APUA PCS.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Dutch Sint Maarten, the Bureau of Telecommunications and Post is currently executing tower scans on strategically chosen tower sites island-wide. This comes only weeks after Caribarena’s publications referring to the dire threat posed by cell phone towers. Although a link to Caribarena’s articles was not officially posted, the timing of these scans indicates that responsible regulatory agencies have recognised the need to monitor and enforce cell phone tower regulations.

Interim Director of the Bureau of the Telecommunications and Post Peggy-Ann Brandon has said, “Regulation of the telecommunications industry is exactly what these scans are all about.” The Bureau has engaged a foreign-based company to carry out the scans.

This stance differs markedly from the lack of engagement shown by the Telecommunications Division and Minister Edmond Mansoor. Ignoring the issue seems to be exactly what they are all about.

Keep in mind that many countries have already begun opposing cell phone towers and companies. These include France, Austria, Trinidad and Tobago, India, Taiwan, and others.
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Source: Caribarena, 27 Jun 2011

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