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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.

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Click here to view the source article.
Source: Caribarena, OFER SHAKED, 22 Aug 2011

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