The sexiest two answers to any question are “Yes” and “No”.
We as humans hate, hate, hate, complicated issues with complicated answers. We like our water clear, our loops closed, and knots to be easily tied and untied. So as I dove into the world of Electromagnetic Frequency (EMF) radiation over the past two weeks I was disappointed to find that the evidence supporting either the Mobile carrier lobbyists or the 5G Truthers is not nearly as settled as either party wants you to believe.
So I’ve taken it upon myself to create a summary of dozens of studies I’ve read in the hope to help you form your own conclusion about the upcoming Cell Tower initiative - or anything related to the electromagnetic spectrum (I know, dirty talk, right?).
Lets dive right into it.
So what exactly is the cancer connection with a Cell Tower?
For years the pro-tower folks have pushed the narrative that low frequency EMF (see full spectrum image below) pose no danger at all. Its this definitive, “case-closed” attitude coupled with the obvious financial incentives to keep the matter closed that invites so much attention and scrutiny when contradicting patterns emerge. I only need to point to the tobacco industry for how that plays out. And who doesn’t love a good David v Goliath? I’ll admit, my instinct is to resist these tower initiatives purely to spite Verizon sometimes :)
The Cell Phones=Cancer folks have the same issue though, seeming to cling to a dozen or so studies over the past two decades for support while not paying much attention to the dozens and dozens of studies that contradict those results.
Every study has its issues of course. The problem I found with many of those studies showing a link is in the way they went about sorting data and assigning values to variables. Most of these studies were based on evaluating historical data. Because they had no way of monitoring actual EMF exposure of the individuals, they relied entirely on their own estimations of exposure. They then compare their estimations to historical information and medical records and looked for patterns to emerge. A major accomplishment of the NTP’s study (below) was that it controlled for this.
Note: We humans love patterns, so when we go looking for them, we often find them. My favorite patterns come from Tyler Vigens, Spurious Correlations
In a major win for the Cancer Concerned, the 2018 NTP study was the most conclusive study of EMF and cancer and did establish a clear connection in increased exposure to EMF and an increase in gliomas in male rats (specifically male rats, no causal relationship was established with female rats, or male and female mice, all part of the study. See? Its murky).
But even there, the rats that got cancer were exposed to FOUR TIMES the highest level of EMF that a human might. Which begs the question, what exactly isn’t a health risk when consumed at 4X the maximum recommended level. Any over/unders out there if I start driving at 4X the speed limit?
What this study did accomplish was blow a huge hole in the pro-tower crowds claim that these low energy radio waves pose no danger at all. They obviously do at high levels. This is new information that the FCC should consider when setting the safety standards, not sure how long we should keep fingers crossed there.
But even with that impressive study, the NTP still doesn’t include EMF radiation in its Report on Carcinogens, which lists exposures that are known to be or reasonably anticipated to be carcinogenic to humans. Neither does the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Final note: I focused mainly on cancer here because its hard to detect early on, but there is also evidence to review on cognitive impairment and sleep impacts of EMF exposure. If electromagnetic radiation is a health concern for you, keep in mind that the wifi broadcasters in each of our homes expose us to EMF even when cell signal doesn’t get through our home walls. And don’t forget your Laptops, Bluetooth headphones, Alexa and Sonos speakers, Smartwatches, Remote Controls, and WiFi-connected smart devices which receive and transmit data using this type of energy. Oh, and also sunlight, lightbulbs and infrared light which are even stronger forms of electromagnetic radiation than the lower frequencies (I couldn’t find anyone studying the health impacts of exposure to infrared radiation, which all human bodies emit).
Ok...so is there any reason at all sto support getting a tower if I already have fiber internet?
At a personal level, convenience mainly. You know how you always lose that call when driving between Frogtown Rd and Atoka? That would go away.
BUT, the real consideration has nothing to do with you or me. Any tower brings data connectivity to a much larger area, which is sorely needed for dozens if not hundreds of families in the surrounding area that don’t have the privilege of fiber internet or find the $200 a month cost of satellite or fixed wireless cost prohibitive.
It really comes down to which way the scale tilts for you. How do you appropriately weigh out potential health concerns vs improving lives of people we’ll probably never meet?
Like I said, murky and complicated. Are you hating me yet?