Factcheck: The World Health Organization has not made a determination that cell towers are safe.
Inside Towers posted an article on the ongoing legal battle in Pittsfield Massachuttsetts regarding the cell tower reported to injure over a dozen residents inaccurately stating that “the findings of the World Health Organization have also determined that cell towers are not a radiation threat.” However this is inaccurate. The WHO has not made a science based determination for decades.
“If you think the WHO has researched cell tower radiation and made a safety determination, I challenge you to find the report that shows scientists reviewed the research, evaluated the studies and determined that cell tower radiation, the full body chronic exposures to people living near cell towers is safe, ” stated Theodora Scarato, Executive Director of Environmental Health Trust. “There are no research reviews, no systematic reviews, no risk analyses. If you find a science based systematic review of the up to date science on the effects of cell towers on health that shows safety, please send them to us and we will retract this page. Instead what we find are webpages drafted by long time industry tied individuals. These webpages are used worldwide to protect companies from accountability when it comes to health and safety.”
In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer1, associated with wireless phone use” as stated in the 2011 Press Release by the WHO IARC. Since that date the several new studies have found associations between cell phone radiation and cancer.
Since 2011, the scientific evidence linking wireless to cancer has significantly increased and today several published reviews include that the current body of evidence indicates cell phone radiation is proven Group 1 human carcinogen (Read the science at Miller et al 2018, Peleg et al 2018 Carlberg and Hardell 2017, Belpomme et al 2018).
THIS IS A MYTH: “The World Health Organization webpages confirm there are no health effects on humans from cell towers or cell phones.”
Example of the Myth Asserted by the CTIA Wireless Industry to New Hampshire Lawmakers:
“The legislative findings and purpose section of HB 1644 erroneously suggests that the World Health Organization views RF emission from telecommunications equipment as a “carcinogen”. To the contrary, the WHO position has been and continues to be that there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak signals from base stations and wireless networks can cause adverse health effects.” (Note- the CTIAs footnote 7 goes to a 2006 WHO webpage)
The CTIA also misleadingly states
“The WHO also concluded that research has not been able to provide support for a causal relationship between exposure to electromagnetic fields and self-reported symptoms or electromagnetic hypersensitivity.” (CTIA then footnotes to the WHO mobile phone web page with one unsubstantiated sentence).
Fact 1. The CTIA inaccurately conflates two separate entities of the WHO, and the position the CTIA references was drafted over a decade ago by one person who used wireless company money to start the “WHO EMF Project.”
The CTIA was inaccurate in stating the WHO “position was that of “no evidence.” In fact, the WHO has two distinct and separate entities addressing the issue; 1. the WHO EMF Project who wrote the webpages referred to and 2. the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Dr. Lennart Hardell describes the conflicts, industry influence and transparency issues in a published article “World Health Organization, radiofrequency radiation and health – a hard nut to crack (Review)” The current WHO Project Director is an engineer and not a medical doctor or public health expert.
Fact 2.The WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO/IARC) in fact designated wireless radiation as a class 2B “possible” carcinogen in 2011 largely based on human studies that found long term cell phone users had increased risk for tumors- glioblastomas and acoustic neuromas (Read the WHO/ IARC 2011 press release). The scientific documentation for the determination was compiled in a 2013 monograph (IARC 2013). Furthermore, because that determination was a decade ago, the WHO/IARC advisory group now has recommended wireless be re-evaluated as a “high priority” within 5 years due, largely in part, to the recent animal research (Falconi, 2018; NTP, 2018) which found evidence for cancer (IARC, 2019).
Fact 3.The World Health Organization (WHO) EMF Project webpages are not official determinations because this group has not reviewed the science since 1993.
There are two WHO EMF Project web pages that are often referenced by the wireless industry. 1.The mobile phone webpage that says “no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use”, and 2. The base station (cell tower) webpage which states “from all evidence accumulated so far, no adverse short- or long-term health effects have been shown to occur from the RF signals produced by base stations.”
Fact 4: The outdated WHO website statements are not based on a scientific review of the totality of the evidence.
Conflicts of Interest at the WHO EMF Project
- The WHO EMF Project was started by a scientist, Michael Repacholi, who funneled money from wireless companies through a hospital to start the EMF Project at the WHO. Hardel and Carlberg 2017 states “Michael Repacholi immediately set up a close collaboration between WHO and ICNIRP (being head of both organizations) inviting the electric, telecom and military industries to meetings. He also arranged for a large part of the WHO EMF project to be financed by the telecommunication industry’s lobbying organizations; GSM Association and Mobile Manufacturers Forum, now called Mobile & Wireless Forum (MWF).”
- The WHO EMF Project founder Repacholi is now on several wireless company advertisements speaking about cell phone and electromagnetic safety.
Fact 4: Serious Transparency Issues Plague the WHO EMF Project:
The engineer who now directs the WHO EMF Project refuses to answer questions about how the online factsheets were written or where the scientific reports are that back up the cell tower and cell phone statements. Read the letter sent by scientists to engineer Emile Van Deventer, WHO EMF Project Director, that remains unanswered.
Reviews That Recommend Cell Towers Be Distanced Away From Homes and Schools
- A review paper entitled “Limiting liability with positioning to minimize negative health effects of cellular phone towers” reviewed the “large and growing body of evidence that human exposure to RFR from cellular phone base stations causes negative health effects.” The authors recommends restricting antennas near home and within 500 meters of schools and hospitals to protect companies from future liability (Pearce 2020).
- An analysis of 100 studies published in Environmental Reviews found ~80% showed biological effects near towers. “As a general guideline, cell base stations should not be located less than 1500 ft from the population, and at a height of about 150 ft.” (Levitt 2010)
- A review published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health found people living less than 500 m from base station antennas had an increased adverse neuro-behavioral symptoms and cancer in eight of the ten epidemiological studies (Khurana 2011).
- A paper by human rights experts documented the accumulating science indicating safety is not assured and considered the issue within a human rights framework to protect vulnerable populations from environmental pollution. “We conclude that, because scientific knowledge is incomplete, a precautionary approach is better suited to State obligations under international human rights law.” (Roda and Perry 2014)
- A review entitled “Evidence for a health risk by RF on humans living around mobile phone base stations: From radiofrequency sickness to cancer reviewed the existing scientific literature and found radiofrequency sickness, cancer and changes in biochemical parameters. (Balmori 2022)
Cell Tower Radiation and Cancer: Research Studies to Know
- European Parliament requested a research report “Health Impact of 5G” which was released in July 2021 and concluded that commonly used RFR frequencies (450 to 6000 MHz) are probably carcinogenic for humans and clearly affect male fertility with possible adverse effects on the development of embryos, fetuses and newborns.
- A study published in Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine found changes in blood considered biomarkers predictive of cancer in people living closer to cell antenna arrays (Zothansiama 2017).
- A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found higher exposure to cell arrays linked to higher mortality from all cancer and specifically lung and breast cancer (Rodrigues 2021).
- A study published in Science of the Total Environment 10 year study on cell phone antennas by the local Municipal Health Department and several universities in Brazil found a clearly elevated relative risk of cancer mortality at residential distances of 500 meters or less from cell phone towers (Dode 2011).
- A large scale animal study published in Environmental Research found rats exposed to radiofrequency levels comparable to cell tower emissions had elevated cancers, the very same cancers also found in the US National Toxicology Program Study (Falcioni 2018).
- A study commissioned by the Government of Styria, Austria found a significant cancer incidence in the area around the transmitter as well as significant exposure-effect relationships between radiofrequency radiation exposure and the incidence of breast cancers and brain tumors (Oberfeld 2008).
- A review published in Experimental Oncology found “alarming epidemiological and experimental data on possible carcinogenic effects of long term exposure to low intensity microwave (MW) radiation.” Even a year of operation of a powerful base transmitting station for mobile communication reportedly resulted in a dramatic increase of cancer incidence among population living nearby (Yakymenko 2011).
Environmental Health Trust (EHT)is a non profit think tank focused on environmental health.