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Mobile Phone Transmitter Causes Brain Tumours? 374

Posted by Zonk
from the rough-working-conditions dept.
Peter writes "Seven staff in the one building have been diagnosed with brain tumours, and everything seems to be pointing to the mobile phone towers located on the roof. The building is owned by RMIT University and an investigation is taking place. Five of the seven staff worked on the top floor of the building. Medical experts contacted by The Age Newspaper said no definitive link had been proved between mobile phone tower radiation and cancer."
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Mobile Phone Transmitter Causes Brain Tumours?

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  • From the article:
    Australian Medical Association president Mukesh Haikerwal said there was no proof of a connection but "if you get clusters of disease it's sensible to investigate."

    Dr John Gall, from private health company Southern Medical Services, which has been called in to assess the sick, said last night three of those affected had tumours showing symptoms consistent with radiation.

    But he said there was no causal link with the building based on preliminary observations.
    There you have it - three people with symptoms consistent with radiation exposure, so the Union demands the building is shut down, the link to the telephone tower is made & people panic.

    Most likely is that the affected people were doing something together out of hours (after all, people who work together, often also play together). It's quite possible (after all, the IT in RMIT stands for Institute of Technology), that they were all building a home made breeder reactor [slashdot.org]

    In short, the only danger mobile towers hold, is when the fuckwit in the SUV doesn't see me on my bicycle, because he's too busy chatting to drive. (seriously, every time I've felt threatened, its been someone chatting on a cell phone)
  • Anyone worried about radio waves causing cancer can try to make that theory work. There is a huge barrier, however, in the form of a very very small number: Planck's Constant [britannica.com]. Planck's constant = 6.626068 x 10-34 m2 kg/S. It's that 10**-34 that makes it difficult for low-energy electromagetism like wireless transmissions to interact with chemical reactions. Thirty-four zeros is a LOT of zeros after the decimal point.

    Off topic: I've linked to the Encyclopedia Britannica above because the article about Planck's constant is very short. The article in Wikipedia is long. I've frequently seen the Encyclopedia Britannica be misleading because of the severe limitation placed on size of the articles due to paper costs. Wikipedia does not have that problem.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 12, 2006 @09:55AM (#15316955)
    Sometimes I'm wrong, but at least where I live, most commercial buildings have a metal base under the roof (steel, tin, aluminum, etc). And, generally, codes require the metal base be grounded--which makes roofs great for transmitting towers (they need a well grounded base).

    But if it *is* built like this, it is absolutely impossible that any radiation of any kind managed to get through that roof to the people below. Unless you want to prove Faraday wrong. I know I don't.
  • Ancilliary problems (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:00AM (#15317002) Homepage
    Perhaps it is from EMP from all the wires/power/machines that run up the wall *to* the tower, not the tower itself.

    Would it be possible for multiple low frequency signals to interact to form a sine wave of a much higher intensity? ... so the tower puts out a pulse that's too small to affect genetic replication (say 10% of the threshold), but there are other EMP signitures or emmisions in the area that compound (say 5 sources at 10%), followed by personal cell phones and computers and lights...

    so you could 99.999% of the time have these signals never amount to much until the proverbial "EM Seventh Wave" comes in and makes those brain cells start dividing wrong. It only takes one cell to seed a tumor.
  • Re:Cause and Effect? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rwven (663186) on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:06AM (#15317043)
    My thought was also that it may just be something in the building. There are thousands of other buildings with cell transmitters around the country and this has never been reported before. I think it would be very wise to check the building itself for some other source of radiation (or otherwise) that may have caused this to happen. I tend to lean away from the idea that it's linked to the tower.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:37AM (#15317339)
    If there was any harmful effects of EM radiation, I think it would have been well established by now from the 100 year history of broadcast radio, where the people working at the station are exposed to more than 10,000 times the energy that people are in a building with a cell tower.

    This is just as stupid as the paranoia over high voltage trasmission power lines. They may be ugly, they may be dangerous if they fall down, but you're being exposed to thousonds of times more EM radiation from the wiring in your own home than from those lines, and it's never caused any trouble.

    This is the FUD wagon coming around again, probably started by the terrestrial phone monopolies to scare people back to using land lines.

  • Re:Not the power. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:38AM (#15317343) Journal
    It acts in a cumulative effect, over a short period. But having a series of chest x-rays one year, and having another set 5 years later, and another set 5 years after that, doesn't mean that after the last set you're suddenly going to have radiation sickness and thyroid cancer.

    Besides, I'm not sure where you're going with the comparison to hard radiation. Sure, we're talking electromagnetic radiation here, but cell phone towers don't pump out gamma radiation or x-rays...They pump out much lower frequency microwaves. I would be suspicious to see such a high incidence of cancer coming from microwave exposure, unless there is a problem with that tower.
  • Re:Not the power. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fnkmaster (89084) on Friday May 12, 2006 @10:40AM (#15317369)
    "Has been shown"? You are referring to the linear-no-threshold model [wikipedia.org], which is not agreed upon universally by any means. Radiation hormesis [hps.org] seems to have a decent amount of high statistical quality evidence backing it up, though the mechanism for a causal relationship is not fully understood.

    Exposure seems to behave linearly over a certain range of dosage levels, true, but not necessarily for all dosage levels.
  • by Erandir (578490) on Friday May 12, 2006 @11:16AM (#15317808)

    The parent is perfectly correct, but it's also interesting to note why (even if stations were not self-contained) the total EM power would have been lower due to several cables, not higher.

    Assuming that all cables contain information travelling at the same frequency, and that they are statistically independent (i.e. they contain different information), the central limit theorem [wikipedia.org] tells us that the total power is lower proportional to the number of cables, compared to the individual cables' EM power.

    The various signal sources tend to interfere with each other destructively, driving the total output towards the sum of the means -- which in this case is zero.

    But this is very mathy... bottom line is, many cables act in your favour, not against you :)

  • Re:Parent is correct (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hast (24833) on Friday May 12, 2006 @11:23AM (#15317879)
    A previous comment in this thread quoted some posts in other threads about this article. Among them comments from people who have been in that building.

    Basically they suggested that it was a death trap and hinted that it was basically filled with potential health concerns. Eg there had been two floods of the building in resent years. I can imagine that such events can make a lot of things grow that you really don't want in your walls.

    It's likely to be something in the building, but I doubt it is the cell tower.
  • Re:Cause and Effect? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NewWorldDan (899800) <dan@gen-tracker.com> on Friday May 12, 2006 @11:34AM (#15318001) Homepage Journal
    If that were the case, you would expect to see brain tumors from anyone working in the top floor of a building that had a mobile phone tower on top. If that were the case, there would be overwhelming evidence all over the country. But there isn't. It's far far more likely that there is a chemical reason behind this cancer cluster. A cleaning agent or fumigant used at some point on the floor would be the first place I would look. I can't rule out the possiblity that the construction of the tower focuses the right frequency of radiation somewhere on that floor, but it wouldn't be anywhere near the top of my list of suspects.
  • Avast! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nephroth (586753) on Friday May 12, 2006 @11:38AM (#15318039)
    *Equips Nephroth's Trollbasher - Plus 21 damage to luddite trolls!*

    There is a radio tower on the roof, just like there are radio towers on the roofs of thousands upon thousands of buildings all over the globe. Just because one building had a statistically anomalous number of brain tumors, doesn't implicate the radio tower, it implicates the location as a whole.

    You can't just assume that because there is a cell tower and you so desperately want cell phones to cause cancer, doesn't mean that they do. The vast majority of the evidence (the fact that this is one isolated incident) suggests that the cause is elsewhere.

  • Virus (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blair1q (305137) on Friday May 12, 2006 @11:44AM (#15318109) Journal
    Some cancers are caused by viral infections.

    That said, poorly-shielded microwave (GHz) equipment may produce spurious lobes on their radiation pattern that could affect the wrong places.

    And microwave radiation can also cause genetic damage leading to cancer.
  • Re:Not the power. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pithylittlegeek (974482) on Friday May 12, 2006 @11:51AM (#15318188)
    Actually, it has been shown in the last 10 years that the cellular response to ionizing radiation deviates from the "linear quadratic" (a strange term indeed) model at very low doses. There is a dose threshold below which it is actually more damaging than previously predicted. The theory goes that at very small doses the cell's repair mechanisms aren't triggered. There's a fairly recent review article by the guys who discovered the phenomenon here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd= Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=1498249 0&query_hl=1&itool=pubmed_docsum [nih.gov] Bear in mind that this is IONIZING radiation, so it is a totally different animal, but it is important to note that extrapolation/interpolation doesn't always give you the right answer. So personally, I would view cancer incidence data from low doses as very suspect at this point.
  • by duh_lime (583156) on Friday May 12, 2006 @11:55AM (#15318234)
    That's an important missing detail. If it's a metal roof, that's going to be a lot better at protecting the top floor from all RF from the transmitter than a wood/shingle roof or a wood/asphalt roof.
  • by the_rajah (749499) * on Friday May 12, 2006 @01:33PM (#15319299) Homepage
    When you have a radio repeater situation, as is the case with cell phones, it does not make sense to have the fixed repeater transmitter power level higher than the remote transmitter (cell phone). The cell phone power is rather low, otherwise you'd have a backpack to carry the battery. In ham radio repeater circles, a repeater with a high powered transmit is referred to as a repeater that's "All mouth". Here's some technical explaination of the radiation situation regarding cell towers. http://www.fcc.gov/oet/rfsafety/cellpcs.html/ [fcc.gov]

    I'm not a statistics expert, but I know that abberations in distributions of whatever effect are not impossible, or even improbably, given a sufficiently large study group. My wife has experience in disease clustering in her past administrative job at a university where there was a "cancer dorm". In the end, it was all BS, panic and hype. The actual distribution was not far off the norm. Remember that perception is often much more powerful than the truth in many people's minds.
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Friday May 12, 2006 @02:51PM (#15320116)
    I keep hearing the following kinds of short-sighted arguments. . .

    "Well, we've had radio towers broadcasting for ages now, and there's no problem with them. So obviously EM doesn't cause cancer."

    And. . .

    "The Sun hits you with more EM radiation than a cell phone, so obviously people complaining about Cell Phone Em are over-reacting."

    I've heard both of these arguments thoughtlessly repeated so often that they have become the same as any other meme or garden variety urban myth. I'd like to address them. First, radios. . .

    FM radio signals function in the 88 to 108 MHz range, and AM in the 535-1605 kHz range.

    Cell Phone signals operate in the microwave bandwidth, 1800 - 1900MHz and 800 - 900 MHz. While this is different than radio, the BIG difference is that Cell Phone microwaves are modulated all the way down to only 10 hz. Why is this significant? Because 10 hz also happens to be the general frequency where the brain's electrical activity operates.

    And therein lies the problem.

    Brain cells respond both physically and chemically to frequencies in that range and they do so in a variety of strange ways. For instance, the blood-brain barrier becomes permeable when exposed to modulated EM in the 10 htz range. --Which means that foreign (and toxic?) particles can cross into the brain cells themselves from the blood vessels. --If you spend a lot of time in a specific radiation zone where your blood-brain barrier is constantly not doing its job, it is reasonable to assume that the brain might be at greater risk from toxins in the blood.

    This is just one example. There are several others.

    Similarly, there are other problems with low-frequency EM. --For instance the 60hz electrical signals traveling down power lines have their own issues.

    In conjunction with the 10 gauss magnetic field of the Earth, 60hz causes cyclotronic resonance in Lithium atoms. So what? Well, Lithium, excited in this manner, moves on a vector and is able to cross the blood-brain barrier with much greater frequency than otherwise. Lithium, as some of you may know, has a medicinal affect on the brain, and is for this reason the main ingredient used in anti-depressant drugs.

    That's not contested science. People are simply not told about it. --The fact of the matter is that the people in charge of our society have a great vested interest in keeping people dumbed down and numbed in the head, both of which are achieved by deliberately designed EM pollution.

    As for the Sun. . .

    Who says that the Sun doesn't affect brain function? Astrology works, (despite the fierce head-shaking of those who don't like the idea but who have never actually studied a real horoscope). --But rather than cry, "There is no magic!" perhaps it would be better to ask, "Okay. So, how does it work?"

    I think there's a possible answer wrapped up in low-level EM emissions from space. . .

    For instance, when solar wind from the sun hits other planetary bodies, you get these reflected fields of energy vibrating in the 1-3 hz range which bathe the Earth for periods of time. As the brain tends to fall in alignment with whatever dominating frequency exists in it's environment, perhaps such periods affect the way brains work and develop.

    It is, of course, far more complicated than that, as different planets fall into different areas of the sky, and as the Earth and moon move around, you'll get all kinds of different fields in the 1-35 hz range where the brain functions. Indeed, the Sun itself is magnetically divided into 12 slices, rather like an orange. Perhaps as the Earth orbits, its inhabitants are affected?

    I don't know if this is the answer, but considering such ideas seems to me a great deal more sensible than a lot of fierce head-shaking.


    -FL

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