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Cell Phone Tower Radiation Safe Distance

The short answer: More than 300 meters.


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What is a Safe Distance to Live from Power Lines?

Our environment is increasingly filled with electromagnetic frequencies of human-made origin. Regarding these matters, concerns have been raised by the public about what these daily exposures might mean for good health.

These concerns have also become heightened as of late due to public fears of the new 5G technology, which is currently being deployed in select locations and will eventually become the global cellular telecommunications standard. The main focus of concern involves 5G towers, their energy intensities, and the density with which they will be deployed since their transmission range is more limited than the prior technology.

We will review here studies that have examined these issues regarding pre-5G technology and discuss recent studies examining 5G technology and its potential health effects. First, however, let us discuss some aspects of electromagnetic emissions to provide a background to this review.

Understanding Cell Phone Towers

The antennas of the cell phone towers determine the level of radiation the people nearby will be subjected to. If you want to get a clear picture of the radiation level near you, you need to inspect the antennas first.

Here are a few things that you need to know about the antennas of cell phone towers and how they’re related to the level of radiation.

Type of Antenna

The radiation emitted from the cell phone towers depends mainly on the type and build of the antennas themselves. There are two major types of antenna: Transmitting and Receiving. 

The easiest way to differentiate between the two is by looking at their shape. Receiving antennas tend to be more circular or elliptical, whereas transmitting antennas are more rectangular.

The amount of radiation emitted by an antenna depends on the amount of frequency it emits. For example, if an antenna emits 600 MHz frequency and another emits 5,000 MHz frequency, the latter will produce more radiation than the first antenna.

Effect of Barriers on Emissions From Cell Phone Towers

The good news is that EMF waves lose a substantial chunk of their energy when they hit a solid surface. So if there’s a concrete building, tree, or any natural or artificial barrier between the cell phone towers and your house, then your exposure to those radiations will be reduced.

That said, sometimes cell phone companies angle the cell phone towers so that the frequency emitted from the antennas doesn’t intercept anything. They do so to ensure better connectivity and faster service. 

When this happens, there are high chances that the angled placement of the tower will increase the concentration of the emissions at one particular target. This might not affect the entire locality, but it will certainly be very harmful to the tower’s target.

Relationship Between Number of Antennas and Level of Exposure

As a rule of thumb, if the number of antennas pointing at your house is more, you’ll be subsequently exposed to a higher degree of radiation. However, most countries have strict laws regarding the placement of cell phone towers so that no house is dangerously exposed to extreme levels of harmful EMF radiation. 

Despite the government regulations, it’s a good idea to check the surroundings of a new property and the number of cell phone towers near it before you finalize the deal.

Cell Phone Tower Shadow Zones and Radiation

The frequencies emitted from a cell phone tower go out at a certain angle, leaving the area directly below the tower void of any form of radiation. These regions are called shadow zones. If your house falls in a shadow zone, then you can easily avoid those harmful EMF waves despite being close to the tower itself.

Since transmission goes out at an angle, it also suggests that there’s a particular region around it that receives the highest degree of radiation exposure. The exact point will depend upon the angle of emission, height, and width of the tower. 

Read Related Reading: What is a Safe Distance to Live from Power Lines?

Electromagnetic Frequencies (EMF) and the Inverse Square Law

Electromagnetic energy emissions diminish over distance following the inverse square law. Thus, distance from these sources itself is an important mitigating factor in health and safety.

The law basically states that the energy density drops as a function of the squared distance divided into one. For example, an energy level of 10 at a distance of 10 meters drops to 2.5 at a distance of 20 meters and drops further to a level of 0.004 at a distance of 50 meters.

This is essentially a similar effect to walking away from an illuminated target holding a flashlight. The beam becomes spread out over a larger and larger area the further you are away from the target and, therefore, the emitted energy density is reduced.

GSM and CDMA Tower Studies

Cell Phone Tower Radiation Safe Distance

Animal research studies in real-world situations have indicated that there exist adverse effects from radio transmission energies to animals. A study of dairy cows reported reductions in milk yields when cattle were pastured or stabled near transmitter towers (Loscher and Kas [1998] Prakt Tiererzr 79:437-444).

Significant diminishment in milk yield was measured as well as increasing evidence of herd stress (behavioral abnormalities indicating nervousness, consistent head orientation away from the tower, conjunctivitis) when dairy cattle were stabled near a large television transmission tower. The tower was also used as a communication platform for other radio frequency devices, including cellular communications.

Relocation of the herd to a pasture on the far side of the farm away from the antenna produced noticeable improvements in milk production and marked reductions in symptoms of stress after five days in the new location. As a control, the dairy cattle were relocated to the original stable and pasture location, whereupon the symptoms returned after a few days.

Measurements of energy intensities were performed on the problem site, where power densities were reported to range from 0.00051-0.26 μW/cm2 across a frequency range of 464-735 MHz. Despite these surveys, one weakness of the study is that no ground distance measurements between the tower and stable area were reported.

Another study conducted in 2007 by the Citizens Initiative Kempten West (in Germany), researchers measured blood serotonin and melatonin levels in 25 citizen volunteers living close to a cellular communication tower. The tower in question was installed on the roof of a bank building in their neighborhood.

Baseline blood samples were collected just prior to the completion of tower construction. In 84% of participants surveyed, significant decreases averaging -46% in blood serotonin were detected after six months of tower activation.

Blood metabolite levels of melatonin (6-HO-melatonin) were also found to significantly decrease among 56% of the volunteers. Paradoxically, 28% of the participants had elevated serum melatonin levels outside of accepted clinical norms.

Residents surveyed varied in relative distance to the tower, ranging from 15-300 meters. No significant correlation was found between serum changes and tower proximity, which was ascribed to differences in individual sensitivity irrespective of the intensity of energy emission exposure.

An epidemiological study of adverse symptoms experienced by people living in proximity to cellular phone towers was conducted in 2002 by Santini and colleagues (Santini et al. [2002] Pathol Biol [Paris] 50:369-373), as well as a follow-up study by the same group in 2003 (Santini et al. [2003] Pathol Biol [Paris] 51:412-415). The findings reported in these studies, which examined health complaints of 530 people, found strong correlations between symptom intensity and tower proximity.

Significant proximity-related effects were reported for the following health complaints within 10 meters (fatigue, irritability, headaches, nausea, anorexia, sleep disturbances, skin problems, and cardiovascular problems), diminishing with distance out to beyond 300 meters where volunteers reported no unusual health problems. Datasets were corrected for confounders such as pre-existing conditions and balanced against the time of residence (1-5 years).

The most frequent complaints in the 100-200-meter distance range were fatigue and headaches. The researchers concluded that telecommunications transmission towers for cellular phone services should be constructed at least 300 meters from homes, places of business and other sites frequently visited by people.

They also concluded that women tended to have higher rates of symptom complaints when living within the 300-meter zone (215 female and 205 male study volunteers were surveyed in this section of the study).

Studies of 5G Towers (Not yet and here’s why)

Cell Phone Tower Radiation Safe Distance

The technologies used in the new 5G telecommunication systems differ from their predecessors in several key ways. Although the low band transmission ranges are similar to 4G, the high end of 5G employs millimeter-wavelength transmissions to allow greater information transfer density and signal stacking. 

Millimeter band 5G is capable of 1-2 Gbit/s rates of transmission and frequencies ranging from 24 GHz on the low end to as much as 72 GHz on the upper portion of the band. Mid-band waves in the 100 MHz range can approach one Gbit/s.

Despite these improvements in information transfer and volume, 5G technology has shorter transmission distances (<200 meters) than older technologies, requiring a massive revamping of existing infrastructure. Shorter transmission ranges necessitate a marked increase in the number of emitter sources, thereby also increasing the electromagnetic emission density in any given service area.

Needless to say, this has raised great public concerns regarding the safety of this technology and its potential to transform our living environments in an adverse way. Note that we have no exposure data for this situation, as humans have never been exposed en masse to this type and amount of electromagnetic radiation before.

As such, the science on what we can expect from long-term exposure is entirely lacking. There may be no real effects at all or it could end up being really, really bad. We just don’t know yet.

If we employ the precautionary principle, which basically states better safe than sorry, and consider what older, less intense electromagnetic emissions do for human and animal health, we can reasonably assume that 5G will at least produce these same effects. With higher transmission energies, however, there is a greater potential to accentuate the already reported negative effects of cellular communication towers.

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