There’s a widely circulated urban myth that mobile phones cause cancers. Reinforcing this myth is a recent news item being reported by the ABC, indicating seven RMIT staff members have been diagnosed with brain tumors in the last 7 years. So it happens, there is a cellular telephone base station in the RMIT building where these people worked.
Coincidentally, I got a particularly panicky email from a friend not long back on the topic, when she noticed a new mobile phone tower being erected in her neighbourhood. I told her not to worry.
I worked as a radio broadcast engineer for quite some years and also have been a licensed Amateur (‘ham’) Radio operator since I was a youngster. Many of the transmitters I worked with were in the 50,000 watt class. If exposure to radio frequency (RF) energy is sure to cause cancerous tumors, I should be a walking lump of cancer cells- and I’m not.
The single term ‘radiation’ is used both to describe the emission of radio waves and also the emission of gamma rays from radioactive materials like uranium and plutonium, but these types of radiation are quite different. Most people don’t know the differences.
The main difference between radioactive emissions and radio signals is in the energy and frequency levels of the emissions. Cancer causing gamma rays (which are similar to x-rays) from radioactive substances, are high-energy, extremely high frequency emissions, with frequencies much, much higher than that of visible light. Gamma and x-rays can disrupt the DNA in living cells by ionisation, causing them to replicate improper copies, which are known as cancers. Radio waves as used for communications are much lower energy emissions and of relatively low frequency compared to gamma rays and x-rays.
The low frequency and energy levels of radio waves make them unable to damage DNA via ionisation. The human body is fully transparent to radio waves below about 1 GHz. Electromagnetic radiation which is lower in frequency than ultraviolet light is incapable of ionisation. The most RF energy can do is vibrate water molecules, causing those molecules and materials nearby or in contact with the water molecules to heat up.
Most people in developed nations are completely unaware that they constantly live immersed in very strong radio frequency energy fields, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. Anyone born past about 1947 has lived their entire life in strong RF energy fields, usually without their knowledge.
TV stations emit multi-megawatt level (1,000,000+ watt) radio signals at frequencies up to around 900MHz.
Microwave ovens are actually small radio transmitters which operate at 2450MHz (or 2.45GHz; 1 Gigahertz = 1000MHz) and emit up to 1000 watts of power, though that energy is contained within a shield in the oven so that power may be used to vibrate water molecules in foods, causing them to heat up.
Cordless telephones for home use operate at several frequencies, but 1.8GHz and 2.4GHz are becoming popular. The higher frequencies are preferred as their usable range is shorter, meaning one cordless phone system is less likely to interfere with others in nearby homes. Cordless phones also emit very weak signals, on the order of 100 milliwatts (1/10 of 1 watt), also to minimise interference with cordless phones in neighbouring homes.
- By contrast, the latest miniature GSM cellular telephones can emit up to 600 milliwatts (6/10 of 1 watt), though some phones can emit up to 3 watts of RF energy. GSM phones in various parts of the world operate in 4 different frequency bands; 850MHz, 900Mhz, 1800MHz (1.8GHz) and 1900MHz (1.9GHz). The base stations which mobile phones use to connect to landline systems have varying RF output levels, but rarely exceed 50 watts.
Unless you live at the base of a TV transmitting tower, microwave ovens are the most hazardous RF energy source in your community. Microwave ovens are only a hazard if their RF shielding should fail, allowing energy to leak into the areas around them. Due to failsafe designs, RF leakage from consumer type microwave ovens is exceedingly rare- to the point of non-existence. Unless the oven has been physically damaged or the failsafe has been intentionally defeated, microwave ovens are totally safe around humans.
However, intentionally ‘leaky’ microwave ovens have been ‘weaponised’ by the US military. These are known as ‘Directed Energy Weapons‘ or DEWs. The Pentagon says they intend to use DEWs to disperse crowds. DEWs may indeed presently be in use in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The effect of DEWs on a person they were pointed at would be to heat tissues in skin and muscle, causing an intense burning pain. While the Pentagon claims that DEWs don’t cause permanent physical damage, tissues in the eye and reproductive organs are very sensitive to heat and would be very quickly (if not instantaneously) destroyed, blinding and sterilising victims within scant seconds.
Tissue damage caused by DEWs would be complete; cells would be destroyed by induced heat energy, precluding them from replicating at all- minimising if not completely eliminating any chance of cancers developing later on down the track.
Incidentally, you can safely ignore claims by conspiracy theorists about ‘mind control’ from microwave weapons. Some nutjobs are claiming that DEWs can be used to transmit images or sounds into the human brain. This is simply impossible as the human brain cannot detect or decode audio or video which has been modulated upon an RF signal- unless you happen to have a TV or radio receiver implanted in your brain… in which case you should stop hitching rides with aliens on weekends. Just like microwave ovens, all DEWs can possibly accomplish is heating tissues- and nothing else. However, it would be possible to harass unknowing victims by inducing various low-level symptoms like non-specific burning sensations and headaches, which the victim would be unlikely to know were being caused by microwave weapons.
I’ve written about DEWs in the past. I strongly believe that such devices should be classed with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons- and banned accordingly. However, considering that Shrubya and the Pentagon work with the general presumption that they are above the law, I wouldn’t sit around chugging whiskey whilst waiting for either to comply with any relevant laws or treaties.
As long as you’re not standing in the beam of a DEW, you stand zero chance of harm from RF energies- particularly cancer.
You can stop worrying about any risk of cancer from your mobile phone now!
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