Antigua St John's - How many cell phone towers have you seen in Antigua? Ten... maybe 20? A recent study has found almost 100 individual cell phone towers/antennas located throughout our 108-sq mile island. This means that on average, there is one tower for every 1.1 sq miles.
The average cell phone tower can cover between five to 10 sq miles. With all the global controversy surrounding the potential health risks associated with cell phone towers, what do these numbers mean for the population of Antigua?
What kind of danger are we in? What standard is being applied to our cell phone towers? Who is responsible for regulating cell phone towers in Antigua & Barbuda, and ensuring that they meet a safe standard? How close should you be living to one of these towers? Does the government have a department to regulate this?
Caribarena.com engaged a private company to analyze and measure the cell phone towers in Antigua, and the findings are astonishing. The company used special equipment to measure all frequencies and their respective strengths around the island. After three weeks of measurements and mapping of antennas and cell phone towers, these are some of the results.
The safe limit used throughout this article, as recommended by the IEMFA’s Seletun Scientific Panel, is approximately 0.000017 milliwatts per centimeter squared [mW/cm2]. Interested in what this limit means?
Click here to read more about cellphone tower safety standards.
When Caribarena.com contacted the Telecommunications division, we discovered that in Antigua & Barbuda, there is no regulation of cell phone towers. According to Clement Samuel, officer within the Telecommunications Division, the existing standard is from 1951, and does not regulate cell phone towers. He added that there was a draft telecommunication bill ready in 2007, but it never reached Parliament.
When we measured the EMF (Electro-Magnetic Field) readings on Wireless Road, we found readings with an average strength 16 times stronger than the recommended safe limit.
Studies have shown that readings above the recommended safe limit could result in adverse health conditions, such as leukemia, brain tumours, Alzheimer’s, ALS, sperm damage, and DNA strand breaks, which may appear after five to 10 years of exposure.
According to Samuel, the last measurement of EMFs was done in 2008. “We do not have in Antigua, let’s say, automatic frequency measurements and power measurements in place," he said. "We have looked at it, but it’s something that is cost prohibited for us at this time. We did some very extensive stuff. We had a group here from the US we worked with. The last stage of what we’ve done would have been I think 2008, 2009. We had a team come down from, I think it was from NASA, and they scanned across the whole island.”
Another, even more powerful EMF was discovered at Urlings Primary School, where readings were 16 to 32 times stronger than the safe limit. These readings came from a cell phone tower which was just metres from the school’s main entrance.
One of the strongest readings on the island was discovered in front of Antigua Plumbing and Hardware, where readings were 46 times the safe limit, on average.
Another school, Island Academy, is also blanketed by cell phone tower EMFs, with readings averaging 18 times the safe limit. Another powerful EMF was found in Golden Grove, with readings 20 times the safe limit in a populated residential area.
These are only a few examples of the risky cell phone towers that we found. Almost all 100 towers/antennas that were discovered by our study are significantly over the recommended safe limit.
According to Samuel, the Telecommunications Division has only about 40 towers on record. “Again, this would be information I would have at the office, it wouldn’t be something that I could tell you off the top of my head, but I would say there are possibly I think in the region of around 40," he said. "If I could design the system - and this is one of the things that we’ve written to the operators about - we would have as little as possible. I wouldn’t want to have more than 10."
One method used around the world to reduce the number of cell phone towers is tower sharing. Cell providers can share towers, thus expanding coverage without additional equipment.
When questioned about tower sharing in Antigua, Samuel said, “both LIME and Digicel have endorsed the idea and have come out and have started doing some tower sharing. They are actually implementing it, so they are actually sharing tower space, and already they have some agreements already in place between Digicel and APUA."
One factor that makes some cell phone towers more risky than others is height. A higher tower not only covers a greater area, but its beam of greatest intensity are more spread out, and weaker when they hit the ground. A low tower’s beam of greatest intensity is focussed and powerful in comparison.
A typical APUA PCS tower is over 100 feet in height. In comparison, many towers operated by LIME are wooden poles, which resemble electricity posts rather than proper cell phone towers. This means that a typical LIME tower is more focussed and powerful when it hits the ground, and can be more dangerous. In some locations, Digicel operates portable towers, which are intended for temporary use, not for permanent placement in residential areas.
A high tower could be placed on a hill. This, however is costly. Roads must be paved, electricity must be used, and the cost of construction is greater. In Antigua, however, the lack of regulation has allowed cell phone providers to take these shortcuts, using money-saving methods.
Is being so close to an antenna potentially dangerous?
We asked Samuel how far people should live from an antenna, but his reply was unclear. “Again, it all depends on the tower. You are going there now into a very very technical area because if I give you how far someone should live from an antenna, than the next follow-up question will be, should antennas be at a location where people work," he said.
"For example, I’m aware that there are antennas put at the Heritage Quay. I think it’s the Heritage Quay hotel. And these antennas are primarily to give good coverage to the cruise ships. So you know the argument could be, well if there is a hotel, people live there. I think it all comes down to the question of what is the power levels. So I don’t think I could give you a definitive answer.”
A study in southern Germany found that people living within 400 meters of a cell phone tower, for 10 years, were 2.35 times more likely to get cancer than those who lived further away.
After our study was completed, we mapped out every antenna/cell phone tower discovered. As you can see on the map, many of the antennas/cell phone towers are deep within residential areas.
During our study, it was noted that almost one third of these cell phone towers were also supporting Wi-Fi antennas, and their EMF readings were not included in this article’s EMF values. Our team is still hard at work measuring EMF readings for Wi-Fi and WiMAX systems.
Also, the total number of towers reported does not include Wi-Fi towers, antennas, and masts. These will be subsequently analyzed in another story.
Caribarena.com's initial findings have established that there are several standards being applied. It is important to note that APUA PCS appears to have the proper infrastructure. Most APUA PCS antennas are using telephone communication transmissions to communicate between towers, which does not generate additional EMF fields.
The government of Antigua & Barbuda needs to take immediate action to rectify this situation. The lack of regulation in Antigua has resulted in two cell phone carriers recklessly building improper cell phone towers and putting the public at risk.
These cell phone carriers are companies from out of Antigua, who take millions of dollars out of our economy each year, and yet they are not able to maintain proper infrastructure.
Due to the lack of financial reporting by the government, we have no way of knowing whether these companies even pay adequate taxes. And if they do, how is it that the Telecommunications Division is cost prohibited from buying equipment to ensure sure that we are safe?
Many countries around the world are taking steps to limit cell phone towers and make sure they are far from people’s homes and schools; the time has come for our government to do the same.
Live near an antenna/tower, but don’t see it on the map? Want to know if your home is inside a strong EMF? Contact us here and we’ll send our team to investigate.
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