Antigua St John's - On August 19, the Ministry of Information Technology held a press conference during which Jorge Skvarca, an engineer and member of the WHO Advisory Panel on Radiation, presented the preliminary findings of his three-day study into cell phone base stations.
Unfortunately, when ABS aired the recording of the press conference for the evening news, the question and answer period was entirely disregarded.
On the government website, only the introduction speeches by Dr Mansoor and Skvarca were uploaded, and there was no indication that questions had even been asked.
Caribarena, however, has put the full press conference on Youtube, along with some excerpts.
In this article, we will analyze the question and answer period that followed. Caribarena promised to analyze this press conference, as well as the study done by Skvarca, and here it is.
First, it is important to explain why Caribarena got considerably high readings on the cell towers, while this independent study got very low ones. In our study, as we clearly expressed in our articles, we used the IEMFA's Seletun Scientific limits for cell tower radiation. Skvarca, in his study, chose to use the “internationally accepted” ICNIRP guidelines.
The two are very different, but perhaps one needs some revision. The Council of Europe has stated that the ICNIRP guidelines have “serious limitations,” and that they need to be revised to take into account a lot of modern research.
The ICNIRP guidelines only take into account thermal effects, and completely ignore all biological effects. This means that unless you are made physically hotter by the waves, there is nothing to worry about. This is crucially incorrect, as the Council of Europe has expressed.
The ICNIRP guidelines were also written in 1998. However, Skvarca's study relies on these numbers. Another important point to note is that, according to WHO/IARC, all radio frequency EMFs (like those of cell phones and towers) are classified as “possibly carcinogenic”. As Skvarca pointed out, coffee is also in this category, but so are some pesticides.
Ultimately, it does conflict with ICNIRP's guidelines though, creating much confusion. ICNIRP guidelines are currently used in some European countries, but France, Germany, and Austria were some of the first countries to abandon ICNIRP and enforce significantly lower limits. The IEMFA limits we used are based on current, leading research, and while the limits are being accepted slowly, they offer a far more precautionary approach.
There were many surprising statements made during the press conference. The first of these is the length of the study. Skvarca arrived on Tuesday, and met with the relevant ministries, but no measurements were conducted.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Skvarca, along with someone from the Ministry of Information Technology and a PAHO representative, set out at 7 am and called it a day at 8 pm, after around thirteen hours, including breaks and time spent driving between the sites.
On Friday, they again set out at 8 am and wrapped it up at 10:30 pm, giving Skvarca time to organise preliminary findings. Considering that over 63 sites were covered, this gives between 10-20 minutes of measuring per site. This is a huge error. When a base station is not handling calls, it becomes temporarily suspended, and the strength of its EMF is drastically reduced. The more calls the same tower is handling, the more power it is emitting.
Normally, 24-hour studies are conducted on individual towers, so that the tower's highs and lows can be considered. Then, the greatest value is tested, ensuring that even when the tower is most active, no one is at risk. Skvarca's study could never have conducted such lengths, and therefore may not have the truly highest values. In addition, Skvarca said the values recorded are averaged for analysis, which means the highest value isn't even used.
The press conference was not all negative however. Skvarca did make some very important and correct notes. First, he said that regardless of whether the reading is low, if a tower is near a school and it can be moved, it should be.
This is called the precautionary principle, as described by ICNIRP. Skvarca was speaking specifically about a base station near the Urlings Primary School. Children are highly vulnerable, exponentially more so than adults, and there are still very few studies that have been aimed at these youngsters.
Perhaps the best news we heard at the press conference was delivered by Samuel. When speaking about tower sharing, we asked what the Ministry's aims or target values are as far as the number of mobile base stations.
Samuel pointed out that other towers, such as internet access towers, should not be confused with mobile base stations, but the Ministry's aim would be to get the number of towers down to 40. He said that health issues aside, there is also the aesthetic issue, and the Ministry would love to get to that final figure.
Although there are still some serious issues to be addressed, it seems Caribarena's call for the reduction of mobile base stations has been heard. With the Ministry of IT setting its sights on 40 towers, the need for a more indepth study becomes clear. The health issues surrounding mobile base stations should not be dismissed, even if Skvarca says they are 20 to 100 times lower than international limits.
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