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    Tall tales of telco towers

    (Updated )

    LETTER | The need for speed in telecommunications in this digital era has necessitated the installation of important infrastructure including telecommunications towers. The misconception that telco towers approved by the government can endanger our lives has caused unnecessary alarm. Hence, an objective review is timely.

    Authorities concerned including Malaysian Communications Multimedia Commission (MCMC), Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang (MBPP), Malaysian Technical Standards Forum Bhd, Malaysian Nuclear Agency (ANM) and the Ministry of Health, implement policies and make decisions in compliance with stringent guidelines laid down by the World Health Organization and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and other regulatory bodies.

    Unbeknownst to anti-telco tower quarters, MBPP launched a legislation exercise in 2017 and took action against 137 illegally built towers. In Penang, telco providers must obtain the green light from technical agencies such as the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, Tenaga Nasional Berhad, Civil Aviation Department and the Fire and Rescue Department.

    It goes beyond logic that the government appointed by the rakyat would give the green light for telco towers if indeed strict regulations and monitoring had not been put into place. The Technical Standards and Infrastructure Requirements for Radio Communications Network Infrastructure is a very detailed 76-page blueprint for standards and compliances.

    The American Cancer Society has debunked the myth that those living, working, or going to school near a cell phone tower might increase the risk of cancer or other health problems. They acknowledge there is very little evidence to support this idea and have postulated several rational reasons.

    We must recognize that “the energy level of radiofrequency (RF) waves is relatively low, especially when compared with the types of radiation that are known to increase cancer risk, such as gamma rays, x-rays, and ultraviolet (UV) light. The energy of RF waves given off by cell phone towers is not enough to break chemical bonds in DNA molecules, which is how these stronger forms of radiation may lead to cancer”.

    As RF waves have long wavelengths, “which can only be concentrated to about an inch or two in size”, the energy from RF waves is unlikely to be concentrated enough to affect individual cells in the body.

    The American Cancer Association also argues that “even if RF waves were somehow able to affect cells in the body at higher doses, the level of RF waves present at ground level is very low – well below the recommended limits. Levels of energy from RF waves near cell phone towers are not significantly different from the background levels of RF radiation in urban areas from other sources, such as radio and television broadcast stations” emphasizing that “most scientists agree that cell phone antennas or towers are unlikely to cause cancer’.

    In a recent protest by 20 residents in Penang, attempts to correlate the sightings of dead pigeons and the decrease in the sightings of squirrels and monkeys with the installation of a telco at Pearl Hill are not only fallacious but also smack of ignorance as there are other socio-ecological factors that could account for those trends.

    Telco towers exist in countries and areas that are connected. If indeed it is hazardous to our health, developed nations would be the first to note and to take affirmative action. The technological developments clearly show that mankind is moving towards 5G technology with the caveat that authorities concerned follow stringent requirements and monitoring. And that is exactly what our authorities are doing so we can safely surf contentedly.

    It is time to put rest tall tales about the dangers of telco towers.


    The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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