What are the dangers of living near telecommunications masts?
The dangers of living or working near masts are those that can or may arise from living in the vicinity of any metallic infrastructure such as falling of the mast if there is poor civil works.
However, these are mitigated by requiring the operators/owners of these facilities to comply with the prescribed requirements and controls that ensure safety to the people and environment around the installations.
Do masts cause cancer?
A mast is simply the metallic tall structure or tower on which the communication antennas are mounted. The mast itself therefore doesn't emit any radiation.
A base station (commonly known as a mast), on the other hand, consists of a set of equipment including antennas that are mounted on a supporting structure such as a mast/tower or building roof tops. These are necessary for communication or linkage between an access device (e.g. mobile phone) and a communication network. The base station's antennas receive and send messages to a mobile phone/device by radio frequency (RF) or electromagnetic fields (EMF) radiation.
Research studies have been carried out by various institutions and expert groups to assess the effects of such developments on health, specifically cancer. Such institutions include the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the International EMF project- both under the World Health Organisation (WHO); the Interphone study by the Health Protection Agency (HPA); as well as the Danish Cohort Study by the Swedish Radiation Safety.
According to the research so far carried out, there is no conclusive evidence that this radiation from base stations causes cancer. The radiation from base stations does not have sufficient energy to alter or damage body tissue. Again, standards and guidelines have been developed to ensure that those who live or work around base stations are safe.
What determines where a base station is located?
A mobile network is made up of overlapping coverage cells with a base station at the centre of each cell. The size of the cell is commonly based on the number of people in the area. The more the phones users in an area, the greater the network capacity required to serve them. Heavily populated areas are therefore served by smaller cells and in turn more base stations.
The location of a base station is thus selected chiefly on its ability to provide the best coverage to the area at hand and to enhance the capacity of the network in an area.
While limits have been set for the maximum level of radiation or RF emission that should exist at the bottom of a base station, there is no prescribed distance at which base stations should be located from human dwellings.