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An information produced by

Coruña Science Museums

Scientific Communication Monographs
antennas and health
Over the past month of February 2002 Coruña Science Museum were made available
to the public through a telephone line which is picked up their concerns about p
hone masts and, above all, about the effects of their radiation may occur in hum
ans. During the time that the line remained operational, received hundreds of ca
lls requesting more information on this topic that has dominated the public deba
te in recent months. Some issues that we try to answer in this monograph.
! What are the differences between the various waves and radiation?
ay waves of many kinds, such as sound that causes a guitar and are transmitted t
hrough the air, or who are on the surface of the sea. Are matter waves. Electrom
agnetic waves or radiation are not material and can exist in a vacuum, so we get
light from the sun and the stars. There are also other radiation and electromag
netic waves are not, as some radioactive emissions consist of material particles
! What is the frequency of radiation?
e can say that the unit of electromagnetic radiation is the photon. And photons
of different types of waves are distinguished by their frequency of UVA photons
is greater than that of infrared photons, and less than the X-ray The emitting a
ntennas and mobile terminals is 900 MHz (megahertz) or 1800 MHz Increased freque
ncy means more power. So an X-ray photon is five thousand times more energetic t
han visible light and a ten billion times more than that emitted by mobile phone
! What is the intensity of radiation?
the intensity of radiation, or the amount of photons that is associated, is also
very important. Although the frequency of the microwave oven and a mobile phone
is similar, the intensity of radiation emitted by the oven is about five thousa
nd times greater than the telephone.
! What is the difference between ionizing and non ionizing radiation?
ur world is full of electromagnetic waves. A few are visible and manifest themse
lves in the colors of things. Other abilities can feel as heat (the infrared), o
r detection devices (the radio, telephone, radar or TV). The molecules capable o
f breaking waves (X rays, gamma) are called ionizing radiation, while they fail
to do so are called non-ionizing radiation (radio waves, microwaves, infrared, v
isible and ultraviolet). Some non-ionizing radiation can increase the movement o
f molecules, which leads to heating. Microwave ovens are based on that property.
! Is it dangerous electromagnetic radiation?
l risk always depends on the type of radiation and dose. They are dangerous radi
ation that can break the molecules of the body. If so, for example, happen with
our DNA can result in cancer. It is important to know that even a single X-ray p
hoton can break a molecule of DNA, thousands and thousands of photons of visible
light can not get it. To understand this we can think about the amount of energ
y needed to throw a stone across the Atlantic. Although thousands of people coor
dinate to hurl stones, none of them reach the other side of the ocean. The secon
d factor to consider is the dose, which depends on the intensity of radiation an
d exposure time to it. Every day we are exposed to natural radiation sources (in
cluding some ionizing radiation) in doses that are not hazardous to health. The
large intensities, of course, involve greater risk. We've all seen in our sun ex
! Antennas Can disrupt sleep or cause headaches?
here are some studies that relate to the intensive use of mobile phones with the
onset of headaches, but these results have not been able to contrast and an unk
nown mechanism that could provoke. With respect to the antennas there is no evid
ence that it can disrupt sleep and cause headaches, which was expected since the
radiation dose we receive from them are much lower. Some specialists have point
ed out that the real cause of such a disorder may be stress to a sense of risk i
n any case, does not correspond with the scientific evidence available.
Electromagnetic spectrum
! What are the effects of microwaves on living?
ay thousands of studies on the biological effects of radiation.€While some show
that exposure to high doses of radio and microwave radiation can be dangerous,
there is a threshold of exposure below which no adverse effects are detected. Th
is phenomenon is well known exposure threshold, explaining that we expose oursel
ves to small doses of X-rays (a few films per year) without the health risks
outweigh the potential benefits. Some isolated experiments have detected biologi
cal effects at exposures below the levels considered safe, especially on the fun
ctioning of the nervous system. However, the committees of scientists who analyz
e the set of all experiments are concluding that these effects do not pose a hea
lth risk.
! "Mobile phones interfere with other devices in everyday use?
as a mobile phone emissions are more intense at the time you turn on or when est
ablishing a call. If at that time we are near a radio is easy to produce interfe
rence that disappear when the phone has been "identified" in the network and now
operating at the lowest possible power. Similarly, a phone can interfere with t
he information systems of an aircraft or a pacemaker that is in the vicinity.
! What electromagnetic radiation may be in housing? Are there screens to prevent
he fact that we listen to the radio, watching TV or talking on a cell phone insi
de a house indicates that these low-frequency radiation through the walls. To pr
event the passage of all these radiations would be necessary to build a heavy ar
mor that still does not obviate the existence of other magnetic fields, such as
those produced by the strings of power.
Overall, electricity and home appliances generate a 50 Hz electromagnetic field
whose intensity remains well below the limits considered safe. They also generat
e additional fields television screens and computer monitors, cordless phones an
d mobiles. We come from outside all radio, television and mobile telephony. Ante
nnas are also medical emergencies, fire, police and civil protection, radar syst
ems and satellite communication. In general, dim walls of a house between 3 and
20 times the strength of the field from outside.
! How safe are microwave ovens?
microwave ovens you generate a strong electromagnetic field radiation of about 2
450 MHz frequency that penetrates food and has adequate power to vibrate the wat
er molecules, thereby increasing the temperature. To enhance its effectiveness,
the walls of the microwave oven that bounced off and go several times for food.
The door seal is the most fragile point of sealing of a furnace of this type, al
though usually found only leak if dropped. In the case of leakage, the outgoing
radiation poses a risk for people who are close, that would notice a warm feelin
g especially dangerous to the eyes, a body part in which the lack of water hampe
rs heat dissipation.
! What risk do not use a mobile phone?
ll experts agree that the main risk to health from the use of mobile phones lies
in traffic accidents. It has been estimated that the distraction of talking on
the phone while driving multiply by 4 the risk of having an accident. With respe
ct to radiation, it has been demonstrated that exposure below the safe levels co
nsidered a risk to health. In particular, it has been demonstrably related to an
y type of cancer or pregnancy terminations.
However, while the investigation continues, it is possible to take measures to l
imit such exposure. For example, you can opt for phones with a lower transmissio
n power, shorten the duration of calls (not using them to chat) and limiting the
ir use to areas with good coverage, or closer to the window if we speak from an
enclosed area. Experts also advise against the phone to your ear.
If you replace the microwave generator on the oven is on a mobile phone, working
continuously at full power it would take more than ten days to boil a cup of wa
! Is it safer to remove the antennae of the population centers?
i are removed effectively phone base stations of urban centers, and mobile anten
nas would have to deliver more power to make communication possible.€This would
mean an increase in the intensity of the radiation received by both phone users
and by the other citizens.
! "Phone masts emit the same amount of energy?
to electromagnetic field strength a base on the number of people at all times us
e the phone within its coverage area. This explains, for example, that emissions
are generally weaker at night. So there are rules about how and when to make me
The mobile telephone systems divide the space to cover a pattern of "cells", eac
h of which is under the coverage of a base station. The smaller the cell size, t
he lower the power to which they have to issue both a telephone and the antenna.
! Why make noise sometimes antennas?
! What radiation received by tenants of a house with antennas on the roof?
ll antennas are placed on a pole or stand that does not emit radiation. The phon
e antennas are designed in such a way that electromagnetic radiation is projecte
d horizontally with a slight tilt toward the ground. Therefore, the space immedi
ately below an antenna can receive more radiation from other, even if it is loca
ted hundreds of meters away.
of antennas, radio base stations have power and cooling systems equipped with tr
ansformers. All transformers emit a buzz that can be transmitted to the ground i
n the form of audible vibrations if the insulation is improperly installed. The
noise that some people associated with the antennas never comes from the radiati
! Are there many types of antennas?
n the roof of a building we can find, apart from lightning and radio and televis
ion antennas, fixed antenna, radio and mobile antennas for analogue and digital
systems. All of them emit waves of frequency between 1000 KHz and 3000 MHz The l
aw provides that in any place, the field strength generated by all of these emis
sions can not exceed the limits established as safe.
Many mobile phone masts are vertical panel shape and cover a horizontal angle of
120 degrees, so it is common to see them in groups of three designed to cover t
he entire horizon. Sometimes there are three such panels pointing in each direct
ion, but this provision only acts as a central transmitter.
The publication of this leaflet is made in collaboration with
! Are they dangerous electromagnetic fields produced by power lines?
he first cries of alarm about the dangers of electromagnetic fields on health em
erged in the U.S. thirty years ago, talking about the possible effects of the fi
elds produced by power lines. Since then and despite that have been extensively
studied, have not been able to find evidence that this relationship, even among
professionals who spend time near these facilities.
The fields generated by power lines 50 Hz, but the intensity can be large in the
high-voltage lines. As with all electromagnetic fields, its intensity decreases
with the square of the distance. Ten meters of cable strength is ten thousand t
imes smaller than four inches.
! Are children more sensitive to microwave emissions?
ome agencies have taken up the recommendation to limit the use of mobile phones
among young people and prevent the installation of phone masts near schools, hos
pitals, parks and leisure centers. Such measures should not be to specific risks
are identified in these situations, but is proposed as a way to reduce the risk
perception by the public.
! Why do some countries have lowered exposure limits? ! Will you continue increa
sing emissions of electromagnetic waves?
and provides that the boom in wireless communications will remain with the third
generation mobile telephony (UMTS), which phones become something of a laptop w
ith access to data, video and internet via fixed networks, mobile and satellite.
However, the availability of space in the radio frequency spectrum is limited,
and increasingly there are fewer "holes" to accommodate the new services offered
by telecommunications companies.
All activities involving the sending of information in the form of radio waves a
nd microwaves have controlled the frequencies to which they must adhere. Example
s include remote controls, transmitters to monitor patients and babies, toys, re
mote control€necklaces wildlife control, communications spacecraft, radar for a
ir traffic control system or GPS satellite positioning.
as authorities in Switzerland and some parts of Italy have significantly lowered
exposure limits recommended by major international organizations. They aim to "
keep emissions as low as is technically possible and economically sustainable."
In practice, these restrictions do not apply to mobile phones, electrical applia
nces and medical equipment. Expert associations and agencies in the field have c
riticized some actions in which political interests take precedence over scienti
fic issues.
Coruña Science Museums