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Scientist calls for regular monitoring of telecom masts

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A Research scientist with the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), Dr Joseph K. Amoako, has recommended the regular monitoring of all base stations or telecom masts in the country to ensure that emissions from them stay within the required limits.

“The public has the right to be concerned, but with the current low levels of emission and available scientific knowledge, there is no cause to worry as long as emission levels are kept within the compliance level,” he stated.

He said even though available data from researches conducted into the link between exposure to radiation from such facilities and health did not confirm adverse health effects, regularly monitoring of the facilities would compel their owners, including the telecommunication companies, radio and television stations, and all other stakeholders to strike a balance between the deployment of the technology and the need to ensure public safety.

Dr Amoako, who was making a presentation at a workshop organised by the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC), discredited speculation that radiation from the masts caused cancer.

According to him, the only time radiation had been found to cause cancer was after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan during World War II.

The one-day workshop brought together representatives of telecommunication companies, civil society organisations (CSOs), scientists, district and municipal assemblies to discuss various scientific findings on exposure to electro-magnetic fields and health.

Dr Amoako said unlike ionising radiation, non-ionising radiation, which is the type of electro-magnetic radiation the base stations emit, did not carry enough energy to cause the health problems being perceived.

He said research conducted at 50 base stations in the country indicated very low non-ionisation, hence there should be no cause for concern.

He called for strict adherence to the guidelines developed to regulate the mounting of telecom masts in the country in order to allay the fears of the public concerning those structures.

“With the increasing number of mobile phones and other technologies, the public will continue to be exposed to emissions,” he said, but was quick to add that the strict implementation of the guidelines would ensure public safety.

Communications Minister, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, in his remarks, called on telecom companies in the country to concentrate on indoor and outdoor advertising, instead of exploiting the economic circumstance of some Ghanaians through the painting of houses with their logos and colours.

He said the new guidelines drawn to regulate the mounting of towers in the country made co-location mandatory in order to reduce the number of telecom masts being erected all over the country.

He appealed to telecom companies to support the government to create jobs for the physically challenged by putting up telecentres where the physically challenged could be employed to sell products of the companies.

Dr Jack Rowley, Director of Research and Sustainability of the GSM Association, an association of mobile operators and related companies devoted to supporting standardisation, deployment and promotion of the GSM mobile telephone system, stated that a study in the United Kingdom, which assessed a mother’s exposure during pregnancy showed that “there is no association between risk of early childhood cancers and estimates of the mother’s exposure to mobile phone base stations during pregnancy”.

Meanwhile, available information on the World Health Organisation (WHO) website on base stations and wireless technologies states that “considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no scientific evidence that the weak radio frequency (FR) signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects”.

It, however, urged national authorities to adopt international standards to protect their citizens against adverse levels of RF fields.
It stressed the need to restrict access to areas where exposure limits might be exceeded.

In recent times, the rampant installation of telecommunication masts throughout the country has raised concern over public health and safety.

And the rush for land for that purpose has stirred some land disputes, sometimes sparking public protests and conflicts.

Last year, a mass protest was staged in Accra when a telecommunications mast erected by one of the service providers collapsed at Ashale Botwe, killing one person and injuring another.

The Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, in response, temporarily banned the mounting of telecom masts, pending the development of a guideline to regulate the industry.

The draft policy, although completed, it is yet to receive Cabinet approval.

Source: Daily Graphic

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