Health Alert: La residents in danger of radiation side effects

While the debate rages unabated over the health risks of radiation that is emitted by high tension cables and mobile transmission towers, there are signals indicating that residents of La Wireless in the Greater Accra region are getting predisposed to carcinomas or cancers.

For a mobile phone to send and receive calls, it must be within range of a transmitting tower. Mobile phone companies use transmission towers to relay messages to users at great distances.

The towers, and to a lesser extent, the hand sets, generate electromagnetic radiation (EMR). While most EMR is not considered to be dangerous to humans, scientific study shows that the EMR from mobile phone, radio and TV transmitter towers very likely is.

A haematologist at the University of Ghana Medical School, Prof. Joseph Acquaye, says there is cause to worry because “over the last 20 years we are seeing more and more cancers of the blood.”

Speaking to in an exclusive interview, Prof. Acquaye  drew parallel between cigarette smoking and cancer of the lung and radiation emitted by mobile transmission towers and their effects on human health.

He said about 40 or 50 years ago, speculations were rife that smoking of cigarette was related to carcinomas of the lung. Prof. Acquaye indicated that when doctors come into contact with patients, they ask them if they smoked cigarettes – some say yes and others say no. He said in medicine some speculations have been proven to be right and others were wrong.

As time went on, he said, “it turned out that the incidence of lung cancer is higher in people who smoked cigarette than people who do not.” Adding that, even though “the numbers may not be big, they are worth noting.”

However, he says now, it has been proven beyond doubt that cigarette smoking causes carcinoma of the lung , other types of carcinoma and heart diseases.

“It is not just a matter of statistics, but the chemical in the tobacco which causes it is known. It ceases to be speculation,” he says.

“We know so many things that predispose to carcinoma,” he said. Emphasizing, “I didn’t say causes, but predispose, because again with statistics we know what happens in the cells when people are exposed to those things.”

He then went on to give the example of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the Atomic Bombs were dropped. He said people in these areas were found to be suffering from carcinomas of the blood, “it’s all from radiation,” he said.

“Now there is the problem with the nuclear reactor in Japan and people are worried, because of radiation. It will have effects on the cells and it will lead to carcinomas of all sorts,” he said.

“We know what happens in the blood cells when people are exposed to all forms of radiation, because there are different sources of radiation.

“It has been established without doubt that all sorts of radiation, because radiation comes from different sources, affect human and animal cells adversely and that causes carcinoma,” he said.

“To me it is immoral when one sees situations of excessive radiation which can harm people and then we say we should wait for statistics before we act. It is not right,” he said.

“Over the last 20 years we are seeing more and more cancers of the blood. It’s not just the matter of increase in the numbers, but they present in very obscure ways,” he said and asked, “but why is it so?” Providing an answer, he said, “we should blame environmental factors.”

He raised concern over the fact that people collect containers of insecticides and chemicals, wash these, put water in them and drink. “These are all part of the environmental pollution,” he said.

According to him, “We pollute our environment by bringing down discarded things in the West and dumping them here.”

He however said, “even though for now we cannot lay our hands on this or that, we know that there is environmental pollution and that is responsible for what we are seeing, ” adding that, “may be with time we would be able to lay our hands on one or a few other factors. But if we have not been able to lay our hands on the exact causes, we can’t say it is not happening. It is happening,” he said.

He told that when doctors see patients they ask about their social life, and social life includes family life, where the patient lives and the occupation that he or she does.

“And we are seeing that proportionately a higher number is coming from the La Wireless area. It is a small area, and if in a year you are seeing about 20 cases from all over the country and two of the patients come from this area, that is a large number.  Someone will say it is only two, but to us it is significant,” he said with that example.

“We don’t have to wait till it gets to 50. When we notice it we have to talk about it,” he intoned.

Asked what must be done. He said he doesn’t know, but said “we should continue to document it and call attention to the situation and hope that someone would take action, or else we have to wait till the statistics prove beyond all reasonable doubt, that radiation predisposes people to cancers.”

Describing in simple terms what radiation does to humans, he said, “it knocks out bone marrow or destroys the cells and puts life in danger.”

“When that happens, a victim would have to depend on blood transfusion for sustenance for the rest of his or her life,” he revealed.

A resident of La Wireless, 53-year-old teacher, John Aklaku has been living in the area since 1982 and a telephone mast is planted in the middle of the house where he lives. He told that he drew his landlady’s attention to the fact that he has heard about the possible health hazards of the towers, and he told her that he understands that the towers produce radioactive infections and houses near them could be affected. He however added that he is unaware of any negative effects.

A 74-year-old woman, Mad. Grace Adjetey in whose house a tower has been erected in the last five years, says her son told her there are no associated health hazards with the mobile transmission towers.

“If it poses any danger to human life, we would not have allowed it to be erected in our house,” she said.

She however hinted that “if I get to know that indeed, it has side effects on humans, I will order its immediate removal.”

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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