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Mobile towers, also called base stations, are everywhere. Each of these emit radio waves, leading to the concern that radiation from towers will make us ill. We often hear stories of possibly getting cancer or some other life-threatening condition due to all the radio waves around us.
Radiation is bad, right? Not always. Radiation simply refers to energy moving away from an object. When you are next to a fire, it radiates heat because large amounts of energy is moving from the fire to you.
Electromagnetic waves are particles charged with energy and travelling in rolling waves across the air. Everything from televisions to radios to wifi to mobile phones use it to send information around. Yes, the same concept that lets you tune in to your favourite radio station is what connects your mobile phone to others.
Some radio waves can indeed cause serious health problems, but the above examples don’t qualify. The reason why is the difference between ionised and non-ionised waves. It sounds complicated, but the difference is simple:
When something is ionised, it has enough energy to take electrons away from atoms. If this happens to the atoms that create living tissue such as you or me, it can risk causing a mutation, which can become cancer.
X-Rays can do this over long exposures, which is why x-ray technicians stand behind a barrier when they take those skeletal photos. While the patient is safe because the dose is so small, constant exposure to people who work with x-rays can cause health issues in the long term.
Non-ionised waves do not have enough energy to take electrons away from atoms. They are as effective as trying to push a wall over with a hosepipe. Most of the waves around us - television, radio and mobile - are non-ionised. Simply put, they are too weak to make us sick.
That is what worries people: yes, mobile waves are weak, but there are a lot of them. This is true, yet still not a cause for concern. Why? Because of how radio waves work.
The energy question
Imagine starting your car, giving it some gas, then letting it roll down the road. Assuming the street is flat, your car will start slowing down. Why does this happen? Because you have to expend energy in order to change a state - in this case, the state is moving forward. No energy, no moving forward. That is why we put the pedal to the metal!
This rule applies to everything - from the sun to radio waves. The moment a radio wave leaves its signal transmitter, it starts to lose power. Even if multiple waves hit you one after the other, they don’t add up to much. You’d have to stand right next to the transmitter for a really long time to get any kind of energy pounding.
Since mobile towers emit their waves high from the ground and in a generally horizontal direction, the energy of the waves on the ground is considerably lower than at the top of the tower. Mobile tower waves are already low energy - less than that of television or radio - and weaken as they travel. So even if you are surrounded by towers, you literally have to sit right at the top of one to be in any kind of danger - and you’d have to be there for an extended period of time.
Electromagnetic waves are one of the miracles of the modern age. We use them for everything from communication to cooking our food. Some can be very dangerous. But the ones we use for our phones, TVs and radio are not. They simply don’t have the energy to cause any harm!
Thousand of studies have backed it up, but it’s also simple science. Some waves are very dangerous: UV rays from the sun have enough energy to mess with your atoms. So wear sunblock! But you don’t need any protection from mobile tower waves.