Telecommunications base stations have long received bad press from the media and elected representatives, but the people protesting their presence and demanding their relocation have generally been the vocal minority, while the people who rely on base stations to send and receive information, getting online and conducting business constitute the silent majority.
Over the past month, the signal from a base station in Ganjing Borough (柑井) in Changhua County’s Hemei Township (和美) was turned off, resulting in a major inconvenience for local residents, and the silent majority stood and said enough is enough.
They let it be know how much they relied on the signal from the base station, and how important having a good signal was for them, demanding that it be turned on again.
Interestingly enough, nobody has come forward to admit that they were the ones who asked for the signal to be cut off in the first place.
It was certainly not the first case of protests against base stations in Taiwan, nor will it be the last.
Few people are aware of the science behind the electromagnetic waves emitted by the stations, and yet their hair still stands on end when they spy a base station in their vicinity.
If somebody in their family gets cancer, becomes sick or passes away, they place the blame on the presence of a base station near them.
This is a result of consistent and sensationalist negative news about base stations in the media, which feed public anxiety over the safety of electromagnetic radiation. Naturally, when it comes to their safety, most people prefer to err on the side of caution.
So, is it true that electromagnetic waves from base stations can cause cancer?
Statistics from the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Health Promotion Administration show that the main causes of cancer in Taiwan are smoking, drinking alcohol, being overweight or obese, the consumption of sugary foods, an unhealthy diet, a lack of physical exercise and infection by carcinogenic viruses.
The agency has also published figures on the accumulated risk of people in the nation contracting cancer: One in every four Taiwanese develop cancer of one kind or another, so it is no wonder that people have their concerns.
The strength of electromagnetic waves is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the base station. That is, the further one is from the source, the weaker the radiation.
Tests by the National Communications Commission have found that the strength of electromagnetic waves from base stations falls within safe values at a distance of 15m.
The legal requirement — that there cannot be buildings taller than a base station antenna or within 15m of the antenna on the side that is in the direct path of the signal — is specifically designed to protect members of the public in housing nearby base stations.
If base stations did cause cancer, then the governments of advanced nations would have long ago banned their development and use.
The conclusions of a study conducted many years ago by the WHO said that there is, at present, no evidence to suggest that long-term exposure to electromagnetic radiation below a certain level would result in any adverse health effects.
Therefore, there is no need to worry about base stations in your area. Rest assured and be free to enjoy the benefits that they bring.
Wen Jiun-yu is a member of the National Communications Commission.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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