By Arnaldo Pérez Guerra
Hand in hand with technological development, exposure to electromagnetic pollution increases, accentuated by the growing expansion of mobile telephony. The dangers associated with exposure to radiation from electrical networks -high voltage and home- and mobile phone antennas, among others, are increasingly worrying.
Hand in hand with technological development, exposure to electromagnetic pollution increases, accentuated by the growing expansion of mobile telephony. The dangers associated with exposure to radiation from electrical networks -high voltage and home- and mobile phone antennas, among others, are increasingly worrying. They can cause health effects, such as changes in the central nervous system and certain types of cancer. In Chile, there are technical and safety standards for the installation of antennas, but it is not ensured, as the Constitution states, "a pollution-free environment" nor is there legal regulation.
The failure of environmental policies and regulations that prevent the degradation of ecosystems and provide solutions to public health problems, has forced the community to adopt new approaches. This is what happened with the deterioration of the ozone layer. The issue began to be discussed long before it was found that the problem was due to the release of certain chemicals. "The threat was so serious that the international community could not sit still waiting for the consensus of the scientists," says Valentina Durán, a researcher at the Center for Environmental Law at the University of Chile.
The case of telephone and cell phone antennas is similar. Its technology has reached millions and it is one of the fastest growing companies. Users increased 137 percent in the last five years: 1.747 million cell phones in the world, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The statistics were released at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), recently held in Tunis. But the effects could include tumors, cancer, and leukemia, among other diseases.
Citizen movements have opposed the installation of antennas and high voltage towers and present judicial appeals that most of the time are not accepted. Any regulation to be implemented should be transparent, allow citizen participation as a legal tool, ensure access to information, and protect the health of the population and the environment. Neighbors demand greater control, the prohibition of new facilities and respect for property and regulatory plans. In the world there is a growing tendency to legislate on the subject: "Regulations focus on granting health protection to citizens against known adverse health effects. The less proven effects have been taken into account only by some regulations, specifically on the basis of the precautionary principle. This is the case in Switzerland, Italy, Australia and New Zealand ", adds Valentina Durán.
Andrei Tchernitchin, academic at the Laboratory of Experimental Endocrinology and Environmental Pathology of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Chile, describes the effects of electromagnetic pollution. It explains that it could cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's, dermatitis, allergic diseases, bronchial asthma, increased incidences of abortions, neurobehavioral, cardiac and endocrine disorders, among others. When investigating deaths caused by arrhythmia and acute myocardial infarction, it has been established that there is a relationship with cumulative exposure to this type of contamination. But still scientists cannot agree.
"There is experimental evidence of biological effects associated with exposure to electromagnetic radiation. Some of these effects, described in experimental work and in epidemiological studies, have been interpreted as evidence that prolonged exposures to low intensity electromagnetic fields are potentially harmful", he says. Tchernitchin. However, many scientists still do not admit this possibility. The controversy is explained, he adds, by the high variability in the population under study: "The development of cancer by exposure to electromagnetic radiation is a delayed effect, that is, it develops after a latency period that can last many years. In the case of cell phones and relay stations, the information is insufficient due to their limited time of use. Even so, the precautionary principle should be applied. This is a paradigmatic case, as there is disagreement in the scientific community about the health effects of the different degrees of radiation exposure. In addition, there is fear and ignorance in the public, which is manifested in the rejection caused by the antenna and tower installations. "
The precautionary principle was recognized in the protocol on biosafety, of the Convention on Diversity. It has been incorporated into the laws of Switzerland, Australia, Germany, Canada, France, Holland, New Zealand, Sweden, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador, among others. Chile does not enshrine it in environmental policies, despite international treaties that have been ratified such as the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, the Montreal Protocol, the Biodiversity Convention and the Climate Change Convention. The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992) states: "In order to protect the environment, States should broadly apply the precautionary approach according to their capabilities. When there is a danger of serious and irreversible damage, the lack of absolute scientific certainty should not be used as a reason to delay the adoption of cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation. "
Serious health effects
Electromagnetic pollution should be regulated through emission standards. There is an indiscriminate installation of cell phone antennas. According to experts, the emission of a cell phone exceeds three million times the natural radiation. The Spanish geobiologist Carlos Requejo says that electromagnetic radiation accelerates brain waves to the limit of stress and can have other biological effects: "In the absence of regulations, companies take advantage of the legal vacuum. The repeater antennas of the mobile network proliferate. Many Scientific reports warn about the risks of electromagnetic radiation, especially microwaves, television emissions, radars and mobile telephony, but also in computing - chips- and multiple electronic devices. "According to Requejo, continuous exposure to cell phones or repeater antennas would cause damage to the cell membrane, effects on the immune system with loss of defenses and DNA alteration.
The use of cell phones has been linked to the growth of tumors, skin cancer and brain tumors. It is also linked to Parkinson's and the risk of accelerating the onset of Alzheimer's. A study by Dr. Hyland, from the British University of Warwick, states that the waves used by cell phones are of the same frequency as Alpha brain waves. According to Tchernitchin, "we must prevent and inform people that cell phones, microwave ovens and even their computer monitor are a risk factor for their health. In Chile we are very careless and we have no regulations. Some of the microwaves that are sold here, they have been rejected in Europe and the United States for not meeting safety regulations. " A microwave can generate radiation a thousand times greater than that of a cell phone.
A study carried out in California concluded that leukemia in children, brain cancer in adults, heart problems and suicides, had electromagnetic radiation as a cause-effect factor. Other scientists point out that children under 18 should not use cell phones, since radiation passes through the cerebral cortex.
The cell phone has been installed in consumer society and each phone has a useful life of one and a half years. In the world, more than 500 million go into disuse each year, generating about 250 thousand tons of hazardous waste and chemical substances that accumulate in the environment. In Chile there are no reliable figures.
Some antennas are known to have been installed in schoolyards and kindergartens. In 2001, they exceeded 1,400, a figure that increased to 3,000 in 2003. Today there are about 4,000.
On the other hand, it is known that some antennas have been installed in schoolyards and kindergartens. In 2001, they exceeded 1,400, a figure that increased to 3,000 in 2003. Today there are about 4,000. According to the Undersecretariat of Telecommunications (Subtel), at the end of 2004 cell phone users in our country were around nine million.
The protests increase. In the Las Acacias sector, in Florida, the residents confronted the Carabineros for the installation of an antenna. There were already two others in the neighborhood. In Arica something similar happens in the Raúl Silva Henríquez population, where an antenna was installed in the parish. At Macul, about thirty antennae sprouted in just one year. Is that companies offer up to 600,000 pesos a month. Subtel authorizes them and notifies the municipality of the works. It only looks at technical aspects and the location is governed by the General Urban Planning Ordinance. They present the plans to the Directorate of Works who can object to the place, but not much else. The project that tries to prevent them from continuing to be installed near schools, churches, clinics and hospitals, and less than a hundred meters from populated areas, sleeps in Congress.
The only current regulation in Chile is Subtel -Resolution 505, from the year 2000- which sets a technical standard on "security requirements". The resolution sets an emission limit -435 uW / cm2- of power density. According to Valentina Durán, if it is compared with the provisions of the General Environmental Bases Law, it is concluded that Subtel has regulated "a matter that is not within its competence, so the legal vacuum persists. It should be incorporated into the legislation. the 'precautionary principle', in addition to regulating the emission ".
High voltage, invisible damage
High voltage wiring is also a potential carcinogen. Chilectra points out that the average exposure would not exceed 18.8 milligauss. But some researchers say that even over 3.0 milligauss is a serious health risk. Electromagnetic radiation emanating from power towers can cause childhood leukemia, tumors and brain cancer. In 1994, the Washington Department of Labor and Industry granted a workers' compensation claim in favor of a worker from the Kaiser aluminum company: the cancer he suffered was caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields at work. In 1989, the US Congressional Office of Technology Assessment issued a report that warned that "electric and magnetic fields produced by electrical power systems can pose health hazards and cause biological disturbances." After some studies, the Environmental Protection Agency recognized, in 1990, that it is possible that "there is a link between electromagnetic fields generated by power lines and the development of cancer." Authorities in Chile say they have no money to investigate.
Andrei Tchernitchin says that in California it was confirmed "the relationship between electromagnetic radiation and the appearance of diseases such as leukemia in children and adults, female and male breast cancer, brain cancer, depressions that end in suicides and spontaneous abortions. Electromagnetic radiation is Harmful and higher voltage, even more. Sick people are much more often living near power lines and high-voltage transformers. For years, cigarettes were said to cause cancer and other diseases. But tobacco companies said there was no evidence conclusive, while funding some scientists to lie. Today it is known to be a reality. "
The safe limit of the magnetic fields emitted by pylons is 2.0 milligauss. It is recommended by the National Council for Environmental Protection of the United States. Studies in Sweden have found that children exposed to more than 3.0 milligauss were four times more likely to develop tumors and leukemia. In 1992, the Danish doctor Jorgen Olsen warned that the risk of developing childhood leukemia, lymphoma and brain tumors increased five times more in people "who lived near a power line, exposed to radiation greater than 4.0 milligauss" . Chile is still waiting for a regulation that regulates exposure to electromagnetic fields. It is not a public health problem nor is it on the agenda of politicians.
Photographs by Jorge Zúñiga: http://trincheradelaimagen.blogspot.com/