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Cell Towers Not Responsible For Illness

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the tinfoil-underwear dept.

Wireless Networking 355

drewmoney notes a BBC article on a major UK study of whether cell towers (or "mobile phone masts" as they are called in the UK) cause illness. The study concluded strongly that symptoms of illness caused by mobile phone masts are all in the mind. People claiming sensitivity to radio emissions showed more symptoms in trials, according to the article, whether signals were being emitted or not. Quoting: "Dozens of people who believed the masts triggered symptoms such as anxiety, nausea and tiredness could not detect if signals were on or off in trials. However, the Environmental Health Perspectives study stressed people were nonetheless suffering 'real symptoms.' Campaign group Mast Sanity said the results were skewed as 12 people in the trials dropped out because of illness."

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355 comments

Bad science or bad science reporting? (5, Insightful)

nokilli (759129) | about 7 years ago | (#19995053)

Dozens of people who believed the masts triggered symptoms such as anxiety, nausea and tiredness could not detect if signals were on or off in trials.
That's not the test. People can believe and are in fact poisoned by additives in our food and yet if pressed to detect if a given mean contained additives they wouldn't be able to tell.

The obvious way to conduct such a study would be to correlate the incidence of illness with the proximity to radio sources.

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Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (5, Funny)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#19995093)

I've had a toothache for the last week (seeing the dentist tomorrow alright?) and I've been reading Slashdot every day. Must be Slashdot causing my toothache because my friend, he doesn't read Slashdot and he doesn't have a toothache.

Science ftw.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (2, Insightful)

nokilli (759129) | about 7 years ago | (#19995269)

And for a sample of two of course the results would be meaningless.

But if out of a sample of 10,000, 5,000 were experiencing toothaches, and it just happened that those same 5,000 were reading slashdot, things would be more interesting.

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Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (0, Flamebait)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#19995287)

I guarantee I can find such a sample.

Perhaps you meant a "random sample"?

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (5, Funny)

nokilli (759129) | about 7 years ago | (#19995329)

A random sample, yes. Of people. Who are living today. On Earth.

This Earth, not some other Earth.

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Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (3, Insightful)

raddan (519638) | about 7 years ago | (#19995517)

Yes, but no matter how good your sample is, you're still talking about epidemiology. Correlation can help you know where to look, but as so many /.'ers are fond of pointing out, correlation is not causation. You still need to show a mechanism. There is no known mechanism for illness caused by the kind and magnitude of the radiation we're talking about here.

FWIW, there are LOTS of kinds of radiation. Not all of it is bad for us. I love it when people ask me if their monitors (LCDs, mind you) are blasting them with radiation. "Of course," I say, as their eyes widen with fear, "that's the whole point!"

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (1)

joseph449008 (1121209) | about 7 years ago | (#19995095)

Correlation studies can be easily confounded. The best way to tell is a randomized double-blind trial where people are exposed to active and inactive masts and their symptoms evaluated.

It cuts both ways (3, Insightful)

brunes69 (86786) | about 7 years ago | (#19995097)

Basically this is how you do a placebo trial. The science is telling us that these people are sick, but it is not due to radio towers, because having the radiation on or off is not making any statistically significant difference at all in their symptoms.

It is the same as when you do a dug trial with 1/2 the people getting sugar pills, and in a huge majority of *both* groups the people get better. You use statistics to find out the *true* efficacy of your medicine.

Basically - the point is the illness could be being caused by any number of other local-specific factors, but cell towers is not the cause.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (5, Insightful)

GauteL (29207) | about 7 years ago | (#19995137)

Well, you could have bothered to RTFA. People's perception is important because it may be (and the study suggests) that it is people's perception that causes illness.

They tested on both people's perception and symptoms such as sweaty skin and high blood pressure.

They found that people with these symptoms felt unwell regardless of whether the mast was off or not and that they generally had no idea whether the mast was on or off. If they were truly ill from signal sensitivity they should be able to tell whether the mast was on or off depending on their general feeling of well-being.

The effects were, however, real. Thus it seems like a classic case of placebo, but the "Mast sanity" campaign group obviously refuses to acknowledge that this may be psychological effects.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (1)

tenco (773732) | about 7 years ago | (#19995255)

and that they generally had no idea whether the mast was on or off. If they were truly ill from signal sensitivity they should be able to tell whether the mast was on or off depending on their general feeling of well-being.
Maybe it's a long-term effect. Which you can't simply switch on and off in short timespans like this.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (5, Informative)

pe1rxq (141710) | about 7 years ago | (#19995365)

That was not the reason for the test....

They tested a short-term effect claimed by people who call themself 'sensitive' to RF transmitters.
Those people claim that those transmitters have an almost immediate effect on them.

When a short term effect is claimed, you test for that short term effect.
And in this case when they properly blinded those people they found no short term effect.

Simple summary: The short term effect claimed by these people is bullshit, there might or might not be a long term effect but this test doesn't cover it in any way.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (2, Insightful)

heyguy (981995) | about 7 years ago | (#19995867)

If it is a long term effect, how could they be so certain that it was caused by cell phone signals?

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (2, Informative)

lilomar (1072448) | about 7 years ago | (#19995473)

Psychosomatism, [wikipedia.org] FTW!

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (2, Interesting)

yada21 (1042762) | about 7 years ago | (#19995953)

People's perception is important because it may be (and the study suggests) that it is people's perception that causes illness.
But if it's perception that it causes an illness that causes the illness, then the problem isn't the mast's, it's perception. So that's what should be changed. I'm not sure it's easy to do. Shouting "YOU"RE IMAGINING IT, YOU LOONS!" probably won't work.

It all sounds like a kind of circular argument to me.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (1)

Vihai (668734) | about 7 years ago | (#19995161)

You can say that under pressure people would not be able to detect the effect under study but in this case the symptoms were very present!

You can say that under pressure people may develop those symptoms, but, again, in other tests people under pressure do not develop such symptoms.

The obvious way to conduct such studies is NOT by trying to find a correlation, because correlation does not prove a cause->effect relation.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19995259)

But the absence of correlation proves the absence of a cause->effect relation.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (1)

Vihai (668734) | about 7 years ago | (#19995421)

But there already is a correlation, it's just the cause that is debated :)

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (2, Insightful)

Lockejaw (955650) | about 7 years ago | (#19995813)

Actually, this study strongly suggests a lack of correlation:

... when tests were carried out in which neither the experimenter or participant knew if the mast was on or off, the number of symptoms reported was not related to whether a signal was being emitted or not.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (4, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | about 7 years ago | (#19995199)

Actually, the best way would be to use subjects which have no subjective bias: rabbits, monkeys, etc. After all, they are trying to test whether or not the masts are causing the symptoms. Mind you, they cannot control for other possible environmental influences, i.e. other sources of radiation, because they are so prevalent and widely varied. The drawback to using animals is that how do you know if they are nauseous or dizzy?

I'm going to save them a lot of trouble and expense and posit that the masts are not causing the symptoms, from the standpoint of radiation exposure, because radiation is all around, in various intensities and wavelengths all the time. While I don't have my old astrophysics textbooks handy and I don't have statistics on cell tower emission strengths, I'm willing to bet the extra amount of radiation from the masts is insignificant compared to the general background radiation and would only pose a threat if it were highly concentrated and you were living in extremely close proximity.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19995297)

And the irony is: using a mobile phone (as most of the people complaining against masts do) exposes your brain to far more radiation than a mast. And the even bigger irony: if your campaign against a mast succeeds, your mobile phone will be transmitting much more powerfully to reach an unnecessarily distant mast.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (5, Funny)

nokilli (759129) | about 7 years ago | (#19995359)

If a mobile phone mast falls in the forest and no hypochondriacs are there to feel relief, did it really radiate electromagnetic energy?

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Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (1, Interesting)

sepluv (641107) | about 7 years ago | (#19995213)

They've already done that, and I think most of the studies done so far have shown some correlation (although I don't think it was glaringly strong).

They are now trying to prove a causal link. There are many reasons for an apparent correlation, including just coincidence and bias in the studies (e.g.:where they choose to do them), and, even if there is a real correlation, a direct causal link is one of many possible explanations (e.g.: off the top of my head, poor people might get ill more due to a lack of good food and medical care and radio transmitters might be put in poor areas more because people there have less resources to combat planning applications for masts).

This method is the most obvious and easiest/cheapest way to attempt to prove a causal link (but if the study shows no link it doesn't mean there isn't one). For the reasons you give, they need to do further more complicated studies to be sure whether there is a proven link or not.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (2, Informative)

slobarnuts (666254) | about 7 years ago | (#19995217)

Your counterexample is poor. A person can not be poisoned by an additive if the additive is not in the food. Whether they detect it or not is of no consequence, it is their belief that matters. If they beleive they have a sensitivity to an additive, and they beleive they received a food with that additive, then they are going to be more prone to exhibit symptoms of poisoning, regardless of whether the food has the additive in it or not. There, i just made your counter-example fit the model of this test. By the time im done typing this others will have probably pointed out your fallacy as well.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (1)

sayfawa (1099071) | about 7 years ago | (#19995223)

Also, this is just a short term test of one type of illness suspected of being caused by these towers. A test of long term effects, done by doctors and not the patients' perception needs to be done. And even if that were done, this isn't testing for the cancer and leukemia that most people are worried about.

In summary, I think that headline is misleading.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19995281)

I agree with you. Whether the tower is temporarily on or off is not sufficient evidence of anything and may not have any noticeable effects. Illness is a process and even if people "should" feel better when the tower is off, their bodies may not adjust and become healthy again for years, if ever. Mercury has this issue - people fall sick from excessive exposure to mercury, but simply giving someone mercury for a day or not giving mercury to someone for a day will not affect anything in the short run and will not be noticeable (most humans can't tell if the mercury in their fish is within safety limits or not). Only prolonged exposure will lead to worsening or improvement of symptoms. On any given day, most humans cannot reasonably guess whether the fish they ate is contaminated or not, but the cumulative effect over years is easily noticeable if the mercury content was, on average, high.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (1)

1u3hr (530656) | about 7 years ago | (#19995301)

Dozens of people who believed the masts triggered symptoms such as anxiety, nausea and tiredness could not detect if signals were on or off in trials.
That's not the test. People can believe and are in fact poisoned by additives in our food and yet if pressed to detect if a given mean contained additives they wouldn't be able to tell.
The obvious way to conduct such a study would be to correlate the incidence of illness with the proximity to radio sources.

Actually, many studies of illness have been made, and found no correlation with radio wave exposure. But still people complain of "anxiety, nausea and tiredness" and blame it on "radiation". The only real way to measure "anxiety, nausea and tiredness" is to ask people how they feel, which is what this study did.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | about 7 years ago | (#19995455)

One of these sufferers was on the news last night. She wears a copper veil because without it she can immediately sense radiation sources and, as well as the headaches and nausea, the vision in her left eye will become blurred and tired at the end of the day.

I think a lot of people claim this sort of immediate sensitivity and this is what the study was investigating.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (2, Interesting)

clifforch (515800) | about 7 years ago | (#19995575)

... as well as the headaches and nausea, the vision in her left eye will become blurred and tired at the end of the day.
Sounds like a textbook case of migraine to me. These can often be bought on by stress in combination with other factors such as diet.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (1)

FinestLittleSpace (719663) | about 7 years ago | (#19995651)

That woman was a crackpot. She carried round a sodding speaker that 'converted the radiation to sound' and demonstrated how it sounded like loud static which was "clearly not good". What did she expect, the conversion to sound to sound like Beethoven or something? Idiot.

Also, a gauze? Yeah, that'll 'save' her.

I'm glad someone actually finally did an investigation of placebo here as there's far too much sensationalism about radio waves and far too little science.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (1)

blueg3 (192743) | about 7 years ago | (#19995371)

Sure, the obvious way is to correlate illness incidence to radio source proximity. This, however, deals with subjective illnesses (anxiety, tiredness) and addresses the very problem with simply making this correlation -- the "whether or not you are ill" measurement is not accurate.

Your analogy isn't quite appropriate, though. Suppose you were allergic to a food additive. I find many people who also claim this. I put all of you on separate diets, with nearly-identical food, except that about half of your diets include this food additive. You should be able to accurately tell me, after some time on this diet, whether or not the additive was present based on the presence of allergy symptoms. If reporting of symptoms is unrelated to the presence of the additive, you're inventing your symptoms (probably because all the popular kids say food additives are poisoning you).

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (1)

falcon5768 (629591) | about 7 years ago | (#19995457)

Yes but in this case its the RADIATION that they are blaming on the sickness. If people are saying they are getting sick with the tower not even powered up, then it is NOT the tower doing it as the only source of said sickness that could be attributed to the tower would be missing.

Your method of testing doesnt even relate to the problem at hand, that of people making up illnesses over a perceived threat. Using your analogy, its more like saying this food is poisoned and getting sicker and sicker as you eat it... yet have no poison anywhere in the food but simply being told "there is poison in this". What they are simply showing (and whats been known for years) is that you can be convinced to be something to the point your body actually goes about and screws with it's self, yet have no actual illness be present.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (1)

Captain_Chaos (103843) | about 7 years ago | (#19995777)

The obvious way to conduct such a study would be to correlate the incidence of illness with the proximity to radio sources.

That is what they tested! They did a double blind test, with a control group (it doesn't get much more scientific), which found no correlation between the transmitter being on or off and the subject becoming ill (as reported by themselves but also by physical symptoms such as sweating and higher blood pressure).

That means that there is no evidence for a link between radiation from mobile phone masts and illness, which is as far as science can go. It can't disprove a link. But it doesn't have to, the onus is on the people who assert that there is a link to prove that, and the fact that they fail again and again to do so in scientific studies is strong evidence that there is no link.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (1)

Hozza (1073224) | about 7 years ago | (#19995837)

These specific tests were for people who claimed various symptoms due to radiation "sensitivity", headaches, nausea etc.

Their symptoms were highly correlated with being told that a radiation source was switched on, and not at all correlated with whether it was actually on or not.

i.e. the symptoms would appear if they were told the source was on, even if it was off, and would disappear if they were told it was switched off, even if it was still on.

The tests were in fact done as a "double blind" i.e. neither the test subject, nor the researcher performing the test actually knew whether the source was on or not.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (1)

attonitus (533238) | about 7 years ago | (#19995873)

Talking of bad science, here are Ben Goldacre's comments [badscience.net] . And here is also a copy of the original paper [badscience.net] (30 double-spaced pages) so that you can judge for yourself.

Re:Bad science or bad science reporting? (1)

pedramnavid (1069694) | about 7 years ago | (#19995941)

Correlation does not equal causation. Perhaps cellphone towers are found in poorer neighbourhoods because land there is cheaper?

cooties (4, Funny)

Gearoid_Murphy (976819) | about 7 years ago | (#19995057)

I heard that, this one time, this guy, got like cooties from a cell tower, true story.

Cell tower location (0)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about 7 years ago | (#19995463)

I heard that, this one time, this guy, got like cooties from a cell tower, true story.
That usually only happens when a cell tower is located to close an all female university or some other place that has an unusually large concentration of adult human females such as a shoe store or a Zara store (You don't even want to know what happens to men who haven't been preemptively medicated and who happen to be in the vicinity of a cell tower on friday and saturday nights if that cell tower was located next to a male stripper club). Estrogen poisoning via cell tower signals is a well know phenomenon and taking it into account when locating cell towers is taught in basic telecommunications courses by all respectable Universities. Your friend should sue the telco that owns the tower for causing him to contract estrogen poisoning. Unless they get compensating testosterone shots coupled with a course of heavy beer drinking, potato chip eating and watching violent movies and contact sports to balance out the estrogen levels, estrogen poisoning can lead to excessive breast tissue growth and a general increase in effeminate traits and behavior in human males.

This post was intended to make no sense what so ever, if you do see the slightest spark of logic in it I pity you...

Re:Cell tower location (2, Funny)

Gazzonyx (982402) | about 7 years ago | (#19995841)

This post was intended to make no sense what so ever, if you do see the slightest spark of logic in it I pity you...

I thought it was insightful, but I didn't have mod points today; I also haven't had my first cup of coffee yet. I never use mod points until I have my first cup of coffee as lack of caffeine hinders my reasoning capabilities. I'm off to find coffee before I post something else like this and find my karma so low I have to dig for it. Be back in an hour to join you fine gents' in todays series of flame wars.

Psychological? (5, Interesting)

Nimsoft (858559) | about 7 years ago | (#19995073)

I'd be willing to bet a fair amount of the 'symptoms' people claim they are suffering from wireless signals (I've even had someone moan that my WiFi signal was giving them a headache!) are entirely psychological. I put the router where nobody could see it, the complaints stopped :)

Re:Psychological? (1)

sepluv (641107) | about 7 years ago | (#19995101)

Actually, I've inadvertently subjected myself to blind tests on this (with my Wi-Fi dongle--the router doesn't give me a headache) on a couple of occasions by wondering why I had a headache when I thought it was off and going to check it. I think this depends very much on the person and the WiFi transmitter used.

Re:Psychological? (2, Insightful)

eggoeater (704775) | about 7 years ago | (#19995203)

You just negated your own argument...how can a wifi dongle give you a headache but a wifi router not?

I think this depends very much on the person and the WiFi transmitter used.
I think it just depends on the person.

Re:Psychological? (2, Interesting)

iainl (136759) | about 7 years ago | (#19995271)

I think it also depends on the transmitter. If, for example, there's a malfunctioning transformer in there giving of a barely-noticeable high-pitched buzzing noise, that could be giving a headache.

There are plenty of sensible reasons for equipment to cause effects, it's just that (as far as we can tell) merely being an 802.11 transmitter isn't one of them.

Re:Psychological? (0)

eggoeater (704775) | about 7 years ago | (#19995361)

If, for example, there's a malfunctioning transformer in there giving of a barely-noticeable high-pitched buzzing noise, that could be giving a headache.

IANA psychiatrist, but I'd say that's still psychosomatic.
Noises, by themselves, do not cause headaches. The headache could be caused by the clenching of the jaw in response to the noise however.

Here's a kind-of litmus test: If something makes you ill if you are asleep or in a coma (eg. you breath a toxic chemical and it burns your lungs), THEN there is a cause-effect relationship.
Otherwise, there's just a correlation, and something else is the cause.


Re:Psychological? (1)

samkass (174571) | about 7 years ago | (#19995725)

Noises, by themselves, do not cause headaches. The headache could be caused by the clenching of the jaw in response to the noise however.

Headaches can certainly be caused by non-physical means. A common example is the migraine, which is caused by a seratonin trigger that improperly dilates the blood vessels and causes intense pressure in the head. Nothing to do with clenched jaws, but closely related to anxiety and depression, which are also tightly coupled with seratonin issues.

Re:Psychological? (1)

eggoeater (704775) | about 7 years ago | (#19995929)

I only gave the clenched jaw as an example...certain noises certainly make me clench my jaw.

Nothing to do with clenched jaws, but closely related to anxiety and depression...
You just validated my argument for me... the headache is not caused by the noise, but by some other illness (eg. depression).
Headaches can be triggered by things, like sounds, but they are not caused by sounds. A good example of this type of correlation is PTSD.

This exactly what most people don't understand when it comes to disease: the cause-effect relationship.
Just because a small minority of people experience symptoms does not establish cause and effect.
If you take 100 people and sit them around a cell phone tower, and one person gets a headache, then we
cannot say the cell phone tower caused the headache, despite the fact that the person with the headache thinks so.

Re:Psychological? (1)

sepluv (641107) | about 7 years ago | (#19995279)

how can a wifi dongle give you a headache but a wifi router not?
I didn't test this too much, so it may just be that I tended to spend extended periods of time very close to the dongle (what with it being on the PC) but not the router. The dongle was a bit faulty in that it used to overheat and cut out, so that may be connected somehow. I haven't had headaches as much when I've tried other people's dongles. Anyway, I'm got good old cat5e cabling now, much less hassle.

Re:Psychological? (1)

sholden (12227) | about 7 years ago | (#19995343)

No one has ever complained of headaches/etc (aside from a case of pneumonia which I'm pretty sure isn't cause by radio waves) at my place - we've had a lot of visitors staying for a few days in the last couple of years.

My laptop picked up 45 access points last time I ran network stumbler. Plus there are 4 always on 11g clients. In a one-and-a-half bedroom apartment.

I would expect someone to have had a seizure upon stepping out of the elevator...

Re:Psychological? (1)

ajs318 (655362) | about 7 years ago | (#19995447)

Because (1) you're usually nearer to the dongle than the router, and (2) light (including radio waves) travels in straight lines. At any one time the RF field (which had a certain amount of energy pumped into it) is spreading out over the surface of a sphere. This means that the signal intensity varies inversely with the square of the distance from the antenna.

At 1m. from the antenna, the signal strength is a quarter of what it was at 50cm. from the antenna. At 1m50 from the antenna, it is one-ninth of what it was at 50cm. At 5m. from the antenna, it is 1/100 of what it was at 50cm. from the antenna.

Re:Psychological? (2, Interesting)

eggoeater (704775) | about 7 years ago | (#19995157)

Yup. It's called psychosomatic and people will find any number or reasons to be ill due to it.
My wife use to work at an insect ID lab...she's an entomologist, and at least once a week someone
would send in a piece of fuzz or lint with a letter claiming that these bugs were making them sick.

Wether it's cell phone towers, power lines, non-existent bugs, or viruses you cant see, there are some people who are convinced the world is out to get them, and it's not their fault.


Re:Psychological? (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 7 years ago | (#19995187)

Absolutely. People can make themselves sick by believing that something is making them sick. Like, if I told you that in studies, reading Slashdot everyday gave people severe headaches, and if you really believed me, you'd start getting headaches. If the brain believes the body is sick, the body will be sick. After all, the brain controls everything in the body, right?

Re:Psychological? (2, Insightful)

samkass (174571) | about 7 years ago | (#19995677)

entirely psychological

There is no such thing as symptoms that are "entirely psychological". The cause may not be triggered by the physical interaction of the radio waves with the body, but so-called "psychosomatic" symptoms are still very real. Blood pressure changes, headaches, nausea, nervous system abnormalities, heart palpitations, muscle weakness, dizziness, "cloudy" thinking, sinus pressure, rashes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, insomnia, and many other physical issues can be triggered by stress and non-physical causes. That doesn't make them any less real. The body releases a cocktail of internal signals in response to all sorts of combined internal and external stimulae that cause all sorts of real, scary, and completely physical symptoms.

These people probably need a little counseling and perhaps a month or so of Lexapro to prove to themselves that the cause of their symptoms are not radio waves. Anxiety, depression, and other seratonin-related issues (along with all their physical symptoms) are very curable these days once they are properly diagnosed and the patient is willing to be treated for the root cause.

I am not a doctor.

Re:Psychological? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19995789)

Actually, I can understand the wi-fi complaint: my old router made a very high-pitched whine which only a few people could hear. Those that could (me included) got headaches after being around it for too long. After a few weeks, I replaced the router (for an identical model); the whine is still there, but it's MUCH quieter, and no-one's getting any headaches.

Re:Psychological? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19995895)

It's not necessarily psychosomatic. When I was young, I was diagnosed with CFS/ME [wikipedia.org] . Apparently, there were a huge crop of cases in the immediate vicinity at around the same time, far above typical levels. I happened to live right by one of the most powerful tv/radio masts in England. Naturally, some of the people who were diagnosed blamed the mast without any scientific knowledge or even a reason, it was just something to blame. It made them feel in control because they liked the idea that they knew something most people didn't, and it let them manifest their frustration caused by the illness as anger.

Now, feel free to tell everybody that their theory is bollocks (I do), but the fact remains that a bunch of people all got sick, and even though it's got nothing to do with the mast, it doesn't mean the illness is all in our heads.

Not only that... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19995107)

but more cell towers means less radiation, as both the towers and the cell phones can then reduce their transmission power.

Re:Not only that... (1)

mrjb (547783) | about 7 years ago | (#19995961)

more cell towers means less radiation, as both the towers and the cell phones can then reduce their transmission power. The net effect is null, however. The total amount of transmission power needed to cover any given area stays about the same. More towers means less radiation *per tower*, but on average you'll be nearer to one.

It's turned off (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19995115)

Dozens of people who believed the masts triggered symptoms such as anxiety, nausea and tiredness could not detect if signals were on or off in trials.


I was operating a high powered transmitter in a small village with lousy tv reception. One of the locals came down to the site and complained to me that my equipment was interfering with his tv. I asked him if it was happening right now. He said yes and we went up to his house to check out the symptoms. His tv reception was quite noisy. When he drove me back to the transmitter I asked him to come in and take a look. "See that big switch there. It's the main power. It's turned off."

It was sheer luck that the guy complained when the transmitter was off the air. It does demonstrate that people will blame things on radio transmitters because they have no way of knowing that it isn't the transmitter.

If this were even remotely true (5, Funny)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | about 7 years ago | (#19995119)

then the Nokia Wifi Cloud that blankets London would be making everyone that lives there neurotic and irritable.

Oh wait...

Re:If this were even remotely true (1)

ajs318 (655362) | about 7 years ago | (#19995487)

If this were even remotely true then the Nokia Wifi Cloud that blankets London would be making everyone that lives there neurotic and irritable.
They're Southerners, for crying out loud -- how would you tell the difference?

I for one... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19995133)

welcome our mobile phone mast overlords

The effect does exist! (5, Interesting)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | about 7 years ago | (#19995149)

I once worked for a GSM handset manufacturer that had a couple of test BTS in the building and I can tell you that after a day of work there, I was suffering of anxiety, headaches and tiredness, but almost never during weekends.

Re:The effect does exist! (5, Insightful)

eggoeater (704775) | about 7 years ago | (#19995273)

I once worked for a GSM handset manufacturer that had a couple of test BTS in the building and I can tell you that after a day of work there, I was suffering of anxiety, headaches and tiredness, but almost never during weekends.
So you're tired and achy at work but feel relaxed on the weekends....

hmmmm.... I often have those same symptoms and I don't work around transmitters.


Re:The effect does exist! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19995717)

Whoosh!

Bad AC - no .sig for you.

Re:The effect does exist! (5, Funny)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about 7 years ago | (#19995295)

afair vodafone has built a cellphone tower in a small german village and the villagians complained for months about headaches and loss of sleep.
then vodafone revealed that the tower wasn't switched on yet.

Re:The effect does exist! (1)

zazzel (98233) | about 7 years ago | (#19995659)

Though it *is* funny, I wonder why the comment was modded funny instead of informative. Yes, the story is correct - ppl. were complaining about an antenna that was not yet active.


Then there's people complaining who live *under* GMS/UMTS antennas, outside of the antennas radio waves' reach.

Re:The effect does exist! (2, Funny)

robably (1044462) | about 7 years ago | (#19995755)

This just proves that it's the shape of the cellphone towers that causes the headaches, rather than the radio waves they transmit. Those big metal structures are the perfect shape for channeling masses of concentrated "negative vibes".

They cause crop circles, too.

Re:The effect does exist! (4, Informative)

Detritus (11846) | about 7 years ago | (#19995947)

Amateur radio operators suffer from the same problem. Put up a visible antenna and you will get blamed for all sorts of problems with your neighbors' stereos and television sets, none of which have any correlation to an active transmitter. Normally intelligent people will convince themselves that you are the cause of their problems, and even make threats, while refusing to listen to any evidence that exonerates the amateur radio operator.

Re:The effect does exist! (1)

ivan256 (17499) | about 7 years ago | (#19995561)

Those sound like the normal symptoms of not liking your job.

Someone should have told this guy (5, Funny)

MrKaos (858439) | about 7 years ago | (#19995205)

This guy ran around in a tank demolishing phone towers because he thought he got cancer from them

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2007/07/14/11838 33843064.html?from=top5 [theage.com.au] and a video

http://video.aol.com/video-detail/id/1439921521 [aol.com]

OR it was because his mobile phone bills were too high, and I know I can relate to that.

Well, not amongst Humans anyway... (-1, Flamebait)

VE3OGG (1034632) | about 7 years ago | (#19995239)

While cell phones might not be causing any problems with humans, there is some evidence (although the conclusions are by no means definitive, and may have been refuted since this article) that cellular phones are responsible for the recent bee disappearance [www.ctv.ca] (though I have also heard reports of it being linked to a (fungus?).

Re:Well, not amongst Humans anyway... (3, Informative)

sepluv (641107) | about 7 years ago | (#19995347)

I think the Independent article that claimed that that was proven was later shown to have been based on misinterpreting the results of a scientific study. I seem to remember the original story and update were both on Slashdot.

Re:Well, not amongst Humans anyway... (2, Informative)

IceCreamGuy (904648) | about 7 years ago | (#19995541)

If you dig a little deeper, you'll find that it was just one guy's study at one university in Germany; all he did was place a cell phone near a bee hive and apparently this caused them to become "disoriented." http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/04/2 7/1724239&from=rss [slashdot.org] At the time that this was all being hyped up, I couldn't find any details of the "experiment," and several articles I read had claimed that other than the one quote from the primary researcher, there was absolutely nothing else released about the study. Now there may have been more details since then, but when someone makes a claim like that, and then doesn't publish or release any of their methods, I don't give it a single ounce of credit; it's an automatic dismissal, unless of course they release more information later. Not like every major news publication in America didn't jump on this thing like a pack of rabid wolves. That's why I only get my science from the Weekly World News.

Re:Well, not amongst Humans anyway... (1)

njfuzzy (734116) | about 7 years ago | (#19995933)

The "evidence" you speak of that it was cell towers was pure conjecture and scaremongering. It was an unbacked theory. The "reports" of it linked to a fungus are the overwhelmingly accepted answer, backed by actual evidence and science.

Your anecdote is about people assuming that cell phone towers cause problems. It's the kind of thought that this study is disproving, not evidence against the study.

Fence sittin ho' (3, Interesting)

tomstdenis (446163) | about 7 years ago | (#19995241)

While I don't think there is a strong connection between the two (I work beside a cell tower, and over the last 9 months or so I haven't had more or fewer illnesses than before), it's entirely possible that the effects of the radiation take more than a small measure of time to feel. It isn't like you see a light on or off, or hear a noise.

For example, when placed under a heat lamp, it could easily take 5 seconds before "pain" was registered, it doesn't mean that the heat wasn't hurting you 5 seconds ago, it means it takes a while for the sub-dermal layers to heat up. So it's entirely possible that prolonged exposure to the radiation is causing them problems.

However, if they claimed they feel instant pain the minute the transmitter kicks on, they're probably lying.

Tom

Re:Fence sittin ho' (1)

Rosyna (80334) | about 7 years ago | (#19995485)

For example, when placed under a heat lamp, it could easily take 5 seconds before "pain" was registered, it doesn't mean that the heat wasn't hurting you 5 seconds ago, it means it takes a while for the sub-dermal layers to heat up. So it's entirely possible that prolonged exposure to the radiation is causing them problems.
Except these people often claim immediate relief when there is no cell mast around. I'm not saying it's completely psychological (like all sleeping pills have a risk of psychological dependancy), This study suggests they need to rule out cell masts as the cause and do more to study the baseline cause of their ills. I imagine there is pornography involved.

Re:Fence sittin ho' (1)

Captain_Chaos (103843) | about 7 years ago | (#19995923)

However, if they claimed they feel instant pain the minute the transmitter kicks on, they're probably lying.

If you had read the article, you would know that they complain of nausea, headaches and tiredness (impossible to measure and quite easily caused by psychological causes), but that they also show measurable physical effects such as sweating and increased blood pressure! The thing is, there was no correlation between them experiencing these symptoms on the one hand and the transmitter actually being on or off on the other hand...

Another "press release?" (1)

dattaway (3088) | about 7 years ago | (#19995299)

Notice the article conveniently omitted any technical details, like how many WATTS are transmitted.

If your tower is talking to hundreds or thousands of phones, the transmit power has to go up or the bandwidth will go down.

Re:Another "press release?" (1)

blueg3 (192743) | about 7 years ago | (#19995417)

Interesting physics you've got there, relating power and bandwidth. You know radio is one of the places where the proper definition of bandwidth is applicable?

Re:Another "press release?" (1)

dattaway (3088) | about 7 years ago | (#19995689)

Interesting physics you've got there, relating power and bandwidth. You know radio is one of the places where the proper definition of bandwidth is applicable?

We actually did the math back when we built modems in engineering school:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shannon%E2%80%93Hartl ey_theorem [wikipedia.org]

Little village meeting... (5, Interesting)

D-Cypell (446534) | about 7 years ago | (#19995307)

A few years ago I attended one of those little village meetings that happen often in little English rural villages, which was called to protest the plans to build a mobile phone mast in the village. It was an interesting experience.

They had handouts that they have printed from websites that were expressing the dangers of living near the masts although, clearly, these were taken from a highly bias source. The guy who called the meetings was not shy about admitting that this biggest concern was the potential drop in value of his grade 2 listed cottage which was positioned quite close to the mast.

The highlight of the evening though, was a little old man they dragged out to talk about the science. Apparently he had worked on some of the early nuclear power stations in the UK and had also spent time as a science teacher, although long since retired. He gave us a speech about the effects of radiation (not really going into detail about the difference between a phone mast and a nuclear power station in terms of radiation intensity), he talked about the electric systems in the body etc. It was all pretty interesting in a 'high-school physics' kind of way.

Then, completely out of the blue, this guy starts going into a really passionate tirade about how the government are using mobile phone masts to plant instructions directly into our brains. The look of horror on the organisers face was a picture! I think he saw this old guy as his trump card until this very moment. The guy was ushered off staging mid-sentance. Containing my laughter was quite difficult. I had never actually seen a members of the tin-foil hat brigade in the flesh before!

The mast got built.

Now I come to think about it, my voting habits changed around the same kind of time too.... hmmmm

Why masts are a good thing (1)

NusseDK (1124521) | about 7 years ago | (#19995413)

Yeah there seems to be a correlation between tin-foil and conspiracy theories. Anyway - people protesting mobile phone masts use mobile phones themselves, and forgets an obvious problem. Mobile phones increases their output when far away from the mast in order to make a connection. Closer to the mast their output is lower. If you really want to minimize the power of the mind control radiation, you should stand close to the mast, as this will minimize the radiation from the mindcontrol device you are holding close to your brain.

Re:Little village meeting... (3, Funny)

iElucidate (67873) | about 7 years ago | (#19995797)

Then, completely out of the blue, this guy starts going into a really passionate tirade about how the government are using mobile phone masts to plant instructions directly into our brains.
Vote Saxon.

Ruined revenues (1)

hilather (1079603) | about 7 years ago | (#19995363)

Will this effect sales of tinfoil hats? Only time will tell...

Re:Ruined revenues (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 7 years ago | (#19995591)

Those tinfoil hats just act as antennas for the tracking device they implanted in you skull.

Hah! (1)

Foktip (736679) | about 7 years ago | (#19995389)

I've seen subdivisions that are almost right underneath electreical distribution lines - but a Cell Tower?! Unless you're standing right in front of it, its not going to do anything. Thats why they put them up very high in the air!

Cause of Anxiety, stress etc found. (-1, Offtopic)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 7 years ago | (#19995395)

It was not the cell phones. There is a huge battle raging between the virtuous wizards and the evil Death Eaters of Voldemort. Hexes, jinxes, curses, spells and charms are flying all over Southern England. The Death Eaters are killing the muggles and the Ministry of Magic is desperately trying to keep it hidden by erasing memories of many people. The stress they feel is just the side effect of these charms.

Re:Cause of Anxiety, stress etc found. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19995587)

Voldemort died in 1998.

Harry's parents died October 31, 1981 when Harry was one year old. So that means he turned 17 in 1997 and Voldemort was killed the year after that.

So clearly all of these reports of headaches and anxiety are due to an entirely new dark wizard.

Re:Cause of Anxiety, stress etc found. (-1, Offtopic)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 7 years ago | (#19995863)

You seem to think the JKR counts the years from the year the muggles believe Jesus Christ was born in. Nah. The Wizard year count starts from a different event. Which will be explained in the up coming Encyclopedia of Wizardry by JKR.

Breaking News (1)

netpixie (155816) | about 7 years ago | (#19995415)

They're also not responsible for traffic congestion, the state of my shoes or the colour of aubergines.

In fact the number of things that they don't do is almost infinite.

Biased Bias (1)

Bazman (4849) | about 7 years ago | (#19995445)

The campaign group doesn't say if the 12 people who pulled out because of illness were exposed to radiation or 'placebo'.

I'm guessing they got huge doses of placebo.

What about 12 people that dropped out (2, Interesting)

Late-Eight (1026794) | about 7 years ago | (#19995479)

"The results were skewed as 12 people in the trials dropped out because of illness."

Shouldn't that merit further study, to see whether the 12 that took ill are in connection to the mobile phone masts? Or at the very least, add to the claim that they are causing health problems.

good morning! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19995521)

Well (1)

ilovegeorgebush (923173) | about 7 years ago | (#19995599)

I'm British and watched a TV programme on a similar study a while back. It seemed that those who were complaining of illness were in-fact next to a tower that was not even operating (a.k.a the 'placebo'). Again, people were leaving the experiment due to health issues.

I remember being at secondary school and the school accepting a building contract for a mobile-phone company building a mast in on the school property (occupying a small section of the playground). At the time there was uproar that it could be affecting the children etc, when actually noone knew anything about the dangers of mobile phones, nor what the masts could do to children. Rightly so, perhaps, the parents were at the root of this uproar, but I suppose it just shows how the fears of the many tend to control the hearsy of things people don't know about - that is, everyone feared mobile phone (despite going out and buying one anyway) based purely on a rumour.

Re:Well (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 7 years ago | (#19995879)

and anyway isn't there a bit of a "dead zone" just under the tower itself since all the antennas are like up in the air pointing out and not DOWN (not to mention the tower itself creating a partial faraday cage)

note this does assume the tower is serving an otherwise dead area

Real-life case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19995653)

In my research institute they installed WiFi about 1.5 years ago. In my corridor, they put the emitter by the middle. Within 2 weeks, the 2 guys working in the offices next to the Wifi antenna were deaf. More exactly, one was completely deaf on one ear, and the other heard weird sounds all the time. The symptoms are permanent. The doctors don't know the cause. There was no infection, nothing. Nobody else had problems since, but everybody fears the WiFi antennas. :)

Who, exactly, funded the study? (3, Insightful)

dpbsmith (263124) | about 7 years ago | (#19995671)

I am always leery of articles that do not disclose this early in the article. This article eventually says:

"The study was funded by the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research programme, a body which is itself funded by industry and government."

So, who exactly is the Mobile Telecommunication and Health Research programme? If this were the United States and the study had to do with health effects of nuclear power plants, and if "business and government" meant, say, the EPRI and the "government" agency were the NRC, I'd be very skeptical. On the other hand, if the government agency were the National Institutes of Health, I'd give it a lot of credence.

The Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research programme has a website, [mthr.org.uk] , but I can't judge from it whether this is real science or not.

Better Study: Why are all these people in the UK? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19995761)

I could have saved them a buncha money and reached the same conclusions.

A much better study would have been to figure out not why symptoms were clustered around cell towers (that's obvious, if you can see the damn things it triggers the symptoms) but why the people who have the symptoms are clustered in the UK.

Inbreeding? Lack of science education? Most likely it's the crappy public health system that can't get to these people in time to head off the descent into delusion, which they then spread to their neighbors in a nice little insular social feedback system otherwise known as mass hysteria.

Randi Prize (1)

Zelos (1050172) | about 7 years ago | (#19995805)

Wouldn't the ability to detect low-level electromagnetic radiation qualify for winning the James Randi prize for displaying paranormal powers? Why isn't one of these 'sensitives' a millionaire?

Panorama - very poor standards (1)

Cheesey (70139) | about 7 years ago | (#19995949)

So the "science" in that episode of Panorama was bogus [bbc.co.uk] scaremongering? Well, what a shock. But in the present political climate, I doubt the BBC will be reporting that the science in this other episode of Panorama [bbc.co.uk] was just as shaky, presenting only one sided coverage of an ongoing scientific debate. (For example, here [washington.edu] is a list of some "off message" articles - notice the reputable journals that they have been published in.)

Flexible Bullet (1)

kalirion (728907) | about 7 years ago | (#19995955)

It's not just cell radiation, it's electricity in general!!!! These electro-magnetic waves interfere with your thinking and kill your fornits!!!!! How else do you explain the idiocy that happens around the world wherever electricity appears?????!!!!! BEWARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now if you excuse me, I gotta call the cable, telephone, and power companies and cancel my services.
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