South African authorities and cellphone supplier MTN defend 4G /LTE wi-fi testing in the north of Johannesburg, but residents near test radio towers say their trees are ‘burnt and blackened’ from testing since mid last year.
Scorch marks appeared on pine, eucalyptus (bluegum) and fir trees in Fourways, Johannesburg, said the Electromagnetic Research Foundation of SA (Erfsa), blaming ‘focused beams’ of electromagnetic (EM), radio, microwave and other frequencies for wi-fi and bluetooth, from high power cell test towers.
The radiation cocktail is said to ‘burst tree resin’. The label 4G refers to fourth generation wireless communication standards, converging computers and cellphones for fast broadband internet access.
Some residents say they got ill in Fourways, Dainfern, Sunninghill suburbs, noting “rashes, headaches, blurry vision, tinnitus, nausea, problems with breathing, hair loss. Children are experiencing severe shooting pains in muscles and joints.”
UK Ofcom sets 2015 UK target for 4G
4G is already in place throughout the USA. Thanks to digital switchover, 800MHz analog frequency could be used for cell phones, which makes room for a faster 2.6GHz frequency that will be used for 4G.
The UK state would auction off 4G spectrum licenses to networks, following a legal battle among networks O2, Vodafone, T-Mobile and Orange.
With High Definition making a move into the tablet and smartphone space, users would soon need 4G speeds to stream HD movies and upload HD videos. O2 is testing 4G masts in London, using laptops and PCs.
UK networks O2, Three, Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile would bid for five different spectrums.
Erfsa versus iBurst and 4G
Electromagnetic Research Foundation of SA (Erfsa) last year she won against iBurst when it removed a wi-fi mast 30m from a bedroom window. Some people are said to become ‘electrosensitive’ and to fall ill when exposed to electromagnetic radiation.
Erfsa chairperson Mrs Dorny wrote to SA ministers of Communication, Health, Water and Environmental Affairs about public 4G cellphone health concerns, saying that ‘Digital television (DTV) may be the next private service application’.
“The number of service providers in South Africa wanting to roll out [4G] service… will result in a bigger impact on health and environment, and deployment of even more towers.”
Radio, EM, microwave radiation not regulated
Israel had forbidden a 4G /LTE rollout until a proper study was done. SA cell operators are largely self-regulating and unmonitored. A cellphone mast erection contractor told SHEQafrica.com that that many considerations of siting, signal strength and measurement were not standardised, not measured, and not enforced.
SA authority Icasa said operators are licensed, but particular technology, signal strength and siting is not.
The SA Department of Environmental Affairs said the SA Department of Health was “satisfied that, based on current research and guidelines, endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the health of the general public is not being compromised by exposure to microwave emissions of cellular base stations”.
WHO, however, had last year warned that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had found that electromagnetic (EM) fields produced by cellphones possibly cause cancer. Negative health effects like brain tumours from long term use of cellphones by children, and cellphone masts near children, could not be ruled out. WHO noted that there was a mass of conflicting research results, as reported on SHEQafrica.com.
Kanagaratnam Lambotharan, MTN chief technology officer, disputes the claims. “LTE is a standard that is part of evolution of 3G, which incorporates significantly increased data rates and better performance to enhance mobile broadband.”
MTN ensures that everything from 2G to 3G and 4G /LTE adheres to world safety benchmarks. “There is no evidence to convince experts that exposure below the guidelines set, carries any health risks, for adults or children, and WHO found no evidence that ‘weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks’ cause adverse health effects.”
Two learners from a leading high school in Johannesburg had called in an engineer to help measure radiation from a mast on their school grounds, and convinced their school governing body to not renew permission for the mast. They warned that crèches and primary schools were especially at risk, as posted on SHEQafrica.com last year.
Erfsa warns that SA radio energy levels in practice are much higher than what other countries define as safe levels. “It just takes one extra signal, frequency, or WiMax, then people start to get ill… when they switch it off, or remove the device from their office, their symptoms go away.”
IMAGE; 4G Cellphone tests masts are operating in Johannesburg north. Tests by the former SABS Test House laboratory on cellphone use effects onf simulated brain and body tissue, commissioned by a cellphone service supplier, were never released, despite media queries.