Antenna Anxiety

The matter of the cellular antennas raises a complex dilemma since it is a vital form of communication that contributes to the quality of life, but harms the welfare of many people.

The residents who live near the Workers Council building in Tel Mond in the Sharon district have been worried lately by a contract signed by the Histadrut allowing Cellcom to put up relay antennas on the roof of the building.

The residents are worried about the health ramifications of exposure to radiation from the transmitter. They appealed to the Histadrut and protested that an institution ostensibly concerned with the welfare of workers allows a potentially dangerous device to go up near residential areas. The Histadrut responded that it would do all it could to end the contract that allowed Cellcom to rent the roof for the antennas.

This public fear of cellular antennas is a familiar story in many countries. The anxieties did not fade with the publication of a document by international agencies and the UN which states that facilities which meet international standards do not constitute a health hazard.

Presumably, among the experts who wrote the document, or among the executives of the cellular phone companies who declare their antennas are safe, it would be difficult to find someone who would move their family to live underneath or next to a roof on which a cellular antenna has been positioned.

The matter of the cellular antennas raises a complex dilemma since it is a vital form of communication that contributes to the quality of life and the welfare of many people. For it to operate effectively, it's not enough to put up transponders and transmitters in empty fields. They have to go up in urban areas.

As of now, no convincing data has been published claiming that exposure to the radiation from such devices causes health damage. However, there is no question that the cellular transmitters do harm the welfare of many people because of their fear of the presence of the device.

A British agency for protection from radiation recently published a report dealing with the health impact of cellular phones and cellular transponders. It notes that there is something called electromagnetic hypersensitivity that should be investigated. It involves people who report hemorrhaging, chronic headaches, fatigue and dizziness because of exposure to radiation originating from devices such as cellular transmitters.

In Israel, the problem of the transmitters becomes even more complex because a planning procedure has been created allowing the stationing of the transmitters anywhere the companies manage to rent a roof of a building, as long as the device meets the criteria for radiation.

So what can be done to keep the transmitters away from residential areas, ease public anxiety and guarantee that, should it be discovered that the devices are harmful, the number of people who are exposed is as little as possible?

A primary means to achieve those goals is to publish full information about plans to position cellular antennas on buildings, and the tests that were conducted to make sure the devices meet the radiation standards. Currently, there is only information about antennas that have already been erected.

In addition, local planning commissions must have the authority to keep the cellular transmitters away from places with sensitive populations, such as children and the ill. Lately, the British professional authorities that deal in radiation have ruled that the standard planning procedures should apply to the cellular transmitters, meaning the public will be more involved.

Another measure is to examine alternatives so that priority is given to commercial areas for antennas. They are not always available but the cellular companies should be required to prove that they made an effort. Cellular transmitters of various companies should be unified, and individual company should not be allowed to distribute its transmitters at will through the major cities. New technology on the way will means these devices will only proliferate and it will be even more important to choose efficient sites for them, as far away as possible from residential areas.