Date: Tue Nov 18 17:11:12 2003
Posted By: John Moulder, Faculty, Radiation Biology, Medical College of Wisconsin
Area of science: Physics
TV antenna transmitter
Can living next to a TV antenna transmitter be harmful?
TV broadcast antennas (UHF or VHF) use radio-frequency (RF) radiation to
transmit both the pictures and the sound. Some of that RF radiation
reaches the ground near the tower, otherwise people who live near the tower
not be able to receive a TV signal (unless they got cable).
In the US and in most of the world, the amount of RF radiation that people
who live near TV and radio broadcast towers can receive is strictly
regulated by the government. In the case of the US, this regulation is by
the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In most cases, the RF radiation levels near towers are less than 10% of the
level specified by the regulations; but in some cases where there are
multiple antennas near each other, the level of RF radiation can come very
close to the regulations.
Most scientists consider that there are no health hazards associated with
these levels of RF radiation. There are several reasons for this:
- Based on what we know about biology and about the physics of RF
radiation, no effects would be expected to occur at these levels of
- Exposure of cells to these levels of RF radiation generally produces no
effects at all. When effects have been reported, other scientists have
generally not be able to replicate (repeat) the studies.
- Exposure of animals for long periods of time to these levels of RF
radiation (or to higher levels) generally produces no effects at all. As
with the cellular studies, the scattered reports of effects have failed
attempts at replication.
- Studies of people who are exposed to radiation on the job have found no
consistent evidence for health effects.
- Finally, there is no consistent evidence that people who live around TV
and radio broadcast antennas have any unusual health problems. The major
studies have focused on cancer:
- In 1996, Hocking and colleagues [Med J Austral 165:601-605, 1996]
compared municipalities "near TV towers" to those further away. No RF
radiation exposures were actually measured and the study is based on only a
single metropolitan area. The authors report an elevated incidence of
total leukemia and childhood leukemia, but no increase in brain tumor
- In 1998, McKenzie and colleagues [Aust New Zealand J Public Health
22:360-367, 1998] repeated the above Hocking study. They looked at the
same area, and at the same time period; but they made more precise
estimates of the exposure to RF radiation that people got in various areas.
They found increased childhood leukemia in one area near the TV antennas,
but not in other similar areas near the same TV antennas; and they found no
significant correlation between RF radiation exposure and the rate of
childhood leukemia. They also found that much of the "excess childhood
leukemia" reported by Hocking had occurred before high-power 24-hour TV
broadcasting had started.
- In 1997, Dolk and colleagues [Amer J Epidem 145:1-9, 1997] investigated
a reported leukemia and lymphoma cluster near a high-power FM/TV broadcast
antenna at Sutton Coldfield in the UK. They found that the incidence of
adult leukemia and skin cancer was elevated within 2 km of the antenna, and
that the incidence of these cancers decreased with distance. No
associations at all were seen for any other type of cancer.
- Because of the above finding, Dolk and colleagues extended their study
to 20 other high-power FM/TV broadcast antennas in the UK [Amer J Epidem
145:10-17, 1997]. No elevations of cancer incidence were found near the
antennas, and no declines in cancer incidence with distance were seen.
This very large study does not support the results found in the much
smaller studies by the same authors at Sutton Coldfield or by Hocking in
Two on-line resources that deal specifically with RF radiation exposures
from TV broadcast antennas are:
Medical College of Wisconsin
Electromagnetic Fields and Human
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