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Communications Science

AM Radio Waves May Be Harmful? 548

Posted by simoniker
from the talk-is-lifethreatening? dept.
Klar writes "Wired News reports that: 'Korean scientists have found that regions near AM radio-broadcasting towers had 70 percent more leukemia deaths than those without.' The article continues: 'The study, to be published in an upcoming issue of the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, also found that cancer deaths were 29 percent higher near such transmitters.' While 'their study did not prove a direct link between cancer and the transmitters', the FDA and the World Health Organization are urging more studies, especially of radio waves from cell phones."
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AM Radio Waves May Be Harmful?

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  • by Lord Grey (463613) * on Monday August 16, 2004 @04:59PM (#9985331)
    ... regions near AM radio-broadcasting towers had 70 percent more leukemia deaths than those without.
    ...
    ... also found that cancer deaths were 29 percent higher near such transmitters.
    ...
    ... California's Department of Health Services reviewed all the current studies of EMF risks from power lines, wiring and appliances in 2002. It found no conclusive evidence of harm. However, links to childhood leukemia, adult brain cancer and Lou Gehrig's disease could not be ruled out.
    Yes, but did they test for lethal amounts of dihydrogen monoxide [dhmo.org]? It would be irresponsible to not test for everything possible! Alarmists, take heed! Flee to the hills! Watch out for magnetism! Gravity is also especially harmful!
    • by cytoman (792326)
      That was funny!! You wrote about DHMO and Magnetism and Gravity, and you got "Insightful"!!!!

      ROFL

    • Friends apparently DO let friends smoke crack, if the friends happen to have mod points.
    • by ackthpt (218170) *
      dihydrogen monoxide

      Or the ever dangerous hydrogen hydroxide, which is corrosive and excessive amounts in the lungs may cause breathing dificulties and even death.

      We keep several crystals in a freezer, but don't know why as nobody ever seems to need them and they sublimate into the air, which is quite worrying.

      A week or two back I posted on a different topic about the broadcasting power which once was used for AM/MW broadcast in the USA, exceeding in some cases 300,000 watts. The radiant energy, picked

      • by Josh Booth (588074) *
        Barenaked Ladies - Light Up My Room:

        "I can put a spare bulb in my hand
        And light up my yard"

        The idea behind the song is from a news report about that, and how Ed realized that they were talking about his neighborhood. Yeah yeah, offtopic, whatever.
    • by geomon (78680) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:09PM (#9985460) Homepage Journal
      Let's see:

      First it was microwave towers, then power lines, then cell phones.

      And every time, the National Academy of Sciences found NOTHING to warrant the claim of a causal link between elecromagnetics OF ANY FORM and cancer.

      • What makes the NAS's report so much better than Koreas? Are the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health not peer reviewed or something?

        I hope you're not making the mistake of conflating a big name at the top of the paper with its validity. Science is about being open to new ideas, let's not slam the paper on the grounds of dogma without at least reviewing what it has to say.

      • by mikael (484)
        So what happened to the theory that the energy passing through these sources ionised the air around them, which then in turn caused particles of soot and oil to become electrostatically charged and become attracted to the ground. At least, that was one theory for power lines. The other theory was that the oil used on the power lines contained chemicals like benzene, which were known carcinogens.
        • by Dastardly (4204)
          The other theory was that the oil used on the power lines contained chemicals like benzene, which were known carcinogens.

          This is an important point that is no emphsized. What are the other things other than radio waves associated with AM towers? And, can they cause cancer? Assuming the correlation panned out, correlation with AM towers does not equal causation by radio waves.

          This part of the article struck a cord:

          Moreover, many lab studies show low-frequency EMF disrupt living cells, Milham asserts.
      • by whovian (107062)
        First it was microwave towers, then power lines, then cell phones.

        and somewhere in there was police officers' higher incidence of testicular cancer in those who claimed to use their crotch as a radar gun holster.

        my guess is impaired circulation, but hey....
      • Get it over with (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Deathlizard (115856) on Monday August 16, 2004 @07:23PM (#9986508) Homepage Journal
        Honestly, I'm just waiting for this statement to come out of a Scientist. It would get it over with and wouldn't spend millions of Dollars.

        "If it is or uses either Electricy or a Chemical, and/or its not found in nature in any way, it will kill you slowly"
    • by localman (111171) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:16PM (#9985536) Homepage
      Why is it the replies to this stuff always fall into two camps:

      1) The sky is falling, we're doomed
      2) There is no way anything I find useful could be harmful

      How about a little balance, folks. There are plenty of times throughout history where something in widespread use was later found to be more dangerous than it was worth. Asbestos and DDT come to mind. Hell, some of the early scientists who worked with radioactive materials thought it was neat that they could warm their hands over it.

      The world is not doomed. Neither is the world a safe place. I hope they continue the research, take any findings with healthy skepticism, and then implement appropriate measures to improve our quality of life.

      An unrelated example: brain disease has tripled in the past two decades in most developed countries. But not in Japan. Aren't you curious as to why? Or would you rather stick your head in the sand and proudly proclaim everyone who is curious to be an alarmist?

      Cheers.
      • by Mateito (746185) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:39PM (#9985740) Homepage
        or

        3. "But think of the children"

        I actually worked with a group doing mobile phone testing. We found that the radio waves penetrated very deeply into the skulls of children 12 years and younger. At the time it wasn't a problem because there were very few kids of this age with mobiles.

        As to whether it caused damage or not... no idea. We just did the physics.
      • by way2trivial (601132) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:40PM (#9985745) Homepage Journal
        Thalidomide [fda.gov]
      • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:43PM (#9985781) Journal
        That's a very insightful post. It reminds me of something I saw in the Lancashire mining museum some years ago when the employers were proclaiming the health benefits of inhaling coal-dust. Apparently it 'prevented TB.' I kid you not. It always takes a while for the harmful effects of new technology or its implementation to become clear.

        When I look around and see the sheer quantity of radiation that we're being bombarded with from mobile phones, mobile phone masts, power lines, terrestrial TV, digital TV, WiFi networks etc. plus the amount of carcinogens in exhaust fumes all around us it makes me wonder if it all adds up in some way that we're not yet aware of and if there's some connection with the number of people getting cancer. I fear that one day someone will do a study that will take into account ALL radiation sources and find that we've gotten a little carried away with the old spectrum.

        • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda AT etoyoc DOT com> on Monday August 16, 2004 @06:48PM (#9986291) Homepage Journal
          Wifi signal: 100mW. (0.1 W)

          Cell phone signal: 4 W.

          Stepping outside under full sun: 1000 W.

          We are exposed to far greater amounts of EM radiation from the sun, in all sorts of unfilitered frequencies. And we have been since before man really groked that it rose every day and set every night.

          I might also add that radio operators have been using very high powered equipment for more than a century. There is only one nasty effect from working around microwaves: male sterility if you are dumb enough to stand in front of a microwave tower to keep warm. And the problem there isn't the EM radiation. It's the fact that male testes don't like heat.

          • I wonder about some of the same things as the parent mentions (although you have to be careful comparing to the sun, as a lot of that energy is in different regions of the spectrum).

            If the EM radiation is bad at these low frequencies, what about the radio operators, or even worse, various scientists that are exposed to extremely high levels of the stuff? A lot of the equipment around various labs probably produces orders of magnitude stronger low-energy EM radiation. I don't hear too much of there being

        • There was a time when smoking prolonged life. Viruses and other organisms would stick to the smoke and fall on the ground or get expelled from the lungs in phlegm. Only once we started to live very long, did cancer become a concern.
      • by antiMStroll (664213) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:46PM (#9985801)
        True, but look at the lead time between introdcution of a technology and discovery of its harmful side effects. AM on the other hand has been in common operation for a century, if it had anywhere near the impact of asbestos or DDT (still contended BTW) the correlation would be unambiguous after 100 years and it wouldn't be a Slashdot topic.
      • by rseuhs (322520) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:55PM (#9985901)
        In general, I agree.

        In this case, however, it's pretty obvious that it's complete alarmist nonsense.

        Leukemia and brain tumors are such rare diseases, that any statistic is not going to be representative (I've once read about a study that "proved" that churches cause brain tumors.) Even a single case can skew the whole study into one direction.

        Why don't they look at lung cancer? Prostate cancer? Breast cancer? Those are much more common.

        Of course I can tell you why: Because with not-so-rare diseases, it all evens out and there is no statistical link between disease and radio emitter any more.

      • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda AT etoyoc DOT com> on Monday August 16, 2004 @07:19PM (#9986483) Homepage Journal
        Before you fly off the handle about DDT, it's never been a health hazard to humans, and follow studies of egg shell thinning found that the concentrations required to thin eggs that severely isn't found in nature.

        It turns out that lead, oil, and mercury were far more likely to have been the culprit. Each of those contaninates DID have a profound and immediate effect on the animals tested.

        Links [junkscience.com]

      • by tgibbs (83782)
        Why is it the replies to this stuff always fall into two camps:

        1) The sky is falling, we're doomed
        2) There is no way anything I find useful could be harmful

        How about a little balance, folks. There are plenty of times throughout history where something in widespread use was later found to be more dangerous than it was worth.


        There is a third point of view: the scientific perspective:

        1. It is an extraordinary claim that electromagnetic radiation of energy that is too low to damage any biological material
    • by Lumpy (12016)
      and let's also forget to mention that most AM stations are 50KW to 100KW stations the EM field is strong enough to make a chain link fence near the station genreate enough electricity to drive a loudspeaker so you can hear the radio station... yes I did this to prove a point to a friend once.

  • cell phones? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Janek Kozicki (722688)
    afaik cell phones do not use AM frequencies, right?
    • Re:cell phones? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      there isn't such a thing as "AM frequencies". that's the problem - AM/FM/SBB often get mixed with VHF/HF/LF/UHF. one thing (AM/FM/SBB etc) is the method of data transmission, the other thing is the wavelength (i.e. frequency).
    • Re:cell phones? (Score:2, Informative)

      by erick99 (743982)
      AM is just a way of modulating a signal. You can do AM on pretty much any frequency just as you can do frequency modulation (FM) if you wish. The military, for example, uses AM on their air freq's (300Mhz for example) because they want to be able to hear quiet signals under louder signals. FM has a "capture effect" that prevents that. So, all of that said, typically, AM broadcast frequencies are way, way below the 800Mhz and up freq's that cell phones use.

      Cheers,

      Erick

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2004 @04:59PM (#9985339)
    Although I can't decide if it's a liberal conspiracy against Rush Limbaugh, a government conspiracy against Art Bell, or a gay conspiracy against Dr. Laura. They want them off the air whoever they are!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:06PM (#9985414)
      Actually, what happens is that when people listen to AM radio too much, they start opposing greater access to health care. With more power in the hands of the HMOs, more people end up getting cancer.

      Similarly, FM radio waves cause copyright laws to become more draconian, and the frequencies used for television broadcast have been shown to result in lower SAT scores in nearby areas.
  • by baudilus (665036) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:00PM (#9985341)
    At my job we refer to our two way pagers as 'birth control.' We may have been right all along...
    • "At my job we refer to our two way pagers as 'birth control.'"

      So... does the guy wear it? or does the girl put it... wait, I'm confused.

      • The guy wears it, and the girl runs away. Jokes are so much less funny when they need an explanation...
    • by dykofone (787059) on Monday August 16, 2004 @06:50PM (#9986308) Homepage
      Kinda reminds me of what a friend told me when I mentioned an interest in climbing and rapelling off a transmitter tower:

      "When standing next to a high power microwave transmitter, the areas of the body with the highest water concentration begin boiling first: the eyes and the testicles"

      I don't want to climb those things anymore.

  • AM Radio (Score:4, Funny)

    by nightsweat (604367) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:00PM (#9985345)
    It seems Ever Clear to me that the cause is the music. On the AM radio, AM radio

    We liked pop, we liked soul, we liked rock, but we never liked disco

  • by Agret (752467)
    "the World Health Organization are urging more studies, especially of radio waves from cell phones."
    Isn't it already a known fact that cell phones cause cancer? Over here (Australia) they are always telling us that.
  • Wi-Fi? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by caluml (551744) <slashdot@NOsPam.spamgoeshere.calum.org> on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:02PM (#9985366) Homepage
    Wonder what this laptop, resting on my lap, cooking my legs with the battery, and my gonads with Wi-Fi is doing to me?
  • by dieman (4814) * on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:02PM (#9985368) Homepage
    How is AM with their huge power and totally different band have anything to do with any of the PCS bands and their relative piddly power for health effects?
  • 50,000 watts (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:02PM (#9985370)
    I think there's a difference between living near a 50,000 watt transmitter and a ~1 watt cell phone.
    • Re:50,000 watts (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:31PM (#9985687)
      What if that 1 watt cell phone is an inch away and that tower is say 100 ft? or maybe just shy of 19 ft?

      I mean, yeah, you don't deserve insightful, which demands I put on my pedantic hat *and* look like a kook. But seriously, "These are not the bad statistics you're looking for."

      How much energy does the sun deliver to say a in^2? Well it's a lot more than a cell phone or most in^2 not actually on radio towers where they're concerned. So the em-radiation probably isn't causing cancer. But it might be affecting the kinetics of cancer cells already present and floating around, helping them decide where to set up shop. But even then that would only apply to transmitters very near people, who were particularly sensitive to their effect through what amounts to bad luck.

      In this study they more likely discovered those near radio towers lived in old houses, didn't have a lot of money to spend on taking care of themselves, and close to copious amounts of smog. Wow, I wonder if radio towers cause self-inflicted gunshot wounds too?
    • Re:50,000 watts (Score:5, Informative)

      by k4_pacific (736911) <k4_pacificNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:39PM (#9985734) Homepage Journal
      /me Runs to the calculator...

      Well, the power spreads out at a rate proportional to the square of the radius. So, if your brain averages .10 m from the phone, then the power passing through it is roughly 8 watts / m^2. (Determining the cross-sectional area of a brain and computing actual power is left as an exercise for the reader.) A 50 kW AM transmitter achieves this density of power at a radius of about 22 meters. So, if the tower is more than 22 meters high, it is safer to stand directly under it than it is to talk on a cell phone.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:03PM (#9985383)
    ... in medicine, and one in physics, and probably one in chemistry, waiting for anyone who can demonstrate a possible mechanism of action for health effects of non-ionizing radiation at athermal levels.

    Let's see it happen. Personally, I think that if there were a smoking gun here, it would have been found at some point in the last hundred years. There have always been confounding factors in these alarmist studies. Always.
    • Unfortunately, for those that show that such things are not true, there is much derision from the peanut-gallery environmentalists who read headlines and run with the perceived "facts."
    • by zCyl (14362) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:35PM (#9985705)
      ... in medicine, and one in physics, and probably one in chemistry, waiting for anyone who can demonstrate a possible mechanism of action for health effects of non-ionizing radiation at athermal levels.

      I used to agree with you, but a number of studies recently have shown that under these radiation wavelengths, some membranes in the body pass some molecules when they would otherwise block them.

      Example here [iinet.net.au].

      It turns out it's insufficient to just consider heating effects and ionization effects, since lipid membranes are composed of dipolar molecules which can be subject to other electromagnetic effects.
    • I doubt it (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dekeji (784080)
      ... in medicine, and one in physics, and probably one in chemistry, waiting for anyone who can demonstrate a possible mechanism of action for health effects of non-ionizing radiation at athermal levels.

      There are plenty of such mechanisms. For example, just about any circuit with a nonlinearity (like most biological cells) near a radio station will pick up a small audio frequency signal. Those signals are strong enough to be audible in stereo equipment, telephones, etc. that aren't well shielded. And lo
    • It's not exactly what you're calling for, but look at the research by Heinz Lowenstam, Joe Kerschwink, and Steve Weiner (among others) on Biomineralization.

      Many organisms, humans included, depend on biomineralization. Fergzample, bones are calcium, and which are (obviously) created biologically. Less well known, however, are ferrous crystals, set down by biological organisms. Some rodents have iron crystal structures in their teeth. Some molluscs have magnetite teeth. Many species, including birds and mam
  • Quick! (Score:3, Funny)

    by NIK282000 (737852) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:04PM (#9985395) Homepage Journal
    Every one, put on your tin foil hats!
  • by EvanED (569694) <evaned@ g m ail.com> on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:06PM (#9985408)
    Rush Limbaugh is broadcast on AM!

    (And to balance things out, so is Al Frankin IIRC, but I wouldn't compare the two)
    • I would. They both like to spout off on things with only their particular niche view of things that likes to avoid anything resembling a fact that would suggest that they are wrong. Rush adds in token criticism of Bush's economic policies with regard to spending, but that's about all I ever catch.
  • by Supp0rtLinux (594509) <Supp0rtLinux@yahoo.com> on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:06PM (#9985416)
    Funny how you have to be exposed to things for a few years to get cancer, etc so you can then *prove* that they are harmful. I for one am a proponent of the California "you must use a headset for your cell phone when driving" law just for reasons such as this article pointed out. Tests have shown that using headsets, especially in-ear style ones direct more cellular radio waves directly into your brain. So if the state legislates that headsets must be used if operating a motor vehicle, then I get a huge cancerous lump in my temple and resultant brain cancer, I can sue my state for millions. Of course, it'll inevitably go class action... so all of us with brain tumors will get about $25.00 each when all is said and done.
    Nonetheless, after reading about toxic power supply dust from my computer and now AM radio waves, plus the stresses that are added with an always-on, get-it-right-now environment, one must truly respect the simpler life of a few decades ago.
    • by bani (467531) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:13PM (#9985514)
      for non ionizing radiation to cause cancer

      a nobel prize awaits if you figure it out
  • due to living in the path of a radio tower. Whether you liked his work or not, we can all appreciate that inhaling huge quantities of blow had nothing to do with it as this latest research indicates.

    Oh yeah... and Elvis is dead too. Had nothing to do with peanut butter & bananna sandwiches or drugs... nope... Graceland was just down the hill from a big 'ol King sized radio tower.

    Did I mention "King sized"? Since his name came up, Stephen King is still very much alive. But Catherine Zeta Jones and th
    • Oh yeah... and Elvis is dead too. Had nothing to do with peanut butter & bananna sandwiches or drugs... nope... Graceland was just down the hill from a big 'ol King sized radio tower.

      "Elvis never did no drugs!"

  • Do not taunt the XM.
  • Hrm.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pclminion (145572) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:07PM (#9985438)
    Given that most AM transmitters tend to be in highly populated areas, it stands to reason that most people who live near AM transmitters live in highly populated areas.

    Thus, this study might just be showing that people who live in urban centers have higher a higher rate of certain cancers. Which isn't surprising in the least.

    • Re:Hrm.. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ChrisMaple (607946)
      A possible explanation is that people who are well off financially tend to take better care of themselves physically, and that they are not tempted by lower prices to buy a house near an ugly transmitter tower.

      cum hoc ergo propter hoc.

  • I take it that Dijkstra the radio scientist just published a paper.
  • by PapayaSF (721268) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:08PM (#9985446) Journal
    So "near" means "within two kilometers"? Given the inverse square law, isn't that close to meaningless? Someone two kilometers from a tower would get a small fraction of the exposure of someone 1/4 kilometer from it.

    There might be something going on, but the cause might be something else entirely: for instance, the best neighborhoods with the best health care tend not to be near radio towers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:09PM (#9985452)
    Frylock: "It's emitting radition."

    Shake: "Yeah, but like, you know, the good kind, right? Like how they find tumors and gave Spider-Man his powers and stuff."

    Frylock: "No Shake. The bad kind. The other kind. The kidney losing kind."
  • by cytoman (792326) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:09PM (#9985454)
    It is well known that
    The ionosphere bends signals best at night because the Sun is no longer ionizing the atmosphere then. That's why you pick up distant AM signals at night. An AM signal can hop all the way around the world at night, bending down from the ionosphere and reflecting back up from Earth: hopping in that fashion and ultimately going vast distances.

    and that tinfoil stops RF waves.

    To summarize,

    Higher density of RF waves at night

    Tinfoil blocks RF waves

    Putting these two together, we can conclude that wrapping your body in tinfoil when you sleep at night will reduce your risk of developing RF related complications by >50%:

  • by bani (467531) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:10PM (#9985474)
    afaik RF does not strip electrons from atoms, create free radicals which cause dna damage.

    sure RF (microwaves) can cook you, but that's an entirely different story. afaik heating tissue does not cause cancer -- one would expect stastically significant increase of cancer in burn victims if that were true.

    are there other mechanisms for cancer / leukemia other than dna damage?
  • no news here. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eric Seppanen (79060) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:11PM (#9985484)
    Repeat after me: correlation is not causation. Yes, people near power transmission towers and antennas get cancer more frequently. But poor people tend to live in the houses next to unsightly power lines or antennas. And poor people have higher cancer risk, because they tend to be exposed to more pollution and hazardous substances, live under higher stress, and are less likely to get proper health care. Besides, you get more radation from your cellphone.
    • by RajivSLK (398494) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:50PM (#9985856)
      Additionally, the areas near towers are generally higher density and more urban, more polluted, have less green space for exercise, and contain more Macdonalds'. The population is educated to a lesser extent and are less health aware (they don't take as good care of themselves). They are more likely to smoke, eat fattening/unhealthy foods and visit the doctor less often.

      Never mind all that, it *must* be the AM radio. That being said we should look into this but without jumping to any conclusions.
    • Re:no news here. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by antiMStroll (664213)
      "But poor people tend to live in the houses next to unsightly power lines or antennas.

      Not where I live. AM transmitter sites, as you'ld expect of any endevour requiring acres of land, were built outside of urban areas where land was cheap when most were erected 20+ years ago. One of the big issues facing them today is the encroachment of housing developments. Any AM site I've maintainted over the past couple decades are surrounded by middle class and up housing less than 20 years old.

      That's not to say I ag

  • Dead birds.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thoolie (442789) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:12PM (#9985496) Homepage
    An old professor of mine told a story of some of the very early AM transmitters. He said that in the begning, they used such high amplitude, that you would see dead birds in the old corn fields where the towers were built.

    So, guess you would want to have been a bird flying by one of those...
  • by Roskolnikov (68772) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:13PM (#9985513)
    the video star.
  • It's true (Score:2, Insightful)

    by drummerboy195 (797865)
    I work now for an ISP, and before my boss got into the internet business, he worked as a tech for a number of local broadcasters, spending three consecutive days in the "doghouse" as the basxe of the towers. All three of the other men he worked with died of cancer before they were 60.

    An in respect to the Wi-Fi and cell phone comments, I hate to be a wet blanket, but a cellphone operates at .5 watts, a car phone or bag phone at 6-ish, and WiFi doesn't take a whole lot more, to my reccolection.
  • by wa1hco (37574) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:14PM (#9985521)
    AM transmitter antennas work best when placed in locations with good ground conductivity...such as swamps and other low places. They also get placed near occupied areas (short range) and where the land doesn't cost much (like old industrial areas)

    Doesn't this sound like it might correlate with pollution enough to affect the results???
  • by callipygian-showsyst (631222) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:16PM (#9985540) Homepage
    Are you referring to the frequencies (about 530 to 1700 kHz) used for AM broadcasting in the US, or do you mean Amplitude Modulation in general, at any frequency.

    And don't overlook this point: Poorer neighboorhoods have things like AM radio towers (and high tension lines) in them. Poorer people live less long than wealthy people. (Not a value judgement; it's the sad truth.) I didn't see much in the FA about correcting for this difference.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    100,000 live near AM transmission towers.
    100,000 live far from AM transmission towers.

    17 people who live near AM Transmission tower
    get leukemia.

    10 people who live far from AM transmission tower get leukemia.

    So AM transmission towers cause 70% more cancers?

    Don't panic folks. There's probably small sample sizes and correlation may not imply causation.

    Sometimes poor, sick people can only afford to live in undesirable places, like next to a AM transmission tower. This doesn't mean that AM transmission ma
  • by Dieppe (668614) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:17PM (#9985555) Homepage
    But it's another case of misleading statisics.

    Perhaps the population who lives close to AM towers are lower class than those who don't live next to AM towers and as such smoke tobacco more or don't eat salads as much...

    Other factors could be contributing after all..

  • by otisg (92803) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:23PM (#9985620) Homepage Journal
    I wonder what Wi-fi will do to us, since all of us are going to be surrounded by it more and more. Here is what Google thinks about +wi-fi +cancer [google.com]. And then there is Bluetooth...
  • by dbs_sf (745580) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:27PM (#9985652)
    I've long felt that right-wing talk radio was harmful. It's nice to have scientific proof.
  • Population Density (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ironsides (739422) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:37PM (#9985729) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if they took into account the fact that transmitters are usually placed in areas with a high population density. If you have 70% more deaths with 1000% more people, then it could be said that it reduces cancer.
  • by Qrlx (258924) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:41PM (#9985759) Homepage Journal
    Surprise surprise, all the highly rated posts say "those environmental wackos are at it again" and explain away the correlation with a variety of explanations that we are to accept as givens.

    Realize this: There will never be a study "proving" the ill effects of non-ionizing radiation. Why? Find me a control group. You can't, not on this planet. A hundred years ago, when a five watt radio signal broadcast from New York could be heard in Miami, you might have been able to perform this study then. But now we're inundated with non-ionizing radiation, and unless you build a Faraday cage into about ten thousand homes and collect data over twenty years, you will never get "pure" numbers.

    Why are you all so reluctant to even entertain the notion that non-ionizing radiation might create a health risk? Are you that in love with broadcast TV and Radio? Based on the attitudes I see here about the MPAA/RIAA, I find that hard to believe. So what is your explanation? A general love of all things electronic? The chance to pass down the mockery you got from the jocks onto the tree-hugging hippies?

    I simplly don't understand the attitude most of you put forward regarding this issue. It's reckless and driven by emotion.

    But don't worry, even if a study or three come out demonstrating a link between non-ionizing radiation and cancer risk, the EPA will sweep it under the rug [washingtonpost.com] when Infinity Broadcasting supresses the evidence under the Bush Administration's Data Quality Act.

    "What I don't know can't hurt me" is not a particularly effective survival mechanism. Who knows, maybe we should be buying stock in Reynolds this very minute.
    • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Monday August 16, 2004 @07:07PM (#9986418) Homepage Journal
      When you have statistics as your only data and no matched control group, most of the correlations you can find will be coincidence or garbage.

      Epidemiologists use the heuristic that they start paying attention when one group has three or more times the risk of another group.
      >maybe we should be buying stock in Reynolds
      Smoking is a good example: the risk of lung cancer among smokers is about thirty times higher than among nonsmokers.

      >Find me a control group. You can't, not on this planet.
      That's what lab studies are for. You can shield one group of rats from RF and microwave a genetically identical group. You can start from conception and have useful results in a year.

      >Why are you all so reluctant to even entertain the notion that non-ionizing radiation might create a health risk?
      After a hundred years of experience and a zillion negative lab studies skepticism is indicated. I'm willing to be surprised but I don't expect to be.
    • But don't worry, even if a study or three come out demonstrating a link between non-ionizing radiation and cancer risk, the EPA will sweep it under the rug when Infinity Broadcasting supresses the evidence under the Bush Administration's Data Quality Act.

      Actually, a study or three demonstrating a statistically significant link between nonionizing radiation and cancer is exactly what I would expect, even in the absence of real harmful effects.

      This is epidemiology--hardcore statistics. When determining the risk associated with some factor, you can never be entirely certain that the effects you see are 'real', and not just due to random clustering. Toss a coin ten times--you'd expect to get heads five or so times, but occasionally (1 time in about a thousand) you'll see ten heads in a row.

      By making (generally reasonable) assumptions about the nature of the randomness in the data, scientists and epidemiologists tend to come up with one or more measures of how likely an apparent result is to be genuinely significant. Generally, a result is taken to be 'real' if there is less than a 5% chance that the result is the result of noise (a P value of less than 0.05). Alternately, a study may state an odds ratio and 95% confidence interval ("If you take drug foostatin you are 1.7 times more likely to have symptom bar (95% CI 1.4 to 1.95)") denoting that the relative risk is 95% likely to fall in the stated interval.

      Under those circumstances, if the scientists do everything correctly, and account for every possible confounding factor, and do all their math correctly...that still leaves as many as one study in every twenty potentially reaching the incorrect conclusion.

      The journal in question here--The International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health--isn't exactly a top-flight journal, either. I'm not at work at the moment so I can't check their archives, but their impact factor is fairly low. (Down to 0.924 in 2002 [akademisyen.com], declining steadily since 1997 [unc.edu].) Yes, impact factor is by no means the only criterion by which a journal should be judged--but Nature they are not. Unfortunately, the Wired article refers to an 'upcoming' paper, so I can't get at the publication cited.

      Looking at the other paper mentioned in the Wired article demonstrates that Wired can't be trusted to accurately report the findings of scientific papers, either. Wired [wired.com] says:

      Two years ago an Italian study found death rates from leukemia increased dramatically for residents living within two miles of Vatican Radio's powerful array of transmitters in Rome.

      The abstract of the original paper in the American Journal of Epidemiology says: [oupjournals.org] (in part, emphasis added)

      ...In the 10-km area around the station, with 49,656 residents (in 1991), leukemia mortality among adults (aged >14 years; 40 cases) in 1987-1998 and childhood leukemia incidence (

      eight cases) in 1987-1999 were evaluated. The risk of childhood leukemia was higher than expected for the distance up to 6 km from the radio station (standardized incidence rate = 2.2, 95% confidence interval: 1.0, 4.1), and there was a significant decline in risk with increasing distance both for male mortality (p = 0.03) and for childhood leukemia (p = 0.036). The study has limitations because of the small number of cases and the lack of exposure data. Although the study adds evidence of an excess of leukemia in a population living near high-power radio transmitters, no causal implication can be drawn. There is still insufficient scientific knowledge, and new epidemiologic studies are needed to c

  • by Black Art (3335) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:43PM (#9985770)
    The question I have is what was used to clear the brush under the antennas.

    The problem could be something other than the radiation, it could be the nasty chemicals used to keep the plants from taking over the tower.

    This has been found to be a problem with powerlines in some cases, it could be part of the problem here as well.

    The first thing that comes to mind is not always the real cause of the problem.
    • I worked on a brush-clearing crew for a couple of months one summer back in the late 80s. We were required to wear masks and full cover disposable clothing (in 90+ degree heat) yet several people on the crew developed nasty skin rash reactions from the herbicides we were using (full spectrum stuff, diazinon IIRC, and we would go thru tens to hundreds of gallons of 15% diluted mix a day clearing 2-5 miles.)

      Given the possibilities of runoff and water supply contamination, I'd say that brush clearing chemi
  • Frequencies? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Student_Tech (66719) on Monday August 16, 2004 @05:57PM (#9985922) Journal
    The article says AM broadcasting towers, which means very little. TV signals (at least the NTSC based broadcast over the air in the States) use an AM like signal for the Video and an FM based audio, so depending on your definition they are both a FM and AM broadcast tower.
    For the AM broadcasting, do they mean the broadcast band (which I think for most of the world is in the range .5 - 1.8 MHz), or do they mean shortwave (I think 3-30 MHz)?
  • What gives? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mr i want to go home (610257) on Monday August 16, 2004 @06:04PM (#9985982)
    ...with all the people outrightly dismissing this study? Who are they to presume that we know everything there is to know about electromagnetic radiation? Shit, we discover new things about our environment everyday.

    Light pulsing at certain intervals can give you a fit. Who's to say that certain modulations at certain frequencies can't interact with your bone marrow in some -as yet undiscovered way- that can cause cancer?

    It's a little shocking to see so many bright people here with clamped shut minds. Let these guys do their study. I'm sure they know as good as any ego here that "non ionising radiation doesn't cause cancer...blah blah blah". If we all went around not bothering to study things because we already 'knew' better, where the hell would be be today? They've found something, and they're going to study it. And then we'll know a bit more about the possible causes of cancer. Good!

  • by swschrad (312009) on Monday August 16, 2004 @11:30PM (#9988050) Homepage Journal
    ever been to a US transmitter site? no? well, there are big yellow signs with a red triangle on them at the perimeter fence, saying that excessive amounts of RF energy found within the boundaries can be disruptive and may affect health. I forget what the radiative standard is, something on the order of a half millivolt per meter, at which the FCC requires these signs be posted.

    long-term transmitter engineers, like HV and VHV linemen, tend to have a lot of cancer deaths. but when I grew up around all these guys, they smoked like chimneys and cleaned tools with gasoline as well. they sprayed lots of pesticides. they changed transmitter tubes without wearing masks (beryllium ceramics used in the tubes can cause berylliosis with the tiniest breath of chips or dust.) amazing any of them got to retirement parties.

    also, notice how everybody says they need more studies when they publish a study. although "cell phones cause brain cancer, so fscking hang up and drive!" has been screamed from the treetops for 15 or so years, and "power lines cause childhood leukemia" has been around for 30 years, a funny thing happened on the way to publication. the only two large double-blind environmental studies to tackle these issues found no effect at all. none.

    the power of microwaves to cook food was discovered in alaska when microwave techs with candy bars in their shirt pockets found after adjusting the dishes that their pockets were full of melted chocolate sludge on a cold tundra work shift. it is well known that directed or exceptionally strong RF fields, such as would be found in the open transmitters of the 20s and 30s or on broadcast towers, will cause cataracts. so there are federal limitations on exposure now in broadcast, and you can't go up a tower while the buzzbox is lit unless it's a pennywhistle station with a few hundred watts.

    these are for the folks who are drowned in the beam, whose iPods wouldn't work and who, if equipped with pacemakers, cannot work the transmitter any more.

    joe average on the other side of the fence? no problem.

    another scare study, get fifty of them with good double-blind methodology and large enough controlled study groups to mean something statistically past four nines, and call me in the morning.
  • by NKJensen (51126) <nkj&internetgruppen,dk> on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @03:14AM (#9988835) Homepage
    A recent Danish study shows that the total dose of radio energy received by people using cell phones decreases if the distance to the (fixed) antennas decreases. Even if they only use the cell phone for a few minutes per day. Why?

    Because a cell phone is a two-way device. It must transmit stronger to reach a distant antenna and it has no sense of direction. The GSM protocol provides a power control which makes the cell phone reduce power as much as possible, the goal is just enough to reach the closest antenna tower.

    Parents demanding that cell phone antennas are removed from the school roof are NOT doing the children a favor.

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