Fri, Jun 22, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Activists say tower causes blood cancer

MAKING WAVES Activists said a rash of cancer cases in Tainan was evidence of the danger posed by cellphone towers and that safety standards were lax

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Environmental activists yesterday alleged that cellphone tower radiation contributed to high incidences of cancer in residents of Tainan's Annan District (安南).

Research presented by the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU) showed that 20 residents living within a 200m radius of a mobile phone tower in Tainan had been stricken with cancer since 2003, when the base station was erected.

"More than 1,000" residents live within a 200m radius of the tower, TEPU figures showed. Five of the 20 were stricken with leukemia, including three children, it added.

The TEPU team measured radio frequency radiation levels of up to 7000 micro watts per square meter at sites inside the homes of the sick or diseased.

In response, government official said the levels of radiation observed by the team was several orders of magnitude lower than the legal limit of 900,000 micro watts per square meter.

"We have followed the recommendations of the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection in setting our limit," said Wu Sheng-chung (吳盛忠), deputy director-general of the Environmental Protection Agency's Bureau of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control, at a press conference held jointly by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wang Yu-ting (王昱婷) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋菫).

The activists replied that the government's limit was too lenient.

"China has a limit that is almost 10 times more strict at 100,000 micro watts per square meter," said former TEPU chairwoman Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華), one of the authors of the report.

Wang said that the planned Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMax) base stations have the potential to cause even more risk to the health of nearby residents.

"This is a brand new technology and we need to make sure that the Taiwanese people do not become lab rats in an experiment," Wang said.

Tai Cheng-jeng (戴承正), chief specialist in hematology and hematological oncology at Taipei Medical University Hospital said there are roughly "one to two thousand" cases of leukemia in Taiwan every year.

"Divide that by the population and you get a background incidence rate of one in 10 thousand or five thousand," he said.

While it appeared that the incidences of leukemia among those living near the base station reported by the TEPU were abnormally high, this did not necessarily mean that there was a causal relationship between the two, Tai said.

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