Shika Andhole and Nicole Kell
The idea that electromagnetic fields cause cancer captured people’s imagination. Some studies have correlated instances of childhood Leukemia with distance from power lines, concluding that the closer families lived to power lines, the more likely their children would grow up with cancer. Currently, cell phone usage is now ubiquitous- since up to 90% of adults own a cell phone. Both cell phones and cell phone towers emit radio frequency waves that some people claim may be potential risk factor for cancer.
There are other factors that may account for the differences in cancer rates. People who lived closer to power lines live closer to large city centers where the population was mostly made up of poor and disenfranchised people. Poor and disadvantaged people are often face greater exposure to secondhand smoke, problems with water sanitation, pollution from factories, higher prevalence of obesity, and greater alcohol consumption. It is difficult to pinpoint direct causes of cancer because there are so many hereditary and environmental influences that can contribute to it.
In March of 2018, the National Toxicology Program conducted a study on the harmful effects of radiofrequency waves. This 2018 study concluded that there was no significant evidence that linked radiofrequency wave exposure to developing cancer. The American Cancer Society says that radio frequency waves are not nearly strong enough to penetrate and damage human DNA. Due to the height at which cell phone tower antennas are placed and the distance that most of the population lives from the towers, the strength of frequency that humans are exposed to is several times smaller than what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deems harmful.