Faulty telecom masts, pylons are dangerous — Dr Amoako, GAEC

BY: Augustina Tawiah

Children have been advised not to climb or lean against telecommunication masts, electricity pylons and transformers as they could be harmed if there is any electrical fault at such sites.

The Deputy Director, Radiation Protection Institute of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), Dr Joseph Kwabena Amoako, gave the advice in an interview with the Junior Graphic on the effects telecommunication masts have on children’s health.

He explained that electronic devices (including conductors) are usually at the sites where the masts and pylons are located and,  therefore, if there was any fault with any of them children who played there could be electrocuted upon contact.

Dr Amoako added that “the antennas on top of the telecommunication towers emit radiation and  if there was any force such as strong winds, the tower, together with the antennas, could collapse on those at the sites and cause harm or death.” 

He also cautioned children not to make cell sites located in their communities their playgrounds.

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Cell sites

Cell sites are areas where telecommunication towers, the antennas on top of the towers, and other electronic communication equipment for mobile devices are placed.

“The cell sites are supposed to be fenced by the telecommunication companies and warning signs put around them. However, if they are not fenced, it does not mean children should make those places their playgrounds,” he stressed.

“If you go there and lean on any of the equipment which might have had an electrical problem, you could be electrocuted. Even normal looking electricity towers and transformers are dangerous and children do not have to lean on them because they conduct electricity and are harmful,” he explained.

Dr Amoako also asked people living in communities where telecommunication masts exist to be vigilant and report to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Radiation Protection Institute of the GAEC whenever they see any corrosion on the metals forming the telecommunication masts or towers,  explaining that if the metals are rusted,  they could collapse or fall.

Scientific evidence

With regard to the health implications telecommunication masts have on children and people who stay near them, he said there was no scientific evidence for now to suggest that they posed any health threat to residents and, therefore, there was no need to worry.

“At the moment, scientific knowledge is not adequate to support the fact that it causes cancer. What gives rise to radiation emissions are the antennas mounted on top of the towers.

But in view of the height of the towers and the angle at which the emissions travel, by the time they hit the ground, their intensity would have become extremely small — less than one-millionth of a watt or one microwatt. This is why the International Agency for Cancer Research of the World Health Organisation says it is possibly carcinogenic, which means there is limited evidence to conclude that it can cause cancer,” he explained.

Besides, he added, the buildings people live in provide some form of protection against radiation emitted from the antennas and radiation could not pass through the iron rods, concrete and roofing sheets used in constructing buildings.

Dr Amoako said there were agencies, both international and local, that ensured that emissions from the cell sites were within acceptable limits.

He also pointed out that every year, “a team from the Radiation Protection Institute goes round to monitor radiation levels at telecommunication cell sites to make sure that  they do not emit more radiation than the acceptable levels.”