Aeron M.A. Nahuku1, Kelvin Tembo2, Flemings Ngwira3, Estiner Katengeza4, Doreen Mdzeka Nahuku5
1. Biomedical Sciences Department,College of Medicine, University of Malawi, Mahat Ma Ghandi Road, P/Bag 360,Chichiri, Blantyre, Malawi.
2. Centre for Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Appropriate Technology Development, The Polytechnic, University of Malawi, P/Bag 303, Chichiri, Blantyre, Malawi.
3. Department of Language and Communications, The Polytechnic, University of Malawi, Blantyre, Malawi.
4. Department of Physics and Biochemical Sciences, The Polytechnic, University of Malawi, P/Bag 303, Blantyre, Malawi.
5. The Polytechnic, University of Malawi, Blantyre, Malawi.
The associated potential health threatening effects of Radiofrequency (RF) radiation are highly debatable among scholars and science experts with emphasis on those originating from mobile phone base stations (BTS). On one hand, the population of these BTSs has increased globally and Malawi in particular. City locations have generally larger number of users and also obstructions which in compensation, allows a lot more BTSs to cover demand with possible cell sizes of about 2-5km radius or less. EM and RF fields are classified as carcinogenic in nature with others being sleeping problems, fertility problems, chromosome alterations, dizziness as well as nausea as detrimental health problems associated with BTSs.
In order to evaluate the measured radiation levels from the BTS, the study employed a descriptive study design where a Spectran HF V4 spectrum analyser was used to measure RF radiation levels in Watts per square meter (W.m-2) at every 25m interval from the fence of the BTS to a maximum distance of 150m. Quantitative data management used Microsoft excel and IBM® SPSS® statistics version 23.0 for organization and analysis to further answer the research question(s)
A total of 17 BTSs in Lilongwe were purposively selected and their RF radiation levels at different distances from the BTS fence was measured and analysed. The investigation registered a maximum radiation level of 0.00139W.m-2. All the recordings were found to be below the ICNIRP standard guidelines of 1 – 10W.m-2 and safe for the public.
When compared to other epidemiological studies, similar radiation levels were reportedly linked with other public health concerns in the literature. It is important to consider roof top BTSs as well as street mounted towers in similar studies in the future and intensify on number of base station measurements. Civic educating the public on better safety aspects on such EM and RF radiation sources could be commendable while on one hand making the information available.
Keywords: Base stations, Ionizing Radiation (IR), Non-Ionizing Radiation (NIR) Radiofrequency (RF) radiation, Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), Power density, ICNIRP guidelines.