Cell Tower Radiation Health Effects

Updated 11/16/23

Scientific Literature

The number of cell towers worldwide has had exponential growth since the 1990’s.  In the U.S. large cell tower numbers have risen from about 900 in 1985 to over 308,334 cell sites in service in 2016. An industry paper lists over 500,000 and counting as 5G smaller towers proliferate and private residents put access points on their homes which is not considered in the numbers. The 2021 paper was published by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA). CITA was established by the telecommunications industry in 1984 just before the rollout of cell towers and the Telecommunicatiosn Act of 1996.

Cell Towers Rising

The telecommunications industry places cell towers in cities but also leases rooftops on schools, churches, businesses and apartment buildings with antennas for one or more carriers. This co-location can create clusters of antennas with different frequencies in close proximity to where people live, work, study and play. These base stations emit a continuous stream of microwave radiofrequencies exposing residents to whole body exposures. Cell tower range can be up to 25 to 30  miles if unobstructed however in dense city environments cell towers can be placed every one to three miles. See Antenna Search to find cell antenna locations in the United States. The frequencies that cell towers emit has changed in the last 30 years from analog to 2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G, adding more bands with each generation with low, mid and now high band frequencies (5G). More cell towers are being proposed throughout the US now on a statewide and federal level to accommodate recently adopted 5G high frequency telecommunications with cell towers about every 250 meters (~750 feet) as the wavelengths travel only short distances. 

Cell Towers Closer to Homes, Hospitals and Schools

The distance covered by a cell tower depends on the frequency, power, network capacity and terrain. Cell towers can now  transmit  low (600-850 MHz-up to 25 miles) , mid (2.5-3.45 GHz-1-12 miles) and high band( 24-47 GHz  or small milimeter waves-50-2,000 feet)  frequencies. Although people have reported health symptoms with cell towers a mile  or more away  studies indicate  that a 500 Meter buffer from cell towers is recommended due to reported health effects and limiting liability to cities. Limiting liability with positioning to minimize negative health effects of cellular phone towers (Peace 2020) In addition 5G millimeter wave technology has not been studied for health and safety. We Have No Reason to Believe 5G Is Safe. (Moskowitz 2019) There have not been studies looking at the mix of frequencies we are now exposed to on a regular basis but which disturb our biology. 

2022 Review of Cell Tower Human Health Effects: Radiation Sickness, Cancer and Biochemical Changes

In August 2022 Biologist and researcher Alfonso Balmori published a thorough review of the existing scientific literature on the effects of base station (cell tower) antennas on humans in Environmental Research titled, Evidence for a health risk by RF on humans living around mobile phone base stations: from radiofrequency sickness to cancer. He states in the abstract, “Overall results of this review show three types of effects by base station antennas on the health of people: radiofrequency sickness (RS), cancer (C) and changes in biochemical parameters (CBP). Considering all the studies reviewed globally (n = 38), 73.6% (28/38) showed effects: 73.9% (17/23) for radiofrequency sickness, 76.9% (10/13) for cancer and 75.0% (6/8) for changes in biochemical parameters...Of special importance are the studies performed on animals or trees near base station antennas that cannot be aware of their proximity and to which psychosomatic effects can never be attributed.”

Evidence for a health risk by RF on humans living around mobile phone base stations: from radiofrequency sickness to cancer. Alfonso Balmori. Environmental Research. 2022 Nov;214(Pt 2):113851.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35843283/

Wildlife Effects of Cell Towers on Land and in Space

The rise in cell towers has been accompanied by not only a significant rise in ambient wireless radiation, but also a loss in biological diversity  in many countries. The most important and thorough peer reviewed article to date on environmental effects of wireless radiofrequency radiation was published in 2021 by Levitt, Lai and Manville. The comprehensive 3 part  review by Levitt, Lai and Manville (2021) provides a wealth of scientific information, connecting the scientific dots from radiofrequency radiation (RFR) harm to all flora and fauna. The authors answer many puzzling questions about this complex subject that combines biology, ecology, technology and physics. A shorter summary article was published in 20222 titled, Low-level EMF effects on wildlife and plants: What research tells us about an ecosystem approach. The authors warn, “It is time to recognize ambient EMF as a novel form of pollution and develop rules at regulatory agencies that designate air as ‘habitat’ so EMF can be regulated like other pollutants.”  See also “Wildlife and Biodiversity: A Disappearing Act by Cell Towers on Land and in Space?”

Low-level EMF effects on wildlife and plants: What research tells us about an ecosystem approach. Levitt BB, Lai HC, Manville AM. Frontiers in Public Health, 25 November 2022
Sec. Radiation and Health . http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpubh.2022.1000840/full?&utm_source=Email_to_authors_&utm_medium=Email&utm_content=T1_11.5e1_author&utm_campaign=Email_publication&field=&journalName=Frontiers_in_Public_Health&id=1000840

Over-the-air reception devices (OTARD) Ruling Puts 5G Cell Antenna on Homes

A recently passed FCC OTARD Ruling permits private home owners to place fixed “point-to-point cell antennas supporting wireless service on their property, and, for the first time, to extend wireless data/voice services including 5G and satellites, to users on neighboring properties.”  The ruling allows this while eliminating all state and local zoning authority. No permits, homeowners restrictions or notice to neighbors are required.  The Children’s Health Defense (CHD) filled a lawsuit against the FCC on February 26, 2021 for amending the over-the-air reception devices (OTARD) rule, because the rule change violates the Constitution and upends long-standing common law personal and property rights. The Commission does not have the power or authority to override rights to bodily autonomy or property-based rights to exclude wireless radiation emitted by third parties from their homes.”  A letter filed by CHD explains the reasoning. 

FCC’s Failure to Reevaluate Safety Standards

The CHD filed a previous lawsuit against the FCC on July 30, 2020 for their failure to reevaluate safety standards for wireless radiation. 

Scientists Call for 5G Moratorium Due to Safety Concerns and Reports of 5G Cell Tower Harm

Because of the lack of scientific evidence of safety of increasing radiation (including 5G) and the increasing scientific recognition that cell towers and wireless radiation pose an environmental and a public health risk, scientists are calling for a moratorium on 5G cell tower deployment.  The ICB-EMF was created with independepnt scinetists to provide a global health perspective on the rise of  radiofrequency radiation (RFR).   Several case reports of  health symptoms arising after 5G cell towers were placed  highlight the need to study the newer, beam forming 5G frequencies prior to placing these in communities  or sensitive wildlife areas.

See also

Adverse Health Symptoms Near Cell Towers

The majority of published studies in different countries have shown a relationship between distance from base stations and a variety of health complaints. They have found that the closer to the towers people live there is an increase incidence of reported physical symptoms including those below. These are the same symptoms that military personnel working on radar have experienced,  people who have microwave illness (AKA electrosensitivity) experience and also similar to what Cuban and Chinese Diplomats reported in unusual “attacks in 2017. See  (Cuban Diplomats Likely Hit by Microwave Weapons -New York Times  ) 

German Physicians Call for Health investigation of Cell Towers in 2005

Dr. Cornelia Waldmann-Selsam sent an open letter in 2005 to the German State Chancellor, Edmund Stoiber on behalf of 114 physicians (Bamberg Appeal), asking for an investigation into the newly reported adverse health symptoms of 356 residents who lived near cell towers. She noted, “Many humans get sick from emissions far below the recommended limit values, which consider only thermal effects, and we have a sickness picture with characteristic symptom combinations, which are new to us physicians,”  The list of symptoms were, ” Sleep disturbances, tiredness, concentration impairment, forgetfulness, problem with finding words, depressive tendencies, tinnitus, sudden loss of hearing, hearing loss, giddiness, nose bleeds, visual disturbances, frequent infections, sinusitis, joint and limb pains, nerve and soft tissue pains, feeling of numbness, heart rhythm disturbances, increased blood pressure , hormonal disturbances, night-time sweat, nausea.” Resident noted almost immediate improvement when moving away.” Dr. Waldmann-Selsam goes on to say, “physicians were able to prove, by re-testing the patients, the normalization of blood pressure, heart rhythm, hormone disturbances, visual disturbances, neurological symptoms, blood picture,”. She called this an emergency medical situation and requested an official health investigation. Cell Tower Letter 2005 Dr. Cornelia Waldmann Selsam to German State Chancellery

Dr. Beatrice Golomb Discusses the Development of Electrosensitivity

UCSD Professor,Dr Beatrice Golomb,  who has investigated Gulf War Syndrome as well as electrosensitivity, has written an extensively referenced and well researched article in 2018 that describes the effects of, mechanisms of, and patient histories of those with electromagnetic injury, from both diplomats in Cuba and those with long term exposure to pulsed wireless radiation.

Health Symptoms reported near cell towers

  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • dizziness
  • irritability
  • fatigue
  • heart palpitations
  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling of discomfort
  • loss of libido
  • poor concentration
  • memory loss
  • neuropsychiatric problems such as depression.

Heatlh Effects vs EMF levels Santini. Screen Shot 2019-08-06 at 11.00.55 AM


Blood Cell Abnormalities Found

Zothansiama 2017 – In a recent study from India by Zothansiama et al (2017), researchers examined abnormalities in blood samples in people living at different distances from cell towers.  They identified a significant increase blood cell damage in those living within 80 meters of a cell tower versus those living greater than 300 meters from a cell tower. They found 1) A significant increase in micronuclei, which are small remnants of DNA nuclear material appearing within blood cells and a sensitive indicator of genotoxicity and chromosomal abnormalities 2) An increase in lipid peroxidation indicating free radical formation and cell membrane damage 3) A reduction in levels of internally produced antioxidant capacity (glutathione, catalase and superoxide dismutase).

The author concluded “The present study demonstrated that staying near the mobile base stations and continuous use of mobile phones damage the DNA, and it may have an adverse effect in the long run. The persistence of DNA unrepaired damage leads to genomic instability which may lead to several health disorders including the induction of cancer.” As more base stations are deployed with higher density and with ubiquitous wireless devices at home it will be difficult to find control groups that have not been significantly exposed. The Antenna Search website allows people to identify registered cell towers in their area.

School Cell Tower Study in 2018 Study Shows Cognitive Decline in Students

Meo 2018 – A recent case controlled 2 year scientific study examining the neurologic effects of children, aged 13-16,  in schools with nearby cell towers revealed significant decline in cognitive scores when the radiation from the cell tower was higher but still at non-thermal levels.  Students in School 1 (124 students) were exposed to cell tower radiation  at 2.010 µW/cm2 at a frequency of 925 MHz for 6 hr a day, 5 days a week. Students at School 2 were exposed to cell tower radiation  at 10.021 µW/cm2 at a frequency of 925 MHz for 6 hr a day, 5 days a week.  Both groups had exposure for 2 years. Cognitive functions tasks were measured by the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB). Participants were excluded who had any confounding factors , i.e. those with any pre existing illness, on any medications, with history of anxiety or attention problems, frequent use of cordless or cell phones, use of Wi-Fi routers in their bedrooms, or those who lived near high transmission lines or cell towers.

The researchers used the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) to measure cognitive functions tasks. They found “a significant impairment in Motor Screening Task (MOT; p = .03) and Spatial Working Memory (SWM) task (p = .04) was identified among the group of students who were exposed to high RF-EMF produced by MPBSTs. High exposure to RF-EMF produced by MPBSTs was associated with delayed fine and gross motor skills, spatial working memory, and attention in school adolescents compared to students who were exposed to low RF-EMF. Most notable is that the current FCC safety “guidelines” for 30 minute exposure are 1000 µW/cm2..  This FCC limit is 100 times more RF than the students experienced in the highest exposure group that showed cognitive decline and with non-thermal effects.

Study here-“Mobile Phone Base Station Tower Settings Adjacent to School Buildings: Impact on Students’ Cognitive Health. Mao SA et al. American Journal of Men’s Health. December 7, 2018. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1557988318816914

Cancer and Cell Towers

Wolf and Wolf 2004 investigated the rates of cancer versus distance from cell towers in small towns in Israel. He found the rate of cancer incidence was 129 cases per 10,000 persons per year in those living within 350 meters of a cell tower versus a rate of 16-31/10,000 in those living greater than 350 meters from the cell tower. Eger (2004) also found an increase in the development of new cancer cases within a 10 year period if residents lived within 400 meters of a cell tower. Their results revealed that within 5 years of operation of a transmitting station the relative risk of cancer development tripled in residents near the cell towers compared to residents outside the area.

Dode 2011 performed a 10 year study (1996-2006) examining the distance from cell towers and cancer clusters. He and his colleagues found a highly significant increase in cancers in those living within 500 meters of the cell tower. They noted “The largest density power was 40.78   μW/cm2, and the smallest was 0.04   μW/cm2.”  The current guidelines are about 1000 μW/cm2.  The authors conclude “Measured values stay below Brazilian Federal Law limits that are the same of ICNIRP.  The human exposure pattern guidelines are inadequate. More restrictive limits must be adopted urgently.”

Ghandi in 2015 used comet assays to determine genetic damage in those living in the vicinity of mobile base stations. He found that genetic damage was elevated in the sample group. He concluded, “analysis further revealed daily mobile phone usage, location of residence and power density as significant predictors of genetic damage… which…may lead to cancer.”

Cell Towers and Metabolic Disorders

Meo (2015) Several studies on cell towers show metabolic changes and dysfunction in persons exposed to cell tower radiation. Meo (2015)  looked at the  association of exposure to radio frequency radiation from mobile phone base stations with glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) and occurrence of type 2 diabetes mellitus in 2 different schools. The cell towers were about 200 feet from each school. One school had about 10 times higher radiation levels. They found a significant increase in  elevated levels of HbA1c and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in the school with higher RF levels.

Eskander (2012) looked at long term exposure to RF from cell towers over a 6 year period. They showed a reduction in volunteers’ plasma ACTH, serum cortisol levels and a decrease in the release of the thyroid hormones especially T3. In addition prolactin in young females (14–22 years), and testosterone levels [in males] significantly dropped.

Cell Tower Radiation Measured in Spain in 2020 Before 5G is Deployed

Because of the background wireless radiation in densely populated cities that is promised to rapidly and steeply increase with both 5G cell antennas on lampposts and homes,  Lopez et al (2021) studied the background radiation levels and health effects of those living near cell antenna base stations in a Madrid neighborhood. The researchers complied 268 surveys and took 105 spectrum analyzer measurements inside and outside the houses. They found a statistically significant increase in headaches and headache intensity, nightmares, dizziness, motor instability, tachycardia, and insomnia. They also found the cancer rate to be 5.6% and 10 times higher than the total Spanish population.  The authors note , “The measured intensity depends fundamentally on the direction of the fundamental radiation beam and not so much on the distance to the antenna. In the beam direction, differences are found in the presence of pathologies with respect to distances, when these are greater than 200 m. Even at this distance, the population continues to receive radiation peaks, so that no one is free from exposure to these radiation sources. “

Biological Effects from Exposure to Electromagnetic Radiation From Cell Towers

Blake Levitt, an award-winning medical and science journalist and former New York Times contributor is author of Cell Towers-Wireless Convenience? or Environmental Hazard? (2000) The book lists different chapters from different authors who contributed to a “Cell Towers Forum: State of the Science/State of the law”  environmental  conference December 2, 2000. Her book has valuable information on  FCC safety guidelines, legal aspects of the Telecommunications Act, cell tower sitings and case law. She also co-authored Biological effects from exposure to electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell tower base stations and other antenna arrays. (2010) Environmental Reviews, 2010, 18(NA): 369-395. Biological effects from exposure to electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell tower base stations and other antenna arrays


Conclusions From Research Health Effects of Cell Towers

A brief review of some of the research listed is below. Wildlife is even effected by cell towers.

Santini 2002, in a French study, reported an increase in fatigue at 300 meters from the cell towers and remaining symptoms at 200 meters. A follow up study by Santini in 2003 revealed that older subjects reported more symptoms and were more sensitive. Duration of exposure of 1 to 5 years did not have an effect on frequency of symptoms but after 5 years there was a significant increase in irritability reported.

Navarro (2003) indicates much lower levels of exposure cause adverse health symptoms. The Navarro (2003) study on cell towers and “Microwave Syndrome” in Spain found that in those living near cell towers symptoms occurred at low power. He looked at distance from the towers and electromagnetic field exposures and concluded, ” Based on the data of this study the advice would be to strive for levels not higher than 0.02 V/m for the sum total, which is equal to a power density of 0.0001 µW/cm² or 1 µW/m², which is the indoor exposure value for GSM base stations proposed on empirical evidence by the Public Health Office of the Government of Salzburg in 2002.”

Hutter (2006) , in an Austrian study, looked at cognitive performance, insomnia and well being in relation to power density of radiofrequency radiation versus reported symptoms in those in rural vs urban settings for more than a year.  His study showed an increase in health effects with higher radiofrequency exposure. Important conclusions were that these complaints were independent of patients concern over health effects and that at levels well below current safety standards.

Abdel-Rassoul (2006) Researchers looked at neurologic effects of inhabitants living under or across from cell tower base stations versus those far away. They found “The prevalence of neuropsychiatric symptoms such as headache (23.5%), memory changes (28.2%), dizziness (18.8%), tremors (9.4%), depressive symptoms (21.7%), and sleep disturbance (23.5%) were significantly higher among exposed inhabitants than controls: (10%), (5%), (5%), (0%), (8.8%) and (10%).” In addition, “the exposed inhabitants exhibited a significantly lower performance than controls in one of the tests of attention and short-term auditory memory” also, “the inhabitants opposite the station exhibited a lower performance in the problem solving test (block design) than those under the station.” All readings were within the standard guidelines. They recommend revision of standard guidelines for public exposure to RER from mobile phone base station antennas.

Sivan and Sudarsanam 2012 Review of Literature- The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) covered scientists to review the literature of the effects of RF-EMF radiations on wildlife, humans and the biosphere. In their 2010 MOEF Report they found that out of the 919 research papers collected on birds, bees, plants, other animals, and humans, 593 showed impacts, 180 showed no impacts, and 196 were inconclusive studies

They concluded, “Based on current available literature, it is justified to conclude that RF-EMF radiation exposure can change neurotransmitter functions, blood-brain barrier, morphology, electrophysiology, cellular metabolism, calcium efflux, and gene and protein expression in certain types of cells even at lower intensities. They noted as well that, “Identification of the frequency, intensity, and duration of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields causing damage to the biosystem and ecosystem would evolve strategies for mitigation and would enable the proper use of wireless technologies to enjoy its immense benefits, while ensuring one’s health and that of the environment.”

*** Percentage of studies that reported harmful effect of EMR in various groups in MOEF Report

Human Effects– 62% showed effects, 13% no effect and 25% inconclusive

Plant Effects– 87% showed effects and 13% were inconclusive

Wildlife Effects- 62% showed effects, 4% no effect and 36% inconclusive

Bee Effects—85% showed effects and 15% no effect

Bird Effects- 77% showed effects, 10% no effect and 13% inconclusive

Shinjyo and Shinjyo 2014 in an independent cell tower study from Japan, looked at health effects of residents living in a condominium complex from 1998-2009, noting health symptoms before placement of cell towers, during cell tower functioning and after removal of different antennas on the rooftops. They found a significant development of symptoms with placement of the cell towers and a significant reduction in symptoms after removal. The most frequent symptoms were fatigue, loss of motivation, headaches, eye pain, deteriorated eyesight, sleep disturbances, dizziness, jitteriness, rapid heat rate, muscle aches and nasal bleeding.  Shinjyo T and Shinjyo A. 2014 Significant Decrease of Clinical Symptoms after Mobile Phone Base Station Removal –An Intervention Study PDF.


Newest Articles


Older Published Literature

Occupational Exposures to RF and Immune System  –

See also Military and Government Reports 

  • Radio frequency radiation-related cancer: assessing causation in the occupational/military setting. (2018) Peleg M et al. Environ Res. 2018 May;163:123-133. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29433020
  • [Effect of low intensity and very high frequency electromagnetic radiation on occupationally exposed personnel].(2004) Yuan ZQ et al. Zhonghua Lao Dong Wei Sheng Zhi Ye Bing Za Zhi.. 2004 Aug;22(4):267-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15355705
  •  [Effect of electromagnetic radiation on T-lymphocyte subpopulations and immunoglobulin level in human blood serum after occupational exposure]. (2001) Bergier L et al.Med Pr. 1990;41(4):211-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2131394
  • Occupational exposure to high frequency electromagnetic fields and its effect on human immune parameters. (1999) Tuschl, H, et al. Int J Occup Med Environ Health;12(3):239-251. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10581865
  • Leukemia and occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields: review of epidemiologic surveys. (1987) Savitz DA and Calle EE. J Occup Med. 1987 Jan;29(1):47-51. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3546635

Animal, Insect, Bacteria and Wildlife Effects of Cell Towers