The growth and increased accessibility to technology has come with concerns on its impact on our health.
The flurry of false information shared on WhatsApp messages and articles on the internet has created a false alarm. It is against this backdrop that Safaricom in partnership with the National Environment Management Authority and Communications Authority launched the Electro Magnetic Frequency (EMF) booklet titled ‘The answer is in your hands’ at the Villa Rosa Kempinski on February 8th.
Electro Magnetic Fields are everywhere. They are a form of energy emitted by appliances in our homes, mobile phones, and base station antennas. The earth and the sun are also natural sources of EMF.
Radio waves are a type of Electromagnetic Radiation and they occur in two forms. Ionizing radiation which is emitted by devices such as X-ray machines and due to their cell mutating abilities are harmful to your health. Non-ionizing radiation, which is emitted by everyday appliances, mobile phones, and base stations antennas does not have the energy to ionize atoms and cause cell mutations and therefore exposure to it does not adversely affect your health.
Kenya has over 35 million mobile phone users and this large mobile phone network is supported base stations which contain antennas.
The base transceiver station consists of a latticed steel structure that emits radio frequency waves using an antenna which facilitates communication within the network.
Surveys conducted by World Health Organization place the radiation emitted by base transceiver stations at between 0.002% and 0.2% which are a thousand times lower than the exposure required to cause health threats. This, therefore, makes living near base stations absolutely safe.
Speaking at the launch, Bob Collymore emphasized on its commitment to ensuring that its activities do not harm the public and that the expansion to 3G and 4G networks would not harm the environment, assuring the public that there would not be a significant increase in base stations as the existing ones had the capacity to support the expansion.
The booklet also addressed frequently raised concerns such as why our phones feel warm on our ears during a call. It dismissed the common notion that it is caused by the emission of radio waves by educating the public that it is in fact caused by the warming up of batteries and poor air circulation around the ear.
Some of the other questions that are answered in the booklet include why there are restrictions on mobile phone use in hospitals, airplanes and petrol stations. The limited usage is due to radio signals from mobile phones affecting the functioning of medical equipment, communication systems on airplanes and simply for how the distracting they would be when dealing with the highly flammable material at petrol stations consequently indirectly leading to an explosion.
Safaricom, NEMA and CA were keen to have the information in the booklet in the widest circulation. They called on students at the university to help in simplifying some of the technical information in the booklet in order to make it easier for the general public to understand. For those located in rural areas who may be illiterate, a commitment was made to partner with area leaders and radio stations to help translate the information into vernacular. Holding regular barazas in order to interact with the public was also among the ways in which they would ensure the information had as wide of a reach as possible.
The booklet will be available for free at all Safaricom shops countrywide as well as CA offices. It contains further information as well as reference material on EMF radiation and health. You can also download the booklet here.