NBN tower “life-threatening”, claim residents


news A small community group in the Victorian town of Dereel is attempting to block the installation of a National Broadband Network wireless tower in the region despite most of the community approving, inaccurately claiming that the installation of the tower could cause “life-threatening” radiation to residents in the area.

News of the community action was published in a television news report by WIN News this month, which quoted local resident Wendy McClelland as saying that radiation was a serious problem for her, and that she must keep away from telecommunications towers. “Now they want to put a tower near my property, and it’ll just about kill me,” McClelland added. The resident dons headgear on the report which she claims protects her from radiation.

McClelland and others in the community have reportedly filed an appeal with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, seeking to have the wireless tower blocked and satellite broadband services provided instead. Another resident said in the report that she wasn’t against progress, but she was against it when it came “at the cost of human life”.

The opposition to the NBN tower comes despite the fact that there is no scientific evidence for the claims of the company’s wireless tower emitting harmful level of radiation, and despite the fact that most people in Dereel appear to want the new infrastructure in their area.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety agency has issued a fact sheet on the fixed wireless towers used by NBN Co. The fact sheet states:

“National Broadband Network (NBN) base stations use electromagnetic radiation to provide high speed broadband services to the community. The highest values of the radiofrequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME) that the public would be exposed to from the NBN base stations that are currently planned are less than 1/100 of the Australian public exposure limit. This means that the highest exposures are well below the levels at which any harmful effects are known to occur.”

“The ARPANSA RF Standard is based on scientific research that shows the levels at which harmful effects occur and it sets limits, based on international guidelines, well below these harmful levels. It is the assessment of ARPANSA and other national and international health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO), that there are no established adverse health effects below current exposure limits. The standard is intended to protect people of all ages and health status.”

Dereel resident Scott Weston, who runs a website to provide information and news about the community and posted the WIN News report on YouTube, commented on the YouTube post that he had petitioned the Dereel community on the issue and attracted 188 signatures supporting the NBN project, with only 5 people objecting. There are about 600 residents in Dereel.

“ … they make the claim that an NBN LTE tower can kill a human being,” he wrote. “Excuse me? I must have missed that peer-reviewed paper. This is going to come as quite a shock to a lot of people seeing as LTE rollouts have already begun all over the world. People must be dropping like flies in the USA, their LTE rollout is quite advanced! Quick somebody call the Whitehouse! Also be sure to checkout the latest in “tin foil hat” fashion as modelled by an “outraged” resident. You hardly look crazy at all!”

The case in Dereel is not the first time NBN Co has had a battle on its hands with local residents in Tasmania also raising the issue. However, so far most complaints nationally about the towers have recognised the scientific evidence showing the levels of radiation being emitted by the structures are far below the levels which would affect humans.

While I respect the rights of those concerned about radioactivity levels of NBN Co’s wireless towers to comment publicly on the issue, I must also insist that they provide evidence for their claims. Australia’s chief nuclear and radiation safety agency has inspected the towers and cleared them. If the concerned residents of Dereel have any scientific evidence which could run counter to that study, then I encourage them to present it, as it would be an issue in communities receiving NBN wireless towers right around Australia.

In the absence of such evidence (and we haven’t seen any so far), it is clear that the tower at Dereel should go ahead, as the majority of the community appears to want the dramatically improved broadband service delivery which it will bring to the area.

Image credit: Adam Jakubiak, royalty free. Note: This is a stock image, not an image of one of NBN Co’s towers.


    • That applied to traditional radiation and not RF radiation which is even less than that.

    • So don’t forget to wear your tin-foil hat when eating bananas kids…. or flying in planes…. or standing in the sun…

      • Dont forget to never handle money because They use invisible dye to track you with it.

        Tinfoil Terror, coming to a hillbilly near you.

        • But…but….if you use EFTPOS and credit cards, the government will be able to trace all of your purchases! You have to use cash! You just have to wear gloves.

    • Charts like this are great, but for the relatively uneducated lay person it would be really useful to include more daily relevant items, such as 1 hour of Summer sun exposure, standing next to a 2000W microwave on maximum for 5 mins, 1 month of accumulated exposure at the base of a mobile phone tower (include results for different common technologies), 1 month of exposure 100m from the same tower, 1 year of exposure living under high volyage overhead power lines, 1 year of exposure using handheld mobile phone (as headsets obviously reduce exposure significantly), 1 year of exposure sitting next to a photocopy printer in a busy office… The exposure levels of most things the tinfoil hat wearers are concerned about are actually miniscule and universally lower than regular sun exposure (which, interestingly, is commonly recommended as a healthy practice by ‘wholistic’ and ‘alternative health’ practicioners who believe sun exposure to be good, healthy, ‘natural’ and necessary. Funny that they don’t recommend the same regular exposure to uncontained nuclear fission reactions, but hey I’m no nuclear physicist – maybe there’s a substantial difference in radiation types and levels from the two different events. I’m sure the tinfoil hat brigade could set me straight!)

      • I’d like to see something like this, the big problem though is that they’re not directly comparable. Everything on that chart is exposure to ionising radiation (e.g. X-rays). In your examples, the Sun and I believe the photocopier produce ionising radiation, but mobile phones/towers, microwave ovens, etc. are all non-ionising.

        Not only are they measured differently, but unlike “radiation” as we usually imagine it, the effects of non-ionising radiation – below the point it starts cooking you – are not clearly known. It’s only really with the advent of mobile phones, held right to the user’s head, that it’s become a concern and even then there are “legitimate concerns” more than “proof” it’s harmful. The background radiation from towers is nothing in comparison.

        • Sunlight is non-ionising radiation; but obviously its capable of cooking you :)
          (but people don’t complain that the non-ionising radiation from their light fittings are killing them)

    • lol, love this comment in that chart ….

      “Using a cell-phone (0) – a cell phone’s transmitter does not produce ionizing radiation* and does not cause cancer”

      And the asterisk in the sentence …..

      * Unless it’s a bananaphone


  1. The stupid, it burns.

    I would bet that most of these people are Liberal voters desperate to find a reason to bag the NBN, ignoring the fact that at once stage Mal wanted to build the whole NBN out of LTE.

  2. Really Win News is the worst player in this. That report should’ve never aired and if media watch was on I’m sure it would be all over it

    • Not the first of its kind however.

      Golden Plains Shire unanimously voted down a tower at Napoleon due solely to visibility. Moorabool Shire voted down an NBN tower at Yendon in June 2012 due to community objection. There have also been problems selecting a tower site at Buninyong. It’s funny to think about the concept of championing wireless as the uncontested way of the future when it’s so hard to build new towers.

      It was also the wind farm at Waubra that produced a medical diagnosis of “electromagnetic skull spasms” in a man living 30 km north of Ballarat in 2011.

      It’s understandable if one might think this sort of thing is popular with the locals, or if WIN estimates the context would be of interest to viewers, but if the numbers from Scott Weston’s petition are to be believed, then the vocal minority is very minor indeed.

    • Unfortunately none of the people affected were unable to watch the news report. It is much to dangerous for them to be in the same room as a television

  3. I hear Helen McInerney’s column is big down that way!!

    Heck, they’d get more radiation from their mobile phone than they’ll get from that tower. You get 5 times more exposure from FM Radio and TV than you do from Wireless, but they don’t seem that worried about that.

    Source: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs304/en/index.html

    Seriously, is there someone going around these groups to “wind them up”??

  4. I think what is needed is an ill informed, unscientific, sensationalist campaign on the SERIOUS health issues associated with FTTN ;)

    • I’m waiting for the report on how NBN fibre uses “dangerous” laser light which “could send you blind”.

      And we’ve all seen how aliens use laser beams to control – or disintegrate! – their unwitting victims. Can we feel truly safe, knowing that our streets and homes will have lethal, mind-controlling lasers pulsing and throbbing along them?

      • I think that WIN should do an article on this. After all, LASER stands for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”.

        It isn’t just normal radiation, it is stimulated radiation. What sort of irresponsible morons would go around stimulating radiation? Isn’t normal radiation bad enough? There aren’t enough hats in the world to protect us all.

    • Well……you know that too much copper in the water can kill you…..and those copper intertubes run pretty close to your water pipes generally…

    • Some people are allergic to copper. Seriously. We must remove our houses of this highly dangerous metal! And replace it all with clean hypo-allergenic glass!

  5. The anti-NBN stupidity is at an all time high it would seem. This is as bad as people that claim wind towers generate negative energy that affects their health. No scientific evidence to back up their claims whatsoever, but because they’ve convinced themselves of this nonsense already, every bit of sickness they feel will be immediately attributed to the tower of evil. It’s beyond pathetic.

    [censored due to personal insult]

    • it’s probably layered with those little stickers that they sell to put on your cell phone to soak up “radiation”

      as if its an unwanted by product of the device.. and not *the very medium* used for it to do its bloody job. (not that the sticker does dick, but still the lack of thought process here is incredible.)

  6. I would suggest changing, in the second last paragraph: “radioactivity levels of NBN Co’s wireless towers” to “electromagnetic radiation levels from NBN Co’s wireless towers”.

    There is already enough public confusion about ionising and non-ionising radiation in general without suggesting that RF transmission towers are radioactive!

      • Electromagnetic Radiation includes UV & X rays … both ionizing.

        If you need to differentiate that its non ionizing, you probably need to say its non ionizing. trying to dumb it down has lead to the kind of “its all bad radiation” confusion in the first place.

        • I do not specifically understand the difference between ionising and non-ionising wavelengths of light. E.g. a lot of visible light can be ionising to photovoltaic cells (and finding materials that ionise from lower wavelengths means more energy from the sun). Is ionising / non-ionising just a cut-off point in wavelength?

          • @Michael

            Is ionising / non-ionising just a cut-off point in wavelength?

            In short, yes. X-rays, gamma rays and some very high Terahertz microwaves are ionising to human flesh, because their energy is very high (high frequency, short wavelength). Photovoltaics are “ionised” by Visible and now even IR and UV radiation (Gallium and Indium). That is a product of their construction- the materials they are made of are specifically engineered to ionise at those frequencies.

            GHz Microwaves, MHz RF and below are NOT ionising to human flesh, because flesh (or rather the atoms that make up skin) is very stable and therefore very high energy (high frequency, short wavelength) EMF is needed to knock electrons out of their shells in flesh.

          • Gotta love the fear of the unkown / NIMBY. They will buy a mircowave oven and get an x-ray but they won’t have a radio wave tower constructed.

  7. Never mind that in almost every instance of said complaints, you’ll find a Microwave oven residing in their respective homes.

    It’s a power tower of UNLIMITED NO WIRE MAGICS that will RADIATE on us ALL. We’re all gonna DIE. DIE I TELL YO—*ding*

    .. oh, sweet, my pizza’s reheated!

  8. Unfortunately the Telcos over the years have handled this issue very badly and let it get way out of hand.
    We have a situation here in Sydney at Balgowlah where residents object yet again about the placement of a new Telstra antenna. The location in question is in full view of a TV Translator at North Head, which transmits at several kilowatts of power, and I dare say the field strength from that alone would well exceed that of the phone base at the very location. It has been operating for some 20 years! I might add that it is a translator operating in the UHF band, so the frequencies in use are very similar to phone signal. No one seems to want to point that out.
    Another source of fairly high level RF radiation are Pager transmitters, they operate at up to a kilowatt of power and are dotted throughout the suburbs. Nobody to worries about them…most likely because they look nothing like phone antennas!
    Next time you’re parked somewhere and your wireless car key plays up… just look around and you might be standing next to one!

  9. Ironically, the television tower which broadcast the dopey WIN News report emits more EMF radiation than the communications tower the report seeks to hobble.

  10. In fairness to WIN, their tower is high up on a hill in the sticks…. however, it’s a different story in Sydney where the TV transmitters are right in the middle of residential areas with 10,000 or more families within a short distance, in fact, the ABC tower is so close to the RNS hospital it has proved quite troublesome over the years to keep the high level of RF in that area out of sensitive medical equipment…. heaven knows what it does to the people who live/work/recuperate or whatever……………..
    Maybe it is part of the RNS business model ;-)…………..

  11. [censored due to personal insult] How does a thin sheet of fabric protect ones head from radiation (if at all neccessary)? I would think the house walls would do a much better job, especially if lead lined.

  12. Hey everyone,

    FYI I’ve removed a number of comments from this thread, and censored portions of other comments, as they contained personal insults and slander directed at one or more of the individuals interviewed in the WIN TV segment. I’m sorry, but we need to keep things civil and not direct personal attacks at people — you know the rules ;)

    Of course you’re aware that I need to keep things clean here for legal reasons, but beyond that, we’re talking about science here — which is a very rational, not an emotional, subject.



  13. My WP tag is all that is required for these ideas:

    Your stupidity frustrates me….

    I’d very much like to personally get a bunch of these complainants, herd them into a room, blindfold them and then ask at various times if there was EMF being broadcast into the room.

    I guarantee you 9/10 times they wouldn’t have a clue. And the 1/10 would be luck. This is entirely psychological.

    • It always will be mate, the guys on ABC chat were talking about this and they were commenting on the scientific studies done with double-blind trials.

      How people believe this is beyond me, but given I deal with it on a daily basis – nothing surprises me anymore.

      I’d just chalk this up to cheap shots.

    • @Seven_tech: I share your frustration, but that’s not actually a useful test. You could put a bunch of people in a room and dose them intermittently with x-rays that will cumulatively kill them (later), and they couldn’t tell. Not being able to detect something that will kill you isn’t a good test for whether or not something will kill you, given that our bodies have a quite limited range of onboard sensors for EM. :-)

      Better to focus on clear, simple (but not over-simplified) science communication to get the message out. That won’t work on those with an entrenched paranoia/conspiracy bent, but it’s the best tool we have to win over/placate those who don’t have good science literacy.

      • To clarify, that should have read, “Not being able to detect something that will kill you /with your own five senses/…”

        • @itgrrl

          Perhaps I should’ve been more clear.

          These people, particularly this woman (have a read of her backstory if you want a bit of a laugh) say they get “headaches” or “stinging pain” from RF in high doses. THIS is what I was talking about. Put them in a room and bath them with mobile frequencies and 9/10 of them wouldn’t know when they were being so. And the 1/10 would be good timing.

          Of course I’m not suggesting these people would be able to feel something that would EVENTUALLY kill them (like over exposure to X or Gamma rays). I’m actually suggesting the opposite- expose them to stuff that we KNOW won’t kill them and see if they react, because apparently they “can tell”…..which of course they can’t.

  14. Hi all. Understand the technology and radiation issues.

    However in a democracy if some people dont want it. then thats it. “Some people don’t want it!” You’ll never ever always convince everyone.

    However it would be really nice to know that radiation is as OK as they all say. We still don’t know for instance if the radiation from mobile phone placed next to the head will ever have any impact on the brain. Its always wise to limit one’s exposure as it done by those who work on such towers (or should be). I know carriers like Telstra had and have I assume very strong guidances and rules pertaining to such sites

    • @Greg

      Many studies have been done on direct mobile phone exposure and it has been inconclusive. But you are correct that we should limit their usage anyway- just for good manners and social life apart form anything.

      Regarding the towers- Yes, Telstra DO limit exposure to workers because they are working ON the tower. Even 100m away the levels are 1% what they are at 1m due to the inverse square law. And if levels are 1/100th that of “safe” exposure levels AT the tower, (I don’t know, but I’d assume that’s what the study is based on) even at 100m they are 1/10 000th the safe level. LITERALLY a mobile phone would have more power at that level. There is NO evidence that these towers are harming anyone from EMF. Anywhere. Ever.

      • Thats also part of the heirachy of control for hazards.

        Telstra would much prefer to use administrative measures to protect their employees from risks (or potential ones) than PPE.

        • Of course one of the items on that hierarchy is “elimination” so bringing that up is not always in our interests! :)

          • Yep, elimination, substitution, Engineering, administrative, PPE.

            Considering in the case of radio towers to eliminate / substitute / engineer would remove the radio waves does somewhat defeat the purpose.

  15. She probably got a bigger dose from the sun during the course of recording that report than she’ll ever get from an NBN tower.

    • Pet peeve – In Australia, it’s all defamation, there’s no distinction between the medium.

  16. There, fixed it for you:

    A small community group **of Telstra Shareholders** in the Victorian town of Dereel is attempting to block the installation of a National Broadband Network wireless tower in the region despite most of the community approving, inaccurately claiming that the installation of the tower could cause “life-threatening” radiation to residents in the area.

  17. Shall we check with the WHO?


    “Recent surveys have shown that the RF exposures from base stations range from 0.002% to 2% of the levels of international exposure guidelines, depending on a variety of factors such as the proximity to the antenna and the surrounding environment. This is lower or comparable to RF exposures from radio or television broadcast transmitters.”

    “Recent surveys have indicated that RF exposures from base stations and wireless technologies in publicly accessible areas (including schools and hospitals) are normally thousands of times below international standards.”

    “In fact, due to their lower frequency, at similar RF exposure levels, the body absorbs up to five times more of the signal from FM radio and television than from base stations.”

    “Further, radio and television broadcast stations have been in operation for the past 50 or more years without any adverse health consequence being established.”

    “Media or anecdotal reports of cancer clusters around mobile phone base stations have heightened public concern. It should be noted that geographically, cancers are unevenly distributed among any population. Given the widespread presence of base stations in the environment, it is expected that possible cancer clusters will occur near base stations merely by chance. Moreover, the reported cancers in these clusters are often a collection of different types of cancer with no common characteristics and hence unlikely to have a common cause.”

    “Likewise, long-term animal studies have not established an increased risk of cancer from exposure to RF fields, even at levels that are much higher than produced by base stations and wireless networks.”

    “Some individuals have reported that they experience non-specific symptoms upon exposure to RF fields emitted from base stations and other EMF devices. As recognized in a recent WHO fact sheet “Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity”, EMF has not been shown to cause such symptoms. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize the plight of people suffering from these symptoms.”

    “Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.”

    Cancer.org feels much the same:

    “Some people have expressed concern that living, working, or going to school near a cell phone tower might increase the risk of cancer or other health problems. At this time, there is very little evidence to support this idea. In theory, there are some important points that would argue against cellular phone towers being able to cause cancer.”

    “First, the energy level of radiofrequency (RF) waves is relatively low, especially when compared with the types of radiation that are known to increase cancer risk, such as gamma rays, x-rays, and ultraviolet (UV) light. The energy of RF waves given off by cell phone towers is not enough to break chemical bonds in DNA molecules, which is how these stronger forms of radiation may lead to cancer.”

    “A second issue has to do with wavelength. RF waves have long wavelengths, which can only be concentrated to about an inch or two in size. This makes it unlikely that the energy from RF waves could be concentrated enough to affect individual cells in the body.”

    “Third, even if RF waves were somehow able to affect cells in the body at higher doses, the level of RF waves present at ground level is very low — well below the recommended limits. Levels of energy from RF waves near cell phone towers are not significantly different than the background levels of RF radiation in urban areas from other sources, such as radio and television broadcast stations.”

    “For these reasons, most scientists agree that cell phone antennas or towers are unlikely to cause cancer.”


  18. I am glad no one took any photos of the residents in question. The photographer would have likely been burned at the stake for stealing their souls.

    Never ceases to amaze me how backwards some people can be when the majority of the nation is still screaming to be connected to the network. Three cheers for a rollout plan that ignores the people who want/use it the most…

  19. Hmm, its all good food for thought?
    The lead photo looks like a multi kwh tv tower, maybe some phone elements as well; real phone tower would be nice.
    I’d like to see the numbers and findings on effects of the mobiles at the head and pocket – radiation effects I mean!
    Thanks Renai.

    • Hi Ian

      You’ve pretty much discovered what the rest of us here had done so ourselves. There is no significant link between mobile phones and cancer. That’s why these stories are frustrating because these people refuse to listen to rational argument.

  20. google Barrie Trower and read the paper he wrote for the British Police Force with its multiple quotations and references to peer reviewed literature on the safety of microwave radiation And then ask yourself if you still feel quite so comfortable with the safety or otherwise of the NBN towers.

Comments are closed.