The Radiation Protection Institute (RPI) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) has debunked the assertion that telecommunications towers in communities pose health dangers and cause cancer.
The RPI, allaying the fears of the public, explained that the radiation emitted by the towers were extremely low in energy due to the heights of the towers and could, therefore, not cause any harm.
Dr Philip Deatanyah, a research scientist with RPI, urged the public to be more concerned about their phones which produced higher radiations in searching for connections.
“The phone becomes more harmful when the masts are not close to us because the phone tries to reach the radiation from the mast by increasing its power and by so doing, it will increase your exposure as compared to the mast.
“Therefore, the closer a mast is to you, the safer it is, and so there is no cause for alarm,” he maintained.
Dr Deatanyah made the remarks at the 2023 Consumer Week Celebration of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications in Elmina.
The Chamber and its stakeholders including MTN, AT, Vodafone, ZeePay, tower companies, the police, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) engaged the people of Elmina to raise awareness and share knowledge on the operations of telecommunication industry.
The various institutions took turns to sensitise the people to an array of topical issues including MoMo and internet fraud, fibre cuts, thefts and vandalism of telecommunication infrastructure, and the importance of telecommunication towers.
Dr Deatanyah maintained that based on research, all relevant international agencies had concluded that the towers did not have the energy to cause illnesses like cancer.
“But when you relate it to ionising radiation which can cause ionisation, that is what leads to cancer.
“Examples are X-ray and CT scan machines, depending on their energy, have the ability to cause cancer,” he added.
Ing Dr Kenneth Ashigbe, CEO of the Chamber, corroborating the RPI’s assertion noted that radiation produced by masts in Ghana did not even meet the minimum standard set by the United Nations.
He assured that the National Communications Authority, the EPA, RPI and all other relevant regulatory bodies were taking measurements to ensure the masts were installed to avoid disaster.
Ing Dr Ashigbe, bemoaning the incidence of fibre cuts and thefts, said they remained the major challenge to the operations of the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).
He observed that people undertaking developmental activities continued to destroy the fiber-optic cables, while others stole the cables, diesel from generators, and other critical installations from the network sites.
The menace, he said, increased the cost of operation and disrupted mobile and internet connections, which put businesses and people at risk.
He cited an instance in Takoradi where a company making tiles had destroyed about 10 kilometres of fibre cables belonging to MTN, AT, and Vodafone, which would cost the telcos more than six million Ghana Cedis to reinstate.
“When you go to these cell sites, it is not only telcos that have their equipment there. National Security also keep their infrastructure, and so when these thefts happen, they also have national security implications,” he added.
He therefore urged the public to make it their civic responsibility to protect the telecommunications installations and report theft cases to the police.
Ing Dr Ashigbe cautioned that the Cybersecurity Law had classified telecommunication infrastructure as critical information infrastructure and so, the punishment for damaging them was dire.
“At the national level, we have the national engineering coordinating team that is working to improve coordination among road users, developers and utility companies to bring sanity,” he said.
“We are educating the public and also engaging Parliament to strengthen the laws to make the punishment more severe,” he intimated.
On MoMo fraud, the CEO of the Chamber disclosed that fraudsters were taking advantage of unsuspecting members of the public to use the Ghana cards to register their SIM cards to perpetrate crime.
He said the police, telcos and all other relevant stakeholders were working together to clamp down on the menace.
Dr Daniel kofi Sappor, Deputy Director of EPA, adding his voice to the safety of the masts, appealed to chiefs, families, and individual landowners to release their lands for the installation of such critical infrastructure because they were safe.
Mr Francis Gyan of MTN addressing concerns about “vanishing” data and airtime, explained that they were consumed by applications through automatic updates and, streaming of videos.
However, he urged the public to report genuine cases for redress.
Mr Francis Ntiamoah Osei of AT taught the gathering how to protect their WhatsApp, urging them not to give out their One Time Password (OTP).
He encouraged them to set up the two-step verification or change details in case they were hacked.