Can Satellite Signal Jamming Cause Health Hazards?
The recent debates on satellite jamming in the country have raised the specter of harmful health hazards, including the risk of cancers and other ailments.
“Earlier, we didn’t have enough information on the effect of signal jammers on people’s health and there were no indications whether the strong signals used for blocking illegal satellite TV broadcasts could cause cancer.
However, our preliminary studies have indicated that the signals do have some side effects on health, and can increase the risk of developing different types of cancer,” Dr Reza Malekzadeh, deputy minister of Research and Technology at the health Ministry said on the sidelines of the unveiling ceremony of the Comprehensive Cancer Data Bank in Shiraz, capital of Fars Province.
Experts had earlier talked about the health risks caused by radio and satellite jamming; but no proof was provided.
“In addition to the increasing risk of cancer, the strong jamming signals can cause other health complications in people living in the affected areas,” IRNA quoted him as saying.
Stating that currently breast cancer is the most common cancer in the country he said, “Unfortunately the disease is diagnosed among Iranian women 18 years earlier than women living in western countries; but if diagnosed at an early stage, breast cancer is completely treatable.”
Malekzadeh, however, brushed aside reports about the ‘cancer tsunami’, stating that it is incorrect to apply the term to describe the current status of the disease in the country since “tsunami is a sudden event and not a gradually increasing pattern.”
Aging is the biggest risk factor for developing cancer and is associated with 70% increase in its likelihood, he added.
“About 30 years ago, the average life expectancy was 56 years while now it is 74; therefore higher incidence of cancer is partly due to increase in longevity.”
Shortly after the deputy minister admitted that satellite jamming has effects on health and called for identifying the jamming stations and putting an end to the practice, Health Minister Seyed Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi said that the ministry still lacks “strong scientific evidence to prove that signal jamming can enhance the risk of cancer or exacerbate health problems.”
“So far there is no evidence to prove the relationship between jamming signals and cancer development; and therefore we cannot generalize based on the results of other studies on the current status of the disease.”
Last October, Hashemi had maintained that as long as it is not ascertained that the jamming signals are not harmless to health, it is better not to use digital television (DTV).
Lack of Evidence
On January 9, people in the southern Shiraz city, protested in front of the governor’s office and called for action against signal jamming, as they believe that many of their ailments such as headaches and cancers have stemmed from the technology used to block unauthorized foreign broadcasts.
On the same day, provincial deputy governor Hadi Pazhuheshi Jahromi said, “As the health of the people is important, SUMS has been asked to conduct further research on the extent of jamming in the city and its possible effects on public health.”
In December, Khabaronline reported a study conducted by Shiraz University of Medical Sciences (SUMS), that said electromagnetic waves, including those transmitted in satellite jamming, can increase the risk of infertility, immune deficiency, and cancer.
The SUMS study said that severe electromagnetic waves increase the risk of infertility, immune deficiency and cancer.
“Studies conducted on electromagnetic waves which are much more powerful than the so-called satellite jamming, show that these waves can lower the sperm count in men, weaken short-term memory and cause headache and dizziness in laboratory animals,” said Alireza Mahdizadeh, a professor in the Physics Department at the SUMS.
“We all know that radio jamming is harmful to children and pregnant women; that infertility rate has increased and people have depression symptoms and headaches,” noted Bahram Parsaei, lawmaker who represents Shiraz.
Jamming signals has not been entirely successful as channels which are intended to be blocked often change their frequency to evade censorship. Media outlets say close to 50-70% of Iranian households own dish antenna.
Minister of Communications Mahmoud Vaezi also admits that satellite jamming has “serious effects” on health and has called for identification of jamming stations so that the controversial practice could be discontinued.
The World Health Organization based on scientific research has concluded that current evidences don’t confirm the existence “of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields.”