Vatican Radio transmitters ‘pose cancer risk’
The Supreme Court of Italy has ordered Vatican Radio to compensate Cesano, a small town near Rome, following allegations the broadcaster’s high-powered transmitters put children at a higher risk of cancer.

Reports emerged in 2001 that electromagnetic radiation produced by Vatican Radio’s transmitters near the town was above the legal limit. A health authority released a study claiming that children in the area were six times more likely to develop leukemia.

The 300-page report prepared by Italy’s most prestigious cancer research hospital called the connection between Vatican antennas and childhood cancer “coherent and significant.”

By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

From its studios in Vatican City, Vatican Radio broadcasts around the world.

There is a “coherent and significant connection” between radiation from Vatican Radio aerials and childhood cancer, researchers have said.

The Italian experts looked at high numbers of tumours and leukaemia in children who live close to Vatican Radio transmitters.

The 60 antennas stand in villages and towns near Rome.

The Vatican said it was astonished and would present contrary views to a court in Rome.

Italian courts have been investigating for 10 years whether of an abnormally high number of deaths from cancer among families living near the aerials just north of the Italian capital can be attributed to electromagnetic radiation.

The 300-page report, ordered by the courts and carried out by Italy’s most prestigious cancer research hospital, now concludes that there is a connection between radiation and the cancer incidents.

Some 60 huge steel aerials were erected on farmland owned by the Vatican during the last century.

They transmit Vatican Radio programmes around the world on medium and short wave.

However, the technology is now largely obsolete, as Catholic radio stations in many countries rebroadcast Vatican Radio shows after picking them up on the Internet.

In one court case against the Vatican the statute of limitations ran out, but another case is still pending.

The Vatican says it intends to defend its position and claims there is no threat to public health through its transmissions.

People living near the aerials say the radio waves affect TV reception and interfere with many household electronic appliances.

American Journal of Epidemiology February 2, 2002

Adult and Childhood Leukemia near a High-Power Radio Station in Rome, Italy
Paola Michelozzi 1 , Alessandra Capon 2 , Ursula Kirchmayer 1 , Francesco Forastiere 1 , Annibale Biggeri 3 , Alessandra Barca 2 and Carlo A. Perucci 1
+ Author Affiliations

Department of Epidemiology, Local Health Authority RME, Rome, Italy.
Agency for Public Health, Lazio, Italy.
Department of Statistics, University of Florence, Florence, Italy.
Received June 19, 2001.
Accepted February 2, 2002.

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Some recent epidemiologic studies suggest an association between lymphatic and hematopoietic cancers and residential exposure to high-frequency electromagnetic fields (100 kHz to 300 GHz) generated by radio and television transmitters. Vatican Radio is a very powerful station located in a northern suburb of Rome, Italy. In the 10-km area around the station, with 49,656 residents (in 1991), leukemia mortality among adults (aged >14 years; 40 cases) in 1987–1998 and childhood leukemia incidence (eight cases) in 1987–1999 were evaluated. The risk of childhood leukemia was higher than expected for the distance up to 6 km from the radio station (standardized incidence rate = 2.2, 95% confidence interval: 1.0, 4.1), and there was a significant decline in risk with increasing distance both for male mortality (p = 0.03) and for childhood leukemia (p = 0.036). The study has limitations because of the small number of cases and the lack of exposure data. Although the study adds evidence of an excess of leukemia in a population living near high-power radio transmitters, no causal implication can be drawn. There is still insufficient scientific knowledge, and new epidemiologic studies are needed to clarify a possible leukemogenic effect of residential exposure to radio frequency radiation.

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