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Sins Of Transmission?

Vatican Radio's high-power antennas stand accused of causing cancer

6 min read

The view is impressive, if strange. A forest of about two dozen huge towers supports an intricate web of antenna wires that together pump many hundreds of kilowatts into the atmosphere from a site 25 kilometers north of Rome. The antennas are the Vatican's portal to the world: signals from two medium-wave transmitters reach all of Italy at all times, while those from 27 shortwave antennas are beamed at selected parts of the world in different languages at varying times. (Only two of the shortwave antennas transmit at any given time.) Thus, papal speeches, news programs, and religious events are dispatched in 40 languages to all the corners of the world, making this complex as important to the Vatican as the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe were to the United States at the height of the Cold War.

But to the inhabitants of Cesano and neighboring communities, the antennas, some transmitting at an effective 600 kilowatts, represent not only a blight on the landscape and something of a nuisance--hearing the Pope's voice picked up by your front-door intercom is not always appreciated--but also a possible health threat [see photo, " Radio Spikes"].

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Greg Mably


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