VATICAN CITY, MAR. 29, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The Italian government has implicitly acknowledged as unscientific a report that blamed electromagnetic waves from Vatican Radio's transmission antennas for health problems in a nearby neighborhood.
The controversy broke out when the Latium region's Public Health Agency published a report on cases of tumors and leukemia. The 25-page document claimed that children living within a 2-kilometer radius of the antennas are six times more liable to get leukemia than children in nearby Rome.
This statistic, taken out of context and published before the entire report was made public, prompted news headlines such as "Vatican Radio Kills Children!"
In reality, the document confirms that only one child is sick with leukemia in the 2-kilometer radius. The controversy stems from the fact that, in a similar radius in the city of Rome, 0.16 children get leukemia.
Neither the report nor any doctor has demonstrated that the child who now has leukemia was contaminated by exposure to Vatican Radio's electromagnetic waves.
A group of Italian scientists, among whom are physicist Tullio Regge; Renato Angelo Ricci, president of the Italian Nuclear Association; and Giancarlo Corazza, honorary president of the Marconi Foundation, wrote to Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, and to European Commission President Romano Prodi, pointing out the document's unscientific character.
In fact, the document acknowledges that the "analysis of mortality for the period 1987-95 has not reflected an excess of cases of mortality due to tumors." In other words, the information for the 2-kilometer radius of Vatican Radio's antenna is exactly the same as the average for Rome.
An examination of adult cases of leukemia in the 2-kilometer radius revealed 40 deaths in a population of 60,000 residents, the same as the average for Rome.
Friday was the deadline given by Italian Environment Minister Willer Bordon to Vatican Radio to discontinue its transmissions. In the midst of an electoral campaign, this politician of the Green group threatened to cut off electricity to the pontifical broadcasting station.
Bordon reacted, despite the fact that a commission was created months ago by the Italian government and the Vatican, precisely to study the situation and resolve the problem.
At the end of a meeting held Wednesday in the Italian Foreign Ministry, the commission announced that within 40 to 50 days the results of a scientific examination of the area will be published.
Once the data is backed up scientifically, the government and the Vatican plan to adopt the necessary measures to guarantee the health of the area's residents, most of whom built their houses long after the antennas were installed.