Mobile phones and health, information and fear
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(This debate is closed and is a read-only archive.)
The insensitive siting of masts
This new technology may still be found to have adverse effects, which may only become clear after a prolonged period of years of usage.
Alan Meyer
legal director, Mast Action UK
  1. Mast Action UK (MAUK) has helped since its formation in 2000 over 700 local groups and individuals oppose the insensitive siting and location of telecom masts. However MAUK has always accepted the need for the network of masts to support the mobile phone revolution in communications.

  2. MAUK's concern has focused not only on the 'insensitive' choice of sites often selected for ease of access to an available electricity supply and for maintenance purposes, but also on the adverse effects of the Permitted Development Rights, which in England and Wales have driven the major network operators to use prior approval and a network of lamppost system masts on pavements outside people's residences and first-floor bedroom windows, causing in many people stress and anxiety which in themselves can cause adverse health effects, as was made clear in paragraph 1.31 of the original 11 May 2000 Stewart IEGMP Report.

  3. In many countries abroad the planning requirements have meant that rather than having low ground-based masts the mast or antennae have been affixed at tops of high buildings on their sides and usually well disguised to limit their adverse visual impact. Often this does away with any need to have a proliferation of unsightly masts sprouting from the tops of high buildings and disfiguring the horizon. Where tall buildings are not available often the choice has been to erect high masts, usually of a design with some artistic merit.

  4. Having accepted that mobile phone networks, and now the latest communications systems providing data, are a necessary feature in a modern industrial and commercial country, it remains necessary however to understand that this new technology may still be found to have adverse effects which may only become clear after a prolonged period of years of usage of these networks.

    Everyone can make a choice as to whether to use, or use extensively, their 2G or 3G mobile phone. Few have any choice when it comes to a network operator obtaining consent to place and erect a mast close to someone's home, often with inadequate or no consultation at all, despite the requirements of the ODPM Code of Best Practice and the Mobile Operators Association's incorporated 10 Commitments.

  5. In England and Wales it is said that compliance with the ICNIRP Thermal Heating Guidelines (formulated in 1998) means that there is no cause for concern about adverse effects of 24-hours-a-day exposure to the masts emissions. In due course probably time will show whether that remains a correct assessment, or whether it was a mere pious hope that would enable networks to be rolled out without bothering overmuch about possible other health consequences in no way connected with thermal heating. Standards in many other major countries are many times below ICNIRP Guidelines.

  6. MAUK remains concerned about the health issues and possible adverse effects because some sections of populations are more vulnerable to environment effects than others and there is slowly coming through medical evidence - rather than scientific laboratory evidence - that some people are being adversely affected by emissions from 2G, 3G and TETRA Masts.

  7. Consideration now needs to be given properly to the following studies:
    • University of Berne Schwarzenburg Shortwave transmitter 1996; University of Hannover Loscher & Kas Bavarian Cows Study 1998; Balmori Spain white storks study 2005; and
    • Naila German Incidence of Cancer Study 2004;
    • Wolf Israel Cancer Study 2004;
    • Freiburger Appeal Germany 2002-2005 signed now by over 6500 German Medical Practitioners.
    Unlike the studies promoted by the WHO-EMF project and the linked UK MTHR programme, the above studies are independently funded and have no connections with industry or scientists who are indirectly wholly dependent on research funds provided to universities by many different but coordinated industrial providers.

  8. As set out in paragraphs 62 to 64 of the Executive Summary of the NRPB 11 January 2005 issue 'Mobile Phones & Health 2004', in Sweden a proportion of its population are recognised as being Electro-Sensitive and are helped to have homes away from masts. The percentage in Sweden is 3.1% and in California it is 3.6% of the general population. If you extrapolate these percentages to the UK population it would mean that somewhere between 1.8 to 2.1 million people may to some degree be Electro-Sensitive and likely to be to some degree vulnerable to 'insensitively' sited masts. It is accepted that at this juncture these problems relate to 'some people', and not necessarily to the population now as a whole.
Alan Meyer is legal director of Mast Action UK.

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The debate
Mike Dolan
Mobile Operators Association
Adam Burgess
author, Cellular Phones, Public Fears, and a Culture of Precaution
Alan Meyer
Mast Action UK
Jack Rowley
GSM Association
Stuart McWilliam
View the list of responses

Useful resources
The Stewart Report: Summary and Recommendations,
May 2000 [pdf]

Can mobile phones damage your health?
O2 [pdf]

Health and mobile safety

Radiation Protection Division
UK Health Protection Agency

Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR)

Electromagnetic fields
World Health Organisation

O2 corporate responsibility report 2005

Mobile Operators Association

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