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Updated 18 May 2002
goes to the Lancaster
Citizen, for picking up this story about the tower block on Mainway,
Skerton, where the city council rents off space directly over the tenants'
heads for the siting of telecommunications aerials.
Mobile phone companies continue to seek planning permission for masts
around the country and numerous concerns have been raised about their
safety, specifically about radiation levels. The rollout of new 3G networks
in 2002 - 2003 (assuming the telecommunications industry recovers from
its economic doldrums) will involve many more masts being built. According
to Douglas Alexander, the e-commerce minister, mobile operators are
supposed to liase with local residents and address their concerns.
Scientific opinion (see links below) on
whether these aerials pose a threat to health is divided at present.
There is no conclusive scientific evidence that mobile base stations
can cause adverse health effects, but neither is there is little reliable
data on long-term (chronic) low-level exposure.
At present, research indicates that the level of emissions from mobile
phone masts in the UK is well below international guidelines, according
to the latest Government research. But The
Registerreported in March 2002 that the government
had stopped short of saying masts were safe. In fact, A spokesman for
the Department of Trade and Industry explained that the DTI wasnt
in the position to say whether masts were safe or not.
Both the Register and ZDNet
reported that 100 extra base stations will be monitored in an attempt
to boost public confidence in the safety of mobile phone masts.
NO, THANK YOU
Local pressure groups have had some success in their fight against
mobile network operators:
Fowey, Cornwall, still has no mobile phone reception with
local objectors opposing building of masts (as of early 2002)
Hats off to Rochdale businessman and father-of-four Michael
Kelly, who turned down an offer of £30,000 from BT Cellnet
to rent off space on his works roof for telecommunications aerials,
after taking the trouble to canvas local residents by mail for
their views on the matter. (source: Rochdale Observer
In 2001 Kent County Council decided not to allow any new
masts to be built on its land, and Stockport Council recently
managed to force Orange to remove a mast from a local school.
"Base stations on or near schools can be a cause of real
concern for parents and schools; the audit results are an important
step in reassuring the public that base stations do operate within
the relevant international guidelines," explained Ivan Lewis,
Minister for Young People and Learning.
Mobile phone masts sited on or near schools will continue to be monitored
for safety reasons, even though a recent study found no evidence that
emission limits were being broken.
Douglas Alexander, the e-commerce minister, announced electromagnetic
emissions from 100 mobile phone masts will be measured during 2002.
Most of the transmitters tested will be based on or near schools, while
others are situated on locations such as hospitals.
MOBILE PHONES WORRIES
In addition to concerns over mobile phone masts, there is growing concern
over the longterm effects of exposure to mobile phone radiation, particularly
for younger people. Additionally, in March 2002 Virtual-Lancaster reported
on concerns about the new Tetra
phone system, aka Airwave, being used by the Lancashire emergency
services. In a report on VNU.net
Lancashire fire brigade says that it would not use Tetra handsets when
fighting fires, for fear that its unprotected sparks could endanger
members of the crew. A number of police forces
have expressed serious reservations about the Airwave system.
MOBILES AND TRAINS DON'T MIX
Passengers on packed trains could unwittingly be exposed to electromagnetic
fields far higher than those recommended under international guidelines.
The problem? Hordes of commuters all using their mobile phones at the
same time. New Scientist
reported that Tsuyoshi Hondou, a physicist from Tohoku University in
Sendai, Japan, who is currently working at the Curie Institute in Paris,
says Japanese commuter trains are often packed with people surfing the
web on their mobile phones. The trend spurred him to find out what effect
this had on the electromagnetic radiation in a train carriage.
He found that when both reflection and the cumulative effect of the
radio waves were taken into consideration, the resulting electromagnetic
field in a train carriage could exceed the maximum exposure level recommended
by the International Committee for Non-Ionising Radiation (ICNIRP).
"It's possible even if the train is not crowded," Hondou told
"At the moment, we have no regulation on the use of mobile phones
in areas where many people are together," he told the magazine.
The problem could also arise on buses and in some types of lifts (elevators),
Les Barclay, a radio engineering consultant who was part of the British
government's Stewart enquiry into mobile phones and health risks, told
New Scientist he is cautious over Hondou's findings. While he
concedes microwaves will bounce around inside carriages and boost field
levels, the increase should be minimal, because power drops off a short
distance away from each phone, he says.
But Hondou counters that the drop-off Barclay refers to is only realistic
if the radio waves are not strongly reflected by the train's walls.