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Updated 18 May 2002

Tower block off Mainway, Skerton, LancasterCredit 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 Register reported 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 wasn’t 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 24/06/00).

• 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.
Source: ZDNet

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 New Scientist.
"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), he adds.
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.


MORE INFO/LINKS

Friends of the Earth
The environmental lobby group is concerned by mobile phone mast siting and phones, but is not adverse to using SMS in its campaigns

University of Wisconsin Cell Phone Health FAQs

Electromagnetic Radiation FAQs (New Zealand)

IEMG Report

Report of the Independent Expert group on mobile phones and health (aka The Stewart Report) UK.

• Mobile Phone Dangers in Trains
Journal of the Physical Society of Japan (vol 71, p 432)

Links:
News Articles on Airwave
• VNU.net: Tetra deal raises same old safety concerns
• VNU.net: Police Federation issues ultimatum over Tetra radios
• VNU.net: Tetra dangerous, warns top UK scientist

Police Concerns about Airwave

West Mercia Police Airwave FAQ
• Police Federation Magazine (12/02): The Airwave: The Urgent Unanswered Questions
• The Police Federation's statement on Airwave: Go
• A report prepared for the Police Federation on Airwave: Go

 

 

 

 

 

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