The Bath Chronicle interview someone on a topical subject each week and did Mast Sanity this week. With thanks to Andy for helping me this is the result. It has been edited down twice from the original 2200 words I submitted - I cut out 600 words and they did a further edit but I think they have done a good edit and left in most of the salient points.
MY SAFETY FEARS OVER PHONE MAST SITES
11:00 - 29 August 2005
This week's Question and Answer is with Sian Meredith, Bath campaigner for anti-mobile phone pressure group Mast Sanity
1. Why is Mast Sanity opposed to mobile phone masts and mobile phones? Mast Sanity is opposed to the siting of phone masts close to homes, schools, hospitals, old people's homes and other sensitive locations. The system emits pulsed microwave radiation and there is a long and substantial research history indicating that chronic exposure to low-level microwave radiation leads to cumulative damage. Some people appear to be more vulnerable than others, and the best precautionary advice is to limit exposure as far as possible. Siting masts in residential areas presents no choice to people, and is indiscriminate.
Mast Sanity is against the use of mobile phones by children. Sir William Stewart, chairman of the Health Protection Agency, advised in his updated report that children of eight and under shouldn't use mobiles and those under-16 should only use them in emergencies.
2. The vast majority of people now own and use mobile phones and they have become a key part of the communications network. Do not masts now have to be accepted as a necessary consequence?
Mast Sanity is calling for development of a safe alternative system. The present system is biologically and environmentally incompatible and until the Government is forced to recognise the ill health the present system is causing, Mast Sanity is demanding that masts be located away from residential areas, schools and hospitals.
3. Despite an ongoing debate about the potential risks posed by mobile phone masts, so long as recognised health and safety regulations are adhered to, concerns about health are not a valid reason in planning law to oppose permission for them to be set up. If the health and safety guidance is right, why shouldn't masts be put near people's homes?
This country has adopted the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection) guidelines on emissions which are the second highest in the world. Only the USA allows higher emissions. Most other countries set much lower emission levels and wouldn't tolerate the levels this country permits. ICNIRP guidelines deal only with thermal heating effects from the radiation, and not with the biological effects that occur and so do not protect us. Interference with medical and electrical equipment is also occurring and this is of great concern especially to people with cochlear implants, pacemakers, metal joints and implants, and other medical devices. Health fears and perceptions are a material planning consideration, as is interference with electrical and medical equipment.
4. The big mobile phone operators grouped together and produced a voluntary code called the Ten Commitments to involve communities in decisions about masts being sited near them. Does it work?
No. Mast Sanity receives about 200 calls a month to its advice line plus many email inquiries, so we are very aware of what is happening at the grassroots level nationally. The operators are ignoring the codes and riding roughshod over the planning system. Residents are not being consulted despite one of the commitments being that communities will be involved in the siting of phone masts.
5. Why single out mobile phone operators and their masts for criticism? What about television and radio transmitters and equipment, military installations, power lines, electricity sub-stations and other common sources of electromagnetic radiation?
Mast Sanity campaigns for the sensible siting of mobile phone and TETRA masts. TETRA is the system the police use to communicate with. Mast Sanity is also concerned about digital cordless phones (DECT) and wireless computers because they also operate on pulsed microwave radiation and cause the same ill health effects. Other campaign groups such as Powerwatch raise awareness to the health issues around powerlines and TV and radio transmitters.
6. What led to you personally taking up the cause?
I have never had a mobile phone because I have doubts about the safety of this technology. So when Hutchinson (3G) wanted to erect a mast 15 metres from my house I was horrified because they were imposing something on us which emits radiation 24 hours a day. Having read a huge amount of research on the effects, I think there is a serious public health problem.
7. What needs to be done to reassure you and other campaigners that the health and safety questions about mobile phones and masts have been properly addressed? Is there evidence which would satisfy you they are safe?
No study has ever proven that mobile phones are safe, despite the claims made by the operators. There is a huge amount of worldwide evidence to prove that the system on which they operate makes some people ill.
Eminent scientists around the world are coming out with more and more evidence. Add that to the huge amount of evidence of cancer clusters and ill health emerging around phone and TETRA masts and you have a serious problem. The scale of the problem is of the magnitude of illnesses caused by smoking and asbestos.
8. What are the health problems which you believe are associated with mobile phone masts? What problems do you think can be caused by mobile phone handsets?
Health effects noted by some doctors in Germany, Finland, Austria, Ireland and the UK include headaches, migraines, exhaustion, agitation, sleeplessness, tinnitus, nose bleeds, susceptibility to infection, nervous and connective tissue pains. learning, concentration, and behavioural disorders, extreme fluctuations in blood pressure, heart rhythm disorders, heart attacks and strokes, thyroid disorders, brain-degenerative diseases, motor neurone disease and epilepsy and cancers, leukaemia and brain tumours.
Mobile phones are particularly statistically related to brain tumours, notably acoustic neuroma, as well as to glaucoma and cataracts, and an alarming new trend is the rise in unusual eye cancers, and mouth cancers among children. Mobile phones have also been connected with loss of fertility from wearing phones in pockets or at the waist.
9. Who should be responsible for taking action to make sure masts are safe and the proper planning and health and safety processes are followed when companies want to put them up?
All masts should go through the full planning process. Much more stringent emission level guidelines should be implemented.
The police should use Tetrapol instead of TETRA because Tetrapol is a safer system requiring fewer masts used in Europe and by the military in Baghdad (via satellite). This is all the responsibility of the Government which received billions in revenue from the 3G licence auction, and receives billions in taxes from the industry.
Department of Health leaflets on mobile phones and health should be given out with every mobile phone sale, but they are not.
Above all, the Government has always insisted on multiple infrastructures so we have five mobile phone operators, plus O2 Airwave (TETRA). All five of our 3G networks require masts every 1.5km to 5km, a much smaller range than the older GSM. Not least, this creates a substantial energy demand at a time of energy crisis and climate change. Even when masts are not in demand they emit microwaves, and with a prospective additional 130,000 masts to the 45,000 plus already in place, to serve the new 3G networks, the environment is being filled many times over, just so that every user has a choice of five networks to connect to for the same services.
10. Do you think that the dispute between people opposed to and people who support mobile phones and mobile phone masts will ever be settled? How?
Most people don't want to live by a mast but will use a mobile. Every time anyone uses a mobile phone to send a text or make a call, someone living by a mast gets a dose of radiation.
Masts and mobiles cause the same ill health effects. There are also issues like the accumulation of emissions inside train carriages so when several people are on their phones at the same time other people are getting exposed to a lot of radiation.
People who are electro-sensitive will be unable to travel on public transport or go to some cities because of the emission levels. Mobiles are becoming a social problem.
Phones are used for pornography and internet gambling and this craze of happy slapping, whereby gangs attack other children and film the attack on phones and then email the pictures among friends, or even place them on internet sites. Phone-bullying and theft of phones is widespread, and is a serious and growing problem that isn't being dealt with.