Widespread concern in Netherlands over 3G mobile phone masts

Dec 26, 2005, 12:45 GMT

Amsterdam - Dozens of Dutch local authorities are resisting the erection of masts to carry voice and data for the new third generation of mobile phones (3G), citing health concerns.

The decision by community councils not to accept the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) masts is motivated by worries among the general population that the radiation generated by them could be harmful.

In the week ahead of Christmas residents of Terneuzen in Zeeland in the southwest of the country prevented workers of the large mobile phone company Vodafone from erecting a mast on a block of flats.

They blocked the neighbouring streets with their cars, forcing a meeting the next day between residents, Vodafone, council officials and the owners of the flats.

The meeting resolved to hold further discussions at an unspecified date.

According to the Dutch daily Trouw, a Protestant-funded newspaper, 40 local authorities have denied permission to companies wanting to erect masts.

In Spijkenisse near Rotterdam, a well-organized team of activists calling themselves 'Spijkenisse against Radiation' have gone around the town distributing pamphlets and measuring radiation with meters.

The activists have also resorted to direct action, such as chaining themselves to existing masts.

The fears are largely non-specific, with many saying they fear an increased incidence of cancer in years to come. Some believe radiation from the masts affects cognitive function and disrupts sleep.

Many local authorities are awaiting the outcome of a Swiss study that is expected to be published early next year.

'I have never seen so much social disquiet,' said K. Loohuis, mayor of Haaksbergen, a town in the eastern province of Zwolle.

'There is real anxiety and anger in the people,' he said after leading a delegation to the relevant central government ministries.

But a spokesman for MoNet, the association of mobile phone operators, said there was no reason for concern.

The radiation from a transmission mast was no more than 20 watts, he told Trouw.

'This is about as much as from a lightbulb on the ceiling. The technology is similar to that of radio and television antennas.

'This is simply fear of the unknown,' he said, noting that the Swiss study was expected in January.

The Dutch cabinet and a majority in parliament has decided that the potential radiation risks are minimal.

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© 2005 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur



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