12:00 - 21 February 2005

The mother of an eight-year-old girl recovering from leukaemia fears a mobile phone mast will be installed near her daughter's school.

Jessica Ireland spent six months in hospital after being diagnosed with leukaemia nearly two years ago.

She is now in remission, but her parents, Cathy and Nick, are continually fearful for her health.

Now they are worried she could be put in danger if a newly submitted phone mast plan goes ahead on Heavitree Road.

Telecommunications giant Vodafone wants to erect the antenna close to the maternity unit of the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, Wonford, and St Margaret's School, where Jessica is a pupil.

The school has written to the phone company strongly objecting to the mast proposal.

And the Echo has launched a petition against the antenna, which urges Vodafone to seek an alternative site far from hospitals and schools. It has already attracted hundreds of signatures.

And now Jessica's parents have added their voices to the growing chorus of concern.

Mrs Ireland, 30, said: "We needed to find a school where there were small class sizes, and somewhere near the hospital, in case she needed to be taken there in an emergency.

"She had missed a year of school, so we had to find her a school which provided the care and support that she desperately needed."

The couple, who live at Pocombe Bridge, near Ide, can barely afford the £2,000-a-term school fees, but scrape the money together in the belief they are doing the best for their daughter.

Vodafone is currently consulting local residents and institutions prior to submitting a notice of intention to Exeter City Council's planning department.

Jessica was diagnosed with acute Myeloid Leukaemia in 2003 and spent six months in hospital in Bristol and Exeter battling the disease.

Her mother, who runs Wheatley House Bed and Breakfast with husband Nick, said: "We are doing everything we can to protect her from possible causes of pollution. We have even got rid of our microwave.

"We don't know how she got the leukaemia.

"We have been told it was viral, and not genetic. She is now in remission and her oncology consultant is happy with her progress.

"She now goes for check-ups every six weeks.

"I know there is no concrete evidence that phone masts are bad for health, but I am dubious about it being in the city centre.

"I'm sure people at Vodafone would think differently if their children had suffered in the way Jessica has suffered."

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Februar 2005

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