Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mobile antenna approved near school for disabled

NEWS | Sunday, 12 October 2008

James Debono

The Education Department has given its blessing to the installation of a mobile phone antenna, just 70 metres away from the Dun Manwel Attard school for the disabled, in Wardija.
The school caters for students with “diverse special needs” and “multi-disabilities”.
Although scientific opinion remains divided on whether mobile phone antennae pose any health risk to residents living next to them, the World Health Organisation (WHO) calls for “special consideration” when antennas are located next to schools.
Amid fears that the antenna poses a health risk to students on Thursday, Wardija residents presented an injunction warrant in the law courts to stop the installation of the antenna.
In August 2005, faced by the objections of a group of Wardija residents against the installation of a similar antenna in Ta’ Kossimu, limits of St Paul’s Bay, Vodafone justified the location of this antenna claiming that it was located 350 metres away from the same school.
But the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s case officer report, the basis on which the permit was issued, states that since the antenna site was in proximity of a school, MEPA sought the advice of the Education Department.
The Directorate for Educational Services made no objection to the development.
The Health Department also gave its blessing, arguing that the antenna fully abided to safety standards issued by the Malta Communications Authority.
When contacted by MaltaToday a spokesperson for the health department insisted that recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Commission of Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) are being strictly followed and no restrictions exist on the location of antennas in urban areas.
The Health Department also made it clear it is not involved in any way as regards to the siting and installation of mobile phone antenna as this falls under the responsibility of the Malta Communications Authority (MCA) which regularly audits base stations to ensure that exposure limits are not exceeded.
The World Health Organisation says that although electromagnetic levels around base stations are not considered a health risk, “siting base stations near kindergartens, schools and playgrounds may need special consideration.”
Medical opinion remains split on whether mobile phone antennae are harmful to residents. Some studies link exposure to electromagnetic radiation to cancer.
Nearly 3,000 medical practitioners from all over the world have signed the Freiburger Appeal to express their concern on the effects of mobile phone technology, including masts, on their patients. The EU-funded Reflex report had conclusively proved that electromagnetic radiation can affect human cells at energy levels that are generally considered harmless.