Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mobile base stations and health

Patrick Pace, Mellieħa


In recent articles, stating that mobile base stations are harmless, the European Commission, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Commission of Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) were all mentioned to be backing this statement.

Then why doesn't someone inform the public and especially the concerned "unlucky people" that happen to live near mobile base stations without any choice, of the latest news? Well the answer is probably because it isn't really good news for those of us, "unlucky people", who have the antennae forced upon us; the news was not "mobile base stations are harmless" but more like "there are reasons for precaution".

On September 8 and 9 a seminar was organised by the Radiation Research Trust called EMF & Health - A Global Issue... Exploring Appropriate Precautionary Approaches. Representatives of the EU, WHO and ICNIRP were all present. The conclusions were not as stated in the recent newspapers confirming that mobile base stations are harmless but here are just some of the mentioned points.

The 10-year-old ICNIRP guidelines are out of date. According to the recent article, "all the surveys carried out on mobile phone base stations in Malta and Gozo in the past have shown that emission levels of electromagnetic frequencies were far lower than internationally accepted limits. Studies carried out over the years by the MCA have shown EMF levels to be well below the maximum levels for public exposure stipulated by the ICNIRP". However, besides being out of date, the studies are only based on the "thermal effect".

There was also an important announcement about the potential high risks to children's health in the near future with regard to using mobile phones, made by Professor Yury Grigoriev, chairman of Russian National Committee on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, RNCNIRP.

The Citizens Initiative Kempten West, which was established after the installation of a mobile transmitter, is now able to present the first results of blood tests. Unfortunately, the conclusion of this study was that since the medically conducted tests carried out on residents living in the vicinity of the commissioned operational telecommunications mast proves a drastically increased health risk, immediate action by political and regulatory authorities, at the municipal, provincial and federal levels, is demanded. In order to prevent further endangerment of the health of residents, the medical point of view is that the operation of the telecommunications mast must immediately be stopped! (Dr Anna Blanz, Dr Markus Kern, Dr Hans-C. Scheiner).

Following the seminar, the need for precaution was confirmed by the latest news from the European Parliament. The Parliament voted 522 to 16 to recommend tighter safety standards for cell phones. In light of the growing body of scientific evidence linking cell phone use to brain tumours, the Parliament says, "The limits on exposure to electromagnetic fields [EMFs] which have been set for the general public are obsolete."

The European Parliament "is greatly concerned at the Bio-Initiative international report concerning EMFs, which summarises over 1,500 studies on that topic and which points in its conclusions to the health risks posed by emissions from mobile-telephony devices such as mobile telephones, UMTS, WiFi, WiMax and Bluetooth, and also DECT landline telephones." Further, it points out the need to "address vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, newborn babies and children".

The vote passed by a huge majority, with 97 per cent recommending tighter safety standards.

So now the European Parliament is realising that yes, there is reason for concern. Have our authorities here in Malta even read the BioInitiative Report before allowing mobile antennae to go up without a permit as long as they are less than 10 metres high?