Thursday, October 16, 2008


It is not surprising that a 60 foot metal tower should cause anger amongst local residents forced to live with the eyesore, but is there more at risk than just spoiling the view? Inside Out investigates claims that phone masts are a danger.

Fifteen years since the birth of the mobile phone there are over 35,000 masts and base stations in Britain.

With three out of four people owning a mobile and the rapid advancements in phone technology - this figure could be set to double.

There have always been objections to the erecting of phone masts, not least because of their unsightly bulk.

Many residents living, quite literally, in the shadow of a mast, are far more concerned with the risk they say it poses to their health.

Health under threat

Eileen O'Connor
Eileen O'Connor believes her ill health was caused by a nearby phone mast

Wishaw resident, Eileen O'Connor, claims that the mast, erected in the village over a decade ago, brought with it a variety of health complaints from many local residents ranging from nosebleeds to headaches.

But for Eileen, it was worse - breast cancer.

"I have gone through so many emotions," explains Eileen. "It's complete shock and anger that this has been allowed to happen."

Although there is no statistical evidence to support the claim of a cancer cluster in Wishaw, Eileen firmly believes that the two are linked and set up local campaign group SCRAM - Sutton Coldfield Residents Against Masts.

Sound check

SCRAM is not the only group making a stand against phone masts.

Phone mast
Phone masts emit pulsing microwaves

Alasdair Philips of the campaign group "Powerwatch" has invented a device to detect mast emissions by converting microwaves to sound.

Alasdair insists that pulsing microwaves constantly bombarding the body are responsible for complaints of ill health.

"It's like a pneumatic drill going outside your house," he explains.

"You can't hear it but your body cells are being impacted by this pulsing microwave radiation."

Campaigners claim that the pulsing waves from the masts interfere with electrical signals in the body, damaging the immune system.

Testing, testing ...

The Department of Health and the Mobile Operators Association insist that British masts conform to international safety standards.

In fact Ofcom found they were using just a tiny fraction of thier permitted output.

But these safety standards focus largely on measuring thermal emissions - whether the microwaves heat up whatever they come into contact with.

Molecular toxicologist Dr David de Pomerai is researching the alternative effects of the masts by exposing microscopic worms to microwaves.

Like the 23 other research projects in the UK, Dr de Pomerai and his team have so far been unable to find any evidence to connect cancer or any other illness with proximity to phone masts.


Despite the lack of evidence proving any link between phone masts and ill health, the residents of Wishaw finally get what they have been fighting for.

The mast's removal comes not from the tireless campaigning of SCRAM however, but a group of vandals who pull down the 60 foot mast under the cover of darkness.

"It was a shock when the mast came down, because we had been campaigning for two years… Pursuing legal angles and suddenly the mast was gone," explains Eileen.

Wishaw mast on the ground
Vandals pulled down the 60 foot mast in Wishaw

Similar acts of vandalism have occurred throughout the country.

Acts of vandalism against masts are not only illegal, but according to the Mobile Operators Association, they cost the consumer tens of thousands of pounds and reduce mobile coverage.

With the Wishaw mast's untimely removal, Eileen O'Connor believes she has all the proof she needs.

"Straight away people started reporting that their headaches had stopped, the dizziness stopped, rashes cleared up," says Eileen.

Despite the health improvements reported in Wishaw, and reports of cancer clusters and ill health in many other communities living with a mast, there is still no evidence of a direct link.

But whilst research into these claims continues to grow, so does the number of masts.