Sunday, March 15, 2009

Electromagnetic Radiation - Out Ouruhia Way

Hi All

In case anyone is making the mistake that cell phone antennas are the only antennas causing serious harm to health and the environment, here is an article well worth reading.  The article was written in New Zealand during 1998 by Jacqueline Steincamp and published in NZine.   It is an example of classic investigative environmental reporting, with great scientific assistance from Dr. Neil Cherry and an entire neighbourhood involved in trying to resolve the situation.

Unfortunately, ten years later, there is a similar situation happening near Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, at this moment.  Sharon Noble and her neighbours have been trying to get the Canadian Government to move radio antennas which are located dangerously close to their homes.  The radiation exposure of these homes is very high and several illnesses have been caused.  The Government response has been extremely disappointing, if not grossly negligent.  If you can offer any help to Sharon, I will pass on your messages.

There is also a lot of good EMR information available at the Ouruhia web site 

but you will also find many links are no longer working.

Martin Weatherall

Electromagnetic Radiation
- Out Ouruhia Way
- Jacqueline Steincamp - 9/1/98

For more information on Dr Neil Cherry and his work, please visit his website.


You will probably have never heard of it.
Will the ill health of its residents and animals become a international landmark in EMR research?

Possibly, if the information is allowed to get out. EMR (electro-magnetic radiation) is a very sensitive topic, which makes big business (and advertisers) extremely unhappy. The Ouruhia problems are a well-kept secret.

Concern about this problem

Dr Neil Cherry, Regional Councillor, agricultural meteorologist and electro-magnetic radiation researcher is extremely concerned about health problems caused by radio towers in the Ouruhia area, northeast of Christchurch. It is a dead flat, semi-rural area at the north end of Marshlands Road. He is pushing the Regional Council for a health survey on EMR effects in the area.

Source of concern

The source of concern is towers erected in 1980 and 1988. The 1980 137.2m (450 ft) tower emits AM radio waves, and since 1990, 12000 watts of FM have also been transmitting from the tower. (A cell phone tower has a base power of only 200 watts). A 1988 FM test tower was erected near by, transmitting FM signals probably until September 1996 when it was removed.

FM towers are usually sited on a high point so that residential properly are well below the FM beam. There is no high point at Ouruhia. It's all as flat as a pancake. The beams of course, do not stop at Ouruhia. They travel on across Christchurch, down the coast through Brighton, across Redwood, up the Kaikoura coast, narrow at the start, and widening out the further they are away. Small relay towers boost their power along the way.

Health problems

Back to Ouruhia. Since the erection of the towers, and particularly since the introduction of the increased FM transmissions, residents claim a steady increase in serious health problems. These include wide-spread M.E./CFS, heart attacks, bypasses and general heart problems; bone pain and inexplicable deaths.

Dr Cherry's views

"The health problems at Ouruhia, including leukaemia, depression and asthma, are consistent with international and national studies," Neil Cherry says. "Of especial significance", he thinks, "is that nearly everyone feels better when they are away from the area, and worse when at home."

Residents' requests

Residents want the radio towers moved, and their health problems acted on. They have taken their concerns to the highest level and received little official help. In 1996 Mike Moore MP and Neil Cherry wrote to the Minister of Health asking for a survey. That was ignored. In 1997 they wrote again. First Bill English, then Neil Kirton replied that ill effects are not proven and refused an inquiry or funding for a survey.

Limited national awareness

National awareness of the problem is limited, perhaps because of the apparent refusal of Christchurch's premier daily, "The Press" to cover the story. On the other hand, reporter Nick Tolerton at the giveaway "Star" runs regular updates on it.

Amateur health survey

In a sensible world, the findings of the 1996 door-to-door survey in the area should spur the authorities into action. Six residents carried it out after their efforts to have a proper epidemiological survey were turned down. As a result it was not professionally conducted. There were no controls, no supervision was given. But their findings, even though they may not be totally correct, should cause serious concern.

131 houses in the area were surveyed for health problems since 1980. The responses showed an upsurge in ill health in 1990 and an even bigger one in 1995 when transmission for a second FM station was added. There were 44 reports of heart problems; 41 reports of M.E/CFS type symptoms, including some severe enough to be mistaken for AIDS; 15 reports of severe bone pains and arthritis; 15 of cancer; 11 of asthma, and three babies born with birth defects. People with metal implants, including amalgams, felt burning sensations in the surrounding tissues. Almost all the children are now on asthma medication.

At least 14 deaths due to heart attacks were recorded. Two farm workers dropped dead close to the towers; a third by being crushed underneath his tractor.

Aching bones and asthma

Well-known horse trainer, Penny Hargreaves, has a small farm off one of the most affected roads. Her health was devastated when she lived there, as was that of her daughter. She had all the classic M.E./CFS symptoms, with a great deal of brain confusion, tinnitus, and mental tension. She was tested thoroughly for colon cancer, arthritis, heart abnormalities, and asthma. Nothing was found except for the asthma. This was real enough and she went on medication to control it. The worst symptom was "bones that ached so much it felt as though a hole was being burned in them". Each cheek still bears two dull red spots adjacent to filled teeth.

For several months, she actually felt she was dying.

Moving from Ouruhia brings improvement

Penny moved her home to central Christchurch and transferred her horses to the Rangiora area. As a result, her health and that of the animals is much improved.

She reports on her animals:

"In 1993 we bought some cows. Several months later one of them became very nervous and disoriented. One minute quiet, the next crashing through fences all over the farm. One minute she was grazing, the next minute running in panic. Sadly, she jumped out onto the road and was killed."

Problems for horses

Every one of her about 90 horses and those of other horse owners were affected when they were in paddocks in the direct beams. Five horses lost co-ordination, but returned to health when moved and treated with an electrolytic solution. Two had mystifying deaths.

"They were very nervous and jumpy. They all seemed to have sore feet. Horses who had travelled by trailer for years were losing balance while travelling. We have several hot spots around our yard where the horses become very volatile and hurt themselves and us.

"Our very valuable colt had serious health problems and walked as if his feet hurt. He could not bear to be shod. We had many vets look at him to try and solve his problems, but without any satisfactory answers. We finally turned him out in a paddock which has a large hay barn and trees between him and the tower. Within a month he had no problems at all. Back in his old yard, the problem returned.

"The blacksmith gave evidence at our hearing on the effect of the radio waves on our horses' feet. The aluminium conducts electricity and their feet had changed shape, had huge cracks where the nails went and were very sensitive inside.

"We had weekly problems with infections we have never had before, our vet bills were horrendous. Since we moved the horses nine months ago, the problems are less."

Other animals have been affected. Dogs (and horses) have dry coughs (and so do people). An Alsatian dog collapsed and died for no apparent reason.

Every cloud has its silver lining. Rabbits have disappeared from those areas in the direct beams which were unprotected by trees.

Just one street in the Ouruhia area

Listed here are survey results from 20 houses out of the 35 surveyed in one road. There were recent, unexpected illnesses in almost every house. (Note that these numbers do not correspond to the street numbers).

20-heart problems, 1996

21-heart attack, 1996

22-immune breakdown, tested for AIDS, arthritis, cancer, 1995. Moved, much better.

23-headaches, chronic fatigue

24-baby born with rare heart defect, 1996. Fatal.

25-severe headaches, off work for three months, 1996

26-heart problems, 1988/89

27-chronic fatigue. Moved 1993.

28-(1) fatal heart attack, 1990. (2) fatal cancer, 1991

29-fatal fall off tractor, 1984

30-baby in hospital twice with asthma, 1997

31-fatal stroke, 1993

32-M.E./CFS symptoms, 1993

33-two teenage boys developed asthma - now on medication.

34-cancer, 1991. Now in remission.

35-heart problems, 1995

36-(1) fatigue, palpitations, chest pains (ECG negative), aching bones, etc. (2) dry burning eyes, chronic fatigue, loss of balance and co-ordination. Now lives away from property.

37-(1) heart (1989), bypass, 1997, pains in shoulders and back (2) bad pains in right leg and side, 1997. Operation for bone condition

38-(1) chronic fatigue, insomnia, headaches, bad bone pain, 1997. (2) bad pains in right leg and side, 1997. Operation for bone condition

39-(1) heart problems, 1988; heart attack, 1996 (2) arthritis, memory loss, immune collapse, 1996

40-(1) breathlessness, asthma, 1995 (2) headaches, breathlessness, asthma, 1995 (3) Bad eczema on hands

For more information about the damage which EMFs can cause and ways in which you can reduce the impact read Jacqueline Steincamp's

second article.


ElectroMagnetic Radiation - The Damage And Reducing The Impact

- Jacqueline Steincamp - 16/1/98

Last week Jacqueline discussed the health problems for people living near the FM towers at Ouruhia (see

part 1). This week she looks more deeply into how radiation damage occurs and what we can do to limit the effects of ELFs.

What damage can ELFs cause?

Cellular function:

The cells in living organisms naturally maintain an electrical charge across their membranes that is essential to the normal functioning of human tissues. This is extremely sensitive to very weak electromagnetic fields.

Radiation of unnatural frequencies can rearrange and damage molecules and alter metabolism. A process of a chain-like reaction will firstly alter the organism's electrical stability and affect cell polarisation The resulting disharmony may eventually lead to changes in hormonal activity, affect the synthesis of genetic material, interfere with the flow of substances in and out of cells, and change the behaviour of cancer cells. A specific illness may then be diagnosed.

Creating free radicals:

The basic mechanism for damage involves FREE RADICALS (1,2). These damage proteins, cellular membranes, mutilate genes and DNA, reduce levels of antioxidant hormones, such as melatonin, affect enzymatic and biochemical processes essential to normal function, disrupt patterns of electromagnetic energy in muscles - and so on.

In addition to damaging genetic material, free radicals can destroy the protective lipids in the cell membrane and lead to retention of fluid in the cells. This all accelerates the aging process.

Promoting histamine release

Mast cells (which secrete histamine and other substances) are destabilised by free radicals. When exposed to radiofrequency radiation, studies have shown a doubling of the histamine release.

Upsetting calcium levels

Radio waves and their destructive agents, the free radicals, upset calcium levels in the body, especially in the central nervous system, the brain and the heart (3). It is thought that calcium (and possibly magnesium) levels diminish within the cells. This affects the growth, reproduction and division of cells and the communication of signals between the outside of the cell and the nucleus inside the cell.

Protecting yourself from EMF damage

We need to remember that EMF exposure is cumulative. Our bodies may withstand a certain amount of radiation from wiring and electrical and electronic equipment in the home. An extra geopathic stress, such as from radio-frequencies or high tension power lines or underground running water may tip us over the edge. Indeed, we need to remember that any other toxic source will add to the burden and destabilise the body. Nothing can be separated out. So—we need to do all we can to reduce the overall burden, while improving the body's vitality and its immune health.

Specific ways to protect yourself from the force of EMR

  • Sleep on the other side of the house from overhead wires, radio beams, etc.
  • Do not have a TV or computer on the other side of a wall from your bed.
  • Sit well back from the TV.
  • Have an anti-radiation screen on your computer.
  • Avoid equipment which relies on radio beams or emits radiation of any kind.

Janet Holm's protection programme

Janet Holm, another Christchurch resident who has thoroughly researched this topic, says: "At home, I unplug all equipment when not in use, switch off the stove and oven at the wall, wear a wind-up watch, use a battery radio by the bed, have a hotty (not an electric blanket), and use copper coils, zeolite bags and semi-precious stones on top of my fax, computer, TV, video and microwave.

"A demand switch has now been installed in the house which cuts half our electricity at the switchboard, but comes on when an appliance is activated. You can get these from Gary Beck, Elec-Technique, 37 Roslyn Terrace, Devonport, Auckland 1309; ph/fax 09-445-9118. They aren't cheap."

Jan urges anyone who is concerned about EMR to refer to the specific sections of the Resource Management Act and to vote for local body representatives who are aware of the problem. "You can support the Environmental Protection for Children Trust; you can bother your local authorities, and write letters to the paper. We can talk about the problem; tell our neighbours. There are lots of things we can do. Good luck!"

Building the body's defences through nutrition

An anti-oxidant, detoxifying low fat diet is important. High levels of saturated fats increase free radical activity and fried foods should be avoided. Include pectin (found in apples) and kelp, both of which help protect the body by binding with toxins. Eat plenty of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and watercress (preferably organic). Use oils such as sunflower, safflower, olive and canola. Use soured milk products such as yoghurt and buttermilk which contain lactobacillus and other bacteria which protect the gastrointestinal tract.

Extremely important:

Supplement the diet with antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E, plus calcium and magnesium, the trace elements selenium, germanium and vanadium, and super antioxidant substances such as Maritime Prime Pycnogenol™. The first group inhibits free radical formation; the super-antioxidants also mop up their free electrons.

Improve the stability of cell walls with Omega-3 fatty acids, as in fish and linseed oils. You may need to care for your gut health and digestive ability with digestive enzymes and probiotics.

Stimulate the immune system, eg. with garlic, a powerful immunostimulant, as are many of the Chinese and Ayurvedic products now on the market (Ayurvedic is the ancient medicine of India).


(1) Scott, G., Free Radicals provide a mechanism for EMFs to promote cancer, in Electromagnetic News, Dec., 1992. It was then republished in Open Forum on Health (prev. Hauora), Spring 1993. Dr Scott is emeritus chemistry professor, Aston University, U.K.

(2) Packer, L, Traber, MG, Liburdy, R, et al. Electromagnetic field effects on free radicals in biological systems, March 1997. Packer Lab. Life Science Div., Lawrence, Berkeley Natl Lab.

(3) Cherry, N., Cell site restrictions are "A Must", Open Forum on Health, Summer 1997

For further reading in NZine on related topics look at the articles on Electromagnetic Radiation based on an interview with

Dr Neil Cherry.

For more information about Dr Neil Cherry and his work, please visit his


In addition, if you are looking for comprehensive technical research on the potential effects of radiofrequency and microwave radiation, then you may want to consider downloading Dr Neil Cherry's Thesis.

You may wish to read

Part 3 in this series.



Electromagnetic Radiation - Report On Ouruhia Health Concerns

Jacqueline Steincamp - 8/1/99

If you haven't already, you may like to read the

first article in this series.

That apparently safe levels of electromagnetic radiation should have negative health effects has enormous implications. They are implications that modern industrialised society does not wish to contemplate in any shape or form.

Are the unseen forces of EMR the real cause of a near-epidemic of ill health at Ouruhia? Or is it something else again? Such as the stress of worrying about normal disease and degenerative processes? And the difficulties of removing the suspected cause?


This semi-rural area on the north-east outskirts of Christchurch has nothing to put it on the map - except perhaps its radio transmission tower. The countryside is green and flat ... mixed farming, horticulture, residential. A horsey area, with parents, children, horses and ponies often in glorious interaction .. some around that slender radio tower tucked unobtrusively in the middle of a paddock.

Radio transmission tower and health worries

The 420-ft tower was put up in 1980 for AM transmissions. It was only in the nineties that health worries began to surface. There were worries about the health of adults, children - even some of the animals - especially horses. As residents got together and shared their experiences, concern began to grow that their sickness was emanating from the tower.

At that stage no-one knew that unauthorised FM transmissions had been added in 1990.

One young woman said: "What upsets me is to think we used to sit in the sun up against that fence around the mast base, and that is where we used to feed the horses. I loved that place. I thought it was so peaceful. I had no idea it was the thing causing me to become ill. It makes me sick to think of it."

But not all were close to the tower - or even lived there. One man who came to work in the area in 1995 began to develop symptoms in mid-1996. "I just don't have the energy I used to have since coming to work out here. Before coming here, I was used to working 60 hours a week with no ill effects. I play a lot of sport - indoor cricket and rugby. But since coming here, my sports performance has dropped right off. My muscles and bones ache, and I can't put the same effort in."

Could it be the tower?

Residents initially sought an opinion from Dr Neil Cherry, a respected researcher into electromagnetic influences on health and the environment. He was in no doubt their concerns were well founded. Nevertheless, officialdom did not want to know. The Ministry of Health showed massive disinterest. Likewise, the Christchurch Clinical School of Medicine. There was just no money for any type of survey based on such conjecture. The residents swung into action, galvanised by the lobbying efforts of well known racehorse trainer, Penny Hargreaves.

Residents' survey stimulant to wider concern

Since no-one one would carry out a survey, the residents carried out one of their own. It found alarming levels of chronic ill health (reported earlier in NZine).

This was used as a basis for submissions to the Ministry of Health, the Canterbury Regional Council, the Environment Court and the Christchurch City Council (among others). The latter was seen as a key player, having issued the original permit to Radio Network for AM transmission in 1980, and having closed its eyes to the additional unauthorised FM transmissions added in mid 1990. It appears now that the Council may have been unaware of these transmissions.

Finally, along with the residents' well-orchestrated public meetings and a 60 Minutes TV programme, the City Council put its toe into the water. It asked Radio Network to apply for the two unauthorised transmissions. As no councillors were willing to chair the hearing, an independent commissioner, surveyor Kim McCracken, was appointed. The FM transmissions continued throughout the hearing.

One step forward, two steps back for the residents. In spite of McCracken recognising in his report that strong and unusual ill-health effects were present, he recommended a further two FM transmissions and one AM transmission be approved.

Bob Rogers, a retired school inspector who chairs the residents' meetings, says he was not surprised. "It was predictable that the commissioner would recommend that consent be granted, as the Council itself appeared to favour the FM transmissions by not insisting they cease until the decision was made."

Rogers, an affable fellow, says it makes him fume to think that had he, or any of the residents put up so much as a shed on their properties without consent, it would have been demolished pending consent.

Studies from all over

The Ouruhia residents have appealed the results of the hearing. They feel they have the majority of the elected Councillors on their side, and indeed the Council has taken the matter seriously. It arranged for further studies on the matter by commissioning:

… Context Scientific Services of Christchurch to collect and collate the concerns of the residents

… the Auckland firm of Keam Holden Associates, consulting engineers specialising in radio frequencies and microwave measurements, for independent EMR checks

… Michael Bates, PhD, principal epidemiologist with the ESR Kenepuru Science Centre, and one of the authors of the 1996 Woodward Review on the Health Effects of Radio Frequency Radiation to comment on the Context survey findings.

The Context Survey

The study was inexpensive - $6,000 to record the residents' reports of ill health and to record common symptoms. And right from the outset, there was a grievous flaw. Council funding was not available for a control study or other refinements.

Context was able to go a long way through the good will and free advice from a number of specialists in various fields. It brought an advisory team together -- a medical doctor, a veterinarian, a specialist in statistical analysis and survey methodology, two experienced scientific researchers (one to advise in the field of electro-magnetic radiation, the other in scientific research).

The methodology consisted of a standardised questionnaire and follow-up interviews. A comparison was made between these findings and the data reported in a study in 1995 undertaken in Schwarzenburg, Switzerland. This is considered a landmark study both for methodology and findings. As at Ouruhia, the Swiss transmitter was found to be operating within the national standard.

The actual survey was carried out by Margaret Sweet, M.A. Mrs Sweet is an experienced researcher. Statistical analysis was carried out by ex-professor Geoffrey Sweet, D.Sc. Context also worked with Vassil Kerdemelidis, Ph.D., former senior lecturer in electrical engineering at the University of Canterbury, engaged by the residents to check EMR levels on properties where individuals reported ill health.

The 46pp document, issued in early November 1998, reported on the health concerns of 80% (156 people) of those living within 2 kms of the tower. It reported a high level of symptoms typical of effects of exposure to electromagnetic radiation in both humans and animals. The emphasis was on immediate symptoms, rather than disease states such as heart disease and cancer which may take years to develop.

Context found a high level of nine symptoms which have been reported in the literature as effects of exposure to EMR (electromagnetic radiation). Overall:

37% suffered from chronic fatigue;
35% had sleep problems;
30% experienced bone and muscle pain;
21% had frequent headaches;
19% had a burning sensation in the eyes
9% felt as though their skin was on fire;
19% reported extreme irritability;
19% had difficulty concentrating.

Surprisingly, anxiety and depression affected only 17%.

Sickness was not randomly dispersed. In the sickest cluster, a massive 61% reported chronic fatigue, 50% experienced bone pain, 39% had difficulties concentrating. About 30% reported the other symptoms listed above. But why clusters were formed was not clear. They could be analysed both by direction from the tower and without reference to the tower.

Comparable incidences with Schwarzenburg were found for sleep problems, but there were much higher incidences for fatigue, joint pain, headaches and concentration difficulties.

Many of those interviewed told of health improvements when they left the area, and of symptoms returning when they came back. One family of four became ill when living in the area. They sold their house, moved away, and their symptoms gradually subsided. The people who now live in that house have developed symptoms.

Residents' response

Residents were delighted to have their concerns confirmed and brought together in one document. They consider their situation very different from those who protest cell phone towers, in that this is concerned with current ill health, not the potential for future ill health. They are adamant that even if no correlation was found with field strength readings, the findings must indicate something very wrong. They argue that whether the cause is EMR or something else altogether, the level of sickness is untenable. They think it is up to agencies to find out the cause.

What evidence is there that EMR is to blame?

The Context researchers do not claim to have demonstrated a causative link between the ill health of the Ouruhia residents and EMR. When they reported to the residents, they addressed the question, "Is the transmitter causing ill health in the district?"

They reported that they had found:

… no evidence of a correlation between AM and FM field strength

… no evidence of a link between symptoms and distance from the tower.

On the other hand, they reported what they called indicative evidence of a possible EMR effect:

… the high incidence of known EMR symptoms

… some evidence of a link between the dates of new transmissions and onset of new symptoms

… evidence that sick people got better when they left the area

… incidences of symptoms higher than those found in the Schwarzenburg study in Switzerland.

Though Michael Bates disagrees, the Context researchers consider that the clustered, non-random nature of the ill health in the region suggests an external cause. This may or may not indicate an EMR effect, though in this brief enquiry, no evidence was found of exposure to chemical spray drift or other obvious sources of toxicity. The report notes some evidence of a relationship between the years when additional FM transmissions were added to the tower, and the onset of ill health.

The residents believe that there have been various changes made to transmissions over time. Among other things, they believe that the beam has been raised, and that power levels have been varied.

"This information is not publicly available," Margaret Sweet says, "but if an in-depth inquiry were to be undertaken, more detailed consideration should be given to changes to transmissions and reported changes in the pattern of symptoms."

All in all, the Context report makes a strong case for closing down the FM transmissions. But the opposition forces were on the warpath even before it was issued.

Rapid rebuttals

Research processes and requirements do not sit happily into the adversarial system. First to take up the cudgels were Radio Network's lawyers. They are ensuring that the principal players in the residents' camp are aware that they are on dangerous ground.

Then came Dr Bates' scathing rebuttal of the survey. An epidemiologist, he accused the researchers of bias, and found their methodology inadequate. Nevertheless, in spite of all his criticisms, he did not comment on the principal finding - that high levels of symptoms known to be linked with EMR are reported in the Ouruhia district.

Dr Bates' report has engendered a great deal of sympathy for the Context team. They are philosophic, saying only that the Establishment's protection of its position was predictable. "Dr Bates evaluated the report as an epidemiological study and found it wanting. You can't compare oranges with apples. One doesn't need a doctorate to realise that the City Council did not commission epidemiological research," Margaret Sweet commented.

Nevertheless, Radio Network has agreed to put a small amount towards a more detailed epidemiological study - provided that the residents can meet their amount. It is understood that one or two key figures in EMR research have indicated interest.

All reports go before the council's environmental committee in February 1999. Councillors are not to be envied in their deliberations. Meanwhile, the residents continue with protracted and complex negotiations with all parties. They are in no position to fight expensive legal battles, and feel that the Resource Management Act is inimical to the interests of everyone except Big Business.

Enough to give anyone a headache.

You may wish to read

Part 4 in this series.
The report, "Concerns of the Residents of Ouruhia regarding the radio tower at 123 Lower Styx Road, Christchurch, New Zealand" was compiled by Margaret Sweet, M.A., of Context (NZ) Scientific Services. It is available for NZ$12 from Context at 29b Hamilton Ave., Christchurch 8005, New Zealand.

The report is also available on Ouruhia's new Website.



The Ouruhia Affair - A Win-Win Situation Or A Lose-Lose Affair?

Jacqueline Steincamp - 14/1/00

If you haven't already, you may like to read the

first article in this series.

No one is exactly triumphant. Was it a win-win situation, or perhaps a lose-lose affair? Nevertheless, the four-year Ouruhia radio tower fracas came to an amicable conclusion. The Ouruhia residents virtually won their case against The Radio Network and the Christchurch City Council. Australia and New Zealand radio frequency field standards are set to be tightened up.

Health problems the underlying issue

The underlying issue was the health problems thought to be connected to AM and FM transmissions from a poorly situated radio tower in the midst of a fairly well-populated rural area just north of Christchurch.

Government has now directed the Ministry for the Environment in partnership with the Ministry of Health to develop national guidelines for managing the effects of radiofrequency facilities ... in other words, radio and TV transmission towers, cell phone towers, and microwave emissions. A greatly enlarged committee has now drafted a revised standard which is currently available for comment.

The Draft is to emphasise the need for industry to adopt a 'precautionary approach' in setting levels for human exposure to RF fields. On the other hand, it has to take into consideration the need to 'meet service requirements'.

Determination paid off

It was a long and fairly grisly battle. Following the residents' legal challenge in the Environment Court (1995) against the Christchurch City Council and The Radio Network, the matter went to mediation, and then to an Appeal lodged by the residents. Towards the end of the Appeal proceedings, Radio Network approached the appellants and settled out of court with a payment of $40,000 to cover their legal expenses.

Even though there was no legal requirement for Radio Network to change the transmissions, two of four FM transmitters were canned following the hearings. The 137m Ouruhia tower now has one AM transmission (ZB Newstalk) and 1 FM transmission (Classic Hits), according to Gerard Carpenter, technical manager for Radio Network in Christchurch. Another AM transmission may be added. The future scenario is likely to be 2 AM stations and 1 FM station - instead of 2 AM and 4 FM Radio Network had originally wanted.

"We're all basically very pleased with the outcome. Had we had an out-and-out win, Radio Network could have gone to the High Court and that would have been totally beyond us," said Jill Gough, treasurer of the Ouruhia Residents' Association. "On the other hand, we certainly wouldn't mind moving away from the area when all the fuss has died down. "

Costs to the residents

Though getting any 'community' to work together on controversial issues is usually well nigh impossible, both the sick and the well had banded together in their common purpose. Deciding to accept the Radio Network offer was almost the hardest decision. The Group's decision to accept mediation and a payout split its members, with some high powered sufferers wanting to pursue Radio Network - to the High Court if need be. So hard feelings and a sense of betrayal are mixed in with the relief that the four-year battle is over.

The group's chairperson, retired school inspector Bob Rogers, feels that $40,000 in the hand was preferable to continuing the legal proceedings with no guarantee of success and the possibility of further legal fees - fees which the group could not afford. He estimates around $70,000 went in legal costs and expert witnesses. The most sick dug deepest - with $6 -7,000 coming from some families; many of the less affected, or those who were completely well, contributing around $1,000.

Dr Neil Cherry of Lincoln University, whose work on EMR is widely known, was one witness who donated his time and expertise to the cause. The most expensive witnesses were those from overseas whose travel and accommodation expenses had to be met. One was Dr Bruce Hocking, an Australian EMR authority and professor of occupational medicine as principal witness. He came over twice from Sydney. Another was Dr Theodor Abelin, MD, MPH, a Swiss professor of public health (Berne University) and principal researcher into the Schwarzenberg radio transmission problems. A delightful character, he also consulted widely with public health professionals in this country.

The Ouruhia aftermath

It appears human health problems at Ouruhia have reduced. Some of those worst affected, like horse trainer Penny Hargreaves, have moved away (with marked health improvements). There are fewer reports of unusual pains, fatigue and general immune complaints among those who are staying put. This may well be due to the fewer number of transmissions now going out from the tower. No-one really knows. Gerard Carpenter swears there have been no changes to direction, angle or power of the beams since the Appeal.

Chairperson Bob Rogers worries that the Christchurch City Council agreement to monitor EM fields only when there are changes in transmissions may not be as thorough as they should be. The Schwarzenberg monitoring is carried out continuously with between 100 and 150 fixed monitoring stations. "Here a technician will basically walk around with a metering device and possibly concentrate on a couple of sites only," he said. What he would like to see is a permanent monitoring station run by an independent service, with results freely available to all three parties. He'd also like to see more trees being planted in the area - sited so as to protect homes from EM fields.

Getting on with life

Meanwhile, the residents get on with their lives. They are a lively lot. Their latest community newsletter notes that they've made submissions regarding the Council's Draft Air Plan, the proposed Waimakariri Plan, Arterial Road Proposals for Marshlands Road. It also thanks all those who took part in the Ouruhia EM Appeal ... for obtaining their health records, attending appointments, giving financial input, and helping with raffle tickets and garage sales.