by Halsey Meyer Higgins Solicitors
1. More than a year ago at Dublin Castle on 6th March 1998, the Irish Minister of Public Enterprise, Mrs. Mary O’Rourke, stated this is an issue which will grow and grow and will not go away. Subsequent events have proved her correct in that Public concern worldwide is growing and not diminishing as the Public grows more conversant with possible effects from mobile phone usage.
2. The issue breaks down into two different parts, firstly the safety of using mobiles themselves and secondly and perhaps long-term more importantly, the question of living close to a ground based Telecommunications Mast and Base Station.
3. On the issue of mobiles themselves, it is of course the users choice as to whether they have a mobile in the first place and then secondly how much they choose to use it. However that choice or consent is entitled to be a properly informed choice or consent.
Recent disclosures seem to show that prolonged use of a mobile may not be that safe despite assurances made by the Industry over the last ten years to that effect. On 24th May, Dr. George Carlo of the Industry’s established WTR in America stated that the Industry’s continuing statements that there was no conclusive evidence against mobiles was not a realistic position to take.
4. The main public concern however does not relate to the use of the mobile phones themselves where there is that choice. The problem as perceived by large sections of the public and particularly communities whose privacy has been invaded by the erection of a Mast and Ground Base Station is whether long-term chronic exposure to the low intensity radiation from such facilities is indeed now safe.
Bearing in mind that the assurances about the safety of the mobiles themselves when used close to the brain seem now to be somewhat suspect, the question arises as to whether similar assurances relating to the safety of living close to a Ground Based Station and Mast are also realistic. The problem is that such research as has been carried out relates to the mobiles themselves. Little or no published research has been carried out relating to chronic long-term exposure month after month, year after year to living close to a Telecoms Mast.
5. The only indicators, which might tend to provide some evidence relate to other types of masts, i.e. TV Masts, short-wave radio Masts and radar installations. There the North Sydney Australia study showed a significant statistical increase in cancer cases within the triangle of those three Masts in North Sydney.
Here the Sutton Coldfield BBC Mast study showed increased radiation levels around the Mast and its near vicinity. In Switzerland, the Schwarzenberg short-wave Mast was thought to be having adverse health effects on the local community for years. When a study was carried out in the mid 1990s by the University of Bern, it was found that the emissions from that mast did have an effect on the people in the vicinity.
This was discovered because during the period of the study there was a significant drop in the symptoms in many people over a three day period within that prolonged study. It was then discovered, which was not known at the time, that the transmitter had failed for those three days and there were no short-wave transmissions.
The Swiss government has now closed the Mast down. Incidentally, the Swiss health and environmental officials have proposed strict rules for public exposures from new sources of radio frequency and microwave radiation. If the ordinance is adopted, which appears likely, Switzerland will have the most stringent exposure levels in the world – based on the precautionary principle – guideline levels much lower than those recommended by the NRPB.
There is also the evidence of the Soviets irradiation of the US Embassy in Moscow, which produced serious adverse health effects.
There is the Skrunda study in Finland with regard to populations living many kilometers behind the radar installation and those living a similar distance in front of the radar installation. There the health conditions of those living in front of that installation were found to be markedly different, and this has been put down to the effect of the radar transmissions.
Finally there was recently a study funded by the Bavarian State Government in Germany following reported adverse health effects in dairy cattle only after a Telecoms Mast had been erected. It was discovered after a period that the cause of the significant drop in the yield of that herd of cattle and Extraordinary Behavior Disorders in some of the cows related to the microwave transmissions from that Mast. When the cattle was moved away from its vicinity after a period the milk yield and the behavior of that herd was totally restored to normal.
However when the cattle were returned to the mast environs their symptoms returned. This was not an isolated incident – see Loscher and Kas of Universities of Hannover Veterinary School and University of the German Army in Munich 1998.
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