British mobile recommendations

The UK’s Department of Health is implementing the recommendations of the Stewart Report released last May.

On 8 December, it announced that it will provide £7 million for research on the health effects of radiation from mobile phones. The research program, to be jointly financed by government and industry, will be headed by Sir William Stewart who chaired the inquiry on mobile phones. It also released two leaflets containing precautionary recommendations which were sent to stores to be distributed with pre-Christmas purchases of mobile phones.

The first, entitled “Mobile Phones and Health”, suggests ways of limiting exposure. “If you use a mobile phone you can choose to minimise your exposure to radio waves. These are ways to do so:

  • keep your calls short
  • consider relative SAR values… when buying a new phone.

It advises against the use of mobile phones, whether or not they are hands-free, while driving and suggests “widespread use of mobile phones by children (under the age of 16) should be discouraged for non-essential calls.”

“In the light of this recommendation the UK Chief Medical Officers strongly advise that where children and young people do use mobile phones, they should be encouraged to:

  • use mobile phones for essential purposes only
  • keep all calls short—talking for long periods prolongs exposure and should be discouraged.

“The UK CMOs recommend that if parents want to avoid their children being subject to any possible risk that might be identified in the future, the way to do so is to exercise their choice not to let their children use mobile phones.”

The second leaflet, called “Mobile Phone Base Stations and Health”, deals with a variety of issues pertaining to networks and the distribution of emissions from an antenna. It says “Gaps in scientific knowledge led the Stewart Group to recommend a precautionary approach to the use of mobile phones and base stations until more research findings become available. They added that in some cases people’s well-being may be adversely affected by insensitive siting of base stations.” The leaflet also provides notice that, beginning Autumn 2000, the UK’s Radiocommunications Agency will be conducting audits of base stations to check their compliance with the British standard.

However, this has not placated communities.

Communities concerned about the health risks of radiation from mobile phone towers have united to demand legislative changes. Mast Action UK (MAUK), formed in December, has attracted high profile supporters such as model Jerry Hall, TV presenter Caron Keating and former Health Minister Marion Rae MP. The group is campaigning for more appropriate siting of mobile phone towers. It believes that local communities should have a say about where phone towers are sited, that sensitive areas such as schools, hospitals and residences should be avoided and that all masts should require local council approval. (At present masts less than 15m high are immune from council planning laws.)

MAUK is presently preparing to take on the government in a legal battle based on comments from Nick Raynsford, Minister for Planning. Raynsford wrote to councils last July advising them that, in processing an application for a new mast, they needed only to consider whether the emissions complied with the ICNIRP guidelines, and could ignore any other health concerns. According to lawyer AlanMeyer, representing MAUK, the letter breaks European law enshrined in the European Human Rights Act.

This community outrage has sparked a political response in several quarters. In January Kent County Council banned the erection of mobile phone towers on council property or sensitive areas such as schools, hospitals and libraries as a result of concerns that they may pose a health risk. In February Archie Norman, Shadow Environment Secretary, wrote to Tory councillors throughout England, advising them to reject applications for tall phone towers on council land.

(“Times”, 01.02.01.)

EMRAA News June 2001, Vol 6 No 2