UK Press heats up the row over Electromagnetic Frequency and their poor control.
The months of April/May 2007 saw a plethora of articles in the UK press over the increasing proliferation of electronic smog. Things could be getting out of hand……………..
1 Scientists demand inquiry over Wi-Fi - 'The research hasn't been done - we cannot assume that wireless networks have no effects', expert warns.
(29 April 2007. Independent on Sunday newspaper, London).
The health risks posed by Wi-Fi technology should be investigated by eminent scientists to ensure that a generation will not be damaged by growing levels of "electronic smog".
"The research hasn't been done. Therefore we cannot assume that there are no effects," said Dennis Henshaw, professor of human radiation at Bristol University. "I would be in favour of an inquiry into the dangers of Wi-Fi. This technology is being wheeled out without any checks and balances."
His concerns were echoed by Alan Preece, professor of medical physics at Bristol University, a pioneer of the research into the effects of mobile phones on the brain. "No one is really aware of what we are dealing with," he said. "The Department for Trade and Industry needs to take the lead and do some investigation."
The developments came after a week in which a row has flared between scientists around the world. The exchanges were prompted by reports in last week's Independent on Sunday that teaching unions and scientists have been pressing for an official investigation into the potential risks of Wi-Fi.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA), chaired by Sir William Stewart, has yet to announce publicly its intentions, but senior sources have admitted to this newspaper that proper research needs to be done to ensure that Wi-Fi does not present a danger to children, acknowledging there are ethical issues and public health concerns.
It emerged yesterday that Professor Lawrie Challis, the head of the Government's committee on mobile phone safety, is also urging caution. "Since we advise that children should be discouraged from using mobile phones, we should also discourage children from placing their laptop on their lap when they are using Wi-Fi," he said.
And Dr George Carlo, chair of the Science and Public Policy Institute in the US, is setting up a global registry of people suffering from symptoms relating to the technology. Commenting on Sir William's stance, he said: "I know he is under enormous pressure from the mobile telecommunications industry, and the official stance being taken by HPA is one that is different to his personal views. That is the reality. The HPA has dropped the ball in not requiring testing before Wi-Fi goes into schools."
The concern is not confined to scientists. Last week saw the Professional Association of Teachers call for a formal investigation into the health risks.
The explosion in Wi-Fi shows no sign in slowing. One in five adults own a wireless laptop and half of primary schools and four-fifths of secondary schools now use wireless networks.
2 Wi-fi laptops 'pose health risk to children'
(Patrick Foster Times Online)
Children should not put laptop computers with wi-fi connections on their lap because of the potential health risks, the Government’s leading adviser on mobile phone safety says.
Lawrie Challis gave warning that the effects of wi-fi on children should be monitored, amid growing concern about emissions from such networks.
Professor Challis, chairman of the Mobile Telecommunications Health Research Programme, said that children should keep a safe distance from the embedded antennas on wi-fi-enabled laptops until more research had been carried out.
“With a desktop computer, the transmitter will be in the tower. This might be perhaps 20cm from your leg and the exposure would then be around 1 per cent of that from a mobile phone,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “However, if you put a laptop straight on your lap and were using wi-fi you could be around 2cm from the transmitter and receiving comparable exposure to that from a mobile phone.”
He said that because children were known to be more susceptible to harm from other sources of radiation, extra care should be taken. “Children are much more sensitive than adults to a number of other dangers such as pollutants like lead and UV radiation. So if there should be a problem with mobiles, then it may be a bigger problem for children. Since we advise that children should be discouraged from using mobile phones, we should also discourage children from placing their laptop on their lap when they are using wi-fi.”
A teachers’ union said this week that the Government should look into the potential health risks from radiation from wi-fi networks to staff and children in schools. Philip Parkin, general secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers, said: “There needs to be a scientific review of the evidence that’s there and new scientific investigation of the potential effects. There’s a concern the potential health risk of this technology hasn’t been investigated fully.”
The Health Protection Agency published a report in 2005 supporting the need for future research of all new technologies, including wi-fi. It said in a statement: The HPA has always pressed for more research into these new technologies.”
It is estimated that half of primary schools and four fifths of secondaries have installed wi-fi networks. As they only have to transmit a matter of metres, they run at lower power than mobile phone transmitters. But that has not assuaged the fears of some education authorities. In Austria, the local government for Salzburg has warned schools not to install wi-fi and is considering a ban.
3 Parents fight Wi-Fi at primary school
(Andrew Johnson )
Parents have been battling plans to install a Wi-Fi only system in their children's school in north London for the past two years. They are worried that the health implications of Wi-Fi have not been fully researched and radioactivity created by the technology could harm the children at Tetherdown Primary School. They argue it is better and cheaper to install cables with local Wi-Fi connectors.
Rani Jowett, 35, who has three children at the school, said: "It's taking a risk with our children because it's still under study. People in the 1950s took a risk with smoking, but we have the power to stop this. In my own home I have a choice over Wi-Fi, but I don't have the choice in school."
Governors, however, claim that a wired infrastructure would be too expensive. A spokesman for Haringey council said: "Safety standards for this sort of equipment are set nationally and we follow government guidelines."
4 Wi-fi: should we be worried?
Concern about the safety of wireless networks is mounting, with people blaming everything from headaches to cancer on the technology
It started as a low murmur, and has now risen to a persistent hum. Thanks partly to a lively correspondence in the pages of The Times, the debate about the safety of wireless networks is gathering momentum. Is this new technology a threat to human health comparable to smoking — as some campaigners claim — or an electric storm in a teacup?
Wireless networks — known as wi-fi or wLAN (wireless local area network) — are increasingly used in schools, offices and other public places to connect computers and laptops to the internet using radiofrequency transmitters with no need for complex cabling. In future, whole town centres will be transformed into wi-fi “hot spots”, enabling people to access the internet wherever they are through hand-held devices, including mobile phones. Indeed, Milton Keynes, Norwich and the borough of Islington, in North London, already have this WiMax technology.
It has taken the public a while to wake up to the idea that wireless transmitters could be less than benign. As with mobile phones, we first embrace the liberating new technology and only later ask the awkward questions. Perhaps, as with pharmaceuticals, the order should be reversed. The official line on the health implications of wi-fi is that exposure to low level electromagnetic radiation from wireless networks is well below recommended levels and that there is no evidence of risk. But despite these soothing words, the groundswell of concern is mounting, with some people blaming everything from headaches to cancer on exposure to radio-frequency fields.
As reported in this newspaper, a number of schools have dismantled their wireless networks after lobbying from worried parents, and others are under pressure to follow suit. In Austria the public health department of Salzburg has advised schools and kindergartens not to use wLAN or cordless phones. Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada, which has 7,400 students, has removed wi-fi because of what its Vice-Chancellor, Dr Fred Gilbert, calls “the weight of evidence demonstrating behavioural effects and physiological impacts at the tissue, cellular and cell level”.
Some experts have also expressed concerns. In September, 30 scientists from all over the world signed a resolution calling for a “full and independent review of the scientific evidence that points to hazards from current electromagnetic field exposure conditions worldwide.” Closer to home, the Irish Doctors Environmental Association (IDEA) has asked its country’s Government to carry out “a full assessment of the health impacts of electromagnetic radiation”.
“There has been no research specifically looking at the effects of wireless networks on human health,” admits Alasdair Philips, the scientific and technical director of the lobby group Powerwatch. “But I have seen enough anecdotal material to be convinced that some people are affected by them.”
David Dean, 43, a councillor in Merton, South London, and the managing director of a publishing company, describes himself as a human antenna. “The moment I go into people’s houses I know whether they have wi-fi because my head starts to buzz. I had to leave my last job because I couldn’t stand up for more than ten minutes in the office and my boss would not remove the wi-fi. My heart raced, I had double vision and really bad headaches. It felt as though my head was in an arm lock. Twice I have been into homes where the children were screaming monsters. After I suggested to the parents that they turn off the network for two days, the kids were transformed.”
Anxiety about wi-fi has focused on the effect of electromagnetic radiation on children because they have thinner skulls, less fully developed nervous systems and will undergo a lifetime of exposure to cellphone technology.
In his report on mobile phones, Professor Sir William Stewart, the chairman of the Health Protection Agency (HPA), acknowledged that radiation below guideline levels, while thought to be safe, may have effects on the body. He therefore advocated a precautionary approach, including close monitoring of radiation from masts near schools and a recommendation that the beam of greatest intensity from a mast should not fall within the grounds of a school.
“The emissions from wireless networks are very similar to those from mobile phone base stations in terms of frequency and signal modulation,” says Philips, who, it must be said, runs a company selling electromagnetic radiation detectors and blockers. “Many published reports have shown ill-health affects apparently associated with living and working close to mobile phone masts. In a Latvian study of 966 children, motor function, memory and attention were significantly worse in the group exposed to radiation from a pulsed radio location station. The exposure levels were low, but similar to those that children in classes with wLANs will be exposed to.”
Dr Michael Clark, of the HPA, says published research on mobile phones and masts does not add up to an indictment of wi-fi. “All the expert reviews done here and abroad indicate that there is unlikely to be a health risk from wireless networks,” he says. “The few studies on mobile phone masts that have appeared in peer-reviewed journals claiming to observe health effects are not at all conclusive. The real problem is deciding what level of precaution is appropriate.
“When we have conducted measurements in schools, typical exposures from wi-fi are around 20 millionths of the international guideline levels of exposure to radiation. As a comparison, a child on a mobile phone receives up to 50 per cent of guideline levels. So a year sitting in a classroom near a wireless network is roughly equivalent to 20 minutes on a mobile. If wi-fi should be taken out of schools, then the mobile phone network should be shut down, too — and FM radio and TV, as the strength of their signals is similar to that from wi-fi in classrooms.”
Philips is not reassured: “Electromagnetic radiation exposure guidelines in the UK are designed to protect against gross heating effects. They are not meant to protect against long-term exposure to low levels of pulsing microwaves, such as laptops emit when downloading. We believe that these interfere with the body’s own normal internal electrical and electro-chemical signalling systems, leading to serious health problems, and growing children may be more affected than adults, whose cells are not changing as rapidly.”
One of the problems in conducting research is that not everybody is affected by electromagnetic radiation in the same way. “A growing, consistent body of literature demonstrates that a subgroup of the population appears to suffer distressing symptoms when exposed to this type of radiation,” says Dr Elizabeth Cullen, of IDEA. Sleep disturbances, depression, blurred vision, heart and breathing problems, nausea and headache are among the most common symptoms.
Up to 5 per cent of the population is thought to have this sensitivity, which is recognised in Sweden as a disability. In Stockholm sufferers can have their homes adapted to remove or screen out sources of electromagnetic radiation. If this proves ineffective, they can even rent council-owned cottages in areas of low radiation.
5 Heathrow Express gets full wi-fi
(Mark Frary Times Online. April 25, 2007)
Wi-fi went live on the Heathrow Express this week. The service has been developed by T-Mobile and Nomad Digital who claim that the 15,000 passengers who use the Heathrow Express each day will be able to access the internet at a typical connection speed of 2 megabits per second throughout the journey, including the four miles of the journey which passes through tunnels.
The services uses WiMAX technology to allow the wireless signal to penetrate into the tunnels. WiMAX allows internet access up to around six miles from a radio base station without the need for a direct line of sight.
And now turning to Mobile phone Masts………
6 Row over 'cover up' of mobile phone masts cancer finding
(Daily Mail on-line)
Campaigners battling mobile phone masts have demanded all new schemes to be stopped after a scientist working for a telecoms company said they caused cancer. T-Mobile employed German expert Dr Peter Neitzke to research health risks caused by the equipment. But the mobile phone giant - which has 17-million British customers - ignored his findings and used conclusions from other scientists who said masts posed no significant threat.
The Ecolog Institute, which has been researching mobile phone technology since 1992, was paid by T-Mobile to gather evidence on its dangers. But Dr Peter Neitzke, one of the authors of the report, has accused T-Mobile of diluting the findings by commissioning other studies from which it knew “no critical results or recommendations were to be expected”. .Dr Neitzke added that once T-Mobile realised the likely outcome of his study it commissioned further research.
The Ecolog study, drawn up in 2000 and updated three years later, was unknown to British campaigners until it was leaked to the Human Ecological Social Economic Project (HESE), which examines the effect of electromagnetic fields on health.
Ecolog’s report stated: “Given the results of the present epidemiological studies, it can be concluded that electromagnetic fields with frequencies in the mobile telecommunications range do play a role in the development of cancer. This is particularly notable for tumours of the central nervous system.”
The controversial move has been blasted by activists and MPs. They said the company's handling of the report was typical as the under-fire industry strived to keep discussion of the health threat off the agenda.
7 MP Chairman of UK All Party Cancer Committee urges caution
Andy Street has been fighting applications for mobile phone masts near schools and houses in Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich.
Mr Street said: “The Neitkze findings should have been published straightaway rather than brushed under the carpet. We always have to fight mobile phone mast applications. Even if we win one battle we then have to fight against the companies appealing against it.
“We always thought they were a risk to health and that the companies knew more about the dangers than they were letting on. But for a phone company to ignore its own findings is highly irresponsible."
He stressed: "With these phone companies it always seems to be pounds before people. I would call on the city council to ban phone mast applications until this report has been fully published and is available to planners.” Mr Street was backed by Norwich North MP Ian Gibson. Mr Gibson is also the Chairman of the House of Commons All Party Committee on Cancer. He added, “The council putting a stop on allowing any more mast applications sounds like a very sensible, precautionary measure. It’s extremely interesting that research has come through, some saying 'Yes' it is harmful and some saying' No', it’s not.
“It seems to be all about how experiments are designed, and the way people look at the situation. But certainly it’s a long way from being proven that it is safe. I think it’s better to err on the side of caution.”
In January 2005 Sir William Stewart, chairman of the National Radiological Protection Board, published an independent report calling for a precautionary approach to masts near homes and schools. He acted as an investigation that month revealed one in five primary schools in Norwich was within the threshold experts claim could put youngsters at risk.
In 2002 it emerged that a cluster of cancer victims had been living in the shadow of a mobile phone mast in St William's Way, Thorpe St Andrew. At least six people developed tumours, which they feared might have been associated with the huge antenna.
Campaigner and Norwich city councillor Bert Bremner is gearing up to fight the eighth application for a phone mast in the University ward area in four years. He said: “Anything that shows that mobile phones are a problem is of concern to us. It’s like the tobacco companies hiding the dangers of tobacco. "Everything comes out eventually so I’m surprised that they didn’t just publish the report and be damned.”
Graham Barker has fought masts in Taverham, Norwich, for years. He said: “The whole point of the campaign to put masts on hold was until we knew of the risks. "Now there is some credible evidence there are risks. We should not be putting these masts up while the dangers are still not known. There is no doubt a moratorium should be urgently adhered to.”
Steve Morphew, Norwich City Council leader, said: “What we want is some clear guidance what we are allowed to do. At present planners are not allowed to take account of health concerns, so until the law changes there’s not much else we can do.
8 Study shows Phone mast link to lost sparrows
(April 29, 2007.The Sunday Times.)
SPARROWS may be disappearing from British gardens because of radiation from mobile phone masts, according to a new study.
Electromagnetic energy from the masts may be disrupting the birds’ navigational systems, discouraging them from inhabiting areas with high numbers of the masts.
The researchers believe the pulses may also create an electrical charge in the birds’ feathers, leading to a change in their behaviour.
The new study could help solve the mystery of why the previously plentiful birds have now vanished from many gardens and hedgerows.Britain’s population of sparrows peaked at about 13m pairs in the 1970s, but is now put at less than half that.
The new research was carried out by Joris Everaert and Dirk Bauwens at the Research Institute for Nature and Forest in Belgium.Their study, in 150 locations, showed that the stronger the signal from base stations, the fewer sparrows were found in an area.
The report, published in Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, supports the notion that “long-term exposure to higher levels of radiation negatively affects the abundance or behaviour of house sparrows”.
The research follows a recent study suggesting the collapse of bee colonies in America could be related to electromagnetic radiation from mobile networks.
9 UK Ministers now to investigate Phone Masts
(13 May 2007. Independent)
Ministers are to investigate arrangements for erecting mobile phone masts in the light of growing fears that they may cause cancer and other diseases because of "electronic smog".
They will review the exceptionally favourable rules that allow mobile phone companies to escape normal planning regulations and stop councils from considering the effects of the masts on health, even when they are sited near homes and schools.
Originally promised three years ago, and then shelved, the review follows articles in The Independent on Sunday about possible effects of the radiation on children and bees. The Government will take account of new scientific and medical evidence, and consult experts and campaigners, as part of a wider review of planning guidelines which ministers send to local authorities.
More than 47,000 "base stations", like masts, have already been erected in Britain to service its 50 million mobile phones, often in defiance of intense local public opposition. Successive governments have made extraordinary concessions to the companies to ensure that coverage was rolled out across the country as quickly as possible.
Masts up to 45ft high do not need planning permission in the normal way. Instead, companies merely have to notify councils of their intentions and can go ahead unless they are formally stopped within 56 days.
Overworked planning authorities struggle to cope with these applications on time, and companies have frequently put up the masts against councils' opposition because news of a refusal has reached them shortly after the deadline.
Seven years ago, an official inquiry - headed by Sir William Stewart, a former government chief scientist - concluded that "the siting of all new base stations should be subject to the normal planning process".
Ministers said that they were "minded" to implement this recommendation, and then failed to do so, even though full planning permission has long been required in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The inquiry also urged that masts should not be built near schools unless parents agreed, but ministers refused to agree.
The planning rules also make it clear that councils cannot object to masts on health grounds because "the planning system is not the place for determining health safeguards". Yet studies are revealing worrying levels of symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, difficulties in sleeping and concentrating, and learning and memory problems in people living near the masts - and there is also some suggestion that there may be an increase in cancers and heart disease.
Nevertheless, councils are instructed by the rules to "respond positively" to the phone companies' plans and, in practice, can reject a mast only on aesthetic grounds. The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, promised a review by the end of 2004. It never took place, but last week the Department for Communities and Local Government confirmed that the advice to local authorities is to be re-examined.
A spokesman for the department said: "We are examining developments in research on this issue. It is something that is going to be looked at."
10 Cancer clusters found around phone masts again
(Daniel Foggo Times On Line April 22)
SEVEN clusters of cancer and other serious illnesses have been discovered around mobile phone masts, raising concerns over the technology’s potential impact on health.
Studies of the sites show high incidences of cancer, brain haemorrhages and high blood pressure within a radius of 400 yards of mobile phone masts.
One of the studies, in Warwickshire, showed a cluster of 31 cancers around a single street. A quarter of the 30 staff at a special school within sight of the 90ft high mast have developed tumours since 2000, while another quarter have suffered significant health problems.
The mast is being pulled down by the mobile phone after the presentation of the evidenceoperator O2 by local protesters. While rejecting any links to ill-health, O2 admitted the decision was “clearly rare and unusual”.