The highest value recorded by the Radiocommunications Agency (RA) survey was 1/279 of the level set under guidelines issued in 1998 by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) adopted in Europe as an EU recommendation in 1999. The lowest value recorded was 1/825,764.

Measures to introduce auditing of emissions levels from base stations were introduced following the publication of the findings of the Stewart inquiry in May 2000 into possible health hazards from mobile phone technology. While the inquiry said there was no evidence that base stations could cause cancer, it concluded that radiation from base stations masts could cause “subtle biological changes”.

The ‘precautionary’ approach recommended by Sir William Stewart has been adopted by the UK government, particularly in relation to children’s exposure levels, and in response to increasing public opposition to the siting of new masts close to schools.

However, campaign groups are not impressed. “Just because they have measured emissions and found them below the ICNIRP guidelines does not mean they are safe,” Lisa Oldham of the campaign group Mast Sanity told edie. “We argue that there are non thermal effects from very low level radiation that is emitted by mobile phone masts. The guidelines at the moment do not accept that this is the case at all and therefore the guidelines only represent the considered effect of heating.”

Although the ICNIRP guidelines are produced by an international organisation, they are not accepted internationally as it is implied, said Oldham. There are many countries such as Russia, Poland and Sweden, that have much more stringent guidelines than ICNIRP, she said.

“Nottingham University recently published unarguable research that showed that the fertility of nematode worms increased significantly after they had been blasted with low level EMR,” said Oldham. “This cannot be a reaction to the Thermal effects as heating causes infertility in nematode worms. This research PROVES without a doubt that low level radiation (below the level of ICNIRP) has a definite biological effect on living bodies.”

Two weeks ago it was reported that residents of an east London borough had successfully persuaded local councillors to commission checks by the National Radiological Protection Board on local radiation levels where there was a cluster of cancer cases in a road close to a number of masts. The local Member of Parliament, Iain Duncan Smith – leader of the Conservative Party, recently called on the government “to carry out swift research into the connection between mobile phone masts and cancer”.

The British public is not alone in its concerns over potential links between masts and child cancers. In January, it was reported that in Spain, a cluster of cancers appearing at a school within 18 months of the installation of 36 transmitters on a building 50 metres away has sparked a national debate across the country. A court order was obtained to remove the transmitters and the local education authority has closed the school to enable scientists to establish what was causing the illnesses. As The Guardian newspaper reported, the parents pointed to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which has finally shown a link between child cancer and electromagnetic fields produced by power lines.

In 2002, the RA audit will be extended to base stations near to hospital sites as well as schools.

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