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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 April, 2005, 04:35 GMT 05:35 UK
Mobile mast locations face review
Mobile phone mast
Firms may be asked to share masts
New research is to be carried out into mobile phone technology, and the location and use of mobile phone masts, the government has announced.

A study will examine whether the number of cell phone "relay stations" can be reduced by firms having to share them.

Ministers are already reviewing the planning procedure for the masts.

The announcement follows considerable public concern over the location of masts - but scientific opinion about possible health risks remains divided.

Ofcom probe

In January, scientists from the National Radiological Protection Board warned that young people were at greatest risk from the potentially harmful health effects of mobile phone emissions.

Professor Sir William Stewart, who headed the study, said there was no evidence mobile telephones were unsafe - but children under eight should not use them at all.

It is important to identify the future direction of mobile phone technology in order to inform policy development and to respond to public interest in this area
Yvette Cooper, Planning Minister
The board also said more research could be done into mobile phone masts and suggested the location of the masts could be subject to independent review.

"It is important to identify the future direction of mobile phone technology in order to inform policy development and to respond to public interest in this area," Planning Minister Yvette Cooper said.

The study will assess whether Ofcom provides adequate information about current mast locations.

In 2002, the government and the mobile phone industry pledged 7.4m to a new research programme into the safety of mobile phones.

Its 15 studies, being carried out by independent scientists, will aim to come up with definitive answers on mobile phone safety.

The latest review of the evidence, carried out by UK government scientists, suggested mobile phones do not harm health.

Tingling sensations

But other studies have highlighted the possible dangers of using mobile telephones.

In 2003 Dutch government scientists exposed volunteers in laboratories to radiation from phone masts for the high-tech third generation mobile phones and "traditional" masts - without telling them which version they were being exposed to.

Seventy-two people took part in the study, half of whom had complained about the health effects of living near traditional mobile masts.

The survey found both those who had complained about mobile phones radiation - and even those who had not - complained about significant levels of nausea, headaches and tingling sensations when they were exposed to signals that mimicked third generation mobile networks.

In contrast, exposure to radiation from standard masts showed no significant effect.

But Maarten Lortzer, a spokesman for the Dutch research organisation TNO, which carried out the research on behalf of the government, told BBC News Online other studies needed to be carried out to confirm the finding.

'Nerve damage'

A 750-people study by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden published last year concluded that long-term mobile phone users had nearly double the risk of acoustic neuroma - a benign tumour in the auditory nerve, which can cause brain and nerve damage and affects one in 100,000 people.

At the time of the study only analogue mobile phones had been in use for more than 10 years.

The majority of people now have digital (GSM) phones, which came on to the market in the mid to late 1990s.

Some of the people who took part in the study had used both analogue and digital phones. There was no evidence to suggest solely using digital phones for 10 years increased the risk.

Another Dutch study has suggested mobile phone use can affect brain function, and further EU-funded research indicated radiation from the phones could damage cell DNA.

Council wants phone mast powers
17 Mar 05 |  England
Residents protest at mobile mast
17 Feb 05 |  Southern Counties
Parents want phone mast removed
29 Mar 05 |  West Midlands


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