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Wednesday, 13 December, 2000, 16:29 GMT
Site mobile phone masts 'away from schools'
Mast location is a contentious issue
Mast location is a contentious issue
An action group has been formed to oppose the siting of mobile phone masts close to schools.

Mast Action UK, (MAUK) officially launched on Wednesday, is a coalition of community groups from across the UK who are concerned about the possible health risks of radiation generated by the masts.

Backed by former Conservative health minister Marion Roe, the group is calling for children and other vulnerable groups to be protected against potential radiation risks.

The launch comes days after the government announced an audit of mast, or base station sites, particularly those located next to schools, by the Radio Communications Agency.

A 7m government-funded research programme into the health effects of mobile phones was also launched, along with leaflets outlining the known risks of mobiles to be issued with each new phone.

The government's action was in response to the Stewart Report, published earlier this year, which considered current scientific evidence and suggested a precautionary approach.

MAUK has already lobbied ministers and been involved in local campaigns to fight against mast locations.

It believes communities and children face an "unquantifiable risk" in the current regulatory climate.

No choice

MAUK says: "The unconstrained ability of mobile phone operators to place base stations in schools and local communities places intolerable strains on the physical and mental integrity of those units and makes a mockery of our parliamentary democracy."

Joint MAUK co-ordinator Julie Matthew said: "We are campaigning for the sensitive siting of masts. The insensitive placing is on schools, hospitals or next to houses."

MAUK wants government legislation to bring all mobile phone mast applications under the auspices of the local planning authority. Currently, masts under 15 metres escape their scrutiny.

Christine Mangat, MAUK's other co-ordinator said: "With a mobile phone. you have a choice whether to use it or not.

"But when a mobile phone mast is sited near you, there is no choice.

"Children in schools where these masts are sited are subject to these transmissions every day."

Industry figures suggest less than 2% of the 22,000 base stations are sited on school buildings.

Community involvement

Marion Roe, Conservative MP for Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. where MAUK is based, said: "The local community should be very involved in where these masts should go.

"There are fears and concerns and the most sensible, the most common sense, way to do it, seems to be to get a dialogue between local communities, planning committees, the people who want to install the masts and the government."

The Stewart report said the balance of evidence showed there was no general risk to the health of people living near base stations, because exposures are expected to be small fractions of guidelines.

The National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) collates international and national research for the government.

An NRPB survey of 118 sites close to 17 base stations where concerns had been expressed by communities, found "in all cases" radiation levels were a fraction of national and international limits.

See also:

08 Dec 00 | Health
7m for mobile health research
06 Dec 00 | Scotland
MP urges halt to new phone masts
30 Jun 00 | Health
Phone mast fears dismissed
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