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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 17:58 GMT
School phone mast emissions 'low'
mobile phone mast next to primary school
There have been protests about masts near schools
A study of electromagnetic emissions from mobile phone masts near 100 schools in the UK has shown that they are all way below international maximum recommended exposure guidelines.

The study was set up by the government two years ago, on the recommendation of the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones chaired by Sir William Stewart.

It was carried out by the Radiocommunications Agency, part of the Department of Trade and Industry.

The first results, published on Monday, showed that the level of emissions ranged from several hundred to many thousands of times below exposure guidelines set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

Testing is to continue, at another 100 sites this year. Locations of the base stations being tested will be widened to those other than schools.

Economic importance

The E-commerce Minister, Douglas Alexander, said: "It is important that the public have all the information available to them, in an open and accessible way.

"Mobile phones are changing the way we live and work. I am committed to continuing this programme as mobile communications remain important in the development of our society and economy.

"The mobile phone industry has the responsibility to work closely with communities when putting up masts and base stations. They should work together to lessen any impact on communities.

"Building public confidence is essential to building a strong future for the industry."

Fractional emissions

The Minister for Young People and Learning, Ivan Lewis, said base stations near schools could be a cause of real concern.

"The audit results are an important step in reassuring the public that base stations do operate within the relevant international guidelines," he said.

The audit of the 100 base stations near schools was carried out between December 2000 and December 2001.

The findings showed that levels were between 1/279th and 1/825764th of the ICNIRP's international exposure guidelines.

Mike Dolan, director of the MTAG mobile phone industry group, said: "The mobile phone operators understand the concerns some people have raised regarding mobile phone base stations and health, and are committed to addressing these concerns openly and transparently.

"The audit provides independent information for parents who can see that mobile phone base stations operate at small fractions of the guidelines."

Sceptical

A campaigner against a phone mast next to a school in Essex, Danny McLaughlin, said: "This audit has nothing to do with the main reason why many people are opposed to siting of masts near schools: We still do not know what effect such low-level RF radiation may have on the long-term health of children."

Dr McLaughlin, a lecturer in neuropathology at Bart's and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, said he was beginning to think that until the proper studies had been carried out - which would take years - there should be a complete ban on placing masts within a 200m radius of school grounds.

"I say this because it would seem that the 'precautionary' approach advised in the Stewart Report does not go far enough," he added.

Earlier findings

The Stewart Group said the evidence did not suggest that mobile phone technologies put the health of the general population at risk.

But it said there was evidence to suggest that there might be biological effects at exposures below the guidelines and that children would absorb more energy than adults.

It said there ought to be a precautionary approach.

Schools were invited to register for Radiocommunications Agency audits.

Details of the findings on each site have been published on the agency's website.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Westhead
"Parents... are worried about the effects of radiation"
See also:

06 Feb 02 | Health
Mobile safety debate heats up
07 Sep 01 | UK
Phone mast talks take place
05 Sep 01 | Education
Protest over mobile phone mast
13 Aug 01 | Education
Mobile phone mast 'threatens school'
03 Apr 01 | UK Politics
MPs urge action over mobile masts
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