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In Depth: Phone Masts

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15:00 - 08 November 2006
An In-depth investigation is being demanded into claims an 82-foot mobile phone mast is responsible for a series of deaths and illnesses.Campaigners have mapped 27 deaths and illnesses within 820 feet of the antenna in Shooters Hill, near Meir, and are calling for it to be removed.

Now Stoke-on-Trent South MP Rob Flello wants research to see if residents' fears are justified.

Mr Flello said: "What I want is a scientific body undertaking a survey to see if the experiences of these people is a statistical anomaly or whether there is actually a problem.

"I want a proper scientific study of the health issues in the area, compared with a similar area without a mast.

"Secondly I would like proper research on the medical impact of being exposed to certain radio frequencies."

Protesters believe there is a cluster of brain haemorrhages, tumours and cancers around the antenna, which collects and distributes signals from other masts in the area.

They have also logged numerous cases of irregular heartbeats, strokes, high blood pressure, epilepsy and severe headaches, since the Orange-owned equipment was put up in 1993.

Mr Flello has spoken to GPs in the area, who say they have not noticed unusual numbers of such complaints.

He has also asked for detailed health statistics for the neighbourhood from the Primary Care Trust and the Office for National Statistics, only to be told the figures are not available.

Mr Flello added: "I wouldn't want to wish what these residents are going through on anyone, and I wouldn't want to live next to a mast.

"I use a mobile phone, but that is my choice.

"People who buy a house and then a mast is put up have no choice."

Stoke-on-Trent City Council commissioned a survey of the area last year, and found the antenna was operating within national guidelines.

A council spokesman said: "We commissioned expert tests which were designed to find anything measurable that would have a negative effect on human health.

"All the results came back as being well within the safe guidelines.

"We are not aware of any addition to the body of knowledge in this area which would indicate more tests would give any worthwhile information.

"We will continue to look at any information put forward by residents, and co-operate with the health services to explore whether there are any ways forward in the future."

But opponents say the council report only looked at the possible heating effects of the microwaves, not their potential to cause biological problems, especially in the brain.

Dr Gerald Hyland, from the University of Warwick and the International Institute of Biophysics, in Germany, examined the group's research.

Dr Hyland said it revealed "quite a strong correlation" between health problems and where the beams of microwaves are strongest.

He says the evidence that mobile phone microwaves affect humans is "established beyond dispute".

Digital mobile phone radiation operates at a similar frequency to electrical activities in the body - particularly the brain - and Dr Hyland believes this could cause sleeplessness, headaches and more serious illnesses.

Protester Jean Hopkins, who lives on Cherrywood Grove, within a few hundred feet of the mast, said: "The council has taken the safe option of sticking strictly to the guidelines, and they have just covered themselves. The authorities can come out with all the statements about meeting the guidelines, but that's not good enough. There is too much evidence mounting up around these sites.

"I am absolutely certain there is a cluster of cancers and other problems around here.

"None of the so-called experts can say the mast doesn't cause these ill-effects.

"Over the last 10 years, we have seen a dramatic rise in illnesses in this area."

But Orange has denied the claims.

Sue Hammett, community liaison officer for the company, said: "The latest fact sheet from the World Health Organisation said there were no adverse long-term or short-term health effects from this low-level radiofrequency and that came out in May. We appreciate this is a sensitive issue, but we believe our mobile phone stations are safe.

"The guidelines are laid down by central government, and they take their line from a number of independent bodies across the world.

"I can perfectly understand people's perception of risk and I sympathise with residents, but in our opinion these health issues are in no way due to the mobile phone mast.

"While science continues its research, we believe our phone stations are safe."

Do you think you have illnesses caused by phone masts?

To read other stories The Sentinel has featured about phone masts, visit: http://www.thisisthesentinel/phonemasts.

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