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The danger of chronic exposure to electromagnetic fields


Masts are fundamentally different from phones

Those who should know better will wave their mobile phones in public meetings, telling us how 40 million people use their phones daily, so what right have we to be worried? Department of Health safety leaflets on the use of mobile phones warn against calls longer than 20 minutes, recommend hands-free kits and say that children should only use mobile phones in emergencies.

What is the latest official advice from the World Health Organisation (whose EM radiation programme depends on the interested parties for funding)? The much criticised head of the EMF project, Mike Repacholi, says (November 2005) the concern can all be swept away, not because we are becoming less exposed to EM radiation, but because every time new wireless technologies are added, each produces less per transmitting unit. Somehow, logic suggests that if each of the few TV transmitters is more powerful than a phone base station, and therefore more likely to present a risk, then 40,000 to 100,000 mobile masts, 45 million mobile phones, wireless networks, hotspots and wireless broadband, plus millions of DECT phones in homes and offices, does rather raise the ambient level somewhat. Doesn’t it?

What? You didn’t get the leaflet? You should have. Following the Stewart Report in 2000, this information should have been given to every mobile phone purchaser, and every mobile phone should have had a ‘SAR rating’ indicating the amount of microwave emissions into the body. Over four years later, no leaflets, no ratings.

Read the Dept of Health leaflets now:

 Mobile Phones and Health, 2000

 Mobile Phones Base Stations and Health, 2000

Mail On Sunday 15 April 2001 (no longer available online)

“DTI tones down mobile phone alert for parents
by Jessica Berry and Fiona Wingett

“A warning by the DoH about the dangers of children using mobile phones was watered down after pressure from the DTI. Insiders say the trade department was worried it would scare parents and damage the multi-billion pound telecmmunications industry. It emerged that Nick Williams, the DTI official dealing with the advice was working out his notice prior to moving to Vodafone as an executive. DTI bosses knew of the conflict of interest but told him to carry on as there was no-one else to deal with the matter. He then helped prepare the safety leaflet. Norman Baker MP said: ‘In any power struggle the DoH loses out to the DTI. Money comes first and children’s health somewhere thereafter.’ ”

Perhaps it is no surprise that the operators and shops are not so keen you should know. Perhaps you are surprised there are known risks and recommendations at all? Or that major insurers will not indemnify operators and manufacturers against future health claims for use of mobile phones and equipment?

But the bottom line is that you have a choice, whether and how much to use a mobile phone, and what model to buy.

What you do not have a choice about is mobile phone base stations – whatever they do to you. And TETRA is different. Ordinary mobile phone masts employ ‘adaptive power control’; in other words they only send signal as strong as required. They don’t shout so loud when you are nearby! TETRA pumps away at full volume/power 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.


Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications phones are mobile phones that come with their own handy base station (see our DECT page). Again you have choice. But did you get a leaflet from Argos or wherever? Hmmm. Thought not. And you have another choice too: whether or not to expose not just your family, but your neighbours (especially in joined houses) and colleagues at work. If you are lucky, you will never react to the 24-hour pulsed microwaves that the base units emit. But if every now and then you find a family member, a neighbour or a colleague with a sense of pressure in their head, or poor sleep, or maybe unusual nosebleeds, don’t be surprised. It is to be expected. Your choice, therefore, does not stop at a brick wall, because your DECT phone emissions pass through concrete, may be piggy-backing on house wiring or metal reinforcement structures, and affecting other people’s well-being. (DECT: the new passive smoking?)

So just remember, your DECT phone, lovely, handy and feature-rich as it is, may well be affecting someone else unexpectedly. Would you choose to sit next to a mobile phone mast all day, or sleep next to one all night? Maybe you would. But is it right to make your family, neighbours or colleagues do the same? Have you asked them?

Masts (base stations) and the end of choice

Whatever choices you make, whatever common sense you exercise, a mast can land in your neighbourhood, next to your house, at any time. And it is increasingly likely. By 2007, it is estimated there will be 100,000 masts in the UK, pushed by an industry and government that is telling us we need them. And here is where your choice, your rights and your freedoms end.

So what is the problem? The problem is that whilst you can limit personal exposure from phones, you cannot limit exposure to masts. You will be told that each and every mast has a certificate of compliance to ICNIRP (‘if it doesn’t heat you it can’t hurt you’) exposure guidelines. But as we have said elsewhere these guidelines are quite inappropriate, for pulsed microwave exposure over extended periods of time. We know for certain that however low the exposure is measured to be, many thousands of people are affected by them. And no-one, it seems, knows why. So why no serious research? (See our current UK research page.)

Even accurate and meaningful ways to measure degrees of safe exposure are in their infancy. Big discussions at the World Health Organisation, big research money with the Mobile Telephones Health Research (MTHR) Programme are starting to address this problem, but meanwhile even the mechanisms of interaction between low-level microwaves and the body are poorly understood.

Read why what we are being exposed to matters

 TETRA: ‘Thousands of times below the guidelines’. What are safe levels?

It is in this climate that we have TETRA thrust upon us, unresearched and in haste, with not a thought about the effects of long-term exposure in populated areas (see examples of early indications from mobile phone masts).


Christmas starts in October! The toys are stacked up and the excitement (well, for kids anyway!) starts. The windows in the boxes and the ‘press here to try’ buttons are clean, new and inviting, and the batteries new. Does it matter if a child presses the button, touches the box and dreams of a new toy? Of course not; it is just a touch.

By December those little light touches have run into hundreds of thousands. The boxes are dirty, the clear windows clouded, the buttons are black and the batteries run down. Who did the damage? No-one but everyone.

The subtle touch of microwave radiation may never appear in a 30 minute laboratory experiment. But the touch of billions of microwave photons as they pass right through you from a neighbourhood mast have a cumulative effect. And all those of us whose sleep (and therefore melatonin production) is in any way affected, will be the most vulnerable. No, this is not like ionising radiation that causes DNA damage straight away. This is a subtle touch that you are unaware of for a long time.

But we’ve been living with TV and radio going through us for fifty years! How much? No, not how long, how much? Compare 100,000 masts in amongst all our homes, with the few powerful masts, many in open land. In fact look at the research around powerful TV and FM transmitters, and you realise that they too cause health problems. Look through out health links if you want to know more.

Chronic exposure is an issue

 A plea for planning control and protection by precaution

 Risk from mobile masts was hidden from the Stewart Committee, 2000

 Are EMFs Hazardous to Our Health?

 The TETRA frequency and cancerous cell growth a practical demonstration of biological effects at 400MHz

 EMR Reduces Melatonin in Animals and People (2000)

 Chronic exposure to ELF fields may induce depression (1988)

 NCRP Draft Recommendations on EMF Exposure Guidelines (1995)

 Health Effects from Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Exposure: the Mercury Connection (dental fillings; 2001)

 Microwave And Radiofrequency Radiation Exposure: A Growing Environmental Health Crisis? (2001)

 The generation of heat-shock proteins by chronic exposure to EMF (2004)

 ICNIRP: ‘There are also data for chronic low level exposure that indicate that there may also be other health effects. It is, however, ICNIRP’s view that in the absence of support from laboratory studies the epidemiological data are insufficient to allow an exposure guideline to be established.’

 Study on the Feasibility of Epidemiological Studies on Health Effects of Mobile Telephone Base Stations

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unsightly but harmless? Unsightly but harmless? Is that all there is to be concerned about? 50,000 mobile masts in the UK may be more than we can take. And TETRA has special concerns of its own.

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