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Measure people, not masts. Ethics and rights.


Measure people, not masts

There has been a lot of discussion about campaigners measuring mast emissions in order to show why they are suffering adverse effects. Do these effects change with the power levels being emited? Do operators turn their masts down before coming to measure them for you? Is Ofcom representative in its UK mast auditing? And what are you measuring, and what does it mean?

We can measure mast emissions instantly with less expensive devices, and capture the moment. ‘Clubbing nights’ are a good time, because all the teenies are out talking to each other! What about police training days, or busy incidents, when those of us who feel TETRA feel it more strongly? But what effect does measurement have?

 Nicola’s story is just one example of someone finding no health protection, and denial in the face of the obvious. This is the case that prompted the Tetrawatch investigation of EMF and Epilepsy, and you should follow this through in our letters to the HPA and in the health links.

For our national agency on public health to walk away, saying that the scientific consensus proves Nicola’s health problems have nothing to do with masts, is deplorable.

With the UK government, our Health Protection Agency Radiation Protection Division (ex NRPB), our health and safety authorities, and everyone with responsibility in complete and unquestioning dedication and dependence on ICNIRP (all for the best economic reasons, of course!), we cannot progress on measurements of power levels as evidence of anything. Quoting figures thousands of times below our safety guidelines has no effect at all, and in a public view actually becomes playing into the hands of the operators. Huge ICNIRP compliance is now being used as PR defence by the operators, and people then have to decide to trust them, who quote our highest authorities, who quote scientists — or us.

More to the point, we need the specific frequency measurements of pulse modulation, transients and carriers, because the operator measurements are sometimes averaging everything out and comparing it with ‘harmless TV signals’ to ‘prove’ to the public that everything is OK. The public are quite misled, and on wideband UMTS (3G) the figures are likely to be distorted far more.

Many people are starting to accept there is serious science showing risk and harm, but only a year ago (Spring 2004) voluntary adoption of ICNIRP in the UK was hailed as a massive climb-down from the previous seven-times higher NRPB levels. There is still no official acceptance that the harm from masts is not due to radio-frequency (RF) heating. In ICNIRP, extremely low frequencies (ELF) are restricted solely to magnetic fields not RF modulation, so any combination of ELF-RF bio-effects are still out of sight in the precautionary guidelines.

Shut down the people, or shut down the masts? Which is the better measure?

The scientific data already exist, that cast doubt on even our official Ofcom and NRPB site assessments. The validity of measurement assessments, and the use of macrocell power in microcells has already been demonstrated by Alasdair Philips of Powerwatch. The missing link is the proper epidemiology, and we are not equipped or funded to do it ourselves in a properly controlled way that would get us peer-revied journal status, not least because there are no control populations left.

I have a thick report from an operator on a local mast site, full of spectrum charts and figures, that ‘proves’ the site is safe. What can we add by doing the same? What the audit does not measure is people’s well-being. The only sensible survey would be to take a residential area and shut down all masts within 500m completely for a month or two — even a year — and replace their DECT phones for the duration too. At the moment, our authorities are shutting down the people and auditing the masts! Audit the people, animals, trees, even soil bacteria over the period. A ‘normal’ mast area could act as a control population. Why not? Compare the cost of getting this indiscriminate use of microwaves wrong.

It would be an interesting comparison of human rights and experimental ethics:

  • the right to not have your mobile inoperable at home for a few months in a good cause (they could be refunded costs)
  • or your right to find out if microwaves filling your home make a difference?

The reverse experiment of deliberately filling people’s homes with microwaves just to find out the difference would never be allowed, on ethical grounds alone! (And what are the rights and ethics for the control population who are told for the purpose of the experiment they must have all masts blazing?)

I’m not sure what we can add on mast emission measurement until the obervations of adverse effects are taken seriously, and there’s plenty of reason why they choose not to. Maybe we’re just waiting for the body count, like asbestos and tobacco.

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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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