TETRA: Say no to an unsafe technologyfind out more information about TETRA

TETRA: the science bit


‘The general public ... demand clear, understandable information, often so that informed individual choices can be made. There is a need to seek to ensure that advice given, and decisions made, are based on sound science, that they are independently confirmed and defensible against criticism. I have a niggling doubt, nevertheless, that when positive results of an adverse effect are eschewed, the cry goes up that they have to be independently confirmed, but perhaps too often, the same attention is not paid to the need to confirm a negative result. Also, it is not always sensible to routinely dismiss out of hand non-peer reviewed material. Such results, of course, have to be independently confirmed, and may well be right, and can sometimes give pointers to areas where further high quality research is needed. In any case, confirmed findings, whether positive, negative or equivocal, should also be made available to the non-specialist and the general public in a way that the implications are capable of clear understanding.’

Sir William Stewart, Chairman, Health Protection Agency (and previously National Radiological Protection Board), 6 September 2004

Here is an outline of the science. We urge you to use the Links page to find out more for yourself. Heavier-weight scientific reports and papers are at the end of this page. (Please note that the National Radiological Protection Board or NRPB, became part of the Health Protection Agency in 2005.)

Do not confuse reviews with research. You will be told that all the latest reviews show that harm to health is an unlikely outcome. Increasing numbers of reviews of the same research does not add one ounce to the weight review evidence. Epidemiological research on TETRA, or even on mobile phone masts, is not prolific. What there is is very disturbing indeed. Head for the research, not the reviews. NRPB is not a primary research organisation, nor is ICNIRP, nor is WHO. They all review.

If you ask anyone in authority (Government, local, health, protection agencies etc.) about the safety of microwave transmissions, they will all refer back to one single source: the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB, now part of the Health Protection Agency). There are no other independent scientific statements from the authorities. It seems nobody has a sufficient grasp of the issues.

But who has authority? Do you think the Health Protection Agency’s Radiation Protection Division (NRPB as was) is a regulatory body? It is not! They are purely advisory. In fact there is no regulator at all. The problem is that everyone treats NRPB as if it were the regulator, whilst theirs is just the ‘official expert opinion’.

And do we all know what we mean by particular terms such as precaution, exposure, sensitive sites, and safety? Check these out.

So what does industry do with evidence of risk? Since most university research is funded by industry, it is easy to create studies that ‘balance’ evidence of harm. Call it ‘manufactured doubt’. There’s plenty of it about.

 Radiation Research and The Cult of Negative Results: a respected journal, the true meaning of peer review, and a revelation about the influence of funding on results.

 Brave New World of Zero Risk: Covert Strategy in British Science Policy, Martin J Walker. This book (350pp) is on free download. The messages is an important one.

 HPA-RPD (ex-NRPB) misusing science? An example.

 The ways the HPA-RPD (ex-NRPB) has suppressed scientific knowledge, against the public interest

 Can there be independent research? IARC is an arm of WHO, but is it distant from the industry that sponsors the research into mobile phones and cancer? Or is IARC tainted?

 Institute of Science in Society calls on European Commission to Support Independent Science: health before wealth.

 Which Science or Scientists Can You Trust? Michael Meacher MP

 Conflict of interest in funding the Interphone Studies. For all the reassurances of ‘firewalls’ between funders and research outcomes, it is hard to deny that an influence remains.

 Science under siege

 Example: how Gerard Hyland paid the price for blowing the whistle on mobile phone safety

 Experts investigating biological effects of cell phone radiation asked to shut up or quit jobs

 A Corporate Risk Assessment of RF Bioeffects Studies Relevant to the Use of Mobile Phones by Children: Is it really science?, Don Maisch.

 A recent parallel: BSE has an alternative and robust explanation. Nobody has told you this.

The answer you will therefore be given is that this kind of radiation, at the levels you are understood to be exposed to, ‘are unlikely to present a risk to health in the general population’. Unlikely? If you are affected, does that put you outside the ‘general population’ so that you are not counted?

Are we all guinea pigs in some global multibillion pound commercial experiment?

‘In a way, yes, we are.’

Dr Michael Clark, science spokesperson, NRPB, October 2004

If you ask for degrees of safety, or assurances of safety, you will receive no better answer. If you ask for proof of safety, you hear that it is ‘impossible to prove a negative’ (implying that degrees of safety can be proven for nothing at all). The safety and precaution applied to electromagnetic fields bears no comparison to that for food, drugs or, for that matter, GM crops. Despite the complexity of the issues, such precaution as was recommended by the Stewart Report is actually being eroded.

‘Science is a hard taskmaster, and in the light of mounting evidence that suggestions of toxicity are for the most part ultimately confirmed by painstaking scientific inquiry, perhaps it is time to reexamine whether scientific standards of proof of causality – and waiting for the bodies to fall – ought not to give way to more preventative health policies that are satisfied by more realistic conventions and that lead to action sooner.’

From an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine,
April 1987

 The WHO International EMF Project database. See if you can find anything like proof that mobile phone radiation is unlikely to cause human health effects.

 Guardian Special report: The business of research. Firms ‘push scientists to tailor research results’

 Try the WHO International EMF Project citation database as well. Not overwhelmed by the amount of research on mobile phone range, epidemiological studies into hypersensitivity?

On either of the above, upon which WHO depends, and the operators correspondingly declare degrees of safety, can you find anything relating to TETRA?


TETRA uses microwave frequency elecromagnetic radiation (EMR), but carries its modulated signals in pulses. These pulses are emitted by TETRA handsets at a frequency of 17.6 Hz, in the ‘beta’ brainwave range, and very close the resonant frequency of calcium ions at 16Hz. Official sources deny that base stations pulse at all. Practical measurements establish that they do: see our TETRA pulse page. The nationwide network requires 3,350 masts to operate a complete system. Some sources doubt whether TETRA, intended to communicate data as well as voice and SMS, will fulfill police requirements.

Things you must watch out for, and evaluate for yourself:

  • Do TETRA base stations pulse, like the handsets do?

  • Is such an electromagnetic pulse at extremely low frequencies possibly harmful?

  • Are acceptable levels of exposure to electromagnetic radiation (EMR) set for anything other than the thermal (heating) effects? Is it true to say ‘if it can’t heat you, it can’t hurt you’?

  • Are some people sensitive (or hypersensitive) to EMR, especially when pulsed? And if so is it acceptable to create an electromagnetic environment over the whole of the UK from which they will most certainly suffer?

  • Does the Government have the moral mandate to push TETRA onto all of us, including all our police officers, despite the lack of knowledge about the long-term effects of exposure to TETRA?

You don’t need to be an expert, but be informed. We say, if there are doubts about safety, play safe.

In employment, we are all protected from solvents and even colleagues’ smoke by health and safety legislation. Not because it is unpleasant, but because for some of us we are disposed to illness from these sources. Why is this different?

‘It can’t harm you’. Are the industry experts right?

The mobile phone industry and O2 Airwave are convincing themselves that microwave radiation is safe. Indeed ‘expert witnesses’ called by O2 Airwave to Planning Appeals are far more certain on safety than the NRPB and the World Health Organisation! They are usually engineers, not biological scientists or health professionals.

What do they say? They say that the human body is not like a television, capable of tuning in, amplifying and interpreting a radio wave encoded for pictures and sound. However, the body does have a stream of conductive fluid, through which nerve impulses travel. And being made substantially of water, we do have a full capability for electrical resonance: external electric fields do induce currents in the body, at externally created frequencies. Furthermore, our bodies contain a surprising amount of semi-conducting material, and calcite crystals (which will resonate with the piezo-electric effect) are found in the brain.

What else do they say? They also say that the currents would be too small and too complex: our bodies could not possibly pick out particular frequencies (such as the 70Hz and 17.64Hz pulsing of TETRA). Well, firstly the electric currents and potentials used by the body to function normally are also extremely small. But they are all we need; they work. And a whisper from TETRA at 17.64Hz will not be dissimilar to a beta brain frequency. Too complex? Ever been to a party? And heard a conversation across the room against the background noise because the words or the tone of voice, or its familiarity made you take notice? Can the O2 expert engineers explain how that happens? Ever been to a concert, and heard a quiet violin against the orchestra? Can the O2 expert engineers explain how the sound waves, translated into electrical brain impulses, can be distinguished in your brain?

Sources of information to start with

International Commission on Non-ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). The ICNIRP Guidelines for limiting exposure to electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields. Are they adequate?

Before you take it at face value, even with the self-stated caveats, see this critique: ICNIRP ... built on a house of cards and
The inadequacy of the ICNIRP Guidelines governing human exposure to the microwave emissions of GSM/TETRA Base-stations.

It’s big and heavy in places, so note page 3: ‘Induction of cancer from long-term EMF exposure was not considered to be established, and so these guidelines are based on short-term, immediate health effects such as stimulation of peripheral nerves and muscles, shocks and burns caused by touching conducting objects, and elevated tissue temperatures resulting from absorption of energy during exposure to EMF. In the case of potential long-term effects of exposure, such as an increased risk of cancer, ICNIRP concluded that available data are insufficient to provide a basis for setting exposure restrictions, although epidemiological research has provided suggestive, but unconvincing, evidence of an association between possible carcinogenic effects and exposure at levels of 50/60 Hz magnetic flux densities substantially lower than those recommended in these guidelines.’

 See our pages about intensity levels, their relevance, and international guidelines.

 Read about chronic exposure (living near a mast)

Links to scientific papers

 See also our Links pages

Late Lessons from Early Warnings: the precautionary principle 1896 – 2000 from the European Environment Agency.

RF/Microwave Radiation Protection. A balanced view. Worth reading

Mobile phones: safety problems. Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology (PSRAST)

HESE Projekt: read key scientists with concerns about EMF

Institute of Science in Society: Biological effects of mobile phones

Nerve Cell Damage in Mammalian Brain after Exposure to Microwaves from GSM Mobile Phones, Salford et al., 2003

Electromagnetic fields, the modulation of brain tissue functions – A possible paradigm shift in biology. W Ross Adey International Encyclopedia of Neuroscience

An introduction to how radiation interacts with matter

US National Library of Medicine: Pulsed EMR affects living cells

Possible causes for some biological effects: the part played by crystalline deposits in cells and why ICNIRP is irrelevant

Roger Coghill criticises government research and shows why TETRA is a risk to health

Light reading? The Craziest Ever Radio Set is a fun (true) story with a moral for us all.

Pulsed EMR really does do things and a second page: just look at the range of tissues and disorders researched.

The latest ‘Hyland Report’ Try to read this vital paper: Dr Gerard Hyland on base station safety (PDF)

Alasdair Philips, Powerwatch. Response to the Home Office replies to Barrie Trower’s 27 questions on TETRA, 2002 (PDF)

The Intensity Myth, Ian Sharp

Emissions aren’t neat. What about hotspots?

An international perspective of very low frequency radiation safety standards and their relevance to ‘tetra’ Thierry March

Why use thermal guidelines for microwave exposure? Some history

Crucial paper by Rea on human electromagnetic sensitivity

Electrical sensitivity: from Sweden and US

Cogres Lab: a critical review of the NRPB Consultation Document

COST 281. European Cooperation in the Field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST) united the research of 23 countries. COST281 is about potential implications of mobile communication systems.

Electric Words: cell phones and health

See this paper in particular: Mobile Phone Base Stations and Health

Arguments in Favour of Applying the Precautionary Principle to Counter the Effects of Mobile Phone Base Stations, R Santini, 2002

Study of the health of people living in the vicinity of mobile phone base stations, R Santini, P Santini, J M Danze, P Le Ruz, M Seigne

About the Effects of Microwave Exposure from Cellular Phone Base Stations: a first approach, EA Navarro, J Segura, C Gómez-Perretta, M Portolés, C Maestu, JL Bardasano (Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, 22: 161-169)

The Microwave Syndrome: Further Aspects of a Spanish Study, G Oberfeld, A E Navarro, M Portoles, C Maestu, C Gomez-Perretta, 2004

Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) Phones are a hazard. DECT: the new base station in the home

Risk Evaluation of Potential Environmental Hazards From Low Frequency Electromagnetic Field Exposure Using Sensitive in vitro Methods (11Mb PDF: large file!) But this EU REFLEX project is very important in demonstrating EMF effects at cellular level.

Read this synopsis on REFLEX at Powerwatch

Biological Effects of Microwaves and Mobile Telephony, K. Sri Nageswari, India

FEMU: Research Center for Bioelectromagnetic Interaction (Aachen, in English)

Dutch TNO study links 3G (UMTS) base stations and health (Sept. 2003)
(full paper, PDF, 1.5Mb)

English abstract of the follow-up to the TNO study

More on the Swiss follow-up research

Dutch TNO study review and recommendations for further study (3G / UMTS)

Magda Havas is an expert witness in EM sensitivity. If you have the time, this presentation is a must.

Practical guidelines, Barcelona

Dr Neil Cherry, report to New Zealand; ICNIRP guidelines inadequate

Conference papers leading to the Salzburg Resolution on mobile phones and base stations, 2000

Don Maisch, representing the Consumers Federation of Australia, ICNIRP guidelines inadequate

Response to ‘Calcite Microcrystals in the Pineal Gland of the Human Brain’, Dr Grahame Blackwell

Cell phone convenience or 21st Century Plague? on RF Safe website, and why some scientists lost funding.

  The use of pulsed radiation in warfare because of known effects. This extract is from a very important chapter in The Body Electric by Dr Robert Becker (1985!), and it deserves patient reading: Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.

Electromagnetic radiation in ‘low intensity conflict’

TETRA, Nettlebed Woods, Oxon
Your blue sky dream? This tall mast, so very much taller than Arundel Station and Woodside Road, is the one with the heart pacemaker warning!

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