TETRA and health
What is it, and what are the problems?
The key question here is whether TETRA masts or handsets present a risk to health and well-being. Since TETRA has been used, and especially during the construction of the Airwave network, people have reported consistent reactions to the mast emissions, and to handset use. Much of this is described as electro-hypersensitivity (EHS), or microwave sickness. Some is much more serious. Such is the amount of this, that campaign groups all over the UK have sought official investigation: medical, environmental, and technical. The health effects are nothing to do with signal strengths, since these are well below the international guidelines (ICNIRP) on protection from acute thermal effects from radiation. The concern is with non-thermal biological effects, probably related to the coherent (regular, consistent) signal frequencies used by TETRA. These effects are not unique to TETRA: other mobile phone masts can do the same. What is different is the number of people affected, and how quickly they are affected.
This statement from the Home Office is a complete disgrace:
Why might some people report suffering ill-health?
Mobile phones and TETRA terminals do get warm, not because of radio frequencies but because of the current flowing from the battery. Some of the energy of the current dissipates into warmth that is then radiated as infrared radiation or conducted directly by contact to the head. There is no more risk involved in that than in standing in the sun or washing one’s hands in hot water.
Symptoms like nausea, tingling, headaches and sleep disturbances can sometimes appear as part of what is called a psychosomatic condition. These symptoms are very real to people who suffer them, but instead of being produced by the actual risk, they are internally generated by stress due to the perception of that risk by the sufferer. They can be reported for example by people who become concerned about something in their environment, about their food, or the possibility of exposure to chemicals. Studies on mobile phones have consistently found that a small proportion of users reports this type of symptoms.
Why should there be a small number of users who are particularly hypersensitive to the perceived risk of radio frequency radiation?
Further studies on this topic have been sponsored by the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research programme.
What this Home Office statement completely fails to tell you is that people are affected before they know about masts, that the sensations people feel have enabled them to find previously unknown masts, and that they can find masts in new areas blindfold.
What this Home Office statement completely fails to tell you is that there is absolutely no evidence that any of the EHS is psychosomatic in any way. In fact there is no TETRA mast research on health currently being undertaken or proposed. Some groups have undertaken their own surveys (Sussex, and Perthshire), but of course these are instantly dismissed as being unimportant and unscientific. But they are valid observations and should not be ignored.
What this Home Office statement completely fails to tell you is that there have been very many police reports of being affected (and their unknowing family members) by using TETRA handsets.
Mast Sanity health survey. If you have suffered any adverse health effects from TETRA, download this short questionnaire and post it back. All our evidence counts, and one day it will be taken seriously. But not if you suffer in silence.
Remember: there is no health and safety legislation within the United Kingdom regulating exposures to radio frequency emissions.
Worried? Two things are important from the start. Undue anxiety can be as important as scientifically established risk. We all have the right to live in peace and freedom, without threat or duress. In fact it is established in case law that planning permission for such things as TETRA masts can be refused on the grounds of fear of endangerment to health.
Take a look at our health links pages for the research behind the concern about microwave radiation from masts and cellphones.
Now the detail: the reasons why TETRA is a risk to health
Worried? You should be. There are no live long-term trials of the effects of 17.6Hz pulsed electromagnetic radiation (EMR) on human beings. Nevertheless there is strong anecdotal evidence of health problems attributed to these masts. Youve probably heard reports about people sensitive to EMR in the case of high tension power lines (see the recent sculpture near Bristol) as well as mobile phone masts. What is different about TETRA is that pulsed EMR is regarded as more aggressive. O2 Airwave has been experimenting with filling or masking the gaps between the signal slots; either they already know this is the problem, or it is an experiment on a phenomenon they didnt expect us to experience. Remember: TETRA operates on full power, all traffic slots filled, 24/7, with a coherent amplitude modulation at bio-active frequencies.
Why the worry? Principally, the TETRA signal operates using a signal component at 17.6Hz (the pulsing). This is very close to beta brain waves and the resonant frequency of calcium ions, vital to neural activity, at around 16Hz. If you are reading this, your brain is operating with beta waves; they are the ones that make you awake, and that feature in the restorative phases of sleep (REM). Research has clearly shown that there is a direct effect of this kind of radiation on the brain in a number of ways. For more, see our Pulse page. Dont just take our word for it, use our links and science pages to find out more, especially the Trower Report and his August 2004 update. What have you been told about the origins of the Trower Report? NRPB would have it that it was not commissioned by the police at all... You judge for yourself.
All over the UK, people have been reporting the same adverse symptoms coincident with the switching on of TETRA installations. There are only two possible conclusions: either the correlation is due to TETRA and must be properly and urgently investigated, or there is something else that happens at the same time in the same place as TETRA, perhaps unconnected. If so, that too must be urgently and properly investigated by the same bodies.
However, the government, the NRPB and the Health Protection Agency are sitting on their hands. They say its all too complicated to work out. mmO2, however, say that it simply isnt happening at all, and that we must be educated (that is what Airwave Managing Director Peter Richardson and Chairman David Arculus say officially.)
Remember much of this is symptomatic, that is, a sign of something else happening. Why do we note children? Because their size makes their bodies resonate more to the wavelength of TETRA radiation.
Those living near TETRA have no escape; if it makes you ill, you cant go home to recover.
Magda Havas, Trent University, Canada, illustrates why people find this hard to understand until they are affected, in ‘Cell phone headaches, cell tower blues’.
There is a big issue here about interpretation, of openness and truthfulness. O2 and the NRPB in effect are covering up, then saying that because they cannot think of a cause for our illnesses, that they must be nothing to do with them, or that we are making it up. This amounts to criminal irresponsibility on a national scale. What does it feel like to live with TETRA?
What does the Department of Trade and Industry think? While welcoming the evaluation of the TETRA system now underway and recommending that the results are made publicly available as soon as possible we are very disturbed that there seems to have been no examination of the evidence on potentially adverse health effects before bringing it into service...
Read this submission from the Radiation Research Trust (PDF) to the Department of Trade and Industry and Department of the Environment (December 2003!), on why the increasing incidence of adverse health effects should lead to changes in planning.
What is happening with current research?
Take a look at the mmO2 web page on their values: Clear? Open? Trusted??
Here are just some of the many examples. For research papers, see our Links on health and page on chronic exposure to TETRA and EMF. These examples are a smattering of protests, and all the same experiences over planning, the immediate health effects and the fears, right across the country.
It isnt just a local or UK issue
More news from Mast Action
A very important US paper (more for the scientists among you!)
Others at Council on Wireless Technology Impacts
You want to know more than anecdotes and reports? Take a deep breath and look at the science.
We could give you many links saying TETRA is safe, from Motorola, Airwave, the Home Office etc. But how sure do you feel about TETRA? Is there evidence, and is it conclusive? Take a look at Imperial College London.
If you have staying power, track the Imperial College programme over the next 15 years!
Such irony. TETRA is in the roof of the Multiple Sclerosis Societys National Information Centre.