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14/01/2005 - Stewart Report (revised)

Sir William StewartSir William stated that he believed that the evidence for possible harm has become stronger in the (almost) 5 years since the publication of his original IEGMP Report. Sir William recommended that young people should be encouraged to minimise their of a mobile phone, and that children under about 10 years old should not have one. Recently the EU REFLEX project confirmed DNA and protein changes in repeated laboratory experiments that point towards the likelihood that mobile phone use and maybe base station microwave emissions may both be a cause of increased numbers of cancers. Not only has the acoustic neuroma link with brain tumours been confirmed recently, but the incidence of other tumours also seem to sharply rise after 5 years of using a mobile phone only once per day. Other effects reported include headaches, chronic fatigue and early onset dementia when people get to middle age. Leif Salford's work with rats shows good reason for young people not to hold a mobile phone to their head.

Summary:

The second Stewart Report made several recommendations about tightening up mast network guidelines and protecting the vulnerable. Sir William Stewart repeated the advice from the expert group in 2000 that children should use a mobile phone for essential calls only. 5 million children in the UK have a mobile phone.

Sir William Stewart (head of the NRPB) summarised "Because of the current uncertainties we recommend a continued precautionary approach to the use of mobile phone technologies. Because everyone has a mobile phone does not necessarily mean that they are without potential adverse health effects."

Main recommendations in line with the precautionary approach. The NRPB Press Release highlighted:

  • comparative information on the SAR values of different phones be made readily available to better inform consumer choice. (The NRPB Board also say that the public need to understand the limitations of published SAR values)
  • improvements be made in ensuring ready access by the public to all up to date and relevant information related to the use of mobile phones and of masts.
  • a continuing research programme on the possible health effects of mobile phone technologies be strongly supported.
  • particular attention be given to how best to minimise exposure of potentially vulnerable sub-groups such as children and to consider the possibility that there may be other sub-groups who may be particularly sensitive to radiowaves.
  • the planning process associated with the erection of mobile phone base stations be subject to independent review.
  • the legal responsibilities and regulations in relation to the installation of microcells and picocells should be clarified and more information about their deployment be made available. This comes from NRPB concern that they found 40% of low height base station antennas were being fed at higher power than the ETSI GSM Standard specify for Micro-cells. This is set out in NRPB Report W-62. Powerwatch will be issuing a separate story about this soon (early Feb 2005). The situation is quite scandalous.
  • monitoring of potential exposures from 3G base stations be carried out concomitantly with the rollout of the network.
  • a formal inspection procedure be set in place to ensure that exclusion zones around base stations are clearly identified.

The NRPB Board welcome the government intention to increase the penalty for using a mobile phone while driving to 3 penalty points and a £60 fine. They recommend that OFCOM ensures that the information on the surveys on its sitefinder website be more readily accessible, easily interpretable by members of the public and kept up to date.

The report acknowledges the Swedish and German studies and the AGNIR review (2003) showing evidence for potential health problems from the technology. (Executive Summary [ES] paragraph 13). The NRPB Board recommends further research (with government and industry funding) including:

  • An expanded programme of research on TETRA signals and biological effects
  • Effects of RF exposure on children
  • Electromagnetic hypersensitivity and its possible impact on health, including well-being, associated with mobile phone technology
  • Studies of RF effects on direct and established measures of human brain function and investigations of possible mechanisms involved

Powerwatch comment

In response to public concern, the NRPB investigated 20 base stations to establish public exposure levels. Astonishingly, they specifically chose to exclude the low-height high-power base stations that radiate people most highly and instead focussed on low power masts, and concluded that exposures are no more than 8% of guidelines (which we think are set far too high)!

ES (Executive Summary) paragraph 41 insists that possible health concerns be a national, rather than local, consideration with respect to base station planning applications. Whilst the Office of the Deputy prime Minister supports concerns about health effects as a legitimate consideration and the judiciary overturn cases hinging on such concerns, the general public are left dazed by the double think standards that make these contradictions possible.

ES paragraph 42 reads "The Board believes that it is timely for there to be set in place a much clearer and more readily understandable template of protocols and procedures to be followed by local authorities and phone operators across the UK". What should the restrictions be with respect to microcell and picocell equipment attached to buildings or on free standing "street furniture"? The controls over these developments seem both very weak and obscure and open to unacceptable local variation. The call for 'an open and transparent process' with respect to planning applications (ES paragraph 43) is certainly a welcome recommendation.

We are still concerned that it is being stated that TETRA base stations do not pulse. The definition of signal modulation seems to have changed in order to exclude TETRA signals. This is, we, believe, misleading and inaccurate. However, the Board does suggest that "Until much more information becomes available, it would be premature to rule out the possibility of health effects on users of TETRA based equipment and believes that a precautionary approach should be adopted." (ES paragraph 54)

We also welcome the recommendation that hands-free kits should be tested for their effectiveness in reducing RF radiation and that this information be readily available at point of sale. (ES paragraphs 73 & 74)