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04/07/2003 - 3G / UMTS mobile base station (mast) signals can cause nausea, headache

Microwave signals for the next generation (3G / UMTS) of mobile phone services can cause headaches and nausea, according to a study conducted by three Dutch ministries. They tested two groups of people, totalling about 76 subjects, one group being 'completely healthy' and the other group who had reported to the Dutch Health Monitoring Network that they were suffering adverse health effects from living near to a base station. They excluded subjects who were suffered from epilepsy, brain injury, claustrophobia, or were using medication to counteract mental health problems.

Both groups experienced statistically significant adverse effects on their 'well being' as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The first properly conducted study that exposed people to typical levels of signals that the public would be experience from mobile phone base stations (masts) compared - nothing, GSM900, GSM1800 and UMTS/3G exposures at only 1 volt per metre. At present only Hutchison 3G (a.k.a. '3') is the only UK Operator offering such a system, though the other Operators are all actively installing 3G base stations near to people's homes. The study, conducted by the Dutch technological research institute TNO, was the first to look for an impact of mobile telephones on well-being. It was also the first study to find a statistically significant impact from 3G base stations.

A 3G base station covers a "cell" area of a few square kilometers, and transmits signals to mobile phones using microwave radiation.

No-one knew when anyone was being exposed - it was a welll controlled 'double-blind' study. "When the test group was exposed to third generation base station signals there was a significant impact ... They felt tingling sensations, got headaches and felt nauseous," a spokeswoman for the Dutch Economics Ministry said. There was no overall negative effect from signals for the older GSM mobile network signals.

The study found that cognitive functions such as memory and response times were changed by both 3G signals and the current GSM signals, although the overall effect was to decrease their sense of 'well-being'. 3G signals seemed to stimulate the brain. This supports the anecdotal reports Powerwatch has been receiving from members of the public about disrupted sleep and bad dreams when living near to base stations, especially TETRA and 3G ones.

Government ministers responsible for Economic Affairs, Health and Telecommunications said follow-up research was urgently needed to confirm the findings as well as to look at any longer-term health effects and biological causes.

Previous research did find an effect on cognitive functions, which was also found in the Dutch survey. But TNO noted that earlier studies always measured the impact of cellphones held close to the head, causing high fields of radiation close to the ear and warming of the brain.

TNO's study used a far lower dose of radiation to mimic real base station signals rather than those from handsets held next to the head. Handsets emit stronger radiation when they are used, while base stations transmit more constant levels of radio signals, exposing everyone within range.

TNO-report  FEL-03-C148. Effects of Global Communication system radio-frequency fields on Well Being and Cognitive Functions of human subjects with and without subjective complaints. Prof dr ir APM Zwamborn, Dr ir SHJA Vossen, et al.

This is laboratory confirmation of what we already knew from what members of the general public have been telling us. If you live near to such a mast you can take avoiding action by using microwave screening materials.