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27/09/2005 - TETRA mast worsens epilepsy conditions

A 12-year-old girl with epilepsy will be taught at home after claims a police radio mast near her Haverfordwest school made her condition worse.

Nicola Packard, a girl with epilepsy, has just had to stop going to school because of increased epileptic fits. Living in Pembrokeshire, her condition had stabilised to the point that she had come off her medication and was happily attending her school. However, since a TETRA mast has been erected and turned on nearby, she has had a sudden increase in frequency of seizures to the point where the local education authority have approved home tuition for her.

In a statement Dyfed-Powys Police said "At the moment there is no definitive scientific evidence or proof that a wave-based station can affect people who are susceptible to epilepsy.". Mast operator O2 Airwave have added "Our equipment in Haverfordwest is fully compliant with all national and international guidelines - indeed the level of exposure at the nearest part of any school is 1/3000th of those guidelines."

Original BBC News Online Article - Original article on BBC News Online

Powerwatch CommentsFirstly, let us address O2's comments: We've said it before, but the only international guidelines that exist to cover emissions from TETRA masts in this country are ICNIRP guidelines, which are designed purely to prevent "microwave oven" effects (i.e. actual physical heating effects). These will naturally be orders of magnitude higher than TETRA masts, otherwise local people would be slowly cooked on a daily basis. All the evidence with other microwave radiation of a similar frequency and pulsed modularity (e.g. GSM phones and phone masts) are at far lower levels of power, and the effects are very different in nature. ICNIRP guidelines are simply not designed to assess the possibility of other effects, and so being within guidelines is effectively meaningless.

Secondly, to address the comments by the Police, it would be very hard to conduct a study of specifically epileptic people in the vicinity of TETRA masts because of the difficulties in getting a sample size big enough to be meaningful, and as such no one has put the money in to fund such research yet - this does not mean there is no effect.

Finally, surely in cases like this some level of common sense should prevail: The girl is well enough to go to school, the TETRA mast gets turned on and suddenly the girl is too ill to attend any more. The timing, combined with the research in health effects from other similar technologies, is surely enough to warrant further investigation, and not just hide behind a guideline never designed to protect people from these effects?

(See links on our masts information page showing research of health effects below ICNIRP guidelines, albeit on GSM technology, including this one directly relating to epilepsy)