Yesterday I noticed a story in this weeks Richmond and Twickenham Times about ‘people power’ stopping the installation of mobile phone masts on top of a nearby block of flats. I then walked to my computer and found an e-mail from some Protons for Breakfast graduates asking for advice on exactly same subject. In this case it was concern over proposed mobile phone masts in Kingston. I find this continuing concern really interesting.
We have been discussing this topic at Protons for Breakfast for 7 years, and overall people seem less concerned about this issue now they than ever been. Indeed, it has been suggested several times that we drop the subject and talk about something different instead. Children’s only concern about phones is how to get a better one! But I feel that beneath the veneer of acceptance there is deep-seated suspicion of the technology and the mobile phone companies. And there seems to be a constant stream of stories about community objections to mobile phone masts. Since most people who comment on the matter say they feel less anxious about Mobile Phones after Protons for Breakfast, I think the topic is worth retaining. And additionally we get to destroy things in a microwave oven :-).
So what did I say to the Protons for Breakfast graduates? Below is an edited copy of the letter
Dear Protons for Breakfast graduates,
- I sympathise.
- I don’t know whether mobile phones will eventually be shown to cause harm. Nobody knows that. But to the best of my knowledge there is not a single known case in which someone has been harmed as a result of using a mobile phone or because of proximity to a mobile phone mast. And there is no reason to suppose that any harm will arise in future. It is possible, but IMO unlikely. Time will tell.
- The ICNIRP guidelines are estimated by finding the lowest level of known harm. The guideline exposure level for workers in then set at 10% of that level, and at 2% of that level for the public.
- I live about 176 metres from a cluster of mobile phone masts. My children’s primary school playground was 76 metres from the same masts. I did the calculations and then did not lose a moments sleep on the subject.
- Check out the cancer research UK blog on the WHO change in categorisation. I think it is very well written
- My comments on my blog on the same change and also here
- Check out my talk to the IET on the subject – it is long but it is worth watching just for the Independent story!
- Cancer incidence statistics showing that there is no epidemic of brain cancer.
Comments on articles on the BRAG web site
- Response letter. Actually a pretty fair summary and the links in the letter are kosher. There really is no known harm.
- EM Field sources in the home: I couldn’t understand that document.
- WHO statement : Bland political statement.
- The Influence of Being Physically Near to a Cell Phone Transmission Mast on the Incidence of Cancer: This paper is looks like a real scientific paper but is IMO nonsense. It is really extreme to suppose that 200 metres from a cell tower with an output of around 100 Watts (EIRO~1500W) that anyone is being harmed. The intensity reaching a person is ~37 milliwatts per square metre. Mobile phone handsets expose you to 10’s of watts per square metre. Sunlight is 1000 Watts per square metre. So if exposure at that level were dangerous – and there is strong evidence that it is not – then there would really be an epidemic of cancer. And there is not. And if cancer rates had risen by a factor 2 near phone masts there would be an epidemic of cancer – but there isn’t! Perhaps it was the presence of an old people’s home in one of the groups that caused the problem. See the Cancer research blog for believable data.
- Electrosensitivity and the Church – Why you should not put mobile phone masts on churches. There is no evidence that electromagnetic hypersensitivity exists and there is evidence to show that it does not. I actually know one of the authors slightly (Denis Henshaw) and I have written to him to ask for his evidence that electro-hypersensitivity exists. If anything comes back I will let you know.
- Cancer clusters at phone masts: I just don’t believe that. If it were true mobile phones would be dead as would a great many other people.
- Call to ban mobiles and WiFi from schools: This is based on a Daily Express article. See my talk above for examples of nonsense media stories.
- Approaching Epidemic: Brain Damage from Mobile Phone Radiation: This ‘Mercola’ peddles pernicious scare stories. There is no epidemic of brain cancer. I have written about him before and the link is above.
- Bad science: Ben Goldacre is one of the few people who have the time to take apart some of the nonsense that is being peddled out there. He is a kind of saint.
- Zac Goldsmith is a politician. By moving transmitters away from places where people are, he is advocating increasing their exposure to mobile phone radiation because when the base stations are farther away the handsets automatically increase their power to compensate. On any rational assessment it is better to have many more lower power base stations than to have a few stations that are very distant from the people that use them.
I hope this helps