News for Cyprus

People power must take on cell phone antennas
Cyprus Created: 9 Jan 2011
OVER five billion people use cell phones today - We are immersed in a sea of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) generated by electrical and wireless devices in our homes, offices, schools, cars, restaurants - just about everywhere.
In Pegeia, as elsewhere in Cyprus, more and more cell phone antennas are popping up in neighbourhoods. Along with this mushrooming of antennas, public reaction is starting to grow too. The recent furore over the new antennas installed in the occupied north, near the British Bases in Dhekelia, has missed the point. Aside from flexing its muscles as an occupying power, Turkey is doing what happens in every community, as industry and government dismiss concerns about a lack of research on long-term exposure and the laxity of regulations.
There are dangers over possible health effects of this massive human experiment, without due care for the precautionary principle, which has been adopted in Europe. This principle calls for care when there is insufficient scientific evidence to prove public safety. The example of inadequate regulation of cell phones is not the first time the public has been subjected to a biological experiment without informed consent.
To understand how “electrosmog” has developed, there is a revealing study, published by the Canadian Government’s National Research Council last November*. This 26-page, peer-reviewed scientific report details concerns for public safety and suggests that we don't know how much exposure people experience and that current regulations are inadequate. The “gold standards” of scientific research, replication and control groups, have been conveniently ignored. Background levels of electropollution have increased by many thousands of times in the last decade, making exposure to long-term, low-level radiofrequency radiation (RFR) difficult to quantify. Basically, as we’re all immersed in constant EMF pollution, there is no longer a control group to study!
Moreover, original studies from the 1950s, on which current legislation is based, were never replicated and industrial/military interests dominated that research. These standards, incredibly, are based on the “thermal effect”, i.e., RFR’s ability to heat tissue. This ignores non-thermal effects and long-term exposure from multiple sources. The current standards for Europe -International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection or ICNIRP - date back to 1998 and are based on whole-body exposure over very short durations (minutes) and not on long-term, low-level exposures such as affect people on a daily basis. These standards do not take into account that children are more susceptible to damage from cell phone radiation as it penetrates deeper into their skulls and their brains absorb far more energy than those of an adult.
A new industry has developed over the last few decades that provides protection to sensitive people who have figured out that electrosmog is a factor in their ill health. An EMF consultant in the USA told me that he now has a different sort of client - wives of lawyers. It seems that hushed-up industry settlements are having an effect: lawyers’ families are scrambling to protect themselves from what they now know is a public health hazard. There are even a few towns in the USA that advertise “wi-fi free” and people are flocking to live there.
A few months ago in Pegeia, a Residents’ Initiative Group formed to protest the growing number of antennas. There is disquiet amongst Cypriots who report an increase in headaches and what appears to be a high number of cancer cases, especially among children. These are typical symptoms of EMF radiation, although it is too early yet to be certain of the cause of the illnesses.
A decade ago there were only a handful of studies that reported low-intensity biological effects. Currently, there are about 60 papers showing such effects from exposures at levels below existing guidelines. A 2004 Israeli study indicates an association between increased incidence of cancer and living in proximity to a cell phone base station (within a 350 metre half circle of the antennas). The Canadian NRC report states: “The measured level of RFR, between 0.3 to 0.5 ?W/cm2,was far below the thermal guidelines.” The Full Signal**, a 2010 DVD documentary, details this Israeli study and covers related issues in interviews with scientists in several countries.
As a Pegeia Councillor, I am anxious to see this situation handled properly. Pegeia Council agreed to investigate the residents’ complaints, presented at a Council meeting in October 2010. Research revealed that town planning and building permits are required for antennas. In Pegeia, seven of eight installed antennas are without building permits and several lack planning permission. Pegeia Council hired two consultants to measure EMF emissions in 10 locations in Pegeia, one from a private company and one from the University of Cyprus. A public meeting was held in December to present their findings. Predictably, all measurements were well within the current limits of the existing dangerously outdated legislation, often tens of thousands times below the standards. Several times during the meeting, the Mayor called for quiet from the audience, many of whom clearly were not satisfied with the lectures, which included slick Powerpoint presentations from the two representatives who carried out the measurements and from a Ministry of Communications official.
In contrast to what was presented at the Pegeia meeting, the Canadian National Research Council report suggests that, “as a general guideline, cell base stations should not be located less than about 500 metres from the population and at a height of about 50 metres.”
In Pegeia some antennas are at ground level in residential areas. More unsettling is that weeks have passed since the public meeting and no action about removing illegal antennas has been taken, despite declarations by the Mayor that he would be first to act if antennas were illegal. When I spoke of this to the Mayor or Municipal Engineer, the replies are the usual, “Ma, ti na kanoume?” (“What can we do?”), accompanied by the characteristic shrug of the shoulders. They also say that they are under pressure from Nicosia to grant the building permits.
Let’s hope that the grassroots revolt in Pegeia continues to gain strength. Inspired by the parents of Pegeia concerned for the health of their children, they have so far collected over 400 signatures calling for the removal of illegal antennas and demanding that cell phone bases not be placed in residential areas.
I believe that probably the only way that the issue will be resolved is through grassroots activists calling for improvement in legislation. There are important gaps in RFR research and there is a need to create safer infrastructure and better antenna tower siting. It is possible to develop safer technology which reduces RFR exposure but this will cost money. Industry is about private profit and global financial interests have their own agendas.
As we start the year 2011, I’m hoping, yet again, that maybe this is the year of people power – not just on this issue but on many fronts waiting to be tackled at the level of vested public interest vs vested private interest. It is way past time to wake up!

Linda Leblanc is a Councillor for Pegeia Municipal Council for the Coalition of Independents and Cyprus Green Party
* “Biological effects from exposure to electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell tower base stations and other antenna arrays”, by B. Blake Levitt and Henry Lai 5 November 2010 (published by the National Research Council of Canada Research Press, the foremost scientific publisher in Canada)
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Source: Cyprus Mail, Linda Leblanc, 09 Jan 2011

Residents rally against antenna
Cyprus Created: 7 Jun 2008
RESIDENTS in the Apostolos Andreas area of Limassol are staging a demonstration tomorrow, against the EAC’s refusal to remove an unwanted antenna from the roof of a building.

Residents in Ayias Sofias Street claim that radiation from the antenna is linked to the increasing cancer cases in the area, and that it is located too close to a school.

After hearing the two sides at a parliamentary health committee discussion, MP Eleni Theocharous suggested that a solution to the specific area’s problem was found. “The EAC has committed to removing the antenna and possibly the issue of the specific area has been solved,” Theocharous said on Thursday.

The area’s residents, however, received no such promise and confirmed that Sunday’s demonstration will take place as planned. “The EAC did not say they will remove it. They said they will consult with the flat owners of the building, where the antenna stands, and if the owners don’t want it then the EAC will take it down.

“However, the owners were present at the parliamentary discussion and said they do not want it; we have also gathered signatures from all owners on a statement that asks its removal. Still, the EAC wants another consultation,” Neophytos Neroupos, representative of Apostolos Andreas area residents, told the Cyprus Mail.

Neroupos confirmed the demonstration will take place at Ayias Sofias Street, at approximately 9.30am on Sunday and that MPs, city councilors and the press have been invited. He also indicated that the antenna may be brought down by force, if no progress is made.

“People in our area, parents and particularly cancer-sufferers are frustrated. We don’t know how things will develop at the demonstration and we cannot control them. The residents are threatening to tear it down,” he said.

The antenna was installed on the roof of the building in 2002, with the approval of the flat-owners, who signed a five-year contract with the EAC for the installation and operation of the antenna. In the following five year, residents claim that many cancer and leukemia cases occurred within a range of 50-100m from the antenna. When the contract expired last September, the owners refused to renew it, asking the EAC to remove the antenna.

The EAC has refused to remove it, claiming that it is not a threat to health. “The measurements conducted in the area in question, regarding the radiation transmitted from the specific antenna indicate that the radiation is well below the limits set by law,” said President of EAC Council, Stavros Kremmos at Thursday’s parliamentary discussion.

“The mobile phone is more harmful than the antenna. If the issue is about receiving radiation then we should be closer to the antenna, because the further away we are from it, the worse it is,” Kremmos added.

Commenting on the views presented by the EAC, Theocharous pointed out that serious questions remain unanswered. “The disagreement concerned the view of the mobile telephony company which said that if the source is near the population, and that population is using mobile phones, the harmful effect is decreased. If a weak signal reaches an area where a mobile phone is used, then the harm is greater.

“However, the question of what happens if someone is not using a mobile phone and is in an area where electromagnetic radiation is emitted was not answered,” she explained.

Another factor that aggravates residents is the antenna’s proximity to area schools, where 1500 students go every day. “It is well-known that young children, infants and embryos are very sensitive to the harmful energy of electromagnetic radiation and for this reason people are particularly sensitised. We have heard the area’s residents, who ask for the removal of the mobile telephony antenna from the area, which is near a large school with 1500 students,” Theocharous said.

“The final conclusion is that we are trying to apply the EU Directive regarding the placement of emission antennae. The EAC has announced that very soon the dispersion of antennae will stop, with the installation of a small transmitter at each house,” she added.

The issue of the placement of antennae near sensitive spots such as schools and hospitals is particularly relevant, considering a state decision to hide antennae if these are placed near such establishments. In 2006 the Ministry of Interiors had issued an Order (No3 2006) to minimise visual pollution, by hiding antennae, but only when these are placed near schools, hospitals and other sensitive areas.

Chralambos Theopemtou, the Environment Commissioner has requested that this provision is removed, as it merely avoids public reaction to the sight of antennae in sensitive spots. The provision, however, still stands.

“Decision by Ministry of Interiors, according to which when antennae are installed near schools, kindergartens, hospitals and other establishments frequented by children then the antenna should be hidden, so that parents and anyone else cannot see it to avoid reactions,” Theopemptou said at Thursday’s discussion.

“This provision must definitely be removed. A special application of the law should be allowed for such sensitive places, as is the case in other EU countries, for example Greece and the UK,” he added.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Cyprus Mail, Jun 2008

House demands action on mobile phone masts
Cyprus Created: 7 Jun 2008
IMMEDIATE measures must be taken in order to protect the public, and especially children, from the electromagnetic radiation of mobile telephone masts, the Chairman of the House Health Committee said yesterday.

The Committee had discussed the dangers of having masts in such close proximity to schools and other areas where children gather.

“It is well known that small children, infants and embryos are very sensitive to the harmful energy of electromagnetic radiation and for this reason, the public is especially sensitised to the issue,” said Eleni Theocharous of DISY after the meeting.

“We heard from the residents of a specific area, who are up in arms and requesting the immediate removal of a mobile telephone mast from their area, which is next to a school of over 1,500 pupils,” she added.

Theocharous was referring to the residents of Apostolos Andreas in Limassol, who are planning a demonstration over the issue on Sunday.

According to the Committee Chairman, the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CyTA) has agreed to increase the distance between the mast and the neighbourhood.

Environment Commissioner Charalambos Theobemptou blamed part of the problem on a directive by the Interior Ministry, according to which: “when masts are going to be placed near schools, nurseries, hospitals and other establishments where there are children, the mast should be hidden so that parents or anyone else who may react can’t see them.”

This provision, said Theobemptou, “must immediately be deducted”.

CyTA told the committee that the masts would soon be replaced by a small transmitter that will be placed on customers’ homes.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Cyprus Mail, Jun 2008

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