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|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)
|Click here to view the source article.|
|Source: Cyprus Mail, Linda Leblanc, 09 Jan 2011|
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