• 30 OCT 05
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    Freeze on all phone masts near schools

    From Sylvie:

    The Sunday Times – Ireland


    The Sunday Times October 30, 2005

    Freeze on all phone masts near schools
    John Burns

    THE Office of Public Works has ordered that no more mobile phone masts be erected near schools until a review of radiation has been carried out by officials.

    The operators of a transmitter near St Mary”™s College in Rathmines, Dublin, have been told to switch it off until an inter- departmental committee examining the health effects of electromagnetic radiation has finished its work.

    Tom Parlon, the minister in charge of the OPW, announced the measures in a letter last week to Chris Andrews, a Fianna Fail representative who had raised concerns about the transmitter on Ardee House in Rathmines, used by the Central Statistics Office.

    “Despite the fact that we are absolutely confident this installation complies in all respects with the relevant safety guidelines, the OPW is aware of a continued level of unease over such installations being sited in the vicinity of schools for young children,” Parlon said.

    “Recently the cabinet approved the setting up of (the committee), which is charged with investigating all the scientific data available and, if necessary, (to) issue recommendations for revised guidelines for telecoms installations.”

    Parlon has also told a telecom company not to proceed with a mast on a government building in Sligo. Up to 500 civil servants working there planned to go on strike if three antennae were erected, citing concerns about their own health and that of 37 children in a nearby creche.

    An OPW official said: “We granted a licence to a telecom operator for the mast but that”™s now on hold. That and Ardee House are the only ones we”™ve had representations on.”

    The government”™s move will be welcomed by campaigners who claim that people living close to masts can experience ill-health. They say electrosensitivity, a condition where people suffer headaches, nausea and muscle pains when exposed to electromagnetic fields from masts or pylons, is becoming more common.

    Andrews said: “I would hope the committee will quickly issue recommendations for revised guidelines. Up to now masts were erected on public buildings without the need to apply for planning permission, provided they were under two metres and notification was sent to the local authority 28 days beforehand. This is crazy, particularly when many experts express caution.

    “I am happy that the phone companies are being forced to listen to the genuine concerns of the community. Comreg, the communications regulator, monitors only 40% of all sites. This isn”™t good enough. Residents and school children must be protected.”

    Earlier this year a joint Oireachtas committee recommended that planning exemptions be examined with a view to ensuring that no electromagnetic emissions be allowed near health centres, schools, playgrounds, sports pitches or other sensitive areas.

    Two weeks ago a protest was mounted outside Cork University Hospital demanding the removal of O2 and Vodafone phone mast equipment attached to the building. Better Environmental and Safer

    Telecommunications, a campaign group, said it was highly irresponsible for a hospital to facilitate mobile phone operators by allowing antennae on their buildings.

    There are now over 5,000 dedicated mobile phone sites in the republic and this may double in the next decade.

    Mobile phone operators say the level of radiation emitted from masts is well below the international guideline. The government earns up to ?500,000 a year by allowing transmitters on public buildings.

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