• 10 APR 07
    • 0

    #696: Threat of health survey scares off Telco

    From Richard Branhall via D Ward:

    Mobile phone mast scuppered by £200 Citizen Epidemiology survey
    Local Council votes Orange out three times; Orange not to appeal.

    Orange has withdrawn its application to install a mobile phone transmitter in the tower of St. Michael’s church in Aberystwyth, Wales, UK. This unexpected development comes immediately after Green Audit (LLRC’s scientific advisers) began a local health survey.
    LLRC funds health questionnaire
    Dr. Chris Busby of Green Audit said “We set out to discover the baseline of health before the microwave transmissions could begin. We intended to do a follow-up survey after the mast went into operation.”
    The Low Level Radiation Campaign felt that this was an opportunity for sound epidemiology. Since the study population would be identical to the control, the only difference would be the microwave exposure. This approach would provide reliable data on the effects.
    Funded by LLRC, Green Audit designed a questionnaire and distributed it to a sample of houses in the area. We have used this method to monitor the effects of radioactive contamination in other parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland.
    In Aberystwyth the initial survey was to be followed up a few weeks after the mast began transmitting at full power. Green Audit also planned to measure local field intensities.
    Background
    Local opposition to the transmitter was strong because St. Michael’s church, where it was to be sited, is in a residential area and close to Castle Park, a popular children’s playground and tourist attraction. There is evidence that living near such transmission antennae causes a range of health effects, from leukaemia and lymphoma to neurological symptoms like sleep disturbances, headaches, and depression. A paper outlining the scientific issues was sent to the local council (Ceredigion District Council) in September last year. The Council rejected the application three times.
    Surprise rejection
    The last rejection was a surprise development because it was expected that the applicants (Orange and the Rector of St. Michael’s, Reverend Stuart Bell whose church was in line to receive annual payments of £5000) would thereafter appeal to the Welsh Assembly Government in Cardiff. The Health Protection Agency would have advised that there was no measurable health threat, Orange would have won the appeal, and costs in the region of £30,000 – 35,000 would have been awarded against Ceredigion District Council. But it looks as if Councillors had the courage to stand up to these bullying tactics.
    Surprise retreat
    Immediately following the commencement of the health survey, the Council has written to Green Audit to say that Orange and the Rector are not appealing; they have withdrawn the application.
    Precedent
    This could be a useful precedent. LLRC does not usually address non-ionising radiation but this looks like a case where just a whiff of good epidemiology, independent of industry funding and reviewers’ bias and backed up by the implicit threat that (as usual) we would go straight to the press and the internet to release the results, has been enough to overcome the bad science that characterises radiation risk.

    Chris Busby’s recently published Wolves of Water, (which LLRC calls a Science Wars Combat Manual) has information about how and where we have used questionnaire surveys, like the Aberystwyth Orange study. (see http://www.llrc.org/wings/subtopic/wolves.htm)
    The paper which Chris Busby and Roger Coghill sent to Ceredigion Councillors in September 2006 is on the LLRC website http://www.llrc.org. Scroll down to the Mobile phones button on the left and follow the links.
    Background information on the Aberystwyth application from a September 2006 Cambrian News report — http://www.aberystwyth-today.co.uk/today/options/news/newsdetail.cfm?id=
    132925&hididarch=archive

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