Communications Masts

Health written question – answered on 10th March 2004.

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Photo of Mr Andy King Mr Andy King Labour, Rugby and Kenilworth

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action the Department has taken to investigate the potential health risks of Tetra masts in residential areas.

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

The Stewart Report, in 2000, provided a thorough and comprehensive consideration of the public health concerns associated with mobile phone systems and is available on the web site at www.iegmp.org.uk. The report dealt principally with signals from the widely used mobile phone (GSM) technologies but it did note some contradictory results when examining the biological effects of pulsed radio signals similar to those associated with TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio). While no obvious health effect was suggested, it did recommend a precautionary approach.

The main conclusion about base stations from the Stewart Report was that:

"the balance of evidence indicates that there is no general risk to the health of people living near to base stations on the basis that exposures are expected to be small fractions of guidelines".

A substantial number of measurements of potential exposures of the public from base station emissions, have now been made by a number of bodies, including the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB)—www.nrpb.org and the Radiocommunications Agency (now part of OFCOMwww.ofcom.org.uk). These measurements include emissions from TETRA base stations. In all cases exposures have been very much lower than the guidelines published by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

The latest report from NRPB's Advisory Group on Non-Ionizing Radiation (AGNIR), entitled "Health Effects from Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields" was published on 14 January 2004 addressed the base station issue and concluded that: "Exposure levels from living near to mobile phone base stations are extremely low, and the overall evidence indicates that they are unlikely to pose a risk to health."

Following a request by the Home Office to the NRPB, the issue of possible health effects caused by signals from TETRA base stations was comprehensively addressed by AGNIR. It published its report, "Possible Health Effects from Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA)", in 2001. This is available as Documents of NRPB, Volume 12, No 2, 2001, or on the NRPB web site at www.nrpb.org. AGNIR noted that whereas the signals from the TETRA handsets are pulsed, those from TETRA base stations are not pulsed. AGNIR concluded, therefore, that there is no reason to believe that signals from TETRA base stations should be treated differently from other base stations. The AGNIR report also found that exposures of the public to signals from TETRA base stations are small fractions of international guidelines.

TETRA technologies are included within the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) programme set by the Government 2001—www. mthr.org.uk. An associated programme, specifically on TETRA, is being funded by the Home Office—http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk. A number of projects are already under way, but it will be some time before the results are available.

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