February 15, 2002 10:45 AM PST

U.K. probes wireless link to cancer cases

A London council is spending thousands of pounds on scientific tests in an attempt to see whether mobile phone masts could have caused a cluster of cancer cases.

see CNET report: Cell phone safety Residents of Carnarvon Road, a street near Epping Forest in northeast London, successfully urged councilors to pay for checks on mobile masts near their homes. An expert team from the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) will monitor emission levels at several points in the area--a move that the council hopes will help to dispel the fears of local residents.

The tests will take place Feb. 28 and are expected to cost $4,650 (3,250 pounds). The NRPB scientists will test whether levels of exposure to non-ionizing radiation are within international safety guidelines.

It emerged last year that there is a cluster of cancer cases near to a building on Carnarvon Road where a number of mobile transmitters are located. Five of the seven houses nearest to this building are home to a person with cancer.

According to the Radiocommunications Agency, two mobile phone masts are situated on buildings on Carnarvon Road. Its Sitefinder Internet utility--a record of every mobile phone mast in the United Kingdom--lists one Orange mast and one One2One mast. Both are reported to be operating within their maximum licensed power.

Local member of parliament Iain Duncan Smith--leader of the Conservative Party--recently demanded action to see whether these cases could be linked to the nearby mobile masts.

"There is an urgent need for the government to carry out swift research into the connection between mobile phone masts and cancer," said Duncan Smith, Member of Parliament for Chingford and Woodford Green.

Local politicians have acknowledged that there is considerable public concern about mobile phone masts, even though there is no evidence linking them to health risks. "The number of masts on Forest House has concerned local residents for some time, and we will now find out what impact they have on radiation levels in the area," councilor Ian Bond said in a recent statement.

"What we cannot answer on our own is whether the current radiation guidelines are appropriate. I will continue to press the Government to give research on this a higher priority," Bond added.

Fifteen research projects are under way at a cost of $6.4 million to see whether mobile phone use can cause health effects.

The Stewart Inquiry, an independent, government-backed study into mobile phone safety, concluded in 2000 that while there is no general risk to the health of people living near base stations--on the basis that exposures are expected to be well within guidelines--there can be "indirect adverse effects on their well-being in some cases."

The Inquiry warned that anxiety over mobile phone masts could affect the health of some people.

Graeme Wearden reported from London.

 

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