Radiation from phone masts not at dangerous levels, says report

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The Independent Online

Fears of dangerously high levels of electromagnetic radiation being emitted from mobile phone masts and base stations are misplaced, internal government figures suggest.

The Radio Communications Agency is halfway through a study of emissions at 100 schools. Preliminary findings show electromagnetic radiation levels are in most cases "thousands of times" below accepted guidelines.

"The audit has found there are no real problems," said an insider at the agency, which is funded by the Department of Trade and Industry.

The audit's findings represent a big boost to mobile operators, which, telecoms experts say, will need to build 50,000 mobile phone masts and base stations to support the rollout of third generation services.

The findings will also help to support moves by the operators to co-locate transmitters on single sites.

BT Wireless, which is set to be spun out of BT in November this year, announced two months ago that it is sharing investment in masts and base stations with Deutsche Telekom. BT Wireless's Cellnet will cooperate with Deutsche Telekom's One2One in the UK, while in Germany, BT's Viag Interkom unit and Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobil will work together.

The report's preliminary results are likely to cause controversy among campaign groups that have been fighting mobile operators and the development of masts on health grounds.

The findings reveal that all the base stations that have been surveyed have emitted levels significantly below international guidelines. The transmitter near Brixham Community College in Brixham, Devon, that was surveyed at the end of last month, emitted radiation at a level 0.0023 of the international guidelines. The highest level of radiation recorded by the audit was 0.0033 of the maximum levels stipulated. "The emissions are well in the accepted level, often thousands of times below national and international guidelines," said Mike Clark, spokesman for the National Radiological Protection Board, the radiation watchdog.

The survey, which has so far audited 48 schools, is ongoing and is due to be rolled out into Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is due to be completed in March when the findings will be analysed.

The Radio Communications Agency, which handled the auction of the UK's third-generation licences that netted the Government £22.5bn, is measuring the non-ionising radiation emitted by base stations.

The measurements are being used to determine whether the levels meet the guidelines set out by the International Commission on non-ionising radiation protection. "Our base stations operate within national and international guidelines and do not present a health risk to any members of the public," said a One2One spokesman.

The spokesman added: "People should draw some reassurance from these figures. They confirm what the industry has been saying."

A spokesman for Orange said: "A typical Orange transmitter site operates at levels many hundreds of times below national and international guidelines, in areas where the general public would have access."