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Howard's End: Cell Phone Towers Make You Unhappy

In a landmark decision the British Government Planning Inspectorate last week rejected an application for a cell phone mast in a residential area on health grounds. John Howard writes.

The British Government Planning Inspectorate has turned down an appeal by Orange to erect mobile phone masts in a residential area of Harrow.

The move, expected to have major implications for hundreds of similar cases in Britain, came in the week when a Government advisory panel admitted potential health risks for children living near power lines.

The original application for the cell phone tower was refused by the Harrow City Council in May last year with last week's Planning Inspectorate rejection of the appeal now supporting that decision.

The Inspectorate's report states: " The need to site the installation in the location proposed does not outweigh the serious harm it would cause to neighbouring residents in terms of anxiety about the possible health effect and visual amenity."

Harrow councillor Navin Shah, a planning spokesperson, said the decision will go some way towards dealing with the serious and genuine concerns residents have expressed about the short and long-term health effects.

"Up until now the advice to planning authorities has been that health considerations should not be taken into account, as long as the radio waves from the mast fall within recommended guidelines."

"This appeal decision at last confirms the genuine fears of local people are being recognised and we are now in a much stronger position to listen to our residents' concerns," he said.

In a statement Orange said: " Orange appealed against the council's decision to refuse the application and we are disappointed with the ruling of the Planning Inspectorate."

A recent independent survey found that eighty-eight percent of London local authorities are worried about the health effects of phone masts.

Opponents of cell phone towers, electromagnetic fields and radiation also worry that recommended guideline levels are flawed.

I've looked at this issue over many years and I have seen extensive research which suggests that apart from cancer and child leukaemia, the guidelines used do not take account of the effects on the total body of symptoms such as interference with hormones, the central nervous and subliminal fight-or-flight stressors, blood pressures, reproductive problems, adrenalin exhaustion and cataracts.

Opponents argue that regulators in the West have consistently, but wrongly, adopted a "dead body policy" and have extended no protection until there was absolute proof of sufficient harm.

They argue that the guidelines and standards should be set to not only prevent damage but to avoid anxiety over health effects to people. Anxiety itself is a stressor.

Some medical researchers, too, are concerned with the research. I've seen research where Cortisone levels in monkeys have shown a stress response for six days when subjected to electro magnetic fields, but it then subsided, suggesting that the animal had adapted.

Initially it appears the electro stress activates the hormonal and/or immune systems to a higher level than normal, enabling the animal to escape danger or combat disease (fight or flight). If stress continues hormone levels and immune reactivity gradually decline to normal.

Some researchers say that if you stop your experiment at this point you're apparently justified in saying, 'See, the animal has adapted the stress is doing no harm.'

But if the stressful condition persists, hormone and immune levels decline further, well below normal and stress decompensation has set in. The animal is now more susceptible to other stressors including malignant growths and infectious diseases.

As long ago as 1979, two American scientists confirmed the work of British doctor F. Stephen Perry of Wolverhampton, who revealed that people living near overhead high-voltage power lines seemed more prone to depression than others.

They also set out to prove the argument that magnetic fields fell rapidly as people moved about 100 metres away from the lines. What they found, however, was that while this did occur, the rate of decrease actually lessened with distance so that the field was often well above background level up to a kilometre away.

The American scientists had already done experiments on rats which showed that extremely low electric fields changed the norepinephrine levels in rat brains - depletion of this neurotransmitter in certain areas of the brain was found to be a clinical sign of depression.

They confirmed Perry's work who had reasoned that suicide was the one unequivocal and measurable sign of extreme depression. The American scientists plotted the addresses of 598 suicides on maps showing the location of power lines in Perry's locality and they compared this distribution with a set of addresses chosen at random.

They found that magnetic fields averaged 22 percent higher at suicide addresses than at the control addresses with areas of the strongest magnetic fields containing 40 percent more fatal locations than randomly selected houses.

Harrow Citizens Against Mobile Phone Masts spokeswoman Sharon Price said, " We fought for over a year and I am absolutely thrilled that the appeals have been dismissed. There is a feeling of relief."

Without doubt, people are not convinced that electromagnetic fields and radiation is not harming them. In light of the rejection of the appeal in Britain, what we should do in New Zealand is change the "dead body policy" standards and guidelines and extend some protections.


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