More tests for school mobile masts

One hundred extra base stations will be monitored in an attempt to boost public confidence in the safety of mobile phone masts

Mobile phone masts sited on or near schools will continue to be monitored for safety reasons, even though a recent study found no evidence that emission limits were being broken.

Douglas Alexander, the e-commerce minister, announced on Monday that electromagnetic emissions from 100 mobile phone masts will be measured during 2002. Most of the transmitters tested will be based on or near schools, while others are situated on locations such as hospitals.

"It is important that the public have all the information available to them, in an open and accessible way," said Alexander in a statement. "Mobile phones are changing the way we live and work. I am committed to continuing this programme as mobile communications remain important in the development of our society and economy," he added.

The measurement programme will be carried out by the Radiocommunications Agency (RA), which completed an audit of mobile base stations located on or near schools earlier this year. This programme was recommended by the Stewart Inquiry -- an independent expert investigation into the issue of mobile phone safety.

As ZDNet UK News reported in January, the RA's earlier audit found that all the masts examined were operating well within the safety guidelines. Emission levels were typically thousands of times lower than the legal maximum.

Despite there being no scientific evidence that mobile base stations can cause adverse health effects, many people are concerned -- especially those who discover that a mobile network operator has erected a transmitter on or near their local school.

Schools will able to apply to the RA to be included in this new testing programme.

Local pressure groups have had some success in their fight against mobile network operators. Last year Kent County Council decided not to allow any new masts to be built on its land, and Stockport Council recently managed to force Orange to remove a mast from a local school.

"Base stations on or near schools can be a cause of real concern for parents and schools; the audit results are an important step in reassuring the public that base stations do operate within the relevant international guidelines," explained Ivan Lewis, Minister for Young People and Learning.

The rollout of 3G networks will involve many more masts being built. According to Alexander, mobile operators must liase with local residents and address their concerns.

"The mobile phone industry has the responsibility to work closely with communities when putting up masts and base stations. They should work together, to lessen any impact on communities. Building public confidence is essential to building a strong future for the industry," Alexander said.


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