Home Town Centre Nature Footpaths Sports Education Churches
Wine & Dine Shops Fast Food Area History Letters

Coming soon - near you !

Many people are concerned about possible long term health implications of exposure to electromagnetic (EM) radiation from mobile phone handsets and transmitter masts.

While the health evidence might be regarded as inconclusive there is some other evidence which needs to be taken into consideration.

1) The government has received billions of pounds from the sale of transmission licences to the phone companies. So the government has a strong financial interest in the mobile phone business.

2) The planning requirement for masts below 15m was removed by the government.

3) The planning appeal process seems to have been biased in favour of the phone companies. This bias shows up in the large number of appeals which are won by the phone companies. This is not very surprising given that the appeals are adjudicated by a government appointed inspector who is implementing 'government guidelines'. A good example of this was recently provided by Congleton Borough Council who were advised that it would be a waste of money taking the application to appeal since the inspector would be likely to find in favour of the phone company.

Finance Warning: One of these can seriously damage the value of your property!

The above evidence would suggest that the government is acting in the commercial interest of the telephone companies.

If this is true then it raises some question marks over government funded reports and research into the health implications of mobile phones. Use of the word 'independent' is not justified if the funding body has a commercial interest. (If a report into the health aspects of smoking has been funded by a tobacco company most people would read it with some scepticism.)

So it might be reasonable to adopt a sceptical approach when reading information provided by the government on this subject.

This is not to say that the information is false. However there are various ways to present the truth which can create a misleading impression and its important to keep these in mind.

1: Evidence selection

If we want to publish a map proving that the distribution of radioactivity around the area containing a nuclear facility was within government guidelines we could select grid points 1 km apart and arrange it so that the facility does not sit on one of the sampling points. (N.B. This is a purely fictitious example for illustration and there is no suggestion that this has actually been done.)

2: Absence of evidence is evidence of absence

If there is no conclusive evidence on mobile phone safety this can be stated in two ways:

a) "There is no evidence that mobile phones are a health risk"
b) "There is no evidence that mobile phones are safe in the long term"

In the drug industry the company must carry out clinical trials to prove that the drug is safe - a presumption of risk (b)
In the phone industry no clinical trials are required - a presumption of safety (a)

3: Weighing the evidence

If we want to dismiss evidence which is not compatible with our message then we can say that the evidence is 'not conclusive' without specifying the level of proof. So an interesting question is :-
What level of proof would be needed to convince the government that mobile phones are a health risk?
Perhaps we can speculate on the answer by drawing a comparison with the tobacco industry where the government also has a strong commercial interest. In this case it took 30 years and a million deaths and the end result was a warning notice on the packet.

4: False implicit assertion

A report might contain a conclusion like:- "There is no evidence of health risk."
This implies that the committee has considered all the evidence in existence - obviously not true.
What it should say is
"The committee has not seen any evidence of health risk"
or more accurately
"The committee has no idea if there is a health risk or not"

5: Positive Spin / Negative Spin

If we carry out a field strength survey of a school and discover that the Total Band Exposure Quotient is 4.66E-04
we can present this using positive spin eg.
a) "The measured value is 1 / 2145 of the ICNIRP maximum guidline reference level for public exposure.
or on the other hand we could use negative spin eg.
b) "The measured value is 1300 times higher than it was before the mast was installed."

Both statements can be valid however the second one might cause some public concern.
Usually the government prefers the positive spin approach on health matters.

Recommended guidelines for viewing government websites

It is important to realise that government websites never carry any information which might cause public alarm or concern or form a basis for legal action against the government. Furthermore, only a tiny fraction of the raw data is published.
An important function is to provide reassurance to the public that everything is under control and within recommended guidelines.
For example if a survey was carried out in a school and one of the readings was higher than the maximum limit it is unlikely that this would be published since this could be a basis for legal action. What would probably happen in practice is that an engineer would be called to adjust the transmitter and then a new set of readings would be taken. The second set could then be published without any reference to the original values.


a) Sitefinder mobile phone base station database - find your nearest phone mast.
N.B. The masts dont appear until you get to the largest scale

b) Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (Stewart Report)

c) Mobile Phone Base Station Audit - School Results 2003

d) How a microwave oven works

e) How Mobile Phone Networks Work

f) Power lines and cancer

g) United Kingdom Table of Radio Frequency Allocations 9kHz - 105GHz


Comments for publication should be posted on Letters
Comments not for publication should be sent to Boxnum 1251

Home Town Centre Nature Footpaths Sports Education Churches
Wine & Dine Shops Fast Food Area History Letters