Concerns that mobile phone transmission masts emit high levels of radiation have been dismissed by an official study published today.
A report by the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) has found that the level of radiation emitted by phone masts is not hazardous to the safety of people working or living close by.
The NRPB investigation follows growing public concern that radio-frequency (RF) emissions from masts can cause adverse health effects on people in the surrounding vicinity. Earlier this month, anti-mobile phone mast campaigners urged the UK government not to erect masts next to schools.
The NRPB conducted tests on 118 locations near to 17 transmission masts (base station) sites situated where people lived, worked or had frequent access. Measurements showed that the average exposure to radiation from RF signals reached just 0.002 per cent of international guidelines.
At the locations measured, up to 250 metres from the base stations, the level of radiation did not decrease with increasing distance from the mast. Concrete roofs tend to absorb most of the radiation emitted by roof-top masts.
"It is important that research is done to investigate public concern. While the testing of all locations produced similar findings, mobile phone masts will continue to be researched and monitored," said a NRPB spokeswoman, who would not reveal the exact locations that were tested.
The Consumers Association said it welcomed research into the safety of mobile phones from reputable bodies such as the NRPB. However, the watchdog said measures need to be introduced to give people a say on the installation of masts.
"People ought to be consulted. There is currently no compulsion by local authorities or planning groups to consult local residents. While the NRPB's findings may be scientifically right, there may be other factors that affect people's decisions on masts," said a spokeswoman for the Consumers Association.
Last month the Independent Expert Group on mobile phones (IEGMP), chaired by Sir William Stewart, published a report into the safety of mobile phones. It recommended that particular attention be paid to the installation of masts near schools.
The report said that all masts require planning permission and must be regularly inspected. If masts are situated close to a school, radio frequency beams with the greatest intensity must not fall on school buildings or grounds. A random on-going audit of base stations and the set-up of a national database detailing all base stations and their emissions was also recommended.
The NRPB said that while the findings of its study are likely to be typical, it is not an exhaustive study and a much larger one is required.
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