Christian Ecology Link  [Printer-friendly version]
July 1, 2002

MOBILE PHONE MASTS IN CHURCH SPIRES AND TOWERS

[Rachel's introduction: The issue of cell phone towers or antennas --
in Europe, called "masts" -- has roiled the Christian community as
churches have been offered lucrative contracts to install cell phone
antennas in church steeples. Here the interdenominational Christian
Ecology Link advocates a precautionary position.]

An information note concerning possible health problems arising from
the siting of mobile phone masts in churches.

The ethos behind Christian Ecology Link's approach is that of "care
for one's neighbour" and the "precautionary principle". We believe
that the church must demonstrate its responsibility to those who live
in the local community, whose health may be threatened by the siting
of masts in churches where there are schools or homes nearby.

Decisions concerning whether to site masts in churches should be taken
on the basis of the precautionary principle, which requires scientists
to demonstrate that there is no significant likelihood of harm arising
from the use of a new technology. The onus is on the scientist to
demonstrate safety before the new technology is introduced. A
£7m
research programme on the safety of mobile phones and related
technology was launched by the Government in 2001; the results are not
yet available.

Despite the financial attraction, we believe that churches should
exercise great caution at the present time. Any church that installs a
mast should display a notice so that the community is aware of the
presence of the mast and individuals have the opportunity to choose an
alternative place of worship if concerned about potential health
risks.

This is not intended as a comprehensive briefing, but provides
references from organisations, scientists and other individuals who
have written critically about the subject. The Church of England has a
relevant web-site: www.aerials.cofe.anglican.org

1. A report expressing concerns about the health implications appeared
in the medical journal The Lancet on 25th November 2000 by Dr. Gerard
Hyland of the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick. Dr.
Hyland reported his concerns to the Science and Technology Committee
of the House of Commons in September 1999 and the Industry, Trade,
Research and Energy Committee of the European Parliament in July 2001.

In February 2000 Dr. Hyland reported on research which found that
existing safety guidelines failed to consider the possibility of
adverse health effects on living organisms in fundamental ways. He
highlighted the case of an epileptic child living near a Mast Base
Station. The number of seizures increased from two a month to an
average of eight a day when close to the mast. He reported a similar
pattern with other children suffering from headaches and nosebleeds.
He also reported findings of reduced growth in pine trees, chromosomal
and reproductive damage in plants and a six-fold increase in
chromosome damage in cows. He concluded that the occurrence of adverse
health effects in the case of animals indicates that the effects of
operating masts are real and not psychosomatic.

2. Dr. Roger Coghill is another scientist who has warned about the
dangers of mobile phone telecommunications masts. He has a research
laboratory in South Wales. Dr Coghill has studied the effects of
electromagnetic radiation on living tissue and has warned that mobile
phone radiation can damage the human immune system.

3. The Local Government Association (LGA), in a statement in February
2001, reported Councillor Sir Jeremy Beecham, Chairman of the LGA as
saying "There are very real fears among our communities about the
health impacts of mobile phone masts. That's why we are calling on the
Government to undertake further research into this matter, and to
ensure that the monitoring of masts and radioactivity is independent
and free of industry bias". Kent County Council has banned the
installation of mobile phone masts on its property, a decision made on
health grounds, according to reports in Law Direct and the national
press. Geoff Wild, Kent County Secretary, said that they had
considered that they might be legally liable "if these masts are
proved to have an adverse effect on health, and people start seeking
compensation".

4. Friends of the Earth Scotland has campaigned against mobile phone
masts on health and environmental grounds and has a report that may be
obtained from 72, Newhaven Road, Edinburgh, EH6 5QG. Tel: 0131 554
9977. Mast Action UK (MAUK) campaigns to raise public awareness about
potential risks from improperly sited masts. They are not against
mobile phone technology per se, but against the insensitive siting of
masts near to houses, schools and hospitals. Its address is PO Box
312, Waltham Cross, Herts EN7 5ZE. Information is also available from
Power Watch. The Ecologist magazine published an article on phone
masts in October 2001. Its address is Unit 18, Chelsea Wharf, 15 Lots
Road, London SW1O OQJ. See the web-sites

www.foe-scotland.org.uk/nation/masts.html www.mastaction.org
www.powerwatch.org.uk www.theecologist.co.uk

5. Church towers in Italy cannot be used to host mobile-telephone
masts, according to a ruling in March 2001 by the Italian Bishops'
Conference, the organization that governs the Roman Catholic Church. A
circular signed by Bishop Ennio Antonelli, its secretary general, said
that use of church buildings for purposes unconnected with worship
would violate church law and could jeopardize the fiscal exemptions
and other privileges currently granted to churches by the Italian
state. The document has been circulated to parish priests throughout
the country. The circular said that it would be imprudent to
compromise the univocality and visibility of Christian symbols in an
increasingly multicultural society and described mobile phone masts as
"alien to the sanctity" of churches. Access rights for maintenance men
and the dangers of electromagnetic pollution were also cited as
reasons for the ban. Those already installed must be dismantled.
Directors of Vatican Radio were last year accused of exceeding Italian
legal limits on electromagnetic emissions at a transmission centre
near Rome.

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