Christian Ecology Link, 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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