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Residents Vow To Take Down Mobile Phone Masts
Cyprus Mail
Journalist: Leo Leonidou
October 05, 2006

Residents of a Limassol village have vowed to take down its mobile phone antennas “one way or the other”, accusing the village’s mukhtar of ignoring their requests and siding with CyTA.

Locals fear that the antennas, which are positioned on top of Ypsonas Municipality’s buildings and on a local toy shop, are a direct threat to their health.

Speaking on behalf of the residents, Bob Cracknell told the Cyprus Mail that, “mukhtar Kyriacos Tsaousis had vowed to take them down, but has reneged on his promise. In a meeting on Tuesday night, he again made the promise but he has proved to be totally ineffectual.”

At the meeting were representatives of CyTA, Green Party leader George Perdikis and over 100 residents.

“The law says that antennas are legal structures only if they have planning permission,” Cracknell pointed out. “But Tsaousis said he didn’t need planning permission so they are illegal, with Perdikis agreeing that they should not be there.”

Cracknell added that the meeting descended into chaos when the CyTA officials claimed the antennas were not damaging to health. “They were not allowed to speak after making the comment,” he said.

“CyTA should not act in such a cavalier manner. Nobody can say for sure that antennas are not harmful. Maybe they are not, but are we to accept the risk? The mukhtar is forgetting he is an elected person and is completely discarding the residents’ concerns.”

At the meeting, Perdikis noted that the antennas are the property of the telecommunications giant meaning Tsaousis can’t take them down. “CyTA warned residents that legal action would be taken against them if the antennas were touched,” said Cracknell, “with Perdikis imploring them to be responsible, comply with the law and remove them.”

The matter has been referred to Ombudswoman Eliana Nicolaou by the concerned residents.

A CyTA spokeswoman yesterday hit back at the accusations, saying all their activities and equipment are regulated by the EU and World Health Organisation.

She said that Tuesday night’s meeting in Ypsonas turned ugly in a short space of time. “We were not given the opportunity to put forward our point of view, as people present were very aggressive and refused to listen to us.”

Back in July, CyTA said they would comply with a Supreme Court ruling that any of their mobile phone base stations set up without first securing building permission were illegal.

However, they stopped short of committing themselves to taking down their base stations, saying the majority of installations had been made prior to the abrogation of the law in December 2003, which had allowed the authority to carry out works or install its masts in public and private areas. Since the change in the law, the authority said it had only set up masts in areas where planning permission was not required, and had otherwise applied for permission.

“Additionally, from October 2004, following a decision to define an area establishment policy for base stations, CyTA has not undertaken any new installations pending the completion of the area establishment policy, submitting [instead] applications for planning and building permission,” CyTA said at the time.

The issue of an area establishment policy came about following a public outcry over the increasing number of antennas and base stations cropping up in residential areas and their possible health effects.

“Two antennas have been taken down in Aglandja, Nicosia with another one at Mesa Yeitonia in Limassol following court orders,” the spokeswoman said. “Another two will be coming down in Mesa Yeitonia shortly, which will leave mobile phone users in the area struggling for reception.”

Last April, a physics professor at the University of Cyprus warned that safety limits for electromagnetic radiation may be too high, following a two-and-a-half year study of electrical emissions around the island.

Dr Panos Razis told the Mail that although most emissions on the island were within set safety limits, other countries were reducing their limits as studies into the long-term effects were starting to emerge.

Razis said the Cyprus study honed on what the team had called ‘problem areas’, such as Polemidhia and Lakatamia, where people have reported cancer clusters, particularly in childhood leukaemia. He said in both areas the readings were within the set limits but this did not mean the emissions were not responsible.

“How biological molecules like DNA and RNA are affected… research is not advanced in that area. So if one considers what might happen on a long-term basis, one has to be cautious not to have houses and schools very close to such infrastructure because science at the moment cannot say they are 100 per cent harmless.

“The subject still needs a lot of investigation. Decades ago they could not tell that smoking causes cancer,” Razis said.

How Dangerous Are They?
While low levels of radio-frequency power are usually considered to have negligible effects on health, regulations restrict the design of base stations to limit exposure to electromagnetic fields. Technical measures to limit exposure include restricting the radio frequency power emitted by the station, elevating the antenna above ground level, changes to the antenna pattern, and barriers to foot or road traffic. For typical base stations, significant electromagnetic energy is only emitted at the antenna, not along the length of the antenna tower.

Because mobile phones and their base stations are two-way radios, they produce radio-frequency (RF) radiation and they expose people near them to RF radiation giving concerns about mobile phone radiation and health. Hand-held mobile telephones are relatively low power so the RF radiation exposures from them are generally low.

A 2002 survey study by Santini et al. found a variety of health effects for people living within 300m of base stations. Fatigue, headache, sleep disruption and loss of memory were among the effects found.

An ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection) Standing Committee Report on Epidemiology in 2004 reviewed the risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, adverse outcomes of pregnancy and cataract formation associated with RF field exposure at work. It then reviewed the risk of leukaemia to populations who are closer to RF transmitters used in broadcasting and telecommunications and the risks of brain cancer and acoustic neuromas by mobile phone users. The report concludes that the research performed to date gives no consistent or convincing evidence of a causal relationship between RF field exposure and any adverse health effects.

The consensus of the scientific community is that the power from these mobile phone base station antennas is too low to produce health hazards as long as people are kept away from direct access to the antennas. However, current international exposure guidelines are based largely on the thermal effects of base station emissions. Some scientists have questioned whether there are non-thermal effects from being exposed to low level RF frequencies such as are transmitted from mobile phone base stations. Such non-thermal effects include how the actual frequencies interfere with the human brain and all other cells in the human body.

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