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Serious risk of brain damage from vacuum cleaners?

Our correspondent writes ...

On the 5th February, 2004, I sat through a meeting of the Planning Control Committee for the London Borough of Bexley. I did this because I am building a case against the Borough relating to the way they handle planning applications. But I felt I should mention one particular item on this particular agenda because I could hardly believe the evidence of my own ears.

Mobile telephone operator, O2, had submitted an application to install three additional 3G antennae on the roof of Crayford telephone exchange, which is adjacent to the A2 at Bexley. Details of the proposal were put before the committee with the planning officer's recommendation that permission should be granted.

Increased numbers of antennae is something that should concern us all because we don't yet know the long-term effects of radio wave transmissions between base stations and handsets. There is a lobby that believe there is a link between airborne radiation and brain tumours but, of course, the evidence may not be established for many years to come. Meanwhile, we remain suspicious but continue to use our mobiles because they are so damned convenient.

At this Planning Committee meeting, three other applications for standalone masts in various parts of the Borough were rejected on the grounds that they would be eyesores. Fair comment - a 40-foot mast planted on someone's pavement, outside someone's bedroom window would be an eyesore. But the question of potential danger from airborne radiation did not enter the equation because the Government's policy is to "facilitate the growth of new and existing mobile telephone systems" - a point apparently stressed by no less a person than the Right Honourable John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister.

In the past, applications for mobile telephone antennae have been rejected because the chosen sites were near some of the Borough's schools. Yet exactly the same conditions apply in this case. Crayford telephone exchange is right next to BETHS Grammar School and a good number of private residences also sit in its shadow. As a result, there was quite strong opposition voiced by residents and by some members of the Planning Committee.

There was some argument in favour of the application but it was not quite as passionate as the opposition. However, one Conservative member, Councillor John Waters, MA, MCMI, made the most irresponsible public statement I have ever heard when he said there was more danger of radiation from a domestic vacuum cleaner than there was from a mobile phone. This clearly impressed another lady member of the committee, Councillor Mrs June Slaughter, who apparently then had some future doubts about cleaning her carpets.

Another member stated, in an argument against mobile telephones, that he had reduced his personal usage because he was not convinced by any evidence designed to certify the safety of these devices. Amazingly, he then voted in favour of the application!

The application was approved by 6 votes to 4 with one member abstaining. The committee totally ignored 13 letters of objection from local residents and one letter from BETHS' parents association.

So, our councillors may have put the health of a thousand of the borough's children at risk, not to mention the residents who live near the exchange. All in the name of progress and commercial gain, and on the word of a government that do little to attract the trust of British people.

My friends in the electronics field have never heard of any radiation dangers from domestic electrical cleaning devices but Councillor John Waters, MA, Member of the Chartered Management Institute, and expert in vacuum cleaning technology obviously knows something the rest of us do not know.

I have since requested that his public statement about vacuum cleaner radiation dangers be publicly retracted but our councillors are not exactly renowned for taking too much notice of the views of people they claim to represent. And, true to form, they have not responded to any of my messages.

Interestingly, the site for the three new aerials is not close to either of the Borough's schools that Councillor Waters serves as a governor but he seemed determined to get this application passed.

Editorial Comment:

I wonder why?

Another lady sent us this account of her experiences:

Every since mobile phone masts were erected behind my house, my dog and I have suffered badly.

I have had problems with my walking, vision and hearing and my husband now suffers from serious headaches. Our dog has regular fits.

We were all perfectly OK before the masts were erected.

Tim Lewis of Swansea writes:

As long as the people whom are moaning about the sighting of the mobile mast don't complain when there signal is not the best in the area when they are phoning from their plush new handset!

As for the people whom have had health problems since the installation of the mast, I do have sympathy but there are many whom have lived within the mast area and have not suffered any ill effects!

Editorial Comment:

The argument in your second paragraph is a non-starter. There are plenty of people who smoked all their lives and did not have lung cancer. Conversely, many non-smokers did.

Similarly, many of us played conkers at school without getting injured. But now it's banned just because you might get injured. So why ban conkers yet allow mobile masts to proliferate?  Clearly conkers never had the corrupting financial influence that large companies have.

"Many men stumble across the truth ... but most manage to pick themselves up and continue as if nothing had happened."

Winston S Churchill

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