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Mobile phone masts a health hazard

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MBABANE – Although the kingdom is about to turn a corner towards better development in the communication industry, international scientific research has shown that there is a serious danger to human health that comes with it.

This danger particularly applies to mobile phone masts or towers.

Masts are the tall antenna structures that facilitate communication by making the mobile network abundant in a given area.

The objective is for cellphone communication to become clearer, but the area where a mobile phone mast or base station is located also becomes an electromagnetic field.

Epidemiology research done by scientists have compiled results which many could find very disturbing.

About 10 studies have shown that people who have been exposed to the radiation emitted by these structures as they operate have reported more symptoms such as headache, sleep disturbance, irritability, depression, memory loss and concentration problems.

One of the even more serious health hazards said to stem from the radiation from the masts is cancer.

The scientific studies link a higher rate or levels of symptoms in people with their proximity to the masts.

A distance which is not more than 500 metres away from the masts, according to international research results, does not mean a person is safer.

In Swaziland, mobile phone masts have been erected in densely populated areas, in particular big cities and these have somewhat become part of the panorama.

Some of the notable places where the masts are found include the central part of Msunduza in the capital city, near St Mark’s Primary School and Fairview in Manzini.

Scientists have found children to be more susceptible to the negative effects of microwave radiation from masts or base stations.

Meanwhile, a study to check residential proximity to mobile phone base stations and analysis of cognitive function was done at Menoufiya University, Shebin El-Kom, Egypt.

Eighty five residents living near mobile phone base stations were analysed for visual motor speed, problem solving, attention and memory.

Test results were compared with exposure from nearby mobile phone base stations. The authors of the study reported significant increases in headache (13.5 per cent), memory changes (23.2 per cent), dizziness (13.8 per cent), tremors (9.4 per cent), depressive symptoms (12.9 per cent), and sleep disturbance (13.5 per cent) from the baseline level as measured in local control subjects.

Another study was done at Tel-Aviv University in Israel to investigate how mobile phone base stations and cancer were associated with residential proximity.

A total of 622 people living in proximity to a mobile phone cell site in Netanya, Israel (began operation in July 1996) and attending a cancer clinic, were compared with control populations registered in a neighbouring clinic in Netanya, as well as the entire population cancer rate in Netanya.

"Eight cases in the experimental area were diagnosed during the study period from July 1997 to June 1998 with all different types of cancer (ovarian, breast and lung), Hodgkins Disease, Osteoid osteoma, and hypernephroma. The authors reported a statistically significant association between residential proximity to the mobile phone base station site and cancer incidence.

... govt should look at possible effects closely - MPs

 

MBABANE – Members of Parliament (MPs) believe that government needs to scrutinise the possible effects of mobile phone masts.

Nkilongo MP Trusty Gina after having been informed about the reviewed scientific studies on the health effects of the masts, said if indeed this was the reality of the situation, government needed to do its own research and compile a report that could be discussed in Parliament.

"Strategic places for masts would have to be found, especially where there is a low population, if the local study confirms the results of other international studies," said Gina.

She added that as a legislator she was not against development in communication, but had to remain mindful of the health consequences it could have.

Hhukwini MP Mkhululi Dlamini said if it were proven beyond reasonable doubt that masts contribute in making people ill and even shortening lifespan, he would not support their installation.

"It would mean mobile companies have been irresponsible by installing masts where there is a high population of people. Such companies would have to be fined severely. Masts would have to, by law, be confined to mountains and other places where people don’t reside," said Dlamini.

Motshane MP Robert Magongo said he would even advocate for the removal of the masts if evidence about their impact on human health was true.

Meanwhile, Mtfongwaneni MP Patrick Gamedze said he had been informed of such effects caused by the mobile phone masts.

He mentioned that to his knowledge mobile phone companies, were compelled to get approval from the Swaziland Environmental Authority first.

The Authority assesses any environmental impacts of whatever apparatus such companies install in communities.

"It would be folly to allow development that would have long-term effects on the health of the people. To my understanding however, there are levels of radiation which people can live under and those which they cannot," he added.

Senator Bhutana Dlamini said as a legislator it was such issues (danger of masts to humans) that he was on the lookout for and could move other legislators to discuss it.

He noted that some mobile masts were said to be environmentally friendly.

 

"I will make it a point to raise this matter at Senate," he said. Senators are currently scrutinising the Swaziland Communications Commission Bill of 2010 and Electronic Communications Bill of 2010.

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