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Aerials: Health Hazards

Volume 471: debated on Wednesday 30 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what her most recent assessment is of the health implications of siting mobile telephone masts in the vicinity of schools; on what information she bases that assessment; and if she will make a statement. (180668)

The Government's planning policy on the siting of mobile telephone masts is set out in Planning Policy Guidance Note 8: Telecommunications (PPG 8).

The advice in PPG 8 is based on the report of the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (IEGMP) which was published in 2000. Under the chairmanship of Sir William Stewart, the group considered concerns about health effects from the use of mobile phones, base stations and transmitters. The group did not recommend that base stations be prohibited on or near school grounds.

In the Government's view if a proposed mobile phone base station meets the exposure guidelines set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), it is not necessary to consider further the health aspects of the development.

However, Planning Policy Guidance Note 8 on Telecommunications makes clear that, when it is proposed to install, alter or replace a mobile base station near a school or college, operators should consult the school or college concerned before submitting an application for planning permission or prior approval to the local authority. The local planning authority should also consult the relevant bodies, and should take into account any relevant views expressed.

The network operators have agreed to provide schools, on request, with information on the level of intensity of radiofrequency radiation from a base station on or near their premises. In an ongoing audit, the Office of Communications (Ofcom) has now measured exposures around more than 500 base stations to date (www.ofcom.org.uk). In all cases exposures have been below, and mostly thousands of times below, the ICNIRP guidelines.

In January 2004 the National Radiological Protection Board's (now the Health Protection Agency) Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation (AGNIR) carried out a detailed scientific review which was published in a report “Health Effects from Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields”. AGNIR examined more recent experimental and epidemiological evidence for health effects due to exposure to radiofrequency (RF) transmissions, including those associated with mobile telephone handsets and base stations. It also concluded

“Exposure levels from living near to mobile base stations are extremely low and the overall evidence indicates that they are unlikely to pose a risk to health.”