- "...those living near [cell phone masts] have complained
of illnesses ranging from cancer to motor neurone disease."
- Activists have begun tearing down mobile-phone masts
around the country, as public concern over the health impact of the radiation
they emit continues to grow.
- The destruction of the masts - as many as four in a single
week - signals a dramatic stepping up of the campaign to stop them being
placed on top of, or close to, people's houses.
- Earlier this month, masts were brought down at Wishaw
and Dudley in the West Midlands, Crosby in Merseyside and Tiverton in Devon.
At least four have also been brought down in Northern Ireland in recent
- Although government advisers say there is no evidence
that the masts threaten peoples' health, those living near them have complained
of illnesses ranging from cancer to motor neurone disease. Some scientific
studies have suggested that the radiation produced by the aerials has an
impact on sleep patterns and could have health implications.
- Lisa Oldham, the director of Mast Sanity, a group that
campaigns against the masts being sited close to communities, said: "We
don't condone the use of criminal acts to bring down the masts, but this
does suggest the level of protest against them.
- "We are swamped with people protesting about them.
There are thousands of groups trying to get masts moved or trying to prevent
new ones being placed near their homes."
- At Wishaw, a village near Sutton Coldfield, a 74ft mobile
mast was pulled down in the early hours of November 6 by a protester using
a rope and haulage equipment. The mast, which was put up 10 years ago on
a narrow patch of land between a field and a livery yard, has been blamed
for causing a cluster of cancers in the area.
- Among those living in the 18 houses within a 500-yard
radius of the mast there are 20 cases of serious illness, including cancers
of the breast, prostate, bladder, lung. One man is dying of motor neurone
disease. Many of the people affected are in their thirties and forties.
- Since the mast was toppled, residents have refused to
let the network provider, T-Mobile, replace it and the situation has now
developed into an uneasy stand-off.
- Eileen O'Connor, who lives within 300 yards of where
the mast used to stand, had breast cancer two years ago at the age of 38.
She noticed that many of her neighbours were attending her hospital with
similar problems and set up Sutton Coldfield Residents Against Masts (Scram).
- "We have absolutely no idea who took the mast down,
and obviously it was a dangerous and inadvisable thing to do," said
Mrs O'Connor, who runs an internet advertising business. She and her children,
who also suffered ill-effects, sleep under copper-mesh "mosquito nets"
in an effort to deflect any mobile phone radiation.
- "The first I knew about it was when I looked out
of my window in the morning and couldn't see the mast. Apparently the company
said that they lost the signal at 12.30am. Someone had unbolted the mast
and pulled it over using a rope."
- Clare Villanueva, a solicitor and Scram campaigner in
Wishaw, has written to Crown Castle, the company that owns the land on
which the mast stood, saying that it cannot legally gain access to the
site to replace the mast because its path crosses someone else's land.
- Residents are now carrying out a 24-hour vigil to ensure
that a new mast is not set up, and both sides are paying for security guards
to patrol the borders of the land. The locals have suggested an alternative
location away from habitation for T-Mobile to use, but this has been rejected
by the company.
- A spokesman for T-Mobile said that the police had been
called to investigate. "It defies belief that nobody in Wishaw noticed
when the mast was coming down," he said.
- A spokesman for the Mobile Operators' Association, which
represents the five network providers on health and planning issues, said
that all its members operated within accepted World Health Organisation
guidelines for radiation emissions and there was no proof that masts caused
- She added: "The number of masts being brought down
is very small in the overall scheme of things. However, it is certainly
worrying that people are taking direct action, because they could seriously
hurt or even kill themselves."
- © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2003.