BBC NEWS

Tuesday, September 14, 1999 Published at 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK

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Education

Pupils boycott school over mobile phone mast



A transmitter mast at a Manchester school has also caused concern

Parents are keeping children away from school because they are worried their health may be at risk from a mobile telephone transmitter mast in the playground.

A group of four parents of five pupils at Bedonwell Junior School in Belvedere, Kent, are refusing to let their children go to school because they say radiation from the mast could be damaging.

Mobile phone company Orange pays the school 6,000 a year to have the 30ft mast there, but some parents are growing increasingly worried that it could affect their children's health.

The protest being staged by Bedonwell parents follows action by parents over the issue in other parts of the country.

Concern growing

Earlier this summer it emerged that at Ampthill in Bedfordshire, parents had formed an organisation - called Ampthill Against Aerials - to try to prevent transmitters from being operated next to a school.

And as more masts are erected at schools, public concern about them is growing.

[ image: Some parents do not want their children to go near the masts]
Some parents do not want their children to go near the masts

About 500 schools in Britain have had transmitter masts erected, and mobile phone firms offer large cash incentives of up to tens of thousands of pounds as the demand for new sites increases

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, has already called for the siting of masts near schools to be monitored.

He has asked government officials to look into the issue amid growing concern that exposure to microwave radiation from the transmitters is a possible health threat to children.

The Department for Health has said that transmitter masts are no cause for concern, and the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) has said there is no scientific evidence for any health risks from them.

'Pulses could affect brains'

But Dr Gerard Hyland, of the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick, has argued that transmitter masts should not be sited near schools because evidence showed they posed a threat to children's health.

He said that although the intensity of radiation from transmitters had been shown in tests to be safe, its frequency had not been.

The frequency of pulses in transmitter emissions, he said, could affect the brains of young children which were still developing up until the age of about 12.

Bexley education authority said in a statement that following parents' concerns it had arranged for a safety advisor from Orange to carry out an electric field survey on the mast, which had been done in the presence of an officer from the council's environmental services department.

It said the survey had shown that the level of transmissions from the mast were extemely low, and that there was no health risk to anyone in the school or the surrounding area.

'No link with health risks'

It said: "Bexley Council fully recognises parents' concerned over the mast at Bedonwell School, but we are assured by Orange that government guidelines as set down by the NRPB have been strictly followed.

"The NRPB's currrent position is that these masts have not caused demonstrable harm. The council will continue to liaise with the NRPB over the forthcoming months."

A statement from Orange said: "Orange takes its responsibilities very seriously and fully complies with all planning, health and safety and environmental regulations.

"Orange is aware that some people may have concerns over the alleged health effects, but there is no current substantiated research that makes a link between radio waves, transmitter masts and long term public health risks."

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