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back to article EC blasts mobile masts away from schools and hospitals

The European Commission has formally adopted a report recommending that radio transmitters should not be placed near schools and hospitals, as the general public feels uninformed about the issue. The report (pdf) comes from Frédérique RIES, and recommends that schools, crèches, retirement homes and healthcare institutions are …

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Microwave masts

Like the huge powefull ones used by the Ambulence service? Both on top of hospitals and on the ambulences themselfs?

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"Report inconclusive"

Shouldn't that read, "report couldn't prove the luddites right, so we'll keep trying until we get the result we're looking for"?

If this is all people have to worry about then we must be in pretty good shape, as it wasn't so very long ago that the main fear was global thermonuclear warfare.

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some logic

My crippled logic tells me that while you are broadcasting to a remote base, you

get the sh*t from only one mobile. But if you are close to a base you are drowning

in the sh*t of many others.

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Even if they're being arbitrarily precautionary

Why retirement homes?

Are older people also somehow supposed [evidence?] to be more vulnerable to potential emissions?

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Joke

So...

...the approach is that there's no scientific evidence of a problem, so we're going to halve the budget for finding actual evidence and use it to support a publicity campaign predicated on the hypotheses for which we haven't been able to find any supporting evidence, despite spending millions looking for it, as well as banning the equipment that we haven't been able to implicate in anything harmful, despite trying our damnedest....

hang on a minute, go with me here...

I haven't got any actual EVIDENCE that Jacqui Smith's been involved in producing crush videos and kiddie porn, but on the basis that there's a risk that she MIGHT be...

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How old are mobiles?

The cancer risk could take decades to manifest itself just like smoking and lung cancer.

It just goes to show you can never be too careful.

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Stop being cynical!

It's Europarliament election time soon, innit?

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@H Kaker

You are quite right about your crippled logic. There's a little factor called the inverse square law. Quite simply, 1W held 10cm from your ear is equivalent to 100W at 1 metre, 10,00W at 10 metres and a megawatt at 100 metres. Which is maybe just as well as television transmission masts, unlike mobile phone masts, to transmit at megawatt levels (albeit at different frequencies).

Before anybody else raises, yes the inverse square law does require that signals are radiated equally in all directions and that directional antenna, such as those on many mobile phone masts, do concentrate their power somewhat into a smaller area. Also, mobile phone masts transmit all the time whilst your mobile phone is only next to your head when you use it.

However, it is still the position that once you are a significant distance from a mobile phone mast then any exposure you get from your own mobile phone into your head is almost certainly greatly in excess of that from the mast itself.

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Boffin

@H Kaker

Your crippled logic is clearly not up to the task of understanding mobile telephone systems or radio wave propagation physics. The Sh!t you refer to is in fact very weak EM radiation, that cannot affect living tissue in any way known to science apart from the absorption heating effect, and that is too weak to be either measurable or feasibly harmful.

Just trust us that know, its safe, okay?

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Same as Smoking

One of the original reports on smoking concluded that you are 21 times more likely to get cancer if you smoke than if you don't, which was statitically correct.

However, the difference was along the lines of 99.7% of non-smokers got cancer, but 98.6% of smokers got cancer.

No-one questions that smoking increases your risk, but the increase is actually very, very small.

So to radio masts, there probably is a risk, but it will be along the same tiny margin as to be pointless.

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@H. Kaker

The thing is that most towers are elevated to provide sufficient coverage area. So although you've got lots of signals near a cell tower, it's all over your head. And since signal strength (and thus its effect on you) fades drastically over distance (inverse square ratio to distance, IIRC), they should be even less of a problem than the one unit you put right up against your skull.

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@ H. Kaker

Law of the inverse square.

It's not just the power of a transmitter, the distance to it is critical, you probably get more from your phone than the mast you're walking past. Many years ago I did work out the distance you had to put your head from a mast to get the same dose as putting a mobile to your ear for a physics A level lesson, and although I can't recall offhand the exact number it was certainly in the tens of centimetres.

Also, what makes you think the mobiles return transmissions are centered around a mast? the mobiles don't direct the signal back to the mast, unless you have a special one with a parabolic antenna on an aiming mechanism.

In fact, I'd suggest the further away you were from a mast the higher tx power your phone needs to operate at and given it's proximity to your head that's probably the biggest exposure you'd get short of humping a base station*.

* Not recommended; they're usually high up and it's easier to slip if you're all sweaty!

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Logic? No, not at all

@H. Kaker

The RF field from a phone held against your head while in a call is far greater than the field from a base station operating at full power in all timeslots.

You have to calculate using the inverse square law and also allow for not being in the main lobe of the antenna pattern which is usually focused a few degrees below the horizon.

All of the campaigners fail to understand that the very best place to put base stations is well above the heads of people just below them, it only matters within a few tens of metres of the base station because outside that range the energy density is falling to very low values anyway. Keeping people in the nulls in the antenna pattern minimises the energy they are exposed to. Also note that this is non-ionising radiation, it does not have the needed energy per photon to break chemical bonds so it cannot cause DNA damage.

Science people! It's not hard, and it's not clever to pretend you know all about it when your actual knowledge is poor.

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I despair

There are so many things wrong with this decision that I don't know where to begin. Truly we are ruled by luddites who have not the faintest connection with reason or logic.

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'as the general public feels uninformed about the issue.'

Should be read as 'public are thick as pig shit'.

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Boffin

@H. Kaker

This is *potentially* true. But look up the inverse square law, and then you can do a quick bit of calculation to see how many simultaneous calls by people using mobiles a kilometre away from you are required to produced the same microwave power density in your head as a single call coming from a phone you're holding against your ear.

Hint: the answer is something like 'a very large number of calls indeed', and in fact is probably more phone calls than the mobile mast could actually carry. So your 'logic' isn't quite.

The complaints about base stations is that they carry a very powerful transmitter, and their output power levels swamp the level of power it receives from all the associated mobiles phones talking to it.

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Anonymous Coward

Am I missing something?

If the strength really is greater the nearer you are to the transmitter, why is everyone saying that since you put your head close to a mobile anyway, you're safe from the transmitter?

Excuse me if I'm wrong but 1 mobile 1cm away from my head for 1 minute seems less bad than a transmitter broadcasting 24/7 to thousands of mobiles from 15m away...

And YES, I know they're supposed to be harmless microwaves.

Mobile phones must have got better though, when I had my first phone (an old 1990s Nokia), I'd get a headache if I used it for more than about 1 minute. I haven't had one since I ditched it in 2003, so something must have changed??

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Clever?

"it's not clever to pretend you know all about it when your actual knowledge is poor."

True, but that is seldom what British people (as opposed to Americans specifically) pretend. The really clever pose in Britain is to maintain that one is incapable of dealing with anything technical at all. "I have a little man who does that" is the phrase that separates the wage-earners from the bosses.

And that principle shines through in this and all other decisions taken on our behalf by our lords and masters.

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@zebthecat

>>"It just goes to show you can never be too careful."

*Of course* you can be too careful.

You can decide never to do anything new because there might be long-term problems, and end up never doing anything at all.

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ARRRGGGHHHHH

You actually want mobile masts near playgrounds because if microwaves do anything "bad" to the kiddywinks it'll be the ones coming out of the little transmitter pressed up against their face not the one many meters away (inverse square law). If there is a base station nearby the microwave transmitter pressed to the face will be working on its lowest power setting.

This is actually bad for kids/patients (assuming there is something bad with microwave transmissions.) a classic law of unintended consequences.

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Well

Just to put some contrast into the pile of sharp comments above, I for one think that the EC actually made a sane decision there.

They are basically saying "We don't know enough, so we'll stop what we're doing until we do know enough." which is fine by me really because there's enough decisions being made without thinking through the long-term consequences already.

My current office sits about 9 meters (directly below them) from no less than 3 telecoms radio masts, all I know is i've become more tired over the past 4 years, and three masts were placed in that period to bring the grand total to 4 masts on the roof of 1 building. Why we need that many is beyond me, but apparently they had permission to place them, nobody was asked as far as I know.

Think of that what you like, and don't think i'm illiterate on the subject of electromagnetics and radio waves, because I'm most certainly not.

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Usual Misinformed Crap

Oh look, there's an election looming, must be seen to be doing something...

The best place to be is under the radio transmitter because it's likely to be designed to send most of its energy towards the horizon, not to the ground immediately below the tower, that's just wasteful. A decent receive antenna that does have coverage around the base then has the extra beneficial effect that those using mobile phones near the base of the mast get adequate reception from the base station and are transmitting back to it at very low power, thus irradiating the heads of the local users very little.

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@Wortel

>>"They are basically saying "We don't know enough, so we'll stop what we're doing until we do know enough."

And what is their plan for eventually knowing enough?

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@David Wilson

>And what is their plan for eventually knowing enough?

That's up to them really. But I and many others expect them to make informed decisions when that time arrives; the people aren't as forgiving anymore this relatively new century.

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@Wortel

So, it's a sane decision to say (apparently on the basis of no obvious evidence) that some existing and fairly widespread technology *might* be dangerous to children, ill people (*and* for some unexplained reason, also to elderly people), but is still absolutely fine for everyone else?

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@David Wilson

Sorry, busy days :)

You could say that, although I would not say on the basis of no obvious evidence, because there is plenty of evidence that is simply not being handled properly. Sometimes you have to take a step back from something that was previously considered 'good' or 'good enough' and reconsider it. There is always room for improvement. I could pull out a speech about the fragility of developing children's brains, impediment of our natural ability to heal under stress and whatnot in relation to EMF/RF radiation but we both know that would be pointless.

It's a bit like the debates going on about how female contraceptives enter the freshwater supplies and then over longer periods of time (we're talking many years here, generations) cause infertility in men consuming that water. It's a very real concern people never thought of in the beginning, but the point of the example is that the long term effects of something should not be underestimated even if it does concern existing technology/knowledge or not; it has to be tried and tested over and over and over again in order to improve.

Another simpler example would be sunlight. Light is also a form of radiation, a component of which is Ultraviolet light which is what damages us most. So we basically have a type of high energy radiation which will damage our bodies if exposed to it for long periods of time. This is an accepted fact; you stay out in the sun too long you get burned, overdo it some more you get sun stroke, skin cancer, etc.

I suppose you could say we have not reached that level of understanding yet when it comes to what most of us perceive as negligible amounts exposure to EMF/RF radiation.

That said, you and I both also know very well that mobile masts are not going anywhere any time soon, in fact more realistically they are here now and here to stay till the end of our days and till the end of our children children's days.

They will not be removed or banned, their implementation might however be slowed down.

Besides, we are surrounded by radiation, it's not like mobile masts will be the end of the story. I'd like the world to be a better place, but I have to be realistic about it too.

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