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back to article Mobile phone masts not such a menace

A study of children born near mobile phone masts has concluded that having excellent mobile coverage does not increase the risk of cancer in unborn children. The study, published by the British Medical Journal, used statistical analysis of 7000 children to establish that being exposed to the radiation from a mobile phone mast …

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Coat

Unlikely to hurt babies unless they actually fall on 'em

...or off 'em.

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Just sayin'

"Of course – statistical proof can never compare to anecdotal evidence".

Now, don't get me wrong here, Im with you all the way and dont even own a tinfoil hat. But is there _really_ such a thing as "statistical proof"? Or is it an oxymoron?

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Silver badge

If you want certainty, take up mathematics

In the physical world, the *only* proof we have (or can ever have) is statistical. Gravity appears to be a universally attractive force, but there's no logical reason why it shouldn't reverse polarity tomorrow at 12:30 - it's just statistically very, very unlikely.

Statistics help us judge whether a given statement has a 50% probability of being true; or 99%; or 99.999999999999999%. But no statement about the physical world can ever be known to be 100% true, that status is reserved for mathematical or logical statements such as '2+2=4' or 'all bachelors are men' which are true by definition.

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proof of God

Nicely put. I guess this is the problem with proof of God - working out a statistical proof of someone who "works in mysterious ways" and says "my ways are higher than your ways" etc; perhaps like ants working on a statistical proof of humans.

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Happy

As any non Sun / Mirror reader will know.

That having a mast closer is BETTER. Simply because the handset you put next to your ear does not have to increase it's power output to contact that further away mast..

To all those Sun & Mirror readers who campaigned to not have mobile masts near schools, imagine what your blind sheep-like campaigning is doing to your children.... :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Closer mast means less radiation

This is indeed what correspondents in IEEE journals concluded some years back: You get less radiation if you are near a mast.

So, if radiation is a problem, it is better that all schools have an on site mast.

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inverse square law fail?

If mobile phone radiation was going to have this kind of effect, would it not be the handset that was the relevant source, as it's very close to the body and incident energy falls off with something reated to the square of the distance? In which case, living far from a mast would be bad, as the phone ramped up power to keep a signal.

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Boffin

Just so

I recommend reading the report:

http://www.bmj.com/cgi/reprint/340/jun22_1/c3077

It comments (referencing other peer-reviewed investigations) that:

"It has been estimated that one day’s exposure from a base station at an incident level of 1-2 V/m (about 4.2-10 dBm or 2-10 mW/m2) corresponds to about the first 4 seconds of local exposure to the head and about 30 minutes of whole body exposure arising from the use of a mobile phone."

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Anonymous Coward

Teenagers

I'm 26 now, and bought a mobile phone, a cheap Sagem, around when I was 14 years old. Hardly anybody had mobile phones at that point, and apart from the odd bit of texting, I ended up not using it much, but it was always in close proximity.

I noticed at the time of use I had slightly more trouble sleeping at that age, and didn't understand why.

As only one friend had a mobile, I decided to stop using it. I shoved it in a drawer when still 14 years old, and ignored it. I then noticed I could sleep much better - but at the time did not associate the use of a mobile phone.

Then personal mobiles for youngsters 'made it big', and I was encouraged to use it again to keep up with a social life. I then had the same issue with sleeping, and felt I wasn't getting quite as good a sleep. Again, not linking the two, I decided - to save battery - to switch the phone off at night.

I noticed a stark difference in sleep quality, and then stopped using a phone at all. It was then possible for me to choose to sleep better by not using a phone.

Now, it isn't possible, as they are in use every day. Back when I accidentally stumbled upon this link with phones and my own body/brain I didn't link the two.

I do however believe that as a teenager using a mobile really did mess up my sleep for quite a while. I still use a mobile phone, and probably sleep as good/bad as the next person.

At the age of 14 I have no doubt that that particular mobile phone caused me issues with sleeping, and repeated accidental testing through using and not using it for months on end confirmed to me that back then there were certainly issues for developing children with mobile phone.

The masts I have never had a problem with, either politically or medically. I do think that there are so many pitfalls of current study, with TheRegister instantly deciding upon a view, that it will be impossible for any of us to know categorically whether back in the mid to late 1990's people experienced issues as basic as sleeping, or more severe, from mobile phone use.

Those caveats apply to so much medical research these days that I still wonder if what I experienced was unique.

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WTF?

Sleep pattens

I can't help thinking that any disruption to sleep patterns caused by the proximity of a mobile phone will be due to the psychological effect of having the phone on and ready to receive - the brain will subconsciously be expecting it to ring.

Nothing to do with the minimal radiation at all, I reckon.

GJC

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Bronze badge

Yep....

....I reckon you'd have to do a double blind test to be sure, neither the sleeper nor the person who placed the phone in the bedroom would be aware of whether the phone was switched on or not.

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Yep #2

and nothing to do with the raging hormones of a 14 year old, either.

(no, not that)

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Boffin

@Teenagers

I suggest you look up the expression "post hoc ergo propter hoc".

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Happy

'Teenagers' is right!

For people with an active social life, there's a definite correlation between phone use and disturbed sleep. It's most obviously manifested as drunken friends ringing you up. This factor is entirely absent in non-phone users.

In breaking news: Strong correlation between car use and motor accidents...

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FAIL

FAIL

OK, so living closer to the mast reduces the radiation of the phone as it needs less power to connect. But that is besides the point, right? Unless you keep your mobile next to your newborn?

The only radiation influence under discussion is the one of the mast itself...

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Bronze badge

Proximity to schools

Surly only makes a difference to mobile phone users. Therefore no mobile masts near schools and a ban on mobiles in schools seems consistent advice.

In fact it's hard to see a ban on kids with mobiles as anything other than a positive!

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Badgers

@AC Teenagers

When not actually engaged in a call a mobile will only transmit for about 3 seconds every 10 minutes just to check where the nearest tower is. That is the bip-bi-bi-bip-bi-bi-bip noise you will near periodically if u leave yr phone next to a speaker. The rest of the idle time it emits zero zilch none whatsoever radiation. (hence standby time is much longer than talktime)

I was concerned about masts untill consulting a friend working in a technical capacity for ericsson who told me that even the scary ones with the 2m high transmitters draw only 30w per segment at full capacity, end even then that low power is dissipated over a 120 degree angle. A mast never has to be able to transmit much further than a phone can (what would be the point ?) Each big scary transmitter is composed of hundreds of little transmitters individually no more powerful than the ones on a regular phone.

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Boffin

No ill effects?

Phone masts are basically big microwave sources, which bathe the local area in a field of electromagnetic radiation.

Ionising radiation such as you'd get from Plutonium and other substances gives you cancer quite easily by blasting your DNA with gamma rays, causing damage leading to catastrophic malfunction in cell replication.

Electromagnetic radiation is quite different in nature and does not have this effect. Tight-frequency electromagnetic radiation simply causes the water molecules in your body to heat up below the skin surface. Doesn't mean its completely safe though - Just think about it - Ultraviolet light is up the same end of the spectrum as Microwaves, and its well known that prolonged unprotected exposure to that sure does cause skin cancer!

The other thing I've wondered about - you can induce current in a conductive substance using electromagnetic radiation of the right frequency and strength. The human brain and nervous system is conductive, and relies on both chemical and electrical signals to function. Hopefully the extensive studies going on will demonstrate sufficiently that electromagnetic signal from the multiple phone masts to which we are constantly exposed is not the right frequency and strength to negatively affect the developing nervous system ...

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Silver badge

Wrong

"Plutonium and other substances gives you cancer quite easily by blasting your DNA with gamma rays" - Plutonium emits (mainly) alpha particles.

"Ultraviolet light is up the same end of the spectrum as Microwaves" - there are 7 orders of magnitude difference in frequency/wavelength. Ultraviolet is ionising (can cause cancer), microwaves are not (cannot). As the report points out, you are exposed to far more em 'radiation' from a 100W light bulb than from a phone mast.

Back to school with you.

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Anonymous Coward

Radiation

Gamma rays are electromagnetic radiation as well as nuclear radiation and both gamma and ultraviolet rays are much higher energy than microwaves.

The wavelength of the radiation indicates the kind of effects if will induce so high wavelength radio waves induce currents, microwaves can affect vibrational (or is it rotational) modes of molecules and ultraviolet and lower wavelength radiation can "knock" electrons out of individual atoms. Of course there is some overlap and any type of radiation can induce heting although not always by direct excitation of vibrations. Mobiles use higher wavelength microwaves so there is overlap between heating and current generation.

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Silver badge

sleeping and phones

More likely those damnable blue lights. Cover them up.

As for mobiles having changed.... yes, they generally emit less maximum power.

I always reckoned the most likely effect of mobile phones would be skin tumours on the ear due to irritation from having the phone held there all the time (or heat, the old motorola microtacs used to get uncomfortably warm)

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