There’s a degree of trepidation in New Addington over proposals to erect a 5G telecoms mast next to a local primary school.
Preliminary surveying work has been carried out, and a pre-application process undergone on behalf of CK Hutchinson Networks, operators of the Three mobile phone network, for the erection of a 15-metre tall mast sited alongside Castle Hill Academy on Dunley Drive.
A planning application is expected in due course – permission from the council is required for masts taller than 15 metres – and some letters have been sent to close neighbours, although no formal consultation process appears yet to have taken place. There was no mention of the 5G mast proposal in the latest Castle Hill Academy newsletter distributed to parents and guardians of children at the school.
Inevitably, 5G being relatively new technology, there have been some fears and concerns expressed about the possible implications of the locating of a mast so close to a primary school. Some New Addington residents are sceptical about the choice of site for the mast, after Dot Surveying, the company conducting the survey for Hutchinson, discounted other nearby sites because they were either in a residential area, were close to overhead powerlines, or next to a railway line.
The government’s code of practice for wireless network development in England states, “Where it is proposed to install, alter or replace a base station in the vicinity of a school or college, operators should discuss the proposed development with the relevant body of the school or college before submitting an application to the local planning authority.”
That code includes no mention of minimum distances between the site of a 5G mast and location of schools. Indeed, the code appears more concerned with the appearance of masts within urban and rural landscapes than any potential or perceived health risks.
However, the code does refer to recommendations from a body called the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, or ICNIRP, which in its online resources appears to suggest that the higher the mast antennae, the better for those living or working, or at school, nearby.
The ICNIRP says that, “Some 5G communication technologies utilise higher EMF [electromagnetic fields] frequencies…EMFs at higher frequencies produce relatively superficial exposure, with less power penetrating deep into the body”, and they add, “the restrictions in the ICNIRP guidelines account for this to ensure that exposure does not cause any harm”.
According to the ICNIRP, “EMFs have the ability to penetrate the human body, with the main effect of this being a rise in temperature in the exposed tissue. The human body can adjust to small temperature increases in the same way as it does when undertaking exercise and performing sporting activities… above a certain level… exposure and the accompanying temperature rise can provoke serious health effects, such as heatstroke and tissue damage (burns).
“5G exposures will not cause any harm providing that they adhere to the ICNIRP (2020) guidelines.”
Another respected official source, the National Cancer Institute, makes the important distinction between human exposure to higher-frequency EMFs, such as x-rays and gamma rays, which are proven to have dangerous long-term physical effects on the body, and low- to mid-frequency EMFs, including the kind of radio waves used by domestic microwaves and produced by electric power lines, as well as though used in 5G technology, saying, “These EMFs are in the non-ionizing radiation part of the electromagnetic spectrum and are not known to damage DNA or cells directly.”
In a consultation letter distributed last month by Dot Surveying as part of their New Addington application process, they say that all Hutchinson installations “… are designed to be fully compliant with the public exposure guidelines established by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. These guidelines have the support of UK Government, the European Union and they also have the formal backing of the World Health Organization. A certificate of ICNIRP compliance will be included within the planning submission”.
Anxieties over 5G nonetheless remain, especially in the United States, where during the early days of the covid pandemic some communications masts were damaged and vandalised because of Trumpian fake news that suggested that they were somehow the cause of the virus.
Such worries appear to stem from one dodgy scientific paper produced in Florida more than 20 years ago.
A report in the New York Times published in 2019 attempted to debunk the myth caused by the paper, produced by physicist Bill Curry, by laying out how the doctor had overlooked one important factor when experimenting with the effects of exposure to electro-magnetic radiation on brain cells.
“Over the years, Dr Curry’s warning spread far, resonating with educators, consumers and entire cities as the frequencies of cellphones, cell towers and wireless local networks rose,” the New York Times report says.
“To no small degree, the blossoming anxiety over the professed health risks of 5G technology can be traced to a single scientist and a single chart.
“Except that Dr Curry and his graph got it wrong.
“According to experts on the biological effects of electromagnetic radiation, radio waves become safer at higher frequencies, not more dangerous.”
The NYT interviewed other scientists, who appeared to concur that what Dr Curry had overlooked entirely is that, unlike the tissue samples in his lab, most people have a first layer of protection from being harmed by low-frequency elctronic waves: their skin.
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