Mobile phone base stations and health - 4th workshop within the by ps94506


									          W o r k s h o p

“Mobile Phone Base S
                             4. Workshop within the framework of the COST 281 Pro

                                             Reinhard Giraud

                                             New radio masts for
                                             mobile radio network base
                                             stations are causing
                                             inhabitants to complain
                                             more often about health
                                             problems, which are
                                             mostly unspecific in nature
                                             (headaches, sleep
                                             disturbances or general
                                             discomfort). Although in
                                             all of the cases the valid
                                             value limits were complied
                                             with and were mostly
                                             considerably below the
                                             prescribed limits, the
                                             electromagnetic radiation
                                             of the base stations was
                                             held responsible for these
                                             health problems. Some of
                                             the general public is
                                             concerned that the
                                             electromagnetic emissions
                                             from mobile radio masts,
                                             even when valid value
                                             limits are complied with
                                             could at least in the long
                                             run pose a health risk.

                                             Dublin Castle

12 NEWS l e t t e r 2 . 03
                 and Health”
gramme of the European Union held on 15 and 16 May 2003 in Dublin, Ireland

         Circa 100 scientists and experts from all     plex issues be conveyed to the public?
       over the world meet in Dublin Castle to         What are the possibilities, the risks and
       deal with this problem in the following         the pitfalls of risk communications?
       five subject areas.                               If you haven’t noticed by now that the
         • Epidemiological studies: Which of the       subject “radio masts and health” has been
       studies that have been done to date are         getting a lot of public attention recently,
       relevant in this context? How must this         then you will finally be made aware of it
       type of study be conducted and what par-        by the fact that Ireland’s Minister for Com-
       ticular problems make this kind of study        munications, Marine and Natural Resourc-
       difficult to conduct?                           es, John Browne, officially opened the
         • Measurement methods: Can the levels         workshop in Dublin. Minister Browne
       of exposure in the areas around radio masts     pointed out in his opening address that he
       be reliably determined? Can in particular       has recently spent more time discussing
       long-term exposure be estimated?                radio masts than any other environmental
         • Dosimetry: A simple dosimeter would         concern.
       be desirable that measures exposure over
       a long period of time. What should such a       1. Epidemiological Studies                       Minister John Browne, Department of
       “mobile radio dosimeter look like”? Can it        The topic “epidemiological studies”, be-       Communications, Marine & Natural Resources
       be designed so that it is easy to use and       gan with a keynote speech held by Joachim
       can be worn at all times? Is a feasibility      Schüz from the Institute of Medical Bio-
       study worth doing?                              Statistics, Epidemiology and Informatics
         • Psychological Aspects: Do the report-       of the University of Mainz. He gave an
       ed non-specific health problems occurring       overview of the basic problems involved
       in the vicinity of phone masts reflect ob-      in epidemiological studies. A very impor-
       jective effects or are they subjectively felt   tant point regarding this is to have a clearly
       disorders which have no physical cause.         defined metric, where an explicit differ-
       How should a study be conducted to en-          ence can be made between those who are
       sure that a clear distinction is made be-       exposed and those who are not exposed.
       tween psychological and physical causes?        This is, however, with regard to health risks
         • Risk communication: How can the di-         posed by mobile radio masts extremely
       alogue be carried out between the those         difficult, since the effect that is being
       concerned and affected and the authori-         sought, if it exists at all, can only be very
       ties and science and how should the sci-        weak and on the other hand, the exposure
       entific findings of a study on these com-       values in the vicinity of base stations from

                                                                                                                           NEWS l e t t e r 2 . 03   13
          W o r k s h o p

                                                                                                 out for this purpose. These studies (all of
                                                                                                 them cross-sectional surveys) have inves-
                                                                                                 tigated subjectively reported unspecific
                                                                                                 symptoms such as head aches, sleep dis-
                                                                                                 turbances and cognitive factors.
                                                                                                   In Ms Oftedal’s opinion the following
                                                                                                 factors must be especially observed in fu-
                                                                                                 ture investigations: statistical significance,
                                                                                                 bias, confounding and exact determina-
                                                                                                 tion of exposure. It is not sufficient simply
                                                                                                 to use the distance to the base station as
                                                                                                 an exposure metric because the fluctua-
                                                                                                 tions would be too great. Avoiding bias is
                                                                                                 also very important. Therefore when pos-
From left to right Gunnhild Oftedal, Mirjana Moser, Norbert Leitgeb, Joachim Schüz               sible double blinds should be conducted.
                                                                                                 Confounding could arise, for example from
                                                                                                 people who are especially concerned and
                                                 a time and spatial point of view (even less     have a tendency to overrate their symp-
                                                 than a meter) can fluctuate by several or-      toms.
                                                 ders of magnitude.                                Mirjana Moser from the Swiss Federal
                                                    In this context, Schüz made a further        Office for Health in Bern presented a pilot
                                                 point that studies that attempt to prove        study which was conducted in Switzer-
                                                 very weak effects must be conducted so          land with people who complained about
                                                 that they have the highest possible specif-     health problems linked to electromagnetic
                                                 icity, i.e., a person who is not exposed will   fields. 394 people were questioned and 74%
                                                 be classified with a high probability as not    of them responded that “with certainty”
                                                 being exposed. Or in other words: the           their problems were linked to mobile radio
                                                 number of persons falsely classified as “ex-    base stations. The most frequent complaint
                                                 posed” must be kept as low as possible.         was sleep disturbances (60%) and head-
                                                 This condition will be very difficult to re-    aches (40%). Ms Moser proposed that a
                                                 alize when conducting epidemiological           laboratory study or an “experimental field”
                                                 studies on possible health risks posed by       study should be conducted in order to in-
                                                 mobile radio masts. Schütz presented a          vestigate the causal connection between
                                                 number of studies which investigated the        the symptoms reported on and electromag-
                                                 risk of cancer in the vicinity of radio and     netic fields.

                                                 television transmitters. The findings seem        Norbert Leitgeb from the Institute of
                                                 to indicate that there is an increased risk     Biomedical Technology at the Technical
                                                 of leukaemia. However, no definite con-         University in Graz, Austria stated in his
                                                 clusions can be drawn because of a lack of      report that he doubted, in principle, the
                                                 methodology.                                    use of epidemiological studies to investi-

                                                    Gunnhild Oftedal from Sør-Tondelag           gate possible heath risks in the vicinity of
                                                 University College in Trøndheim, Norway         mobile radio stations. If mobile communi-
                                                 expounded on the question in her report if      cation systems pose a health risk at all,
                                                 it makes any sense to use epidemiological       than this would have to be demonstrated
                                                 studies while seeking health risks posed        first with the use of mobile telephones since
                                                 by radio masts. She investigated this based     in this case the exposure is substantially
                                                 on examples from several concrete inves-        higher than what is experienced in the
                                                 tigations, which had already been carried       vicinity of a mobile radio base station.

14 NEWS l e t t e r 2 . 03
According to Leitgeb, due to a high degree       available for actual exposure situations.         sure assessment protocol is, therefore, es-
of uncertainty (e.g. when determining ex-        Finally in this context it was seen as im-        pecially important.
posure over longer periods of time) epide-       portant that further studies be conducted            Under a mandate by the European Un-
miological studies on health risks stem-         on the effects of weak electromagnetic            ion the Technical Committee TC 106x of
ming from base stations can neither prove        fields on biological systems.                     CENELEC (European Committee for Elec-
that a possible minor risk exists nor defi-                                                        trotechnical Standardization) is currently
nitely demonstrate the non-existence of a        2. Measurement methods                            dealing with the development of stand-
risk. Therefore, concerning risk communi-          In the first reports on the subject “meas-      ards (including the required measurement
cation it would even be counterproduc-           urement methods” Georg Neubauer from              procedures), which will serve to assess the
tive.                                            the Austrian Research Centres GmbH in             exposure in the vicinity of base stations
  During the final discussion it was re-         Seibersdorf, Austria, mainly focused on the       according to a uniform procedure. First
vealed that the majority of the experts who      question: How exact and reliable, if at all,      preliminary results indicate that the type
were present at the workshop found epi-          can the exposure from electromagnetic             of field distribution depends strongly on
demiological studies in connection with          fields in the vicinity of base stations be        the exposure scenario. In heated debates
mobile radio base stations more problem-         determined. The exposure values depend            experts are also controversially discussing
atic than not. The main reason for this          on a number of physical phenomena (e.g.           if, with these prerequisites, epidemiologi-
assessment is the fact that the exposure         scattering, diffraction, multipath-propaga-       cal studies investigating the possible harm-
ratio can only be determined with a great        tion) which cause the base station fields to      ful effects of electromagnetic fields from
deal of effort and uncertainty, especially       show strong spatial fluctuations. Recent          base stations can be conducted at all.
when the investigation is to be carried out      measurements carried out by ARC Seiber-              Christof Olivier from the Department of
over a longer period of time.                    sdorf showed that even within the small-          Information Technology at the University
  Concerning an investigation on acute           est space (ca. 1m3) the power density level       of Ghent in Belgium compared in his re-
effects, laboratory experiments are defi-        of one BCCH channel of a neighbouring             port the different methods which are used
nitely preferred because the exposure ra-        GSM base station can vary by a factor of          when measuring electromagnetic fields of
tio in this case can be reliably controlled.     100. The variations in time are typically         base stations, depending on whether the
With regard to investigations on short-          of the same order of magnitude as the             measurement is used for checking value
term effects (e.g. sleeping disturbances) in     variations in space. This indicates that it       limit compliance or if the actual exposure
every case researchers should strive to do       will be extremely difficult to determine          of individual persons is to be determined.
double blind experiments. This is, howev-        the actual amount of radiation inhabit-           To date, measurements in the vicinity of
er, only possible in cooperation with net-       ants are exposed to in the vicinity of base       base stations are almost exclusively taken
work providers. The main problem involved        stations. The selection of a suitable expo-       to check for the compliance of valid value
with long-term effects (e.g. the occurrence
of cancer) is that currently there is no reli-
able way to make a distinction between
people who are exposed and those who
are not exposed or only slightly exposed
in the vicinity of mobile radio base sta-
tions. Epidemiological studies would make
more sense if they were conducted near
strong transmitters (radio and TV), since

in this case it is easier to divide the inhab-
itants into different exposure classes.
  In any case, it is necessary to develop
better methods for determining an expo-
sure metric. Moreover, numerous meas-
urement campaigns should continue to be
carried out in the vicinity of mobile radio      from left to right: Antonio Martinez-González, Carla Oliveira, Christian Bornkessel,
masts, in order to make extensive material       Wolfgang Hotz, Georg Neubauer, Christof Olivier

                                                                                                                         NEWS l e t t e r 2 . 03   15
          W o r k s h o p

limits. They always start from the assump-     and Postal Services (RegTP) in Mainz pre-        stations the results show, that all meas-
tion of the worst case situation. This ap-     sented the results of a German measure-          ured fields are well below the ICNIRP lim-
proach is however, not suitable for deter-     ment campaign where at 3600 sites meas-          its.
mining the actual degree of emissions that     urements were taken. The goal here was              It was not possible to classify the base
individual persons are exposed to. The         also to check the compliance of value lim-       stations according to specific parameters,
measurement and calculation methods that       its. Not one single case was found where         since the exposure ratios, even with simi-
have been used to date have to be corre-       the measurements were above the protec-          lar external conditions, were too different.
spondingly adjusted.                           tive value limits for people. It was estab-      Bornkessel’s group also found out in labo-
  A first intermediate step could be to as-    lished that the level of the field strength at   ratory experiments that the field strength
certainment the mean values at certain sites   a particular site is not particularly repre-     even with regard to the smallest space (ca.
or to proceed from the assumption that         sentative. The values are time-dependent         10 cm) could fluctuate by a factor 100.
the investigated person posess certain be-     as well as strongly dependent on the re-         Another remarkable result was the fact that
havioural patterns. It is generally assumed    spective local conditions. Therefore, it does    the so called “umbrella or lighthouse-ef-
to be important that the whole body SAR        not seem very useful to present field            fect” (the field strength is supposed to be
has to be determined. However, to esti-        strength measurements cartographically, as       especially low directly below the trans-
mate the whole body SAR, it is simply not      it was originally planned by the RegTP.          mitting antenna) could not be confirmed.
enough to measure only the electric field.     Concerning a detailed measurement cam-              In summation, one could say that re-
One must also determine the angle of inci-     paign in Taucha (Saxony), which Mr Hotz          garding this subject area it has been dem-
dence and polarization. Substantially more     presented as an example, it was established      onstrated that it might be extremely diffi-
complex field measurements are required        that mobile radio’s share to overall expo-       cult to categorise the inhabitants near
here than when simply measuring for the        sure (radio, television, etc.), is very low.     mobile radio base stations concerning their
compliance of value limits. According to       This tendency was also the case at the           exposure to electromagnetic fields in or-
Olivier, predictions concerning long-term      majority of the other measurement sites.         der for it to be used as a basis for mean-
exposure in the vicinity of mobile phone         Antonio Martinez-González from the             ingful epidemiological studies. For this the
base stations are almost impossible to make    Institute of Theoretical Communications          spatial and temporal fluctuations are too
because they are dependent on many un-         Engineering at the Technical University in       great, and the effects of other high fre-
controllable variables. The same holds true    Carthagene, Spain presented the results of       quency-sources (radio and television trans-
for the estimation of historical exposure      a measurement campaign in a medium-              mitters, mobile telephones, cordless tele-
values.                                        sized city in south-east Spain. As in the        phones etc.) are often much stronger than
  Carla Oliveria from the Institute for Tel-   previous report these measurements were          what people are interested in, namely, the
ecommunications of the University of Lis-      done to check compliance limits. Again,          fields of base stations. Moreover, it must
bon, Portugal presented in her report the      in all of the cases the values measured          be stressed that in all of the measurement
results of a measurement campaign, where       were considerable below the value limits.        campaigns the exposure values were well
the exposure values of mobile radio base                                                        below the ICNIRP value limits.
stations were measured in Lisbon. The goal       The last report in this field was given by
of the measurement campaign was to check       Christian Bornkessel form the IMST GmbH          3. Dosimetry
whether or not the protection values for       in Kamp-Lintfort, Germany on a measure-             Owing to the difficulties, which were
people were being complied with. Even in       ment programme conducted in the vicini-          described above, that are entailed in as-
the most unfavourable cases values were        ty of 24 base stations (mostly indoors).         sessing just how much exposure people
measured which were 13.58 dB below the         Other than the previously described cam-         are getting from electromagnetic fields, it
value limits (in accordance with the rec-      paigns, these measurements were not tak-         would be desirable if a simple, small de-
ommendations of the EU Council of Min-         en to check for compliancy but rather with       vice were available for participants in an
isters). The measured values were general-     the goal to determine the actual level of        epidemiological study to wear at all times
ly 22.4 dB below the value limit. The high-    exposure within the building. At each lo-        and for a longer period of time. This de-
est values were measured on roofs at an-       cation the maximum field strength was            vice could immediately record radiation
tenna heights.                                 determined by the to-and-fro motion of           that a person is being exposed to inde-
  Wolfgang Hotz from the German Regu-          the antenna. Although all measurement            pendently of where that person happens
lation Authority of Telecommunications         places were in direct vicinity of the base       to be.

16 NEWS l e t t e r 2 . 03
  In the first report on this subject area      one side of the belt there is a little box       for the length of time spent sleeping, fa-
Joe Wiart from the Research and Develop-        which will periodically at timed intervals       cilitate a rough classification for an epi-
ment Centre of France Telecom went into         evaluate the different antenna signals.          demiological study.
detail about the basic requirements and           Two types are being considered: one is           In the last report on this subject Carla
the feasibility of such a “personal dosime-     a narrow-band spectrum analyser in which         Malacarne from ITC-irst (Centre for Sci-
ter”. In his opinion such a dosimeter should    for every single antenna the spectrum will       entific and Technological Research) in
not be bigger than 15x10x4 cm . It has to       be scanned in succession. The total re-          Trentin, Italy presented a numerical model
be frequency selective in order to report       cording time for this type is supposed to        which calculates how much energy from
only the fields of mobile communication         be three hours. The second type is a wide        electromagnetic fields of a base station is
systems. Moreover, the device should ide-       band system which works with six fre-            absorbed on a particular part of the hu-
ally measure isotropic (uniform in all di-      quency selective filters and switches at a       man body. The model used was a GSM
rections), whereby, the fact that the device    rhythm of less than a second through all         base station with a field of 900 MHz. For
must be worn on the body, presents a great      six filters and then from one antenna to         the human body a model was developed
problem. Finally, the dosimeter must be         the other. This device should be able to         where the body’s water distribution (and
sensitive enough to be able to measure the      record measurements for 24 hours.                with this the permittivity) was recorded
expected weak fields, which could lead to         Experts present at the presentation asked      tomographically by means of a MRI (Mag-
problems with linearity.                        if such a system with mini antennas in-          netic Resonance Imaging).
  Could a dosimeter be built fulfilling the     corporated into a belt was practical. After
above mentioned requirements, so that field     all, the device would also have to be worn       4. Psychological Aspects
effects over an area of circa 20 dB (factor     while sleeping.                                    Johan Havenaar from the Albrecht In-
100) could be measured and afterwards the         Kausche suggested a simpler solution,          stitute for Mental Health Care in Utrecht,
participants of an epidemiological study        such as an isotropic and frequency selec-        the Netherlands gave the first report in the
could be placed in different exposure class-    tive sensor which can determine radiation        section “psychological aspects”. He con-
es? According to Joe Wiart this is difficult    levels in a room where people normally           centrated on the so-called “Electric Hy-
but feasible.                                   spend several hours (the best room for           persensitivity Syndrome” EHS and stressed
  Jürgen Kausche from the company Ro-           this would be the bedroom). In this way it       that “psychological effects” are normally
hde and Schwarz presented in his report a       would be possible to differentiate between       first referred to when concerning a health
design study for a personal dosimeter. The      those who are exposed to a (relatively seen)     problem all conceivable biological causes
essential element of the proposed device        high level of radiation in their sleeping        can be ruled out with adequate certainty.
consists of a series of mini antennas incor-    quarters and those who are exposed to            However, concerning exposure posed by
porated at various points around a belt         low levels (concerning the mobile radio          electromagnetic fields this is not uncondi-
which is to be worn by the test person. On      frequencies of interest). This would, at least   tionally the case. He gave an example of a
                                                                                                 biological effect on the brain rTMS (repet-
                                                                                                 itive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation)
                                                                                                 triggered by electromagnetic fields. rTMS
                                                                                                 is used therapeutically, e.g. to treat schiz-
                                                                                                   On the other hand, symptoms for EHS
                                                                                                 are comparable to those of “multiple chem-
                                                                                                 ical sensitivity” or other so-called “medi-
                                                                                                 cally unexplained physical symptoms”
                                                                                                 (MUPS) where it is suspected that these
                                                                                                 symptoms are entirely of a psychological
                                                                                                 nature. According to Havenaar there have
                                                                                                 been a number of studies where it has
                                                                                                 been proven that these unspecific symp-
                                                                                                 toms also occur under mock-exposure.
from left to right Elzbieta Sobiczewska, Ray Kamp, Paolo Vecchia, Tom Mc Maunus                  These studies also seem to confirm that

                                                                                                                     NEWS l e t t e r 2 . 03   17
          W o r k s h o p

                             the symptoms are triggered by a “nocebo”
                             effect (in contrast to a placebo effect). In
                             this context, it is important that other stud-
                             ies (studies not conducted on electromag-
                                                                              also wore an “actiwatch” device during the
                                                                              test which could record sleep activity. At
                                                                              the beginning and at the end of the test
                                                                              period each test person was visited at home

                             netic fields) could demonstrate that this        and by means of an interview other effects
                             nocebo effect can be reduced, for example        from various environmental factors (e.g.
                             by informing those affected about it.            noise) were established. Exposure meas-
                               Eric von Rongen from the Health Coun-          urements in the radio and microwave fre-
                             cil of the Netherlands in Den Haag report-       quency range were also taken.
                             ed on an experiment which is in progress           The base station was put into operation
                             at the moment in the Netherlands. 36 peo-        on the 16th day of the study, albeit the
                             ple who claim that they are experiencing         public and the test persons were not in-
                             effects from electromagnetic fields stem-        formed about it. In this way it could be
                             ming from a neighbouring base station            determined without any psychological ef-
                             and a control group of 36 people who are         fects if the operation of the base station in
                             in this respect not electro hypersensitive       any way influenced the sleep or the well-
                             are being investigated for general symp-         being of the test persons.
                             toms and cognitive functions while under           It showed that the design of the study
                             the influence of fields from GSM and UMTS        (sleep diary, interviews, measurements,
                             signals. The experiments are being con-          actiwatch, test persons also functioned si-
                             ducted in an anechoic room and are dou-          multaneously as a control group), is in
                             ble blinded, i.e. neither the test subject nor   principle suitable for conducting a mean-
                             the person conducting the experiment             ingful large-scale study. It is doubtful if
                             know if the field is switched on or not.         the cortisone level alone is of any signifi-
                             The field strengths used in the experiments      cance. It is imperative that such a study be
                             correspond to what can be expected in the        done in cooperation with the network op-
                             houses near the base station (well below         erators. Only so the exposure from the base
                             the ICNIRP value limits). The first results      station can be switched on and off in a
                             of the study are expected to be released in      random way. However, an essential disad-
                             mid-July 2003.                                   vantage of the design of the study is that
                                                                              only short-term effects can be investigat-
                               A further experiment which was carried         ed.
                             out in Switzerland was presented by Mar-           Even in the pilot study no significant
                             tin Röösli from the Department of Social         alterations in the length of sleep and the
                             and Preventative Medicine of the Universi-       well-being of the test persons were deter-
                             ty of Bern, Switzerland. It dealt with a pilot   mined after the base station was switched
                             study to test the feasibility of a large-scale   on. However, it must be stressed that the
                             study which will be planned at a later stage.    total level of exposure from electromag-
                             The pilot study was conducted in the sur-        netic fields in the houses of the test per-
                             rounding area of a newly erected base sta-       sons barely changed after the base station
                             tion, which was not in operation at the          was operating.
                             beginning of the study. Altogether 37 test         Herman Vetter from the HAAG in
                             persons, who all lived near the base station     Schönbrunn, Germany reported on a re-
                             were asked to keep a sleep diary for six         search project that was conducted between
                             weeks, making entries every morning and          1971 and 1976 in Heidelberg. More than
                             evening. In addition every Wednesday             6000 inhabitants of Heidelberg aged 33 to
                             morning urine samples were taken and             46 were interviewed at the time with the
                             cortisone levels were tested. One person         goal to obtain a psychological personality

18 NEWS l e t t e r 2 . 03
profile. An essential characteristic of this   backing from the public. Therefore, she        decided which group a person belonged to
personality profile was if the interviewees    finds that a dialogue based on facts would     were primarily age and sex. Other varia-
tended to find the cause of personal prob-     be very important.                             bles (e.g. educational level) did not play a
lems within themselves or if they tended                                                      role. Wiedemann formulated it so: “un-

to blame outside factors, (pollution, social   5. Risk communication                          concerned” were especially young men and
environment, etc.). These data can be now        Without a doubt the public is greatly        “concerned” were mainly older women.
used to question the same people again if      concerned about the possible health risks        Once again it was demonstrated that risk
their well-being is affected by mobile ra-     posed by mobile radio base stations, these     perception is very dependent on an a one-
dio communication systems in general or        concerns can very often be traced back to      time held opinion. Both the concerned
if it is especially affected by nearby base    false estimations concerning these sensi-      group and the unconcerned group tended
stations. First of all, the personality pa-    tive risks. An open and honest risk com-       to prefer those arguments which confirmed
rameters previously established of those       munication is therefore important to dis-      their firmly held opinions, while contrary
questioned could be used to classify the       pel unfounded fears or to make sure that       arguments and information was underes-
interviewees as “concerned” and “uncon-        fears do not take root in the first place.     timated. Only the undecided were prepared
cerned” (with regard to environmental fac-       In the first report on this subject Peter    to accept pro and contra arguments as
tors) and then it could be investigated if     Wiedemann from the Programme Group             equally important. This presents a chal-
there is a correlation between complaints      Human, Environment and Technology of           lenge for risk communication since it is
about health problems posed by base sta-       the Research Centre in Jülich, Germany         difficult to change a firmly held opinion,
tions.                                         focused on fundamental questions con-          even if the arguments used are good ones.
  Monica Sandström from the National           cerning the public’s risk perception in con-   It seems plausible that it primarily depends
Institute of Working Life in Umeå, Swe-        junction with electro smog. A basic prob-      on a timely information policy (in other
den, reported on a pilot study where 18        lem is that laypersons perceive the “risk”     words before a new radio mast is erected).
people were asked which symptoms they          of radio masts (and from mobile tele-            Wiedemann explained that according to
thought were connected to a neighbour-         phones) differently than how the risk is       the findings obtained to date, they have
ing base station. The interviewees did not     assessed by experts. In a number of stud-      revealed that there is a strong asymmetry
represent a cross-section of the popula-       ies it was revealed that the public is gen-    between information that warns and in-
tion. They were recruited after they re-       erally not very concerned about these risks,   formation that is reassuring. People are
sponded to ads in 10 Swedish newspapers.       but that the subject is dealt with in the      much more aware and give more attention
They were asked to report on symptoms          media with increasing frequency and the        to reports that warn than to those types of
that were connected to mobile radio base       political discussion about it is highly con-   reports which are reassuring. This effect is
stations. Only 18 people responded to the      troversial.                                    much more characteristic of the concerned
ads and 17 of them described themselves          In the summer of 2002 in Tirol, Austria,     group. All of this indicates obviously that
as electro hyper-sensitive. Many of the        Wiedemann’s group conducted a study            with regard to risk communication it is
people who responded were members of           with 151 people in order to investigate the    not enough to educate the public neutral-
the Swedish organization for electro-sen-      individual differences concerning risk per-    ly and factually. In Wiedemann’s opinion
sitive people.                                 ception regarding radio masts and mobile       it is important to have a better under-
  The most frequent symptoms those in-         telephones and to find out how the public      standing of the other variables, e.g. social
terviewed complained of were Concentra-        evaluates the most important arguments         norms and emotions which do effect one’s
tion difficulties, headaches, general dis-     used in connection with risk communica-        perception of things.
comfort, memory disturbance, dizziness,        tion. It was also of interest how future         Ray Kemp from Galson Sciences in Oa-
nausea, and tooth disorders. Ms Sandström      events could influence risk perception.        kham, Great Britain emphasized in his re-
concluded from her study that there are          The persons interviewed were placed into     port that it is important to take the con-
people who are concerned about the fur-        three groups according to their attitude       cerns of the public regarding possible
ther extension of mobile radio networks        towards the risk of mobile radio commu-        health risks posed by radio masts serious-
and that many people do not see any need       nication. The three groups were: “con-         ly. Even when no biologically effects have
for a further extension of the networks.       cerned”, “unconcerned” and those who had       been proven to be linked to radiation from
The decision to continue extending the         no clear opinion regarding the subject in      base stations, the idea alone can trigger
networks does not seem to have enough          question, “undecided”. The variables which     stress in those concerned and can lead to

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          W o r k s h o p

considerable protest by the public against     stand it, simplifications are necessary. This    about the possible biological effects of
radio masts being erected. Recently a few      procedure is always subjective and can lead      microwaves. On the other hand, as a rule
initiatives that have been started by net-     to misunderstandings, especially when the        the lower the level of knowledge concern-
work operators in Great Britain and in a       information is distorted by the media.           ing the biological effects from electromag-
few other countries in order to intensify      Moreover, laypersons tend to judge things        netic waves was, the greater the level of
the dialog with the public (e.g. online base   in either “black or white” categories (dan-      fear was concerning possible health risks
station registers) are indications that the    gerous, not dangerous, cancer causing, not       of radiation stemming from radio masts. It
attitude is changing regarding the con-        cancer causing), whereas scientists evalu-       must be mentioned here that people were
cern of citizens living near base stations.    ate a risk on a continual basis and essen-       only aware of mobile radio base stations
  Ray Kemp proposed for this dialog a, as      tially in much finer graduations.                when they were erected in the distance as
he calls it, “ladder of communication” in        It is also important how the information       visible radio masts and not when they were
order to avoid risk communication from         is conveyed. Lectures, newspaper articles        on buildings.
becoming counterproductive. The first          and brochures are suitable instruments for         A consequence of the findings of this
stage would simply be general informa-         a “direct” transmission of information.          study and other studies which were con-
tion communicated by means of press re-        However, there are also many channels in         ducted in Poland during the last 5 years
leases, or flyers, albeit the higher one       which hidden or indirect messages can be         was a set of recommendations for mediat-
climbs up this ladder the more intensive       transmitted, such as court rulings, “good        ing future conflicts concerning the erec-
the dialogue becomes, whereas the differ-      advice” for risk prevention, exaggerated         tion of new base stations: firstly, the use

ent stages would involve different actors,     precautionary measures and unreasonable          of modern risk communication methods
(network operators, town meetings, re-         value limits. Often these hidden messages        in the form of clear scientifically based
search institutions, authorities, etc.). Ac-   are also at the same time conveyed when          information that can be understood by the
cording to Kemp it is essential that the       direct information is given, and may even        general public. Secondly, meeting and ne-
effectiveness of risk communication be         work against the latter. For example, some-      gotiating with resident representatives with
researched further and improved.               times only the announcement that an epi-         the participation of independent experts,

  In the opinion of Paolo Cecchia from         demiological study will be done may un-          and when possible these experts should be
the Physics Laboratory of the National In-     intentionally signal to the public that “there   selected by the inhabitants and thirdly,
stitute of Heath in Rome, Italy risk com-      must be something to” the concerns they          the initiation and support of independent
munication is a decisive element regard-       raised issue with. In Vecchia’s opinion this     research on the effects of electromagnetic
ing the management of the public’s per-        must be absolutely taken into considera-         fields on humans and the environment.
ception of “risks” stemming from mobile        tion, if one is thinking about conducting a
radio base stations. Obviously, there is a     study on the possible heath risks posed by       Summary of the Workshop-
big gap between the assessment of risks        radio masts.                                     Discussion
posed by modern technology in the opin-          The final report was given by Elzbieta           Firstly it must be stressed that the
ion of experts and the perception of the       Sobiczewska form the Department of Mi-           strength of electromagnetic fields from
same risks by laypersons.                      crowave Safety, of the Military Institute        mobile radio-base stations, even in the
  Scientific investigations on the mecha-      of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Warsaw,           immediate neighbourhood is always well-
nisms of risk perception revealed which        Poland. She presented a study which was          below the ICNIRP value limits. At such
factors play an essential role. One of the     conducted with 1000 people who lived near        low exposure levels it is from a scientific
most important factors is a lack of famili-    mobile radio base stations and who were          point of view rather improbable that hu-
arity with the complicated scientific, tech-   engaged in citizens’ campaigns against the       mans or the environment in any way could
nological and medical mechanisms. The          erection of base stations. The participants      be harmed. Moreover, to date despite in-
conveyance of scientific findings in a way     in the study were asked about their per-         numerable studies which have investigat-
that laypersons can understand it is there-    ception and how much they knew about             ed the effects of weak electromagnetic
fore a central aspect of risk communica-       the possible risks posed by mobile radio         fields on biological systems in general, and
tion, however it can also lead to a number     masts and they were also asked about how         especially the effects on humans and ani-
of problems.                                   much they knew about the biological ef-          mals, have brought no conclusive evidence
  In order to present scientific informa-      fects of microwaves. It revealed that the        to light of there being any health risks at
tion in such a way that laypersons under-      majority of those asked knew very little         such low exposure.

20 NEWS l e t t e r 2 . 03
  Due to this many experts at the work-          A personal dosimeter, worn directly on        plained of. When someone is convinced
shop were of the opinion that one cannot       the body of the test person, with which         that radio masts pose a health risk, then
reckon that an epidemiological study is        the frequency selective exposure could be       the mere fact that in the immediate neigh-
able to prove that there are any harmful       measured over a longer period of time,          bourhood a base station is being erected
health risks posed by the electromagnetic      would make the task considerably easier         will trigger stress for that person and this
fields of mobile radio-base stations or to     to determine the different exposure class-      may lead to all kinds of health and well-
prove if a statistical recognizable risk can   es. However, a personal dosimeter does          being problems. Those who gave reports
be determined.                                 not exist at the moment. Even if it could       in the section “psychological aspects” pre-
  Owing to the spatial and temporal field      be built in the short-run, its suitability to   sented a number of indications that sup-
strength fluctuations, it is only possible     be used would have to be proven in a pilot      port this theory.
with considerable effort (when at all) to      study. In addition, at best it would only         Therefore, it is all the more important to
determine a useable exposition metric          allow for short-term effects to be investi-     heed what some of the experts present at
where the participants in such a study can     gated, which as a rule – according to most      the workshop advocated, namely a care-
be divided into different exposure classes.    of the experts present – is better investi-     fully planned risk communication, so that
This is also made more difficult by the fact   gated under laboratory conditions.              people do not develop this kind of stress
that people who do not live near a base          It still remains to be clarified whether or   to begin.
station are exposed to countless other elec-   not the psychological effects which were
tromagnetic fields and these fields are usu-   discussed at this workshop could be an          Dr.-Ing. Reinhard Giraud
ally much stronger than those emitted by       explanation for the reported health prob-       Senior Research Advisor
mobile radio communication systems.            lems residents near base stations com-          Forschungsgemeinschaft Funk e.V.

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