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Wireless Radiation Fears Nearly Scupper Broadband Mast in Scotland

Thursday, Feb 6th, 2014 (6:34 pm) - Score 1,275

Mention words like Microwave or Radiation and some people will instantly conjure up frightening images of nuclear disasters, three headed dogs and of course.. Justin Bieber. The latter is particularly horrifying but not when it nearly scuppers a seemingly harmless rural broadband project (the wireless aspect not Bieber).

Fears about allegedly harmful mobile or wifiradiation” rotting peoples brains or DNA have been around for quite a while, albeit largely without any firm scientific proof to back them up. The European Commission and UK Health Protection Agency have both consistently said that WiFi is safe to use and frequently cite a lack of evidence for any adjustment to current “exposure limits” (though we’d happily welcome an exposure limit for Justin Bieber).

Unfortunately that hasn’t stopped such fears hampering local wireless broadband projects (example) and now another one has narrowly avoided a similar fate after the SNP councillor for Central Buchan in Aberdeenshire (Scotland), Jim Ingram, raised public health concerns over plans for a new 8 metre mast at Longside Primary School.

Jim Ingram told an Area Committee Meeting:

I’m disappointed to see this being proposed for schools. I would have been very concerned about the impact of microwaves, especially at schools and nurseries near infants. I believe these things are subject to interpretation and my interpretation is this is a danger to public health.”

It’s unclear how such things can be “subject to interpretation“, presumably as opposed to scientific proof, but we’ll leave that up to our readers to debate. In any case the mast was ultimately approved (5 votes to 4) and will be used to help deliver superfast broadband services to rural areas, although Thinkbroadband has spotted that the specifics about its technology choice are admittedly quite vague (mast report).

Buchan Area Committee Report

In terms of potential impacts upon health the submitted ICNIRP Declaration certifies that the installation of the telecommunication mast at Longside School is designed to be in full compliance with the requirements of the radio frequency (RF) public exposure guidelines of the International Commission on Non-Iodising Radiation Protection, as expressed in EU Council recommendation of 12 July 1999 “on the limitation of exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields (0Hz to 300GHz).

As such it is not considered that the mast will impact upon the health or well being of any residents. The equipment will operate in compliance with legislative standards and as such there will not be any exposure to the population of electromagnetic fields at what would be considered an unsafe level.

The same meeting also deferred the construction of another 12 metre high mast, although this is more understandable because it was due to be built in a conservation area and such work has a tendency to be similarly controversial; albeit without using the word “radiation” to cause FuD.

On the other hand a more pragmatic viewpoint might be that new research is always worth pursuing and that there’s no harm in further scientific study to examine some of the fears. On the other hand the existing research doesn’t show a problem and, next to the energetic cosmic particles that bore their way through our bodies every single day, a little low power wireless radiation is surely the least of our worries.

So to summarise.. let’s get rid of Justin Bieber.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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