Pupils in mobile phone mast row stay at home;News;News amp; Opinion

19th November 1999 at 00:00
CHILDREN are being withdrawn from a West Yorkshire primary school following fears that a mobile-phone mast erected in its grounds poses a health risk.

Wrenthorpe primary, Wakefield, is the latest school to be hit by controversy surrounding mobile transmitters. The Department of Health launched an urgent inquiry into the hazards of the masts in June.

Eight parents have moved their children from Wrenthorpe to other schools in the district and another 80 families stayed away from school on Monday to protest against the transmitter.

The 15-metre mast was erected in January, but the battle began in earnest when it was switched on by the Orange phone company last week. Parents, who say they were not consulted about the mast before it went up, fear it could cause long-term health problems for their children.

More than 500 schools in Britain are believed have been paid between pound;4,000 and pound;8,000 a year to have mobile-phone transmitters on their land. But a grassroots parent campaign against the masts has won a number of well-publicised victories over the phone companies in recent months.

At Gourdon, in Aberdeenshire, parents forced Vodaphone to remove a mast from a playground. The same company suffered a similar reverse at Plaistow Hill infants school, Plymouth, and, earlier this month, parents were celebrating at Bedonwell junior and infants school in Belvedere, Kent, when Bexley council promised to have a mast removed from their school.

The Local Government Association has called for national guidance for local authorities on mobile phone masts, but the Government is believed to be waiting for guidance from the UK Childhood Cancer Survey and the National Radiological Protection Board before it acts.

The NRPB has previously insisted that there is no published scientific evidence that there is any health risk from the masts.

With a body of academic opinion now backing the parents' protest, campaigners are hoping Britain will follow Germany, New Zealand and parts of the United States in banning masts from schools.

A report to the Greater Glasgow Health Board this summer linked masts to childhood cancers and brain disorders. Research in Greece found that mice put near transmitters became unable to reproduce in five generations and a study at the University of Washington in the United States this year found radiation disrupted the short-term memory of rats.

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