HC Deb 25 March 2003 vol 402 cc202-3W
Mrs. Helen Clark

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent assessment has been made of the effects of mobile phone masts on human health; what current research he has commissioned on the effects of mobile phone masts on human health; what comparison he has made of the level of emissions from mobile phone masts in the UK with those in other European countries; and what plans he has to regulate the level of emissions from mobile phone masts. [103706]

Ms Blears

The public health implications of mobile phone base stations were assessed by the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (IEGMP), chaired by Sir William Stewart. Their report, issued in May 2000, was a comprehensive review of relevant research and can be found on the Group's web site at www.iegmp.org.uk. A main conclusion was thatThe balance of evidence indicates that there is no general risk to the health of people living near to base stations on the basis that exposures are expected to be small fractions of guidelines.

Measurements undertaken, since publication of the IEGMP report, by the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) and the Radiocommunications Agency (RA) have confirmed that public exposures are very much lower than the international guidelines: www.nrpb.org— see publications NRPB R-321 and www.radio.gov.uk— see mobile phone base stations.

The Stewart Group proposed that gaps in knowledge were sufficient to justify a precautionary approach to the development of this technology and recommendations were made for further research. A comprehensive research programme has now been established under an independent programme management committee. Information can be found on the web site at www.mthr.org.uk.

The UK uses the same GSM/mobile phone technology and frequencies as other European countries. Measurement programmes exist in a number of European countries. Wide variations in emissions data are noted, but the measurements show emissions are significantly inside the exposure guidelines. Similar results have been obtained by the RA base station audit programme and by the NRPB in the United Kingdom.

Mobile phone and mast emissions fall within the Radio equipment and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Directive (R&TTE). The European Commission issued a mandate requesting the European standardisation bodies prepare and adopt harmonised standards covering the aspects of emissions of electro-magnetic frequencies covered by the R&TTE Directive. It was stated that standards should take into account the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation (ICNIRP) limits laid out in the Council Recommendation 1999/519/EC to allow presumption of conformity to Article 3.1(a) of the R&TTE Directive.

Three groups of standards on measurement of exposure from mobile phone masts have been, or are in the process of being agreed. Upon completion of this family of standards the mobile operators will have clear obligations to comply with the ICNIRP Guidelines though the European Council Recommendation on exposure, the R&TTE Directive and the relevant standard. In the absence of a final harmonised measurement standard, the obligation under the R&TTE Directive and the Recommendation would still apply.