Illness cluster raises fears over radio mast

By Michael Alexander
The Courier (Dundee-based newspaper) – 27/8/03

FEARS WERE expressed yesterday that powerful radio masts and mobile phone transmitters could be responsible for almost a dozen cases of cancer, motor neurone disease and Parkinson's within a rural area of North East Fife.

Residents living within a twokilometre radius of masts on Drumcarrow Hill, near St Andrews, said yesterday it seemed to be "more than a coincidence" that the "cluster" of ill-health only appeared after what they understand to be a TETRA-type transmitter was erected around four years ago.

Yesterday they demanded an independent inquiry by the Scottish Executive into the safety of TETRA police communication masts, proposed for locations across Fife.

A number of experts have been invited to a meeting tonight in St Andrews town hall to debate concerns over potential health risks of TETRA masts. The residents said more and more questions continued to arise.

Retired nurse Catherine Gamba, of Peat Inn said she had been aware of several people falling ill in the Peat Inn, Radernie and Denhead areas over the last couple of years. She recently investigated further and realised the "frightening" scale of the situation.

Drumcarrow, four kilometres south-west of St Andtews, is a sparsely populated area of farms, cottages and hamlets. Mrs Gamba said within he last three years, this area had seen four cases of normally very rare motor neurone disease, four cases of thyroid cancer and several other cancers, a case of Parkinson's disease and a woman who developed ME. (Note: Mrs Gamba has advised me personally that the thyroid disorders are hyperthyroidism and nodules on thyroid glands - in this detail this newspaper article is inaccurate, though there are an exceptional number of cancers in the area. G. B.)

Mrs Gamba claimed the problems only arose after a new TETRA-style mast was erected by Dolphin Telecommunications Ltd.

She said, "It was horrendous to discover that these cases had apparently only arisen after this new mast went up, apparently without even requiring planning permission. The mast is not associated with the proposed TETRA police masts now, but it is similar technology.

"At the moment we cannot prove that this mast is responsible – we also have concerns about mobile phone masts at Radernie next to where three women have developed thyroid problems. But if there is a link the last thing we need is more TETRA masts. This has implications not just for us, but for people across the country. and the world."

Mrs Yvonne Gibb has lived at Radernie for 12 years and for the last three years has suffered from an underactive thyroid. She was in "no doubt" of a connection between her ill-health and the masts.

"I discovered I had a thyroid problem when I started falling asleep all the time, and now have to take thyroxine every day for life.

"It's only when I began speaking to, more, and more people that I realised folk were getting ill."

Chartered engineer Christine Clark, who grew up near Drumcarrow, suffers from ME. Her mother Kathleen died aged 69 in December, 2000, of motor neurone disease. She lived for more than 30 years in the shadow of Drumcarrow but only fell ill after the Dolphin mast went up.

Miss Clark said, "My mother told me she was convinced there was a connection between her condition and the new Dolphin/TETRA mast.

“Studies have shown that the effects of radon gas from former mine shafts can be exacerbated by electromagnetic radiation. There are redundant coal mines at Radernie and iron mines at Denhead."

Miss Clark added, "There is on average one case of motor neurone disease out of every 200,000 population in their lifetime. Yet with a population of around 250,000 in Fife , we have had three or four cases of motor neurone disease - three times the national average within a two-mile radius in only two years."

Mrs Gamba said she had written to Fife Council and contacted North East Fife MSP lain Smith.

Yesterday a NHS Fife spokeswoman said they were not aware of any health cluster but would investigate if asked to do so.

No-one at Basingstoke-based Dolphin could be contacted due to the English batik holiday.

Mobile phone company Airwave Mm02, which is applying to erect TETRA masts as part of a system that will improve radio communications for all emergency services, is adamant the masts are safe. Fife Police also insisted the proposed masts pose no danger.