Phone masts start Child Cancer scare

Giles Tremlett in Madrid
Saturday January 12, 2002
The Guardian

An outbreak of cancer at a primary school in Valladolid, central Spain, and a
court order forcing the removal of the nearby telephone transmitters held
responsible, have led to demands throughout the country for transmitters to be pulled down.

Four children, aged between five and 10, at the Garcia Quintana primary
school have been diagnosed with cancer since 36 powerful transmitters
were installed 18 months ago on a building 50 metres away.

Parents refused to send their children back to school this term until the
transmitters were switched off and dismantled. A local court backed their
demand, the transmitters were turned off, and staff and children returned to
their classes on Thursday.

The court has given phone companies three months to remove the
transmitters altogether, and the local education authority has decided to
close the school until scientists can discover whether the transmitters or
something else caused the cancers.

The three cases of leukaemia and one of Hodgkin's disease diagnosed among
450 pupils is a much greater incidence of child cancer than the national
average of 14 in 100,000.

Luis Martin, a doctor who is also a parent at the school, said: "In 32 years
there had never been a case of cancer here but since they installed the
antennas in 2000 four children have fallen seriously ill.

"We don't believe this is a coincidence. The antennas were placed so close to
the playground that they [the children] have been affected by the
electromagnetic waves."

Maria Jose Garcia, whose daughter Carla, 5, is undergoing chemotherapy,
said: "The parents of the last child to fall sick are racked with guilt because
they think they should have taken him away."

Scientists and the government disagree about the cause of the cluster. Juan
Represa, a government adviser, said: "If the antennas were the cause then,
taking into account the number across Spain, we would have hundreds of
thousands of cases of cancer." Other chemicals may have caused the
illnesses, he added.

Yesterday the regional authorities began a study of possible causes, but they
admit that they may never find out why the four children, and two more who
live in nearby buildings, fell ill.

The parents point to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which
has finally shown a link between child cancer and the electromagnetic fields
produced by power lines.

"As a result the World Health Organisation now recognises these fields as a
probable or possible cause of cancer," Dr Martin said .