Police blame radios
for health problems
By Paul Stokes and Nic Fleming
Police officers are to have their health monitored after nearly 200 blamed a variety of ailments on new communications radios.Some complained of migraines, burning sensations, sleeplessness and lack of concentration after using European digital technology known as Terrestrial Trunk Radio or Tetra.
The system offers improved security and sound quality and is to be introduced to all police forces in England, Scotland and Wales by 2005 at a cost of £2.9 billion.
Lancashire and North Yorkshire are the first counties to have completed the issue of the digital radios, which are linked to the Airwave Service run by 02, the former offshoot of BT.
Two senior government scientific advisers will attend a series of question and answer sessions with officers using the new equipment, which allows inter-force communication.
The first will be in Preston today with members of the Lancashire force, where 173 officers have reported ailments since using the new equipment.
The concerns were raised through a questionnaire sent to 3,400 members of the local Police Federation, while in neighbouring North Yorkshire 20 officers have reported health concerns.
Pc Steve Edwards, chairman of the Lancashire Police Federation, said: "Nobody is saying these radios are definitely unsafe, but neither do we know they are definitely safe. We are being used as guinea pigs."
Concern centres on the fact that signals received by Tetra radios pulse at 17.6Hz, close to the 16Hz at which brain signals operate.
Alasdair Philips, of the consumer group Powerwatch, said: "I believe these new radios are dangerous. Previous studies have shown that Tetra-like pulses put brain cells under severe stress by causing them to lose calcium ions.
"Cells under stress are more likely to develop cancer and dementia as defence mechanisms are damaged."
A Home Office spokesman said the Department was aware of concerns raised by officers. He said: "We are doing a full research programme on health and safety on Tetra users. Independent scientific experts concluded that it is unlikely that Tetra poses any risk to the health of users, but they also recommended extra research."