Written Answers. - Communications Masts.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

510 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health and Children the action he is taking to alleviate the suffering of those people whose health is adversely affected by their sensitivity to the electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone masts which operate 24 hours a day. [19266/00]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

614 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has appointed a panel of medical experts to carry out examinations on the affected electro-hypersensitives here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20247/00]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 510 and 614 together.

All significant research in this area is monitored by the Department of Public Enterprise with whom my Department liaises regarding the human health aspects. Approval for the erection of mobile phone masts in a particular area is a function of the local planning authority and guidelines were issued by the Department of the Environment and Local Government to all local authorities in relation to location of mobile phone masts. The monitoring of the levels of emissions from mobile phone masts is a function of the Office of the Director of Telecommunications Regulation. That office publishes an audit report of licensed operators each year. The audit is carried out by Enterprise Ireland for the office. The most recent report published in February 2000 focuses on compliance with the general public exposure limits specified by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection in 1998. The report shows that all the companies audited have procedures and arrangements in place to ensure compliance with the general public exposure limits.

A large number of human health studies have been carried out in this area and further research is under way. The World Health Organisation in 1996 launched a five year research programme (the International EMF Project) to assess the health and environmental aspects of electric and magnetic fields including those associated with mobile phone masts. This project will bring together current knowledge and available resources of key international and national agencies and scientific institutions in order to arrive at scientifically sound recommendations for health risk assessments. The results of this research programme will, hopefully, inform any decisions which may need to be taken in relation to appropriate responses to the presence of electric and magnetic fields.

From the public health viewpoint if conclusive evidence emerges that radiation from mobile phones equipment is causing an unacceptable public health risk then I would seek to have appropriate remedial measures put in place by Departments and agencies with direct responsibility in this area.