Mobile masts are something of a blot on the landscape, but are they are blot on sleep and other biological processes too? In recent years mobile operators have been busy improving their coverage in this area, with a growing collection of hilltop antenna, comprised of mobile, shipping, and most controversially emergency services base stations.
A recent TETRA related planning consultation period that expired on February the 17th has perhaps rather late in the day caused something of a stir. The mast is on eaglesfield road near the fire station. The opposition to proposals for the upgrading of equipment owned by airwave solutions has led to mo burgess of the greenwich conservatives writing to residents to survey local feelings on this topic; she explains in her letter that she has received a number of complaints. More recently, a number of posters have gone up on lamp posts in the area, with a couple of contact phone numbers at the bottom, not having rung them myself I’m not sure if they are to do with mo burgess.
Base stations in general are unpopular, partly because some of the masts are so menacing to look at, but airwave equipment in particular is seen as somewhat controversial because of the comparatively higher health risks thought to be associated with the encrypted TETRA radio specification they use. Firstly there’s the slow cooking problem, which relates to both those near base stations and handset users (in this case ambulance workers, firefighters and the police). Additionally there are the so called non-thermal effects associated with TETRA. The story about base station risks is fairly complex (i.e. I couldn’t fully grasp the main literature review after one very boring sitting), but it does seem that the continual repetition of signal oscillations at around 17Hz might (to me) be the mechanism behind the sleep disturbances reported in some of the survey findings, although the so-called nocebo (negative) effect can’t necessarily be ruled out in that study due to the way it was set up. This all led me to speculate that since neural firing patterns oscillate around 11-39Hz during open eyed wakefulness and 2-7Hz during sleep, a constant stream of 17Hz signal frequencies pulsing through ones bedroom wall and head at night could potentially induce wakefulness?
The experiments on the topic is divided into two camps, and Epidemiologists haven’t really been able to investigate TETRA yet as they probably need more time (they are now going over >10 year data for GSM and even that has been divisive). The general scientific consensus seems to be that more long-term adverse health affects have not been ruled out for this technology, and with the previous concerns over some of the signal frequencies and microwave radiation used in TETRA, the response of some people is quite reasonably, “Why should we be the guinea pigs!”