A Greek couple discovered their son had cancer and when the child recovered and they realised it was the result of exposure to radiation of mobile phone antennas they left their home town.

This is not a true story but, the theme of one in a series of short plays that echoed the real concerns of the citizens of Hortiatis Hill, in Thessaloniki, that is at the centre of controversy over health hazards posed by electromagnetic antennas installed on site.

The scripts of the plays were inspired by the fears of the town's residents who recounted them to actors from the Malta Drama Centre and two international theatre companies, who travelled to Greece last month.

The residents told actors about their futile appeals to politicians to do something about the electromagnetic antennas. However, as depicted in one of the plays, their worries fell on deaf ears.

Such health concerns are not unique to Greece but have been felt throughout the EU. There are still conflicting opinions on the harmful nature of all antennas, not just of mobile phones.

The World Health Organisation recognises that several people attribute health conditions - such as headaches, anxiety, depression and nausea - to electromagnetic exposure. However, to date, scientific evidence does not support a link between such symptoms and exposure to electromagnetic field, according to WHO.

As for the EU, it has advised governments to protect those living close to transmitters by setting safety provisions.

Drama Centre project coordinator Mario Azzopardi explained that research carried out by the centre, as part of the project, showed that in Malta there was one antenna for every 194 people whereas in the UK the ratio was one per 1,297 inhabitants.

Earlier this year the environmental group Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar urged the government to reduce the number of mobile phone antennas due to their potential health threats.

The antennas fell under the responsibility of the Malta Communications Authority that conducted ongoing tests on the antennas throughout the island, a spokesman said.

At the end of last February, there were 2,114 antennas in Malta. This figure includes transmission antennas used for broadband wireless access, radio navigation, maritime, mobile communications, aeronautical, satellite communications and fixed services.

The MCA spokesman said the antennas tested by the authority were "well within the acceptable safety limit".

The Greek Antenna Park Project was a tripartite initiative involving the Malta Drama Centre, the Machina Theatre Company of Asvestohori in Greece and the Business Club Austrialia of Vienna.

The project was sponsored by the EU's Grundtvig Lifelong Learning Programme.

During three separate events held over the past two years, actors from Malta, Greece and Austria travelled to the three countries to explore topics sensitive to the citizens. The subject picked by Malta was immigration while Austria touched on "barriers in the mind".

Through this forum theatre, public awareness was raised on controversial issues. The audience took the roles of "spec-actors" and were encouraged to express their concerns in the open and to "act their life" on stage, Mr Azzopardi explained.

The project ended this month with the Greece expedition and culminated with the publication of a booklet that outlined the actors' journey. Although not much political action took place in Greece about the antennas, the authorities published a written decision to remove 21 of hundreds of antennas from Hortiatis Hill.


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