Women, children and the elderly may be especially sensitive to microwaves emitted by mobile phone antennae and need particular consideration, according to an expert on the matter.
Barrie Trower, an independent research scientist who spent 11 years questioning captured spies involved in microwave warfare during the Cold War, described as "frightening" the effect of genetic damage to the ovaries of young girls, which, he claimed, could be caused by the antennae.
"If these women have girls, the genetic damage could carry on from generation to generation because it is irreparable. This is what we are gambling with," he said.
Although there was a gap in the research on children, Mr Trower said it was known that they were more vulnerable to microwaves by virtue of their size: "Being the size of their wavelength, they can act like aerials, vibrating inside and undergoing some sort of stress."
Having less dense bones, the microwaves penetrated them easier and they did not have a fully developed immune system to fend them off, he said.
Mr Trower was brought over by the Kortin Residents' Association, which has two mobile antennae in the area and claims residents have been suffering from their harmful effects.
A woman with an antenna 25 metres from her bedroom has constant migraines and another suffers from electro sensitivity and has contemplated suicide, depression being one of the many adverse affects, according to Mr Trower.
In fact, he said, between three and 15 per cent of the population suffer from electro sensitivity.
The association is setting up a movement, in conjunction with the Lija mayor and with Mr Trower as advisor, to raise awareness of the harmful effects of the antennae and remove them from public areas, its president, Andrè Catania, said.
Legal action has already started with a letter to the mobile phone operators and the residents who accepted money to have the antennae on their roofs, holding them responsible for any damage.
So far, however, the only response was that they were in accordance with the law, Mr Catania said.
The next step was to see the government's reaction, he said, auguring that it would plan to move the antennae to the coastline.
"We do not want to destroy them. Our ultimate aim is to reduce their power to harmless levels or move them away from residents," he said.
Mr Trower said there were legal precedents, quoting three court cases that proved mobile phone transmitters caused cancer.
He said it was often overlooked that two neighbouring transmitters could piggyback on each other, causing multiple effects. This meant that what was within the guidelines could suddenly not be any more. Mr Trower urged decision-makers to read scientific literature to set the correct safety levels. "When they say they are within international guidelines, they are quoting the maximum levels, not the safe levels," he warned.
Mr Trower said it had been known since 1932, when microwaves were used for the first time, that they could make people sick, including severe headaches, fatigue, cancer and susceptibility to infection. "And we knew everything there was to know about their harm by 1971," he said.
Mr Trower is on his way to South Africa for talks with ministers on the fact that, for the first time in its history, it has childhood leukaemia clusters and suicides around transmitters.
Together with Daniel Massa, from the Kortin Residents' Association, he made a presentation to the Social Affairs Parliamentary Committee yesterday, auguring that the government would step in to move the antennae away.
Prof. Massa said the "short-sighted, reprehensible lack of adequate planning to protect the Maltese is that thousands of electro-sensitive persons continue to suffer from an array of adverse health symptoms of a predominantly neurological kind".
He said the Department of Health Information had not issued a single statement about emerging and newly-identified non-thermal biological health risks from electromagnetic radiation. Then it presumed to inform the planning authority that the antennae did not generate any adverse effects.
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