A group of people concerned about radiation from mobile phone antennas has convinced a parliamentary committee to probe the matter and grill the authorities responsible for the devices.
The planning authority, the communications authority and the Health Ministry will soon be questioned about the health hazards of electromagnetic radiation by Parliament’s Social Affairs Committee.
This was decided at a meeting on Tuesday after the committee failed to take any action when people raised their concerns about the controversial base stations on rooftops two years ago.
The chairman of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, Austin Walker had said in a letter to one of the concerned citizens in 2008 that the authority had been “given the green light by the director of public health, confirming these antennae did not generate any adverse affects”.
He added that the Malta Communications Authority was continuously monitoring the radiation in line with World Health Organisation guidelines.
But the committee and a lobby group against the antennas remain unconvinced and want to query such approval, in light of questions being raised by international experts. They can now question the authorities.
“It is a gross scandal that, in the absence of adequate testing, mobile telecommunication technology has been rolled out in an essentially unregulated way that results in the involuntary exposure of the majority of the population,” Daniel Massa said during his presentation to the committee.
He has taken a particular interest in the cause in the defence of electro-sensitive people, who have been suffering health problems as a result.
Armed with studies and quoting experts, Prof. Massa pointed to the link between cancer – in particular, leukaemia clusters in children – and electromagnetic fields.
However, apart from a possible carcinogen, the radiation from base stations could also cause a wide range of symptoms from headaches to lack of concentration, memory loss, depression and burning sensations.
Prof. Massa said exposure limits, according to the guidelines of the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, remained almost 1,000 times higher than the safe threshold.
Meanwhile, no one seemed to know what was going on and 26 months after the issue was first raised at the committee meeting, everyone remained in the dark, he insisted.
Social Affairs Committee chairman Edwin Vassallo insisted on ensuring the related entities, including the main players, Go, Melita and Vodafone, shouldered their responsibilities.
He said he was ready to take the cause into a wider forum, including environmental NGOs and local councils if necessary and throw his weight behind it if there were the slightest doubt that the base stations were a health hazard.
“If we are not sure, then we should at least attempt to minimise the extent of the damage,” said University lecturer Peter Xuereb, who also made his case against the antennae.
In Lija, these were positioned within 10 metres from children’s bedrooms, he said.
Peter Borg, an accountant, related the trauma of his daughter’s leukaemia, saying another ttwo children in Marsascala, which was “surrounded by base stations”, had been diagnosed and expressing his shock when he found one on a building facing the back of the school where several classes and playgrounds are.
In San Ġwann, there were seven antennae on one building and these were even being hidden in tanks not to raise concern, others maintained.
An electro-sensitive woman asked how long those in her “cruel” predicament would have to wait until something was done about it.