Pylon cancer fears put 7 billion blight on house prices

From Katharina Gustavs / Eileen O'Connor:

Telegraph 29 April 2006 (United Kingdom) Pylon cancer fears put £7bn blight on house prices By Nic Fleming, Medical Correspondent (Filed: 29/04/2006)

Up to £7 billion will be wiped off property values if the

Government accepts the advice of experts that homes

should no longer be built near overhead power lines

because of possible links with childhood leukaemia.

About 130,000 houses could lose between 10 per cent and a quarter of their re-sale price if ministers take the advice of a committee set up by the Department of Health.

Research continues into whether pylons are responsible for increased cases of leukaemia

A draft of a report by the committee, seen by The Daily Telegraph, states that building houses within 230ft of high voltage power lines and 115ft of lower voltage lines should be banned.

The confidential document, written by John Swanson, the scientific adviser to the National Grid, considers the option of compulsorily buying all 75,000 homes in England and Wales that are affected.

But a more recent paper, written last month, sets out the group's preferred option - an end to the building of houses near overhead lines and a ban on new power lines being built near existing homes.

The draft report acknowledges that implementing this as a policy could wipe a quarter off the value of 25,000 homes within 230ft of 400kv and 275kv overhead transmission lines and some 10 per cent from the value of 55,000 houses within 460ft of them.

It also admits there could be a reduction of 15 per cent in the value of 50,000 homes within 100ft of the lower voltage 132kv power lines.

The documents are the work of the Stakeholder Advisory Group on Extremely Low Frequency Electromagentic Fields (Sage). This committee was set up by the DoH in October 2004 following the publication of a report by Dr Gerald Draper, of the Oxford childhood cancer research group.

Dr Draper suggested that children under 15 living near high voltage power lines could have a 69 per cent increased risk of getting leukaemia.

Some scientists pointed out that while the research found a statistical association, it did not establish a causal link and they rejected the findings.

Sage includes representatives of the DoH, the National Grid, the Health Protection Agency, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

Academics from the University of Bristol and Nottingham Trent University are also members, as well as a number of campaigners from groups committed to highlighting what they believe are the potential dangers of electromagnetic fields.

Nicholas Ashe, of Property Vision, a leading firm of country house and estate buying agents, said the potential loss of value to properties could be even greater than Sage's working group predicts.

He said: "The higher the value of the house, the greater the impact. We are talking about reductions of up to 50 per cent.

"For the kind of country house we find for clients, the majority of the market would be wiped out and properties could become almost unsaleable.

"It would have the same affect as building a road nearby or the property being under a new flight path."

The draft Sage report, dated last November, acknowledges that power lines already have an impact on property values, with a home in a rural location within 165ft of a National Grid transmission line losing 15 per cent of its value.

It considers potential policy options if the Government were to decide that no one should be allowed to live within 230ft of power lines.

These include the compulsory purchase and demolition of all houses near the lines.

"This section considers the more modest policy of applying this prospectively, ie stopping any new homes from being built near power lines but not doing anything directly with existing homes."

near power lines but not doing anything directly with existing homes.

It considers potential policy options if the Government were to decide that no one should be allowed to live within 230ft of power lines.

These include the compulsory purchase and demolition of all houses near power lines.

"However one possible consequence of this prospective-only policy is that it nonetheless causes devaluation of existing properties."

The report lists four scenarios for the loss of value caused by the Government adopting Sage's preliminary advice. This amounts to between £3 billion and £7 billion.

The report will be presented to the Government in June along with another report on new advice on electrical wiring within the home.

It states that whether home and landowners could claim compensation from electricity companies will depend partly on the contractual arrangements between the parties, and whether the Government introduces compulsory or voluntary measures.

Whatever happens, it seems likely that the overall costs will ultimately be borne by consumers.

A spokesman for the National Grid said: "We are not going to disclose any details until the firm conclusions of the group are published this summer." ================================================== Telegraph 29 April 2006

Questions remain over pylon dangers By Nic Fleming, Medical Correspondent (Filed: 29/04/2006)

Despite taking seven years to complete, Dr Gerald Draper's investigation into the links between childhood leukaemia and high-voltage power lines was by no means conclusive. The research, published in full by the British Medical Journal last summer, looked at more than 29,000 children with cancer, including 9,700 with leukaemia, born between 1962 and 1995, and a control group of healthy youngsters in England and Wales.

Dr Draper and colleagues, from the Childhood Cancer Research Group at Oxford University, recorded the distance between the children's addresses at birth and the nearest high-voltage power line. They found that 64 children with leukaemia lived within 650ft of the line, and 258 lived between 650ft and 1,950ft away.

By comparing with control groups, they concluded that those within 650ft were around 69 per cent more likely to develop leukaemia, and those living between 650ft and 1,950ft away were 23 per cent more likely to develop the blood cancer, when compared to those living further away from power lines.

Around 500 children under 15 are diagnosed with leukaemia, cancer of the blood, every year in Britain and around 100 die.

Dr Draper estimated that, of the 400-420 cases that occur in England and Wales, about five might be associated with living in proximity to high voltage power lines.

The first suggestion of a link between EMFs and childhood leukaemia came from US researchers Nancy Wertheimer and Ed Leeper.

Eddie O'Gorman, the chairman of the charity Children with Leukaemia, said: "Planning controls must be introduced to stop houses and schools being built close to high-voltage overhead power lines."

While the researchers found a clear trend between the distance at which children were born from power lines and the risk of leukaemia, they could find no explanation for the finding. Some scientists have suggested magnetic fields produced by the lines could be to blame. However, the study found a raised risk beyond 650ft - a distance at which magnetic fields from power lines are at or below background levels.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has said this could mean at least some of the increased risk of leukaemia could be associated with factors other than EMFs.

The HPA responded to Dr Draper's study by suggesting that a "precautionary approach". Dr Michael Clarke, scientific spokesman for the HPA, said: "There is no hard evidence of a risk, but there is a hint of one. We formally suggested that the Government should consider precautionary measures."

The Department of Health said: "The Department of Health commissioned and funded the biggest ever study of its kind into cases of childhood cancer in proximity to high voltage power lines. This showed a statistical association, but no casual link.

"We have set up a group to consider the evidence and whether there is a need to develop precautionary measures. Ministers will consider the group's recommendations when they report." ====================================================== Telegraph 29 April 2006

Case study: £1m home 'blighted by cables' cannot be sold for half the price By Nigel Bunyan (Filed: 29/04/2006)

Dermot Finnigan has suffered greatly from the blight of a power cable.

Four years ago his home, set beside a golf club in Sale, Greater Manchester, was worth upwards of £1 million.

Today it is so compromised by the erection of a 40kva pylon that he cannot sell it even at a huge loss. A potential buyer agreed in February to pay £495,000, but pulled out of the deal on Wednesday following publication in The Daily Telegraph of the latest report linking power lines to childhood leukaemia.

An estate agent is charging £4,000 "up-front" simply to continue marketing the property, while his bank will not risk a £50,000 loan so he can meet domestic bills.

National Grid Transco disputes Mr Finnigan's claim that the huge structure encroaches on his land, while the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive, which sees the pylon as integral to its hopes of extending the city's Metrolink system, refuses to even discuss valuation.

The impasse means Mr Finnigan, 51, a former demolition contractor, and his wife, Janet, 49, are trapped in the four-bedroom home they regarded as their slice of "countryside in the city".

At the same time, his enforced retirement because of cancer means the couple have only minimal income.

"This is a classic David and Goliath scenario, except we are up against two Goliaths," he said yesterday.

"GMPTE have passed it on to the National Grid and the National Grid are in denial.

"They say we are ineligible for compensation because the cables overhang a few centimetres beyond our boundary. They are wrong and we have a 1956 ordnance survey plan to prove it. They have a moral responsibility to compensate us."

The latest report means there will be a lot more people who find themselves in a similar position.

The Finnigans bought a 10-acre site at Fairways Farm, close to the M60, in 1984. They planted 3,000 trees and built a house.

"For more than 10 years it was perfect, an absolute delight to live here," said Mr Finnigan. "But in May 2002 we were served with a compulsory purchase order made on behalf of GMPTE.

"We were told they wanted us out by Christmas, but weren't given either a price or any possible recourse.

"Fifteen months later the CPO was removed. We were told the pylon was going up at New Farm, next door to us, but that we would still be compensated. But instead of putting it up in place of the two houses there they built it at a different spot and gave the houses to Sale Golf Club.

"They seem to have moved it to one side in order to avoid compensating us."

The Finnigans' problems have been made worse by the removal of hundreds of trees - to facilitate the pylon - that screened their home from the noise of the motorway.

"Ninety per cent of buyers are put off by the pylon; the rest by the noise," he said.

National Grid Transco insisted that neither the old nor the new route of the power lines crossed Mr Finnigan's land.

GMPTE said it took the case "very seriously". But despite being sympathetic to Mr Finnigan's situation, it said he was not legally entitled to compensation. ======================================================= Telegraph 29 April 2006

The power game (Filed: 29/04/2006)

? The National Grid was set up in 1926

? The first pylon was built in Edinburgh in 1928

? The 3,000-mile grid was completed in the New Forest in 1933, It was nationalised in 1947

? National Grid operates the electricity network across the UK, but only owns the grid in England and Wales. The rest belongs to Scottish Power, Scottish and Southern Energy and Northern Ireland Electricity

? The National Grid network across England and Wales is 4,660 miles long and contains 22,000 pylons ================================================


Headaches, nosebleeds from TETRA

Health controversy grows as spread of telecoms masts continues apace

MICHAEL RUSSELL on the debate over the proliferation of the TETRA microwave communications system, due to go live in Skye and Lochalsh next week

Wild salmon and sea trout returned in near-record numbers to the Snizort River in north Skye last year in what has

Chris Butterfield suffers from a rare condition called electro-­sensitivity. Put simply, the Fife-based photographer is allergic to mobile phone technology, specifically the microwave signals which let the rest of us talk, text and cook.

As allergies go, this is about as bad as it gets. Skin rashes, headaches, disorientation and nosebleeds are what 30-year-old Chris has to contend with whenever he passes a base station mast, or when someone nearby uses the latest whizzbang 3G phone. It all makes for a very un­comfortable and difficult life. A trip to the shops or a walk in the country can suddenly turn into a very painful experience.

Naturally his mother, Liz, wants to help. Last month she visited the offices of the Free Press to place an advert seeking accommodation on Skye. “There are wide open spaces in the Highlands where there are no masts,” she explained. “Chris is ­looking for somewhere he can live without being afraid to go for a drive or a walk.”

Fife to Skye is a long drive, es­pecially for someone who herself suffers from ME. Evidently a son’s health is more important than a ­mother’s discomfort. She spent a few days house-hunting, placed the advert, then went back to Leven to wait for the good news.

What she got, however, was bad news. Now she and Chris will be staying put, at least for the time being. The Highlands and Islands, it transpires, are no longer the safe haven sought by mother and son. They know what to blame for that.

As of this month, Northern Constabulary started switching on its new “Airwave” system of microwave communication, promising police officers unprecedented access to data, encrypted security and inter-force capability.

Activating a vast network of Airwave antennae across Northern Constabulary’s eight area commands means a lot more masts, and a lot more radiation, for people like Chris Butterfield to dodge. The roll-out started in Lochaber at the beginning of this month, and is due to end when Skye and Lochalsh “goes live” next week.

According to Northern Con­stabulary, the whole Integrated Communication Development Programme — of which Airwave is the central element — has cost £4.5 million. Nationally, almost £3 billion of taxpayers’ money has been spent to date on putting the basic Airwave system in place, so the Government is expecting big things from it. The rush to complete the national roll-out as soon as possible was driven by Gordon Brown’s decision four years ago to sell all the police frequencies to an expectant mobile phone industry desperate to recoup the huge amounts spent on 3G technology. But many global players, both commercial and military, also want Airwave up and running because of its own intrinsic value.

Already various upgrades and add-ons, many with future military applications, are coming on the ­market. American telecoms giant Motorola — which dominates the UK Airwave market —launched the next generation of masts just three months ago. Arms giants Thales, EADS and Northrop Grumman also offer Airwave products and services. Inevitably, the cost is bound to increase over the course of the 15-year contract. This is a world-first, after all.

Over the last five years around 3,500 Airwave antennae, most of them site-sharing with other oper­ators and thus free from the usual planning constraints, have been put up nationwide. Northern Constabulary Chief Constable Ian Latimer initially said the force needed 287 Airwave sites to cover the Highlands and Islands. That figure now stands at 150, raising concerns about how full coverage can be achieved with fewer masts. All the UK’s 51 police forces are committed to Airwave, and this makes thousands of electro-sensitives like Chris nervous. They are not alone.

Since the system was piloted in Lancashire in 2000, there has been a steady stream of complaints from both users (police officers) and communities near to transmitters. Violent reactions like those experienced by Chris Butterfield have occurred in people not known as electro-­sensitive. What is it about Airwave that might affect ordinary people in this way? And are its effects being ignored — or worse, covered up — by the industry?

THE health controversy centres on two aspects of the system —the alleged pulsing of the microwave signals from Airwave police handsets and base stations, and the fact that base station transmitters are on full power 24/7. Ordinary mobile phone masts, by contrast, respond to demand, adjusting their power output accordingly.

Airwave is the light and fluffy brand name chosen for this technology by mobile company O2, which was formerly part of BT. The system is more accurately known as TErrestrial Trunked RAdio — TETRA.

During the Lancashire pilot study, 177 police officers complained of the same symptoms described by Chris Butterfield. Behavioural and emotional changes were also noted. Such was the concern within the police ­service at the time that the Police Federation commissioned Government microwave expert Barrie Trower to investigate the technology. His findings were shocking.

Microwaves from the UK’s 40,000 mobile phone masts are bad news. Pulsed microwaves from TETRA are even worse. Mr Trower said both interfere with the electrical processes within the body and, depending on their frequency, can produce very specific effects and will even degrade immune systems in the long term. The 17.6 Hz frequency used by TETRA is especially significant: that is slap bang in the middle of the 15-20 Hz range which characterises the brain’s electrical activity when engaged in complex mental tasks. Referred to in neuroscience as Beta Waves, this frequency range is also evident during the dream-state of sleep, which sufferers say is disrupted because of TETRA. Strobe lights are banned from flashing at this rate for this very reason, in case they induce an epileptic fit.

When he was head of the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones, Sir William Stewart, now chairman of the Health Protection Agency and formerly chairman of the National Radiological Protection Board, warned in 2000 that this frequency should be avoided. The Group noted that there “is now scientific evidence which suggests that there may be biological effects” occurring at exposure levels below official limits for microwaves from mobile phone (known in the industry as GSM) technology. Children under eight, said Sir William, should never use a mobile phone at all as they have thinner skulls than adults and their nervous systems are still developing.

As a result of the IEGMP’s findings, microwave emissions from mobile phone masts and TETRA transmitters now have to stick to stringent international limits, which came into force in the UK in 2004. In an effort to allay public fears, the NRPB told the telecoms regulator OFCOM in 2004 to put all emissions data from GSM and TETRA base ­stations on their website. So far, only four masts in Scotland have been ­listed on Ofcom’s Sitefinder facility. None of the four is north of Falkirk, and no TETRA masts are included.

OFCOM spokesman Simon Bates told me that the Home Office had prevented the publication of any TETRA readings on security grounds. Verifying industry claims that TETRA complies with official microwave limits is therefore impossible.

But crucially for Mr Trower, and a growing body of expert opinion, those official limits — enforced by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection — are badly flawed because they only cover the body heating effects of the radiation.

Since the Stewart Report of 2000, IEGMP consultees Dr Gerald Hyland and Dr Roger Coghill have published several papers which suggest, in common with Mr Trower, that key frequencies emitted by TETRA and mobile phone masts produce specific effects for entirely different reasons.

In a paper prepared for the European Parliament, Dr Hyland wrote: “Unlike the heating effect exposure to microwaves which can, if excessive, cause actual material damage, non-thermal influences act in a more subtle way, via their potentiality to interfere with biological functionality — in particular, it would appear, with bioprocesses which are intended to afford (natu­ral) protection against adverse health effects of various kinds.”

The industry, including its paid researchers and political advocates, is unmoved. Recognising non-thermal effects, despite Sir William Stewart’s admission, is still some way off. In fact, the official line is that TETRA signals from base stations do not pulse.

This assertion, say the Scottish Green Party, is a “hair-splitting” argument which averages out the signal over a set time period. Messrs Trower, Hyland and Coghill say the same. However, O2 do admit that the police handsets and car-mounted antennae do pulse. Makers of rival system TETRAPOL, which is used by the emergency services across Europe, say that UK TETRA base stations do pulse, though you might expect the competition to say that.

SEEKING some kind of clarity, I spoke to a man who should be able to give a definitive answer to the ­pulsing question.

Dr Michael Clark is a leading radiation expert who works for the Health Protection Agency, the body which absorbed Sir William Stewart’s NRPB in April of last year. The HPA acknowledge that TETRA is different from other microwave technologies. But how different? Does it pulse?

According to Dr Clark, any electrical signal has to drop to zero to qualify as pulsed. “That is the official definition that has been recognised for 30 years,” he explained. “However, the TETRA signal does rise and fall at specific frequencies.”

Could this rising and falling produce a biological effect? “That cannot be ruled out,” he replied.

Dr Clark also acknowledged that all the current research being conducted by the Home Office was focused on the handsets and car-mounted antennae used by police officers. Not a single health study has been conducted on communities near any of the 3,500 TETRA sites in the UK. “We do need more research in this area,” Dr Clark observed.

Such a move would certainly be welcomed by concerned residents across the UK. Groups from as far afield as Bognor Regis and Perthshire have reported the same symptoms as those felt by Chris Butterfield. And very few of them qualify as electro-sensitives.

Arthur Jarrett, an anti-TETRA activist from Wormit in Fife — where councillors refused O2 planning permission for a TETRA mast last year — said more and more ordinary ­people were reporting microwave symptoms because the technology had changed so rapidly in such a short space of time. The proliferation of masts and phones (the latter increasing in number tenfold in the UK between 1995 and 2005) and the advent of 3G meant, he said, that power outputs had increased con­siderably to give full coverage and to “do all the wonderful things” the industry promises. “TETRA is an added nuisance,” Mr Jarret commented.

For some it is more than a minor irritant. When a TETRA mast went live just a few hundred yards from Littlehamptom Primary School in Sussex in 2004, 11 children were sent home with headaches and nosebleeds.

Originally from Ness in Lewis, Graham Morrison now stays in Partick, Glasgow, and last week chaired a public meeting in the local baptist church. “It was the cheapest venue we could afford,” he said.

There’s nothing funny about his microwave symptoms, or those of around 50 fellow sufferers who stay in just two streets in Thornwood. “It started about a year ago with headaches, tiredness and muscular pains,” Mr Morrison added. “The doctors couldn’t find anything wrong, but the problems persisted. Then others came forward with the same symptoms.”

According to Mr Morrison, all the Thornwood sufferers began reporting microwave symptoms at the same time as two masts, 3G and TETRA, were put up in the area. “There are now 15 masts in the Partick area,” he added. “The worst affected are those who live in the cross-lines between the 3G and TETRA masts.

“People here are getting angry because they feel they are being ignored. Everyone wants to know why the authorities won’t recognise what’s going on — why are they covering this up?”

David Baron, who lives in Chichester, told me that five local police officers had complained of similar symptoms when using TETRA handsets there. “They have been told not to go anywhere near the press because they will lose their jobs,” he added.

Rural police users of TETRA, it seems, may have more to fear from the technology than their urban counter­parts. Home Office research conducted by the University of Birmingham in 2004 warned that PCs working night shift in rural areas should be given “special attention” as their usage of TETRA equipment is likely to be heavier in comparison to city police forces, where staffing ­levels are higher.

These concerns were given added weight by a study conducted by Sweden’s University Hospital last year which found that the risk of developing a brain tumour was six times higher among mobile phone users in rural areas than in cities. The reason stated by the authors was the greater distance between base stations in rural areas, and thus the higher power output of masts to achieve full coverage.

The University of Birmingham report, entitled “Airwave Patterns of Use Study”, also warns that microwave exposure levels for the general public could exceed official ICNIRP limits if a person’s head were within a “few centimetres” of a police car’s antenna. However, the report then goes on to state that no data on microwave emissions was forthcoming from the only manufacturers of the car-mounted antennae chosen to take part in the study, Welsh firm Cleartone.

Other police health studies, such as the long-term project being con­ducted by Imperial College London, bemoan the difficulty in obtaining accurate call-duration records from O2 so that exposure can be measured. The latest ICL study also found that linking an individual TETRA user’s subscriber number with a PC’s collar ID was an “immediate concern” and far from straightforward.

LOCHCARRON councillor Ewen Mackinnon, who has served on the Northern Joint Police Board for several years, acknowledged there did seem to be a degree of uncertainty with regard to the health effects of TETRA on both users and the public. However, the board’s main concern had been the financial implications of the new system, he said. Indeed, he told me last week that members were still awaiting clarification from the Scottish Executive about fully funding Airwave through Grant Aided Expenditure.

As the council tax accounts for 20 per cent Northern Constabulary’s total budget, Mr Mackinnon wanted assurances that the cost of Airwave — the jewel in the crown of the force’s Integrated Communications Devel­opment Programme — would not be passed on to taxpayers. This, he said, was especially significant in the Highlands and Islands as the basic TETRA package cannot give full coverage over our mountainous terrain.

Northern Constabulary say that 98 per cent of the funding for ICDP has come from the executive in the GAE settlement.

Mr Mackinnon added: “Northern Constabulary had no option about ­taking Airwave. The Scottish Executive forced them and said ‘this is what’s going to happen’.”

This view is reinforced by a look at the minutes of the Northern Police Board.

On 25th January 2002, the minutes noted: “A contract for central procurement had been offered to this force, among others, through a Consortium, inviting Forces to commit to its terms by 26th February 2002.

“The chief constable was currently seeking legal advice, sight of the contract documents and advice from the Scottish Executive on the financial implications of the proposed contract before making a recommendation to Members on the proposed procurement arrangement.”

But at the next Board meeting on 11th April the deal was done and ­dusted, without members getting a look at the documents or getting to meet Justice Minister Jim Wallace — a move agreed at the meeting of 25th January.

Board members had been given one month to consider taking Airwave before the 26th February deadline, but were given no contract information and no costings on which to base their conclusions.

The minutes of 11th April make it clear that only the Chief Constable had access to any kind of detailed information in the interim, which included a meeting with the Scottish Executive.

Was he given no choice, as Mr Mackinnon maintained, but to accept TETRA at this meeting?

This leads on to another question: who is pushing TETRA so hard, and why?