Students Staff

31 March 2010

Study finds no link between TETRA masts and ill health

Colchester Campus

Researchers from the University of Essex have found no evidence that short-term health effects like headaches, rashes and nausea are caused by exposure to TETRA mobile radio masts.

The two-and-half-year study, carried out at the University’s specially-designed Electromagnetics and Health Laboratory, is the first to report on short-term effects of TETRA mast emissions on human health and well-being.

 A total of 48 people who had previously reported sensitivity to mobile technology, and 132 control participants, were tested. Neither group could reliably detect the presence of a TETRA signal.

Participants were tested without knowing whether the signal was on or off (double-blind conditions). The researchers found there were no differences in physiological responses, or the reported severity of symptoms, between the on and off tests in either the sensitive or control groups.

When participants were told when the mast was being switched on and off, the sensitive individuals did report feeling worse and experienced more severe physiological symptoms. The researchers concluded these health symptoms were caused by participants knowing they were being exposed to electromagnetic fields, and the resulting anxiety they felt, rather than by exposure to the signals themselves.

The TETRA signal is used in Airwave, the new communications system being rolled out across the UK for the police and emergency services. The study of the effects of TETRA masts followed the completion of the largest ever scientific study of the short-term health effects of conventional and 3G mobile phone masts, carried out at the University. The results of this previous study, which tested more than 150 people, were published in 2007 and also found no significant health differences between masts being switched on and off when participants were tested under double-blind conditions.

Professor Elaine Fox, whose team carried out both studies, said: ‘These studies contribute to a growing body of evidence that mobile communications masts do not have any short-term negative effects on human health.’

The research was funded by the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research programme. Led by the Department of Psychology, the research team included members of the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering.

Notes to Editors
1. Do TETRA (Airwave) Base Station Signals Have a Short-Term Impact on Health and Well-Being? A Randomized Double-Blind Provocation Study by Denise Wallace, Stacy Eltiti, Anna Ridgewell, Kelly Garner, Riccardo Russo, Francisco Sepulveda, Stuart Walker, Terence Quinlan, Sandra Dudley, Sithu Maung, Roger Deeble, and Elaine Fox has been published online by Environmental Health Perspectives.

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