Did masts cause my tumour?

Feb 14 2006

Stafford Post

A Stafford man diagnosed with a brain tumour after phone masts went up near his home is demanding to know if they were responsible for his illness.

And this week the Post has had reports of one other resident in the area who has also developed brain cancer.

Seventy-year-old Jim Eaglen (pictured) is calling for phone companies and local councils to carry out urgent investigations into the effects of the towers after he was taken ill last August.

The grandfather-of-three underwent hours of emergency surgery to remove a tumour and doctors told Jim he would only have survived for two months if they hadn't carried out the procedure to remove the growth.

This week he was celebrating after one of three masts which had stood on land near his home at Home Farm, Creswell, for more than three years was removed by telecoms giant Hutchinson 3G. The firm has also withdrawn an appeal to have the mast re-erected on the site after pressure from householders and councillors.

But despite the good news, Jim, who has lived in Creswell with his wife Rosemary for 40 years, told us he feared he may have fallen victim to the effects of the masts on the community's skyline.

He said: "I had always been concerned about them since it was first publicised about the possible health effects down in Sutton Coldfield.

"The transmissions are like microwaves. We do not see anything and we do not feel anything, but they are putting them on schools, on churches, they are down our streets, and you cannot see them."

He slammed the lack of information on the masts: "There needs to be more literature about these things. More than 'we are putting a mast up'.

"We always object when the firms put the planning applications in, but they do not say how safe the mast is.

"If I wanted to put a tip here in a field I would have to do all sorts of things about what was going to be put on it, so why shouldn't they?"

The retired construction worker, who helped build the M6 which runs near his home, described the terrifying moments last year when he realised he was seriously ill.

"I was having breakfast and I got up and this pain came into my head, terrible it was."

Paramedics rushed Jim to hospital, but despite medics giving him the all-clear, Rosemary wasn't satisfied with the diagnosis. After a trip to his GP and then to a specialist, the tumour was discovered.

He said: "The specialist did a scan and he said if we don't operate now you've got two months, if we do you'll have two years. It was aggressive and apparently they can grow in just a few days."

Since his operation at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire in Stoke, Jim has undergone months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

His life has been severely restricted by the illness. He can no longer drive and even says he has to be supervised when doing the simplest of household chores in case he has a seizure.

Whilst undergoing treatment specialists would not comment on the possible connection between the masts and Jim's illness, increasing his suspicions about a link.

He said: "They would not rule it in or out and it was the same with the nurses.

But what the nurses were saying was they were seeing an enormous number of people, especially young people, with brain tumours."

Other Creswell residents confirmed a spate of cancer cases within the community, including another person recently diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Richard Thomas, Creswell Parish Councillor, said: "We do keep pushing for more information and research. We do seem to be getting these clusters of masts, and the health implications must be worse if there are more of them together."

Paul Freeman, spokesperson for Stafford Borough Council, told the Post the safety of the masts was regulated at a national level.

He said: "Any company putting in an application to install a phone mast needs to comply with national legislation on emissions. And when they do apply to us they have to submit a certificate-that they are complying-with that legislation."-Expert opinion on the health effects of masts and mobile phones is split.

Alasdair Philips is director of Powerwatch, an independent body providing information on the effects of radiation on the public.

He said some evidence suggested susceptibility was genetic and up to 10 per cent of the population could be at risk from masts.

"There is definitely cause for concern. There are no practical restrictions on where they are sited. Ideally, they should be away from residential areas and should be at least twice the height of residential buildings."

But Dr Michael Clarke, from the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) which provides the government with information about the health risks from radiation, said masts are completely safe.

"There is no evidence of cancer. More research is needed to make sure, but most scientists believe that genuine uncertainty lies in the handsets themselves and not the masts."

What's your view? Contact the Post on 01785 212370 or write to us at 35 Eastgate Street, Stafford, ST16 2LZ. Alternatively, e-mail lynn_grainger@mrn.co.uk

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