Dáil Éireann - Volume 517 - 30 March, 2000

Written Answers. - Communications Masts.

112. Ms Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children his views on the erection of mobile phone masts close to dwelling houses; if he has carried out any studies into the health and safety aspects of these masts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9411/00]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Approval for the erection of mobile phone masts is a function of the local planning authorities.

With regard to health and safety all significant research in this area is monitored here by the [411] Department of Public Enterprise with whom my Department liaises in regard to the human health aspects. The balance of scientific and medical research to date has not conclusive established a causal link between electric and magnetic fields associated with mobile phone masts and any significant public health risk.

Mobile phone companies here are required to operate within emission levels set by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection. An audit of licensed telecommunications operators was carried out for the Office of Director of Telecommunications Regulations by Enterprise Ireland during 1999. The audit report was published recently and showed that all the companies audited are in compliance with the levels set by ICNIRP for general public exposure to non-ionising radiation.

Research is ongoing and the World Health Organisation in 1996 launched a five year research programme, the international EMF project, to assess the health and environmental aspects of electric and magnetic fields. This project is being carried out over a five year period and will bring together current knowledge and available resources of key international and national agencies and scientific institutions in order to arrive at scientifically sound recommendations for health risk assessments. The European Union under its fifth framework research programme has allocated 160 million for international research projects in this area.

At EU level the Council of Health Ministers agreed a recommendation on public exposure to electromagnetic fields. This measure provides for the establishment of a system of ongoing monitoring of the ambient exposure of the public to electromagnetic fields from all sources including power lines and mobile phone equipment. An appropriate monitoring arrangement is under consideration.

Should conclusive evidence emerge of an unacceptable public health risk, I would seek to have remedial measures put in place by the appropriate Departments and agencies.