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New row as mobile masts net €100m for State

A fresh row over the location of mobile phone masts has broken out as the Irish Independent reveals that 29 state buildings now have the transmitters located on their rooftops.

The state is earning €600,000-a-year from facilitating 51 licences for 29 public buildings, including antennae for two mobile phone companies on top of the Department of Health headquarters in Hawkins House, Dublin.

The "communications antennae" -- along with those located controversially on 280 garda stations -- will generate revenue of €100m over the lifetime of the licences, according to figures obtained by the Irish Independent.

Other well-known public buildings which have masts include Dublin Castle, Glasnevin Meteorological Office, Pearse Museum and Four Courts Aras Ui Dhalaigh.

Last night, a government spokesman told the Irish Independent that Environment Minister John Gormley, is currently reviewing planning rules and regulations governing mobile phone masts, as part of a comprehensive planning assessment.

However, Labour health spokeswoman Jan O'Sullivan claimed the State should not be facilitating the erection of masts in densely populated areas as the "jury is still out" on their effects on health.

But the Department of Health insisted that the "consensus" of scientific evidence is that there is no evidence of a causal relationship between electromagnetic fields (EMF) exposure and ill health.

However, Better Environment and Safer Telecommunications [BEST] said concerns still prevailed about whether the radiation emitted by mobile phone masts are dangerous to humans and livestock.

Those concerns were echoed by the Irish National Teachers' Organisation [INTO] which reiterated its call for a ban on the location of masts close to schools because of the "potential health risks or as yet unknown risks to children".

Under an agreement between telecoms companies and the Office of Public Works (OPW) the erection of mobile phone masts on garda stations is exempt from the planning process.

However, planning permission is required for the erection of masts on public buildings under the Planning and Development Regulations.

The Commission for Communications Regulation sets the limits on non-ionising radiation emissions based on best international practice.

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It also monitors compliance with these standards.

Last night, Fine Gael's Dr James Reilly said he took no issue with the State using buildings because no research had shown that masts cause health problems.

The Green Party which has often protested against the location of masts close to schools, is expected to take its lead from the report which will be submitted to the Department of Environment shortly.

Although there is still inconclusive evidence on the potential health risks, anti-mast campaigners have placed significant weight on the work of American researcher Dr George Carlo, who told a Dublin conference last year there are links between electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones masts and autism.

He said his online database set up in 2002 to record incidents from people who believe they have suffered adverse health effects received one million hits in its first six months.

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