Suicides and Mobile Phone Masts

The Sunday Express appears to have decided that mobile phone masts are responsible for the Bridgend suicides.

The story is by Lucy Johnston but the information within it has clearly come from Roger Coghill, who is quoted extensively. It is claimed that he sits on a Government advisory committee on mobile radiation. This is not true. In factCoghill Research Laboratories are participants in the Stakeholder Advisory Group on Extremely Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields (SAGE)

Reading through the woffle on their site, this organisation’s purpose appears to be conflict resolution and not advising the Government. As well as the Research Laboratories, Coghill is connected to an online shop that sells magnet therapy and “electosmog detectors”. The anti-mast brigade are fond of pointing out conflicts of interest and the tabloid press normally thrive on them but for some reason Johnston has failed to point this one out.

Coghill is quoted as saying:-

“There is a body of research that has over the years pointed to the fact that exposure to mobile radiation can lead to depression. There is evidence of higher suicide rates where people live near any electical equipment that gives off radio or electrical waves”

Note the use of the word “radiation” to make mobiles sound scary. Yes, they use microwaves and they are a form of electromagnetic radiation but then so is visible light. Light photons are typically one hundred thousand times more energetic than microwave photons. No references to this research are given so we cannot check them out but I would point out that most people in the Western world, and a large number outside it, live near equipment that give off radio waves so I don’t know how he was able to do his comparisons and eliminate confounding factors.

I have no idea what electrical waves are; my textbooks fail to mention them.

Johnston claims that both radio signals and electromagnetic fields can penetrate the brain. No evidence is offered but even if this were true, clusters of ill-health around TV and radio transmitters would have shown up long before now,

She continues:-

“The latest masts are far more powerful so that they can transmit more sophisticated data, such as photos and videos for people to download on internet phones.”

Two things wrong with this statement. First the power of a signal determines its range, not its information content. Second, this sort of “sophisticated data” has been transmitted by TV companies for many years without evidence of ill effect.

She then says:-

“Masts are placed on average 800 metres away from each home across the country. In Bridgend the victims lived on average only 356 metres away.”

It is obvious where she is going with this. In Bridgend people live closer to mobile phone masts and Bridgend has a cluster of youth suicides so these two facts must be linked.

It’s not that simple. One data point does not make a  trend. Since there will be other homes elsewhere in the country that are similarly close to masts (that 800 metre figure is an average and does not mean that homes outside Bridgend are all 800 metres from a mast – some will be nearer and some further than that), we would expect other suicide clusters if this link were causal. If they exist, they have not been reported.

She continues:-

“Research shows that young people’s brains are more susceptible to radio wave energy. Only two weeks ago a report identified mobile as having an effect on sleep patterns”

There is no evidence that any brains are susceptible to radio waves, let alone that young people are more susceptible. And as for mobiles disrupting sleep patterns, they only do that if they’re switched on and teens are yakking into them instead of sleeping. I can assure you from experience that banging on the bedroom door and shouting “switch that thing off or I’ll take it off you” will restore normal sleep patterns. 

She quotes Coghill as claiming that “the electrical energy is having an effect on the chemistry of the brain, depleting serotonin levels.” If there were any truth in this, it would have the same effect on older adults but no cluster of middle-aged suicides is reported.

In summary; there is no social, biochemical or physical evidence to support a link between the Bridgend suicides and mobile phone masts but when have the tabloid  press ever let the facts stop them from running a sensationalist story?

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26 Responses to “Suicides and Mobile Phone Masts”

  1. brainduck Says:

    I’m from Bridgend, and about the right demographic, should the newspapers be believed, to have no greater desire in life than to follow their painfully detailed accounts to ensure my imminent demise and brief notoriety.
    I’m not given to violence, but I really would like to stick mobile masts in uncomfortable places for the authors after reading that story.
    Do the fuckwits really have no idea about the social psychology of suicide? There’s well-established press guidelines for such things, based on detailed research, but of course the ‘Express’ has ignored them.

  2. dvnutrix Says:

    On a tangential note, the NYT reports that Lawmakers approve detailed map of state’s cancer cases.

    Money quote:

    Supporters of the maps argue that they provide an essential public service by letting people know whether the area where they live has an unusually high number of people with cancer. But others say that geographical cancer data is too prone to misinterpretation, especially by people without medical training, and that they lead the public to see a cause-and-effect relationship that is not necessarily there.

    Yup – the thought of Express and Daily Mail journalists rubbing their hands together at all of the alarms that they can raise – entirely untroubled by any understanding of epidemiology or other relevant disciplines.

  3. Kevin Says:

    First the power of a signal determines its range, not its information content.

    Not quite. The power of a signal determines its range and its information content. The better the signal to noise ratio at the receiver the more bits per second you can send at the same bit error rate.
    However, the

    “The latest masts are far more powerful…”

    is of little consequence compared to the field strength that the user of a mobile device is exposed to while using said device.
    So, if the radiation used by mobile devices were dangerous to any extent wouldn’t the users of the mobile devices have been the first to suffer?

  4. A Year of Steam « Letting Off Steam Says:

    [...] Roger Coghill also put in an appearance. I had initially fisked a story from the front page of the Sunday Express which claimed that there was a link between phone masts [...]

  5. Getting Roger Coghill to Show His Working « Letting Off Steam Says:

    [...] story on Roger Coghill’s notion that the Bridgend suicides are linked to mobile phone masts here. Since then, Ben Goldacre has covered the issue twice, including asking Mr Coghill how he [...]

  6. Derek Gough Says:

    It seems that everyone believes coghill and he’s not even a doctor. There are over 96 sucides in Bridgend but what is the real total anyone know.

  7. Derek Gough Says:

    Well does anyone really know the real figure of those hanging in Bridgend.

  8. jaycueaitch Says:

    Interestingly, there’s been nothing about the Bridgend suicides for years now. You might almost think that the ‘cluster’ the tabloid press got excited about was no more than a statistical blip.

    • Derek Gough Says:

      Sadly it seems that most people are wrong about saying that the Bridgend suicides is a syatisticial blip when in fact there as it stands today 6january 2014 of 97 young people so I would suggest that those of you who get the number wrong do some research and ask around the area of Bridgend . The last one to my knowledge was last October of a 13 yr old girl from brynmenna and it continues in 2014.

      • jaycueaitch Says:

        97 over what period?

      • Derek Gough Says:

        Instead of others looking at mobile phones perhaps they should be looking at the police communication system called TETRA because I was part of that enquiry into the effects of this technology ich was well known to be unsafe on the human brain because there are different frequencies for depression happiness lust cancer and many many others which includes suicide

      • jaycueaitch Says:

        Any links to research supporting those claims? If TETRA is so bad, why hasn’t the suicide rate gone up in the whole country, not just (allegedly) in Bridgend?

      • Derek Gough Says:

        97 since 2007 . Out of that number only one left a note before they sadly killed themselves. The last one to my knowledge was a 13 yr old girl from brynmenna in Bridgend who hanged herself . But there are other deaths not only in Bridgend who have died from what the coroner called bizarre death . One in particular was ANGELICIA A 15 YR OLD GIRL FROM YNYSYBWL WHO WAS found dead in. Park dressed in a onesee who it seems walked in pouring rain for half a mile from her home and dropped dead and there are others .

  9. Derek Gough Says:

    Has I already said previously I was part of the Sir William Steward enquiry and there is research which I have in my possession which proves that this technology is real .

  10. Derek Gough Says:

    Perhaps one should look up TETRA and mind control . And what this technology was and is doing to police officers in the UK for instance the police review magazine asked this question Did Tetra make police officers violent in the G8 summit. With this frequency anything is possible there is a frequency for fear excitement lust happiness depression and sucide and many many others.

  11. jaycueaitch Says:

    Mind Control eh? Don’t forget your tinfoil helmet on your way out.

    • Derek Gough Says:

      Thats a typical answer I expect from an misinformed person who know nothing about especially anything to do pulsed electromagnetic radiation and what effects it has on the human body and that on the human brain . Perhaps people like you should do some months of research on this subject before writing anything on this subject which is apparent to me you know nothing of so think before you write anything else and put you brain in gear before writing on something you know nothing of.

      • jaycueaitch Says:

        Kettle, pot, black. Where is your evidence that “there is a frequency for fear excitement lust happiness depression and sucide and many many others”?

      • Derek Gough Says:

        I might as well talk to a mirror than talk to you or try to explain anything that’s out of your realm . I get paid for what I do and I haven’t got to prove anything because it would be a thankless task trying to explain anything to the likes of you ayou part of the sheeple.

      • Derek Gough Says:

        I might as well talk to a mirror than talk to you or try to explain anything that’s out of your realm . I get paid for what I do and I haven’t got to prove anything because it would be a thankless task trying to explain anything to the likes of you you part of the sheeple.

      • jaycueaitch Says:

        So good you said it twice eh? And you get paid for what you do. Gosh, that’s convincing! And “sheeple” is classic abuse from the more extreme conspiracy theorists. Bit of a give-away there.

      • Derek Gough Says:

        Pointless saying anything to you. You win bye.

      • Derek Gough Says:

        Are you a troll dismissing anything with an element of truth in it or are you using disinformation tactics to put doubt into the minds of those who read this subject and to discourage them from believing the truth .

      • jaycueaitch Says:

        1. You obviously have no idea what the word “troll” means.

        2. What disinformation tactics? This blogpost was simply pointing out the flaws in the Sunday Express story. You don’t know what disinformation means either.

        3. I’m not asking people to “believe” anything. I’m asking them to look at the evidence. If there is evidence to support your position, why don’t you present it?

  12. Derek Gough Says:

    I forgot to mention IDIOT

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