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,
“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.
“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?