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SUDÁFRICA: Articles that have appeared in "The Star" in Johannesburg: Broadband tower sparks outrage in community

Miércoles 7 de octubre de 2009 · 1092 lecturas

Broadband tower sparks outrage in community

Studies show it puts people at risk of cancer

Joburg residents rely on high walls to keep them safe in a city full of threats. But for a community in Craigavon, there are no walls high enough to protect them from the danger they say has landed on their doorsteps.

Broadband service provider iBurst has erected a tower metres from the homes of residents, who say their health is at risk from electromagnetic radiation.

Resident Dave McGregor, whose bedroom is 50m away from the tower, says that in the past two weeks his wife and nine-year-old son have been suffering bouts of nausea and retching. They have also developed skin rashes.

Yesterday was his son’s second day home from school.

"We’ve told our son that the tower is only switched on one day a week, so it’s not psychosomatic," said McGregor. "(iBurst) says processes have been followed, but the consequences of the processes are what matters. People don’t feel at home in their own homes."

International studies have shown that people living in close proximity to electromagnetic fields are more at risk of cancer. In the past decade, communities in England and Israel have pulled down nearby towers after they suffered outbreaks of cancer.

Russia insists on a 2km buffer between towers and residential properties, while New Zealand requires 500m. In Craigavon, some residents live 8m from the iBurst tower, and many more are within a 100m radius.

There are two schools and hundreds of children living in the area.

Cape Town family practitioner Dr Les Emdin wrote in the South African journal Natural Medicine in 2007: "Exposure of young children to electromagnetic field radiation may be more detrimental to their health than to adults, especially during development and maturation of the central nervous and immune systems and the critical organs."

Furthermore, residents say Craigavon is part of the Klein Jukskei Conservancy, whose marshlands are home to protected wildlife such as bushbabies and giant toads.

Resident Ashleigh De Lima said this information was not included in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) submitted with iBurst’s application to erect the tower.

In Cape Town, municipal guidelines are that towers should not be erected in conservancies.

Last year, Wits entomologist Dr Max Clark presented findings on a study commissioned by the Oppenheimer family, which showed where cellphone radiation levels were high, 10 percent of ant species disappeared from the landscape.

iBurst spokeswoman Nicole Menego said that to their knowledge, the site was not a conservancy and that its zoning was that of a cemetery, meaning the erection of towers was allowed. Menego said the Craigavon site had been chosen within regulations.

"We comply 100 percent with the World Health Organisation’s standards, the National Health Department and the zoning regulations of South Africa. Of the options presented to the Department of Agriculture within this vicinity, they chose this site as it offered the least intrusion visually."

Menego said iBurst had notified residents of their intention to erect a tower.

"The notification appeared in the Government Gazette of May 2006 and site approval started as far back as 2007, which included informing all necessary residents about their plans. After all objections raised were handled, the final ROD (record of decision) was issued in October 2008."

But the Craigavon residents say they were not told about the plans. "The first we knew of it was when we saw them preparing a concrete slab at the beginning of August," said De Lima.

They were referred to the agency that conducted the EIA and were told that iBurst was in the process of amending the initial application to refer to one site instead of two. They would have 30 days to object.

But that weekend, the tower went up. The amendment was later withdrawn.

The residents have conducted telephonic surveys to see whether anyone in the area was notified. "Nobody who lives in the immediate vicinity was notified," said De Lima.

A big concern is property devaluation. "Estate agents say you can expect to lose 35 to 50 percent on the value of your property," said De Lima.

According to a resident who lives directly underneath the tower, the property owner who sold the land to iBurst also owns a nearby cemetery. If the tower had been erected inside the cemetery instead, it would have been at least 500m away from the nearest residential area.

Menego said: "The typography there would not have been suitable for the tower and would not have allowed the station to offer iBurst services to the areas where it was required."

The residents have formed a task force and are pursuing legal action against iBurst.

By Kanina Foss The Star 18/09/09e2

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iBurst blamed for ’nightmare’

by Kanina Foss

The Star, Johannesburg, Tuesday October 6 2009

Tracey-Lee and Dave McGregor spent nine years building their dream home. Tracey-Lee planted lavender bushes to attract bees and butterflies. In August, the bees upped and left. Then the dream turned into a nightmare.

The McGregors are among Craigavon residents in Joburg objecting to the erection of a broadband tower metres from their homes by service provider iBurst.

It went up 50m from the McGregors’ bedroom in August. A few days later, the bees left. Last month the symptoms started.

Tracey-Lee has a painful rash all over her body. "It starts as a hot spot, which looks like ringworm. The next thing you’re itching and burning. You get so itchy you want to scratch your flesh off your bones," she says.

The worst part is the nausea. Their 10-year-old son Keegan, who also has rashes, has been off school six days in the past month because of retching. Tracey-Lee is constantly nauseous.

They also get heart palpitations and headaches.

"Keegan has never had headaches in his life. Now he’s waking up in the middle of the night with headaches. He’s had three episodes of heart palpitations."

Tracey-Lee and Keegan are spending alternate nights at her mother’s house to get some relief. "When I’m off the property, the symptoms subside," she says.

Dave adds: "I want to phone the CEO of iBurst and say: ’If this were to happen to your wife and child, what would you do?’ He’s welcome to move in here for a month and see how he feels."

The McGregors are not alone. Residents of nearby complexes have been getting headaches, insomnia, rashes, fatigue, upset stomachs and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) — all symptoms mentioned in scientific studies on electrohypersensitivity.

Sabine Hark says: "I’ve noted that ever since the tower has been up, I battle to fall asleep. I doesn’t matter how tired I am. I also wake up in-between."

Betty Ngwenya, who sleeps in a room facing the tower, has had headaches, difficulty breathing and a rash all over her body for three weeks. "My body is itchy. I can’t stand in one place, it’s very sore."

Just after the tower was erected, Melinda Treki’s Alsatian went through a stage of throwing up once a day. The vet couldn’t find anything wrong with the dog.

iBurst CEO Jannie van Zyl says he’s commissioned an independent company to test electromagnetic radiation levels in the area. If they are found to be above World Health Organisation (WHO) regulations, action will be taken.

But in some countries, WHO regulations have been deemed insufficient. Russia insists on a 2km buffer between towers and residential properties, and New Zealand requires a 500m distance.

Van Zyl says it’s necessary to stick to scientific fact.

"I’m not saying science has proved that radiation doesn’t have an impact on living tissue, but every study I’ve read says it’s a very complex environment and further studies should be done."

iBurst followed the necessary steps to get the erection of the R2 million tower approved, including notifying all residents living in close proximity, he says — despite claims by the McGregors and others that they were never informed.

Van Zyl questions why the Craigavon tower is the only one of about 15,000 in South Africa to spark an outcry, and says service providers are being put in a difficult position by consumers wanting better access.

Tracey-Lee sent photographs of her rash to Professor Olle Johansson, a Swedish neuroscientist and electrohypersensitivity expert, and Eileen O’Connor, of the UK Radiation Research Trust. Both say the family’s symptoms are consistent with those of others living near electromagnetic radiation.

The McGregors have considered selling the house they planned to retire in. "It’s like a nightmare and you don’t know if you’re ever going to wake up," says Dave.

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