Bovingdon Parish Council had written concerned about the possible cancer risks of a local radio mast. Residents have stated that there have been seven cases of cancer, three miscarriages and incidents of animal cancer close to a military radio mast. It is not clear of what time period these incidents occurred. This is Archway Surgery view and reply:

April 2004: It is clear that the mast has been decommissioned.  There are no antenna.  It may have been sold as a job lot to NTL.

Janice Lawes
Clerk to Bovingdon Parish Council
Memorial Hall
Herts HP3 0HJ        5th May 2001

Dear Mrs Lawes

Radio Masts and Possible Health Risk Thank you for your letter of 3rd May. I have had three patients die of various cancers in and around Long Lane and Hunters Close over the last five years. We would require complex statistical analysis to demonstrate that there was a genuine cluster around the mast. For this reason I am copying this letter to Dr Lorna Milne at Hertfordshire Health Health Authority. In my view it is unlikely that there is any association with the mast, and more likely that that these deaths are associated with other risk factors.
  1. The age range of patients in this area is of a cancer prone group. A search of those with postcode HP3 0N on my computer shows that 59.7% are over 45 years old. This skewed distribution towards older people may account for any possible "cluster". My practice population has 48% over 45. The National average is 38.5% over 45. Only somewhat older people can afford to move in to an area like Bovingdon, or the occupants are sitting on property bought a long time ago.
  2. Age Range National % of Pop. Archway Surgery % HP30N@ Archway%
    45-59 18.0 22.3 25.6
    60-74 13.3 19.9 26.8
    75+ 7.2 6.5 7.3
    Total of over 45 38.5% 48.7% 59.7%
  3. Occupational hazards from a life in the armed services. Hunters Close housed the military. The occupational hazards may have included an easier access to beverages and an easy supply of tobacco at a time before all those risks were fully understood.
I have been observing research into possible ill effects of radio waves. My own radio wave dosage in the late 1960s was very large. At that time I became a licensed radio ham (G3WIP).

The only affect that I observed, entirely anecdotal, was when we transmitted 400 watts (PEP) on 10 metres (28.5Mhz). This may have disorientated local homing pigeons, to the annoyance of a local fancier. The pigeons sat on Douai Abbey roof for some hours after we stopped transmitting, and then they flew home. I have no research on that subject.

The devices on the Bovingdon tower look like directional microwave dishes. These are usually low power devices. If there is a risk from the mast, it must be so small that it should be ignored, when set against all the other risks we take on every day. The medical profession causes many times more radiation than all other nuclear fall out put together, and may account for up to 500 extra cancer deaths in the U.K. If logic drove all risk assessment the Parish Council would be questioning my requests for X-rays rather than directing its concerns about the radio mast.

Sources of known cancer causing Radiation. The Grey area is natural radiation. Note that vast bulk of the man-made radiation is medical. Radio waves are not known to cause cancer.

It is impossible to prove a negative, we can never say there is no risk given by radio transmissions. We have plenty of other known risk factors to work on, before considering that the risks of radio wave radiation to be a significant cause of cancer.

The following is from Hansard.

"Radio/Microwave Masts and Waves

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent research he has commissioned into the health effects of radio masts and waves and microwave masts and waves. [153193]

Yvette Cooper: A study on the incidence of leukaemia near all 20 high power TV/FM radio transmitters in Great Britain was published in 1996 by the Small Area Health Statistics Unit (SAHSU). This study found that there was no observed excess risk of leukaemia within 2 kilometres of all the transmitter sites looked at as a group. The Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) evaluated the results of the SAHSU study. In their statement COMARE reiterated their previous advice that there is no firm evidence of a carcinogenic hazard from exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) from TV and radio masts emissions.

Last year a report on mobile phones and health was published by the Independent Group on Mobile Phones, chaired by Sir William Stewart. The Stewart report provided a rigorous and comprehensive assessment of existing research considered the possible effects on health of mobile phones and base stations (masts). The report concluded that the balance of evidence indicates that there is no general risk to health of people living near base stations on the basis that exposures are expected to be small fractions of guidelines. Among its conclusions the Stewart group commented that the upsurge of mobile phone technology should be matched by good quality research. We have responded by setting up a new programme jointly funded by industry. The first call for proposals was issued on 9 February.

The Department is also continuing to provide financial support for the World Health Organisation International Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Project which is comprehensively reviewing EMF effects, including those of radio waves. "

Further references are at

Yours sincerely,

Dr Gerard Bulger

cc Long Meadow Surgery, Bovingdon

cc Lorna Milne, Herts H.A.