Six people including a chief inspector, other officers and civilian
workers at a police station have blamed debilitating health
complaints on a mast for a controversial new communications system
yards from their desks.
Chief Insp Steve Strong and his staff reportedly believe their bouts
of dizziness and severe headaches began when a transmitter for the
Tetra radio network was put up.
Around 25 people living near the mast at the station in North
Walsham, Norfolk, have complained of similar symptoms. Other reported
health complaints include repeated nosebleeds, especially among
children, disturbed sleep and skin problems.
The officers, who have been referred to the force's doctor, are said
to have been warned not to discuss their worries publicly. A source
said: "They don't know which way to turn. They have been
forbidden from speaking out.
"They are caught between going to work in a place that is making
them ill and the huge financial and political pressures that demand
Tetra must be a success at all costs."
Last month the family of Pc Neil Dring, a Leicestershire police
motorcyclist who died of cancer of the oesophagus, said he had
complained of headaches when he began using his Tetra handset and
that he was convinced it was to blame for his condition.
The Government's £2.9 billion Tetra system is being rolled out
to all 53 police forces in England, Scotland and Wales by next spring.
It is already being used by 65,000 officers in 40 forces. The digital
handsets boast improvements including better security and coverage,
the ability to receive pictures and data, and emergency buttons.
Hundreds of officers have said they believe their health is suffering
and campaign groups are fighting against siting the system's 3,500
transmitters near their homes, schools and workplaces.
Residents, police and politicians in North Walsham are angry with O2
Airwaves because its contractors put up a transmitter just days after
planning permission for a new, taller mast was refused. Negotiations
about finding an alternative site are continuing.
Chris Warren, of the Norfolk Police Federation, said: "The
federation would not want to see any piece of equipment brought in
that is demonstrably injurious to our members. But there is no
scientific evidence that Tetra is injurious to officers' health."
O2 Airwaves said: "All the medical evidence would suggest the
symptoms reported are not connected with the use of radio technology."