by Lucy Johnston
June 22, 2008
The spate of deaths among young people in Britain’s suicide capital
could be linked to radio waves from dozens of mobile phone
transmitter masts near the victims’ homes.
Dr Roger Coghill, who sits on a Government advisory committee on
mobile radiation, has discovered that all 22 youngsters who have
killed themselves in Bridgend, South Wales, over the past 18 months
lived far closer than average to a mast.
He has examined worldwide studies linking proximity of masts to
depression. Dr Coghill’s work is likely to trigger alarm and lead to
closer scrutiny of the safety of masts, which are frequently sited
on public buildings such as schools and hospitals.
It is also likely to fuel more campaigns against placing masts close
to public places on health grounds.
There Are Thousands
of Masts in Britain
Dr Coghill said last night there was strong circumstantial evidence
that the masts may have triggered depression in those from Bridgend
who took their lives.
They include Kelly Stephenson, 20, who hanged herself from a shower
rail in February this year while on holiday in Folkestone, Kent.
Dr Coghill said:
“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 electrical equipment that gives off radio or
There are now 70 million mobile phone handsets in the UK and around
50,000 masts. Both emit radio signals and electromagnetic fields
that can penetrate the brain, and for many years campaigners have
argued that this could seriously damage people’s health.
The national average for proximity to a mobile phone transmitter
varies depending on the type of mast. The latest masts are far more
powerful so they can transmit more sophisticated data, such as
photos and videos for people to download on internet phones.
Masts are placed on average 800 meters away from each home across
the country. In Bridgend the victims lived on average only 356
The national average distance from a new powerful mast is a
kilometer while in Bridgend it is 540 meters. Three transmitters
were within 200 meters, 13 within 400 meters and as many as 22
within 500 meters of victims’ homes. Carwyn Jones, 28, who hanged
himself last week, was the third young person in his street to
Research shows young people’s brains are more susceptible to radio
wave energy. Only two weeks ago a report identified mobiles as
having an effect on sleep patterns.
Dr Coghill added:
“What seems to be happening is that the electrical
energy is having an effect on the chemistry of the brain, depleting
serotonin levels. We know that in depression serotonin levels are
low and that a standard treatment for depression is to give drugs to
boost serotonin levels. As they begin to work, the patient’s
He said urgent research was needed because Britain was now covered
with thousands of masts, many close to homes, schools and offices.
Since January 5, 2007, there have been 22 deaths of young people in
the Bridgend area. Some believe the suicides are linked but so far
experts have failed to find a common cause.
Thomas Davies, 20, hanged himself in February 2007.
Last night his
brother Nathan, 19, welcomed Dr Coghill’s research.
“As far as this
family is concerned nothing can bring Tom back,” he said. “But if
there is a link found and something can be done then it could
prevent further suicides.”
But Mike Dolan, executive director of the
Association, dismissed Dr Coghill’s research.
“This is an
insensitive and outrageous piece of speculation which has no basis
in established science,” he said.
The Government’s Health Protection Agency insisted that fields from
mobile masts – even modern powerful masts – were well within
international agreed safety limits.
“There is no evidence that masts
do you harm. The levels of radio waves are very low.”