By Andria Kades
RESIDENTS in a Limassol area are threatening to step up protests if CyTA does not remove an antenna they installed seven years ago.
Located in Zakaki, the mobile phone antenna has caused severe headaches, weakness and dizziness, say residents who live nearby. They have also raised fears that the antenna could be linked to cancer.
“I’ve lived here for about 30 years. This honestly started since they installed that thing opposite my children’s bedroom,” Marina Saidam said.
The law stipulates that an antenna must be placed on the tallest building in an area. However those living next door argue that a building at the same height as their two-storey house cannot be described as ‘tall’ and are troubled by the fact that their bedrooms, particularly Saidam’s 13 and 16-year-old sons, directly face the device.
CyTA has defended itself saying that it has a licence for the antenna granted by the mayor and permission from the building owner. “We have followed every guideline and every legislation in place,” company spokesman Lefteris Christou told the Sunday Mail.
The last three years have seen an intense fight by the residents who have amassed a rather strong support group including the Green party, all demanding CyTA remove the antenna. According to Effie Georgiadou, a teacher at a Zakaki primary school, the group hired an independent scientist to take readings in the area who found them dangerous, but he was discredited by authorities as he was apparently not registered.
AKEL MP Costas Costa, also from the area, got involved in the efforts last May.
Earlier this week a meeting to discuss the residents’ fears was attended by a CyTA official, a health ministry official, a communications ministry representative, the general secretary of the Green’s Party and around 30 residents from the area.
“We have agreed to give CyTA a one month deadline to conduct investigations and readings which will be submitted to the mayor and we will take it from there,” Costa said.
People living in Zakaki however are adamant: “all we say is hands off our health. We will not sacrifice ourselves and the health of our children for the profits of a company,” Saidam’s mother Eleni Iosif said.
To matters more complicated, the owner of the two storey building where CyTA placed the mobile antenna currently lives in the UK and therefore has nothing to worry about.
“We were abroad when they installed it. If we were here there’s no way we would have let them put it on,” Iosif said.
“The owner doesn’t have to worry about getting ill. He’s abroad, renting the flat and getting a nice sum of money from CyTA.”
The ministry of health has rejected the residents’ health scare claims, saying that there is currently no proof that antennas can cause cancer.
“So far, and after examining thousands of research projects and measurements, it seems that there is absolutely no evidence based on epidemiological studies that radio frequency fields cause an increase of any type of cancer,” the ministry said in a statement.
Residents insist they have splitting headaches and constantly take painkillers ‘as if they’re sweets’ which they say are bound to have effects elsewhere.
At the root of their fears is that antennas emit non ionising radiation. But, according to University of Cyprus physics professor Panos Razis, so too do TVs and even hair dryers.
“The difference between the antenna and these home appliances is that you can switch these off. But the antenna is on all the time. The back of a TV however, especially the older models, are far more detrimental to someone’s health than a mobile antenna,” he said.
According to studies conducted nationwide by the university and independent companies, there is no area in Cyprus that has shown measurements for exposure to electromagnetic fields to be above the safety levels imposed by EU regulations, Razis added.
“It is very difficult to prove that antennas might be causing cancer, not just in Cyprus but in the whole world. A database will not show you if the patients had a diet high in saturated fats or if other people in the family had cancer – data is inconclusive.”
In order to maintain a safety net, physicists remain conservative because while there is no proof to show a correlation between antennas and cancer, there is also no way to prove that they have no links.
He stressed however that children are indeed at a higher risk because their systems are much weaker – with about two or three times higher chance of them getting cancer than any adult.
This is of course where the sticky part for CyTA comes along as the antenna is indeed directly opposite young people’s bedroom.
“They shouldn’t have got a licence,” Razis specified for this particular case.
This is not the first time CyTA has come under fire for the same issue – in late 2013, residents from Emba, Paphos protested after the state telecoms providers was granted permission by the town planning department to install a mobile antenna on the roof of a building.
If the Zakaki case goes to court then CyTA will have to prove that there was no other building where they could place the antenna and that their service would have been affected without it.
Neighbours nevertheless are not satisfied with any compromise and are not convinced that it does not cause any ailments. Plants, known to absorb positive ions (which are harmful) have never survived more than two months on their balconies several of the residents claimed. Yet again, it is hard to prove if this due to the presence of ions or simply improper treatment.
“We will not leave it like this. If they don’t get rid of it we will stand outside CyTA, protest and prevent any customers from going in. Hands off our health,” Eleni said.