Concern grows over equipment in flats after family claims daughter's health affected

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 July, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 July, 2001, 12:00am

The policy allowing mobile phone transmitters to be installed inside flats has come under pressure for reform amid claims that a mentally retarded girl could be suffering ill-effects from exposure to radiation.

The parents of the 12-year-old girl - who is severely mentally retarded and epileptic - say mobile phone equipment in the flat upstairs from them has brought on seizures and 'emotional spells' in their daughter.

They came to the Sunday Morning Post after reading a report on June 24 about a similar situation in Kowloon Tong where the Lands Department is studying if the land lease has been breached.

The family of six - who do not want to be identified - live in a flat in Leighton Road, Causeway Bay. They discovered there was a mobile phone transmitter in the apartment above them last month.

The girl's mother said: 'Sometimes she pulls her hair, twists her fingers and scratches people and objects in the house. She goes wild and her face turns blue, but the situation subsides when she is taken outside.'

The family moved into the flat two years ago.

A government psychiatrist treating the girl said: 'Over the past six months we've found her throwing more tantrums and having more behavioural problems.

'I trust the mother is not exaggerating the problems but there's no medical proof to pinpoint the correlation between radiation from mobile phone transmitters and human health.

'But of course, I can't rule out the possibility either.'

The equipment belongs to CSL, a subsidiary of Pacific Century CyberWorks.

To avoid more exposure to radiation, the family now lives in an office owned by the girl's father.

They are threatening to claim compensation from the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (Ofta) and the mobile phone operator.

'It's all the authorities' responsibility,' the mother said. 'Although the safety standards are met and there haven't been studies showing the effect on health, do they want human lives as the evidence?'

A leading private neurologist, Dr David Chin Kim-fai, said: 'Theoretically, if the radiation is strong enough and at close range' the brain will be affected.

'Until now, there is no hard evidence or scientific findings to pinpoint that brain trauma is caused by radiation by using mobile phones.

'Of course, there's always a risk that the radiation is damaging to an epileptic. And as doctors, we always disapprove of transmitters being installed near residential areas.'

The family has also lodged a complaint with the Legislative Council.

Democrat Cheung Man-kwong has promised to raise the matter when Legco resumes in October.

'It's a serious matter. People respond to radiation differently . . . but the safety standards are applied across the board,' Mr Cheung said.

'There must be a review of the licensing policy. A compensation or an appeal system should be created.'

Ng Tung-sang, professor of electronic and electrical engineering at Hong Kong University, said: 'So far, no study has been able to conclude the effect on humans posed by radiation emitted from mobile phones. But possibilities are not being ruled out.'

Ofta confirmed the transmitter was installed on the rooftop in 1999 and was relocated inside the flat last October.

All connecting antennas remain on the roof. The authority failed to answer questions concerning the girl's health, insisting all the equipment had been licensed to be placed there.

CSL declined to comment on the health concerns, adding that relocation for the equipment was being sought as part of a fine-tuning process.