Police radio health fears
July 20, 2002
Norfolk (United Kingdom) police are to plough ahead with plans to introduce controversial new radio handsets – despite claims they cause health problems to officers.
Nearly 200 bobbies are reported to have gone off sick after using the Airwave radio system in pilot schemes around the country, sparking fears that radiation from the handsets are causing migraines and other problems.
The Home Office has now agreed to carry out health checks on the digital sets and Norfolk Constabulary has said that it will continue to monitor the pilot schemes.
Norfolk police, which is already trying to drive down the number of working days its officers take off sick, has insisted that its officers will all be equipped with the digital sets by 2005, in line with a nationwide £2.9 billion programme.
Norfolk police spokeswoman Liz Lewis said: “We will keep a careful eye on the health issues that are raised, but ultimately we are going to get Airwave.”
The Norfolk force is scheduled to receive the system in 2004 and will be one of the last areas of the country that will take it up.
Helen Wickens, general secretary for Norfolk Police Federation, said this would allow valuable feedback from other forces to be filtered.
“We are one of the last forces in the rollout and that gives us an advantage – we can learn the lessons of others.
“From the outset there have been all sorts of reports from various experts.
“The Federation is looking to hold a national conference about Airwave.”
In Lancashire and Yorkshire – the two areas where the radios are receiving trial runs – 193 officers have reported falling ill after using the handsets.
Complaints include burning sensations, sleeplessness and difficulty concentrating.
In March this year, the Evening News reported how more than 17,000 working days are lost every year through officers taking sick leave – the equivalent of around 80 police officers each year.
On average, officers from the county are taking 13 days off each year for sickness. The constabulary is aiming to cut the number of sick days to 11.
The Airwave radios, made by US-based giant Motorola, use technology known as Tetra to offer improved sound quality and security.
Some scientists are concerned that they pulse at 17.6Hz, close to the 16Hz at which brain signals operate.
The new system looks set to mean more transmitter masts being built across Norfolk to give officers the county-wide radio coverage they need.
And this is likely to provoke further planning disputes over possible health risks to the public.
(Copyright © 2002 Archant Regional. All rights reserved. Republished with permission from the Evening News, Norwich, Norfolk, United Kingdom. To view the original story, click here.)