Letter to the Editor – Melanie Bouffard

Dear Sir,

Minister Bruton was recently quoted as saying that “the assessment of any environmental impact of the roll-out of 5G infrastructure or other types of private sector telecommunications networks and services, is a matter in the first instance for the operators concerned and secondly for planning authorities to consider through the planning permission process. I have no role in the planning process”

This seems akin to saying that the phone companies can be trusted to “self regulate”, taking, of their own accord, great care to avoid any environmental impact emanating from their activities.

So, in such an attractive world of trust and respect as is painted by Mr Bruton, surely every sector of our economy and every citizen of Ireland should self regulate too. Everyone should be trusted to estimate their own carbon footprint and gauge how much carbon tax they should be paying so. Employees would be able to set a specific salary based on their own evaluation of the worth of their work.

It has to be said too that such is the faith deserved by the communications industry that there seems to be a consistent trend across various countries, to progressively strip local authorities of their power to object to the placing of telecommunications equipment. Evidence of this is the UK and other Governments’ intention to relax planning laws in advance of the 5G roll out so that masts and other equipment can be located wherever it suits the companies. It is therefore unclear what exact role the local authorities referred to by Mr Bruton will retain following or during the 5G roll out. As it is, in Ireland, the location of masts seems to be increasingly controlled by a system of licenses rather than by the planning application process. Not to mention that rolling out broadband via street lights, as is featured in Fine Gael’s local election manifesto, would likely not require any planning permission or input from local authorities.

Also of interest is the fact that Mr Bruton has recently passed the responsibility for electromagnetic fields policy to the EPA (Environment Protection Agency), taking yet more responsibility away from himself and the potential damage that may be done rolling out new, dense communication infrastructure, the impact of which has not been fully assessed yet, but it is well worth keeping in mind that preliminary data shows wireless radiation might already be harmful to humans, birds and insects, as was recently reported in the very well respected Newsweek.

With more and more studies showing possible impact of EMFs on human health, notably in the domain of fertility, wellbeing and cancer risk, it is unclear how an agency specializing in protecting the Environment could have any expertise on matters pertaining to human health when it does not have medical expertise.

Whilst there is no doubt how important mobile communication is to a thriving economy, we should not forget that it also does come at a cost. We would do well to consider who might be best qualified to make the call on that dilemma – impartial scientists, or those with vested interests.

Melanie Bouffard