Schoolgirl forced to stay home by police mast

Daily Mail Sept 28, 2005

A 12-YEAR-OLD epileptic girl has been forced to have home tuition after fears a police radio mast near her school was triggering fits.

Nicola Packard, who normally has one or two seizures a month, had seven on the day the 'Tetra' mast was switched on in May.

Her local authority has allowed her to stay home from school, but it stressed the decision was not 'a judgment on issues surrounding the location of Tetra masts'.

Tetra offers improved sound quality and security for radios. But Nicola's mother Jayne said whenever her daughter went to Portfield Special school, Pembrokeshire, she had fits with alarming frequency.

The mast, erected by mobile phone operator O2, is on Haverfordwest police station less than a mile away. Her family wants Dyfed-Powys police to remove it so Nicola can return to school.

Mrs Packard, 34, of Hakin, Milford Haven, said: 'Nicola just didn't have any quality of life after the mast was turned on. The effects of the seizures would last for days.

'Now she is much better at home and I cannot fault the education department of the council for agreeing with us.'

She added: 'We have got what we wanted from the local authority. Now I want the mast out of the way so Nicola can go back to school.

'Until the authorities know they are 100 per cent sure about Tetra masts, they shouldn't be anywhere near schools. All I'm saying is I have a child who, when she is in the vicinity of a mast, her epilepsy is worse.'

Mike Charles, the family's solicitor, said: 'I cannot say for definite there is an adverse health reaction to Tetra masts.

'What I'm saying is that when you are dealing with children and with the jury on the body of scie≠tific evidence being out on the issue, it is not wise to take risks.'

He added: 'The child is desperate to go back to school.'

A Pembrokeshire County Council spokesman said: 'In accordance with normal practice for children and following comprehensive discussions with her mother we have sought to offer a range of provision, which in this instance includes an element of home tuition.'

'This is a pragmatic response to ensure that the individual child is provided with suitable education.'

A spokesman for Dyfed-Powys Police said: 'Currently, there is no definitive scientific proof that airwave base stations affect people who are susceptible to epilepsy.'

O2 was unavailable for comment.

The digital sets were introduced earlier this year under a £2.9billion programme. But 173 officers in Lancashire and another 20 in North, Yorkshire forces chosen to test them put were reported to have fallen ill after they were introduced.

Some scientists are concerned they pulse at 17.6Hz, close to the 16Hz at which brain signals work.