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A window covered with aluminium foil in the living room.
A window covered with aluminium foil in the living room. / Salvador Salas

When 'out of range' would be preferable

  • María C. suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity and has had to spend a lot of money to protect her home after a mobile phone antenna was installed opposite

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome is a condition which some people suffer when they are exposed to electromagnetic fields. The most common symptoms are headaches, insomnia and nausea. It is sometimes known as microwave syndrome.

María C, who is a biologist, prefers not to reveal her identity, but she suffers from this condition. At present, she is undergoing a real ordeal because a mobile phone antenna has been installed on the roof of the building opposite, at the same height as her apartment in La Malagueta district of Malaga city.

“We saw they were putting a mast on the roof terrace opposite, at the end of October last year. In February they activated it, and that’s when I started to have symptoms,” she says.

When she is in her living room or bedroom, the areas of her apartment which are closest to the antenna, she has headaches, serious sleeping problems, itchy skin and a dry mouth.

“As soon as I walk in it is like someone hits me on the head, I can’t even go out onto the terrace to water the plants,” she says. But when she goes downstairs and into the street, she’s fine. “I have had blood tests and there’s nothing wrong with me. It’s all because of the antenna”.

Costly investment

After doing some investigation, María discovered that two repeaters had been installed for several companies, camouflaged behind white aluminium panels.

The family has written to the Town Planning department, asking them to check whether the installation is legal and to measure the electromagnetic field, and if there is any doubt then to close down the installation because of the serious effect it is having on her health. They are also creating a protest group among local residents, to try to have the antenna taken down.

In the meantime, they have been obliged to spend more than 2,000 euros to try to protect their home from the radiation. The windows at the entrance have had to be reinforced with aluminium and the walls have been painted with graphite and earthed.They have also put up special curtains of copper and silver wire.

“I feel like a prisoner in my own home. People can’t be expected to live like this,” says María.

Asked about the matter, the president of the College of Telecommunications Engineers, Antonio Rodas, explained that the General Law 9/2014 of Telecommunications provides the right to occupy private property when it is strictly necessary for the installation of a network, as long as there are no other technically or economically viable alternatives. “This can be done through compulsory expropriation or through enforceable right of passage,” he said. However, such cases are unusual, and the operators must always try to find other solutions. This is often through agreements with communities of owners, in return for some type of compensation.

What the law says

With regard to the new 5G network, which requires more masts than previously, Rodas didn’t know of any specific plans or details of where the operators wanted to install the equipment, but said the College understands that the idea is to use public property, which they have the right to do under the law.

“In one way or another the law covers the operators with regard to the use of private properties as it does with public ones, in the same way that they can use the front of buildings for high-speed Internet networks such as 5G,” he says.

Lucila Gutiérrez is the former president of the parents’ assocation at Los Guindos school, and they have been battling for several years to have telephone masts which are close to the school removed. She says it has involved a long legal battle.

“It’s a difficult thing to do, very difficult, but not impossible,” she says. She agrees with María: “People who end up living somewhere that these masts have been installed have been sold out, and apparently we have no rights and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it,” she says.