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Electromagnetic Radiation
- Out Ouruhia Way

- Jacqueline Steincamp - 9/1/98

Jacqueline Steincamp
For more information on Dr Neil Cherry and his work, please visit his website.

You will probably have never heard of it.
Will the ill health of its residents and animals become a international landmark in EMR research?

Possibly, if the information is allowed to get out. EMR (electro-magnetic radiation) is a very sensitive topic, which makes big business (and advertisers) extremely unhappy. The Ouruhia problems are a well-kept secret.

Concern about this problem
Dr Neil Cherry, Regional Councillor, agricultural meteorologist and electro-magnetic radiation researcher is extremely concerned about health problems caused by radio towers in the Ouruhia area, northeast of Christchurch. It is a dead flat, semi-rural area at the north end of Marshlands Road. He is pushing the Regional Council for a health survey on EMR effects in the area.

Source of concern
The source of concern is towers erected in 1980 and 1988. The 1980 137.2m (450 ft) tower emits AM radio waves, and since 1990, 12000 watts of FM have also been transmitting from the tower. (A cell phone tower has a base power of only 200 watts). A 1988 FM test tower was erected near by, transmitting FM signals probably until September 1996 when it was removed.

FM towers are usually sited on a high point so that residential properly are well below the FM beam. There is no high point at Ouruhia. It's all as flat as a pancake. The beams of course, do not stop at Ouruhia. They travel on across Christchurch, down the coast through Brighton, across Redwood, up the Kaikoura coast, narrow at the start, and widening out the further they are away. Small relay towers boost their power along the way.

Health problems
Back to Ouruhia. Since the erection of the towers, and particularly since the introduction of the increased FM transmissions, residents claim a steady increase in serious health problems. These include wide-spread M.E./CFS, heart attacks, bypasses and general heart problems; bone pain and inexplicable deaths.

Dr Cherry's views
"The health problems at Ouruhia, including leukaemia, depression and asthma, are consistent with international and national studies," Neil Cherry says. "Of especial significance", he thinks, "is that nearly everyone feels better when they are away from the area, and worse when at home."

Residents' requests
Residents want the radio towers moved, and their health problems acted on. They have taken their concerns to the highest level and received little official help. In 1996 Mike Moore MP and Neil Cherry wrote to the Minister of Health asking for a survey. That was ignored. In 1997 they wrote again. First Bill English, then Neil Kirton replied that ill effects are not proven and refused an inquiry or funding for a survey.

Limited national awareness
National awareness of the problem is limited, perhaps because of the apparent refusal of Christchurch's premier daily, "The Press" to cover the story. On the other hand, reporter Nick Tolerton at the giveaway "Star" runs regular updates on it.

Amateur health survey
In a sensible world, the findings of the 1996 door-to-door survey in the area should spur the authorities into action. Six residents carried it out after their efforts to have a proper epidemiological survey were turned down. As a result it was not professionally conducted. There were no controls, no supervision was given. But their findings, even though they may not be totally correct, should cause serious concern.

131 houses in the area were surveyed for health problems since 1980. The responses showed an upsurge in ill health in 1990 and an even bigger one in 1995 when transmission for a second FM station was added. There were 44 reports of heart problems; 41 reports of M.E/CFS type symptoms, including some severe enough to be mistaken for AIDS; 15 reports of severe bone pains and arthritis; 15 of cancer; 11 of asthma, and three babies born with birth defects. People with metal implants, including amalgams, felt burning sensations in the surrounding tissues. Almost all the children are now on asthma medication.

At least 14 deaths due to heart attacks were recorded. Two farm workers dropped dead close to the towers; a third by being crushed underneath his tractor.

Aching bones and asthma
Well-known horse trainer, Penny Hargreaves, has a small farm off one of the most affected roads. Her health was devastated when she lived there, as was that of her daughter. She had all the classic M.E./CFS symptoms, with a great deal of brain confusion, tinnitus, and mental tension. She was tested thoroughly for colon cancer, arthritis, heart abnormalities, and asthma. Nothing was found except for the asthma. This was real enough and she went on medication to control it. The worst symptom was "bones that ached so much it felt as though a hole was being burned in them". Each cheek still bears two dull red spots adjacent to filled teeth.

For several months, she actually felt she was dying.

Moving from Ouruhia brings improvement
Penny moved her home to central Christchurch and transferred her horses to the Rangiora area. As a result, her health and that of the animals is much improved.

She reports on her animals:
"In 1993 we bought some cows. Several months later one of them became very nervous and disoriented. One minute quiet, the next crashing through fences all over the farm. One minute she was grazing, the next minute running in panic. Sadly, she jumped out onto the road and was killed."

Problems for horses
Every one of her about 90 horses and those of other horse owners were affected when they were in paddocks in the direct beams. Five horses lost co-ordination, but returned to health when moved and treated with an electrolytic solution. Two had mystifying deaths.

"They were very nervous and jumpy. They all seemed to have sore feet. Horses who had travelled by trailer for years were losing balance while travelling. We have several hot spots around our yard where the horses become very volatile and hurt themselves and us.

"Our very valuable colt had serious health problems and walked as if his feet hurt. He could not bear to be shod. We had many vets look at him to try and solve his problems, but without any satisfactory answers. We finally turned him out in a paddock which has a large hay barn and trees between him and the tower. Within a month he had no problems at all. Back in his old yard, the problem returned.

"The blacksmith gave evidence at our hearing on the effect of the radio waves on our horses' feet. The aluminium conducts electricity and their feet had changed shape, had huge cracks where the nails went and were very sensitive inside.

"We had weekly problems with infections we have never had before, our vet bills were horrendous. Since we moved the horses nine months ago, the problems are less."

Other animals have been affected. Dogs (and horses) have dry coughs (and so do people). An Alsatian dog collapsed and died for no apparent reason.

Every cloud has its silver lining. Rabbits have disappeared from those areas in the direct beams which were unprotected by trees.

Just one street in the Ouruhia area
Listed here are survey results from 20 houses out of the 35 surveyed in one road. There were recent, unexpected illnesses in almost every house. (Note that these numbers do not correspond to the street numbers).

20 - heart problems, 1996
21 - heart attack, 1996
22 - immune breakdown, tested for AIDS, arthritis, cancer, 1995.
Moved, much better.
23 - headaches, chronic fatigue
24 - baby born with rare heart defect, 1996. Fatal.
25 - severe headaches, off work for three months, 1996
26 - heart problems, 1988/89
27 - chronic fatigue. Moved 1993.
28 - (1) fatal heart attack, 1990.
    (2) fatal cancer, 1991
29 - fatal fall off tractor, 1984
30 - baby in hospital twice with asthma, 1997
31 - fatal stroke, 1993
32 - M.E./CFS symptoms, 1993
33 - two teenage boys developed asthma - now on medication.
34 - cancer, 1991. Now in remission.
35 - heart problems, 1995
36 - (1) fatigue, palpitations, chest pains (ECG negative), aching bones, etc.
    (2) dry burning eyes, chronic fatigue, loss of balance and co-ordination. Now lives away from property.
37 - (1) heart (1989), bypass, 1997, pains in shoulders and back
    (2) bad pains in right leg and side, 1997. Operation for bone condition
38 - (1) chronic fatigue, insomnia, headaches, bad bone pain, 1997.
    (2) bad pains in right leg and side, 1997. Operation for bone condition
39 - (1) heart problems, 1988; heart attack, 1996
    (2) arthritis, memory loss, immune collapse, 1996
40 - (1) breathlessness, asthma, 1995
    (2) headaches, breathlessness, asthma, 1995
    (3) Bad eczema on hands

For more information about the damage which EMFs can cause and ways in which you can reduce the impact read Jacqueline Steincamp's second article.

For more information you may also like to visit the
Plain Communications Electromagnetic Radiation Information Web site.

In addition, if you are looking for comprehensive technical research on the potential effects of radiofrequency and microwave radiation, then you may want to consider downloading Dr Neil Cherry's Thesis.

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