MOBILE phone masts on St James' Church, Palmerston Road, Buckhurst Hill, have alarmed parents with children at nearby Loyola School.

Parents of the 190 boys, aged three to 11, who are paying between £1,995 and £3,975 in fees each year, are worried about the potential health risks for their children and "just don't know what to do."

Sandra Barbarino, of Regency Close, Chigwell, who has a four-year-old son at the school, said: "I know there are always going to be risks of radiation spreading out despite what the telecommunications companies tell us. There are so many health risks, nosebleeds, headaches, insomnia and obviously it's been linked to brain tumours and various concerns.

"Do you realise that kids are here in school where they're exposed to radiation? They're exposed to this every day from morning to evening, every day."

Loyola headteacher Peter Nicholson said: "There have been masts on that site for as long as I can remember, going back to 1987. The implication that some folk are making is that the masts have been added to."

Mobile phone company O2 began working on the masts last August. The district council has little control over such matters. O2 is a utility company which has permitted development' and does not require planning approval.

District council spokesman Rob Barwell said: "Masts under a certain size mean the company is going to put them up anyway."

The council can only object to telecommunications masts on grounds of location and aesthetic impact. Under planning law they cannot object to masts on health grounds as government guidance is that there is little or no health risk.

O2 community relations manager James Stevenson said: "There's no danger from the mobile phone masts, no fear at all.

"Churches are a good place to put them because of the money and the way we organise rental payments to the church. There's absolutely no risk at all from them."

Mr Stevenson said several studies conducted by the World Health Organisation have not detected any danger from mobile phone masts.

Sandra Chang, of Dickens Rise, Chigwell, who has a five-year-old son at the school, thinks the addition to the masts was "done backhandedly" as people weren't aware of the development.

She said: "It's such a high risk for our children. They don't know the safety and they can't guarantee anything. I don't want the class to come down with cancer in years to come. Parents just don't know what to do."