Dear All,

As 2009 draws to a close and 2010 gets underway, it is time to look back at the last 12 months and the significant developments this year on the issues relating to electromagnetic fields and health:

Mobile Phones

Back in January the French government looked at adopting legislation restricting both the usage and marketing of mobile phones towards child and young people, and have followed with a ban on usage of mobile phones in primary schools. Despite this, Samsung and Firefly have both marketed phones very specifically at the pre-teen market. This seems inexplicable when the government advice is still that children and young people under 16 should restrict their use of mobile phones to emergencies. It seems that this information has not been circulated through to mobile phone outlets, and it seems that most children and parents are also unaware of the government guidance. It seems the Department of Health should be more proactive in ensuring both that the information is disseminated widely and that public awareness of the potential risks is increased.

Mobile phone base stations

For the first time since the boom of the mobile telecommunications industry, legal precedents have been set requiring mobile phone network operators to provide evidence that they have gone to lengths to minimise public exposure to their base stations because of the "fear" of harm to health. Starting with the Versailles Court of Appeal and continuing into the rulings of a district mayor in France, these actions have been followed by a similar ruling in Belgium and another in France showing that it there is enough evidence to consider the situation uncertain.

WiFi

Early in the year France managed to cause quite a stir when Paris University declared a WiFi moratorium following up on their legislation regarding phones, showing that they are taking concerns about radiofrequency electromagnetic fields very seriously. The Health Protection Agency produced their research on WiFi, bizarrely only assessing already understood exposure levels and not the actual effects WiFi installations may have had on public health, spending £300,000 of the UK taxpayer's money without progressing the issue. Swindon are apparently the first town to try to implement WiFi across the whole town, despite fears of potential risks to health that a town-wide ubiquitous exposure could bring with it.

Legislation overseas

A positive step has been taken by Belgium, where the constitutional court has confirmed a statutory limit for radiofrequency electric field exposure of 3 V/m. Sadly, elsewhere in Europe, the decision in Leichtenstein to drop exposure limits to 0.6 V/m has been overturned by referendum following a large outcry by the mobile phone operators that the network would not be tenable and that they would have to withdraw from the principality. Recently there has also been a very poor quality update to official US FDA advice with information that is full of out-of-date science and unjustifiable claims, including an apparent blanket ignorance of the latest mobile phone and brain tumour data.

SAGE

This year has also seen a very disappointing government responseto the interim assessment of the first stage of the SAGE process. At the beginning of 2008, the UK Health Protection Agency published a rather surprising response to the health minister, with a one-sided and scientifically unsupportable position that made a mockery of some of the discussions that had taken place in the stakeholder group work that SAGE had laboured over for two years. This was particularly disappointing when the HPA were already a stakeholder within the SAGE group, and had made their position statement clear enough already within the text of the assessment. However, we had not expected the government to go even further away from the precautionary considerations discussed by SAGE than the HPA, with a response that effectively managed to turn down, or sidestep, almost all of the practical advice produced by SAGE. It is very clear that there is no intention to adopt any of the measures suggested by SAGE in any form of governmental policy, and the decision to look at adopting ICNIRP as the driving standard for planning was never recommended by SAGE.

 

Published research

2009 has seen a vast number of published papers into health effects from electromagnetic fields, and the research that we still have to draw attention to from this period is approaching 100 papers. For the papers we have covered in our scientific updates across 2009, please see the following:

January
February
April
August
October

Powerwatch thanks you for having an interest in this very important subject, and would like to wish you a relaxing time over the festive period and in to the new year!