Monday, May 16, 2011

Ban mobile phones and wireless networks in schools, say European leaders/ The Telegraph

I attended the European Bioelectromagnetics meeting in Helsinki in September 2001, and discovered then that there were dueling bodies of evidence regarding whether electromagnetic fields from cell phones or other sources caused adverse health effects.  Things have not changed a lot since then, although the body of research has considerably expanded.  Because the research paid for by industry found EMFs to be safe, and independent research frequently found them harmful, attempts to regulate EMFs have gone nowhere in the US.  In fact, no one at EPA is charged with investigating or regulating EMFs.

Things appear to be different in the EU.  There, a report dated May 6, 2011, titled The potential dangers of electromagnetic fields and their effect on the environment has made recommendations to reduce exposure to certain fields, such as those from cell phones, especially in children.  It is a breath of fresh air to have an official body acknowledge the utility of the precautionary principle.

From the Telegraph:
A Council of Europe committee examined evidence that the technologies have "potentially harmful" effects on humans, and concluded that immediate action was required to protect children.
In a report, the committee said it was crucial to avoid repeating the mistakes made when public health officials were slow to recognise the dangers of asbestos, tobacco smoking and lead in petrol...

The committee concluded that member states should:

• Set thresholds for levels of long-term exposure to microwaves of the type emitted by mobile phones;
• Introduce clear labelling on products indicating the presence of electromagnetic fields and any health risks associated with use;
• Ban all mobile phones and wireless networks in classrooms and schools;
• Run information campaigns aimed at children and young adults about the risks to human health;
• Step up research on less-dangerous types of antennae and mobile phones.
The conclusions contradict advice from the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health, which says exposure to electromagnetic fields poses little or no risk to human health.
The Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and is based in Strasbourg, cannot impose its will on governments, but is highly influential in policy-making and has often seen its decisions enacted through conventions and treaties.
A draft resolution – calling on governments to "take all reasonable measures to reduce exposure to electromagnetic fields" from mobile phones and similar devices, including the ban in schools – was adopted unanimously by the organisation's Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs.
The committee is composed of 84 MPs and politicians from member states, and its vice-chairman is Lord Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister. Its members reviewed the latest research on the effects of electromagnetic fields and took fresh evidence from experts before reaching its conclusions...

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