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17/07/2007 - WHO recommend precautionary approach for the first time


For the first time on this issue, WHO have recommended that a precautionary approach should be adopted with regards to ELF EMFs. Following on the findings of the Draper report (June 2005) and the recommendations in the SAGE report (April 2007), this is a very important step for enabling sensible legislation to be put in place in the UK and Europe.

"It is essential that exposure limits be implemented in order to protect against the established adverse effects of exposure to ELF electric and magnetic fields. These exposure limits should be based on a thorough examination of all the relevant scientific evidence.

"Only the acute effects have been established and there are two international exposure limit guidelines (ICNIRP, 1998a; IEEE, 2002) designed to protect against these effects.

"As well as these established acute effects, there are uncertainties about the existence of chronic effects, because of the limited evidence for a link between exposure to ELF magnetic fields and childhood leukaemia.

"Therefore the use of precautionary approaches is warranted. However, it is not recommended that the limit values in exposure guidelines be reduced to some arbitrary level in the name of precaution. Such practice undermines the scientific foundation on which the limits are based and is likely to be an expensive and not necessarily effective way of providing protection."

Section 1.1.12 - Protective Measures, from "Extremely Low Frequency Fields Environmental Health Criteria Monograph No.238"
View Summary and contents

The bolded section highlights a clear change of stance, towards an acceptance that the possibility of increased risk is great enough to warrant precaution. The second sentence very sensibly pointing out that to adopt a precautionary principle would require a fixed exposure level with supported evidence to be appropriate. However, with Ahlbom's meta-analysis and the Draper report, coupled with the summaries of the SAGE report from this year, it seems quite justified to propose that a power frequency magnetic field level of 0.4 µT is well enough supported by the data to be adopted in this country.

A good overview on the scientific evidence there is can be found at the Wikipedia entry for Electric Power Transmission.

Also in the news

New paper showing oxidative DNA damage from ELF EMFs

A team of researchers from Turkey have published a paper showing highly statistically significant (P < 0.001) evidence of oxidate DNA damage from exposure to Extremely Low Frequency electromagnetic fields.

[View full abstract on informaworld]

Is there friction within the INTERPHONE study group?

Microwave News have recently (April 2007) covered a potential rift between researchers in the INTERPHONE study group. Schüz and Johansen concluded that their analysis produced "evidence that any large association of risk of cancer and cellular telephone use can be excluded." However, in a letter response to the journal Feychting and Ahlbom of the Karolinska Institute countered that "such a global conclusion is premature and not supported by the data." In their reply, Schüz and the rest of the Danish team back off from their original statement by acknowledging that "further study is warranted to evaluate the possibility of an association between long-term cellular telephone use and brain tumor risk."

[Read Full commentary on Microwave News - 18th April 2007 entry]
[View Danish study abstract]
[View Ahlbom and Feychting's response]
[View Schüz's counter-response]