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13/05/2011 - Council of Europe calls for dramatic reduction in EMF exposure

A new Council of Europe Committee Resolution calls for a dramatic reduction in human exposure to EMFs and microwave radiation from mobile phones and other wireless devices. This Resolution makes a strong call for properly applying the precautionary principle / approach to EMFs - both from electric power and from wireless communications technologies, something that all governments have so far completely failed to do. The Council of Europe represents all 47 Member Countries ensuring respect for its fundamental values: human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Individual Member Governments are the ones empowered to actually take action. However, the Council of Europe carries some influence. The Resolution calls on Member Governments to impose a ban on mobile phones, DECT cordless phones, WiFi or wLAN systems in classrooms and schools. It also requires that we take all reasonable measures to reduce exposure to electromagnetic fields on "as low as reasonably achievable" (ALARA) principles, especially to radio frequencies from mobile phones, and particularly the exposure to children and young people who seem to be at most long-term risk from head tumours. It asks for targeted information campaigns aimed at teachers, parents and children to alert them to the specific risks of early, ill-considered and prolonged use of mobiles and other devices emitting microwaves.

As well as the above mentioned, other requirements include:

  • to reconsider the scientific basis for the present electromagnetic fields exposure standards set by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which have serious limitations and instead apply "as low as reasonably achievable" (ALARA) principles, covering both thermal effects and the athermic or biological effects of electromagnetic emissions or radiation;
  • to set preventive thresholds for levels of long-term exposure to microwaves in all indoor areas, in accordance with the precautionary principle, not exceeding 0.6 volts per metre, and in the medium term to reduce it to 0.2 volts per metre
  • to introduce planning measures to keep high-voltage power lines and other electric installations at a safe distance from dwellings;
  • to apply strict safety standards for low EMF electrical systems in new dwellings;
  • to put in place information and awareness-raising campaigns on the risks of potentially harmful long-term biological effects on the environment and on human health, especially targeting children, teenagers and young people of reproductive age;
  • to pay particular attention to "electrosensitive persons" suffering from a syndrome of intolerance to electromagnetic fields and introduce special measures to protect them, including the creation of wave-free areas not covered by the wireless network;
  • to raise awareness on potential health risks of DECT-type wireless telephones, baby monitors and other domestic appliances which emit continuous pulse waves, if all electrical equipment is left permanently on standby, and recommend the use of wired, fixed telephones at home or, failing that, models which do not permanently emit pulsing electromagnetic radiation 24-7;

Powerwatch Comments We applaud the Council of Europe Committee for this Draft Resolution. It is long past the time when governments all around Europe should have started being more precautionary about these issues. The suggestions here are strong ones. They will meet with great opposition not only from the industry, but also from governments who now receive large annual tax incomes from wireless devices, especially mobile phone use. This has really thrown down a gauntlet. We await with interest to see who takes up the challenge and what they do.

» Download PDF version (63kB) in full or visit the Council of Europe website for the html version.

Also in the news

International conference in Italy on risks of phones and WiFi

The Association for Environmental and Chronic Toxic Injury (A.M.I.C.A.) presents the international congress "Mobile Telephony, Wi-Fi and Wi-Max: are there health risks?" that will be held in Rome on the 14th June 2011.

Scientists, lawyers and legislators will evaluate health risks associated with wireless devices and discuss the regulation of electro smog, for the tenth anniversary of the Law 36/2001.

Among those present will be Dr. Livio Giuliani Director of Research at INAIL and Dr. Morando Soffritti from the Ramazzini Institute who coordinated a major monograph about non-thermal effects of EMF for ICEMS (an independent organization of scientists that has promoted a more cautious use of technologies that emit radio frequency radiation).

"We see more and more people calling our association because they report symptoms of 'Electromagnetic Hyper Sensitivity' - such as headaches, rashes, insomnia, spatial disorientation, memory loss, tinnitus, etc. - in response to the exposure to the electromagnetic fields, but this phenomenon is largely underestimate by the national and international health agencies; we need new guidelines to protect the sensitive population," Silvia Bigeschi, Vice President of A.M.I.C.A. declares.

Another major international expert on EHS, prof. Olle Johansson of the Department of Experimental Neurology, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, will discuss the Seletun consensus published last February by an independent group of scientists. This consensus, like the Bioinititive one, of which Prof. Johansson was also member, promotes to lower the standard limits of exposure and to promote some practices to minimise health risks, such as the adoption of headsets for mobile phones and the prohibition of its use in children.

FDA clears first-of-a-kind device for brain cancer

The FDA approved the Novocure device for patients with aggressive brain tumors that have returned after treatment with chemotherapy and other interventions. Patients with recurring brain cancer usually live only a few months.

The portable device uses electric fields to disrupt the division of cancer cells that allows tumors to grow and spread. The electric fields have little effect on healthy cells because they divide at a much slower rate, if at all, compared with cancer cells.

A 237-patient study failed to show a survival benefit for patients using the device, compared with those taking chemotherapy. Patients in the device group reported higher quality of life and did not have the side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea, diarrhea and infection. On average, patients in both groups only lived just over six months.

The FDA approved the device specifically for a tumor type known as glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer. Five-year survival for the disease is just 2 percent for patients over 45 years old. About 19,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with brain cancer each year.

» Novocure's electric cap for brain cancer treatment (pdf)

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