Radiation risk from everyday devices assessed

News Published 17 Sep 2007 Last modified 10 Dec 2019
4 min read
A new report raising concerns about the effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) on human health calls for tougher safety standards to regulate radiation from mobile phones, power lines and many other sources of exposure in daily life. The report, 'Bioinitiative: A Rationale for a Biologically-Based Public Exposure Standard for Electromagnetic Fields' was compiled by the BioInitiative Working Group, an international group of scientists, researchers and public health policy professionals. The EEA has contributed to this new report with a chapter drawn from the EEA study 'Late lessons from early warnings: the precautionary principle 1896–2000' published in 2001.

The EEA study reviews the histories of a selection of public and environmental hazards, such as asbestos, benzene and PCBs, from the first scientifically based early warnings about potential harm, to subsequent precautionary and preventive measures. Cases on tobacco smoking and lead in petrol are forthcoming.

Although the EEA does not have specific expertise in EMF, the case studies of public hazards analysed in the ' Late lessons' publication show that harmful exposures can be widespread before there is both 'convincing' evidence of harm from long-term exposures, and biological understanding of how that harm is caused.

'There are many examples of the failure to use the precautionary principle in the past, which have resulted in serious and often irreversible damage to health and environments. Appropriate, precautionary and proportionate actions taken now to avoid plausible and potentially serious threats to health from EMF are likely to be seen as prudent and wise from future perspectives. We must remember that precaution is one of the principles of EU environmental policy,' says Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA.

Current evidence, although limited, is strong enough to question the scientific basis for the present EMF exposure limits, according to the BioInitiative Working Group.

For more information:

  1. Mobile Telecommunications Research Programme, United Kingdom, September 2007
    a. MTHR: Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research
    b. Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research report 2007

  2. Interphone (World Health Organisation — International Agency for Research on Cancer) on-going project on mobile phones.


  3. BioInitiative Report, August 2007
    a. http://www.bioinitiative.org/
    b. BioInitiative Report: A Rationale for a Biologically-based Public Exposure Standard for Electromagnetic fields (ELF and RF): http://www.bioinitiative.org/report/docs/report.pdf

  4. German advice on WIFI exposures July 2007


  5. World Health Organisation review on Extremely Low Frequency Electric and Magnetic fields and Health, June 2007:
    a. Electromagnetic fields and public health. Fact sheet N322, June 2007.
    b. Extremely Low Frequency Fields
    Environmental Health Criteria Monograph No. 238

  6. IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.) microwave magazine, Editorial, Volume 8, Issue 3, June 2007. Cellular Mobile Radiation and Intercranial Tumours. Lin J.C.

  7. Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR), Opinion on Possible Effects of Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) on Human Health, March, 2007

    Related web sites:

  8. REFLEX research study, DG Research, 2000–2004
    See also ‘EU Research on Environment and Health — Results from projects funded by the 5th Work frame programme, pages 176–177 on REFLEX and EMF projects, pages 166–181

  9. Friedman et al., ‘Mechanisms of short term ERK activation by electromagnetic fields at mobile phone frequencies’, Biochem Journal, 405, 559–568, 2007

  10. Mobile Phones and Health: Reports by Stewart/National Radiological Protection Board, United Kingdom, 2002, 2004
    a. Mobile Phones and Health 2004. NRPB. Volume 15, No. 5.
    b. A summary of recent reports on Mobile Phones and Health (2000– 2004). NRPB. W65.

  11. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. Non-ionizing radiation, Part 1: Static and Extremely Low Frequency Electric and Magnetic Fields. World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, 2002.

  12. World Health Organization ‘Principles for evaluating health risks in children associated with exposure to chemicals’, Environmental Health Criteria, 237, Geneva, 2007.

  13. International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, Guidelines for Limiting Exposure to Time-Varying Electric, Magnetic, and Electromagnetic Fields (Up to 300GHz), International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, Health Physics, Vol 74, No 4, p 494–522, 1998.

  14. EEA, ‘Late lessons from early warnings: the precautionary principle 1896–2000’, European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, 2001.

Contact information:

Marion Hannerup
Head of Communications and Corporate Affairs
European Environment Agency
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K

Telephone: DK +4533367160 Call
Mobile: DK +4551332243
Email: marion.hannerup@eea.europa.eu

Brendan Killeen
Press Officer
European Environment Agency
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K

Telephone: DK +4533367269
Mobile: DK +4523683671 Call
Email: brendan.killeen@eea.europa.eu
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