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"The notion that non-ionizing radiation is harmless – the assumption of innocence – is no longer tenable. Research findings suggest that radiofrequency exposures are potentially carcinogenic and have other health effects. Therefore, prudent avoidance of unneeded exposures is recommended as a precautionary measure."

The Late John R. Goldsmith, M.D., M.P.H.

Internationally known environmental epidemiologist and public health consultant.

TV Broadcast Towers and Cancer: The End of Innocence for Radiofrequency Exposures
American Journal of Industrial Medicine 32:689-692 (1997)

Litigation Page : Legislative Page

Introduction

Common sense dictates taking precaution: "Better safe than sorry" holds, when one is deciding whether to jaywalk in Manhattan or use the green light and cross walks. Your choice. With public health policy decision-making, the choices are not as clear. In February 2003, the World Health Organization decided to apply the precautionary principle to extremely low frequency and high frequency radiation. How will this decision be reflected in future policy? Time will tell.

Statement of the Precautionary Principle

The Precautionary Principle states, when there are indications of adverse health effects, though they remain uncertain, the risks from doing nothing may be far greater than the risks of taking action to control these exposures. The Precautionary Principle shifts the burden of proof from those suspecting a risk to those who discount it. International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety www.icems.eu.

Calling for Precaution

Highlights of the International debate over application of the Precautionary Principle to EMFs:

  1. Rio Declaration, 1992 - United National conference on environment and development, June 1992

  2. European Union Precautionary Principle, February 2000, Brussels (Word Document Format)

  3. Democracy and the Precautionary Principle, Rachel's Weekly, July 2002 (draft)

  4. World Health Organization/European Union Forum on the Application of the Precautionary Principle to EMFs, Luxemborg, February 2003

  5. Paper by Raymond Neutra, MD, MPH, on "Democratic Foresight Strategies", presented at the WHO/EU Conference, Luxemborg, February 2003 (Word Document Format)

Some important international scientific resolutions by independent scientists that call for application of the Precautionary Principle

The Vienna Resolution, 1998

http://www.emrnetwork.org/research/vienna.htm

The Salzburg Resolution, June 2000

Complete program is found at this Web address.

The Catania Resolution, September 2002

Prominent scientists who attended an International Conference in Sicily, Italy agreed to this resolution: "State of the Research on Electromagnetic Fields, Scientific and Legal Issues.".

The Benevento Resolution, September 2007

The most recent consensus statement signed by EMF research scientists who are recently published in peer reviewed journals that summarizes the state of the EMF science and gives public health advisories. This conference was convened by the International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety in Benevento Venice, Italy in February 2007. www.icems.eu

The World Health Organization, July 2007

For the first time, the WHO has called for precautionary approaches to exposure to extremely low frequency radiation sources (50-60 hertz) from powerlines, electrical appliances and other electrical and magnetic fields sources.

The German Government Safety Warning on WiFi Safety, July 2007

The German Government issued a safety warning on WiFi safety. The German Federal Ministry for Radiation Protection [Das Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz] recommends, that in view of the regulated limits supplementary precautionary measures such as wired cable alternatives are to be preferred to the WLAN system Also the question about the age-dependent energy absorption and energy distribution has not yet been satisfactorily answered. This statement led the Bavarian Landtag to issue a recommendation to schools in which the schools are called upon to avoid WLAN, if possible.

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In general, public policy responds to political will and science based standards follows technological innovation. It takes time for public awareness to result in calls for change. We believe there is a great need for more public health protection under the law, more voluntary safety compliance by public utilities and product manufacturers and more recognition and acceptance of basic laws of nature - indicating that biocompatibility between living biological systems and radiation sources - manmade and natural, is essential.

Our focus in on seeking greater public health protection from electromagnetic radiation sources from power lines, electrical wiring, electrical appliances, cellular antennas, radio/TV towers and personal handheld devices, etc. Even though there are scientific studies dating back over the past five decades demonstrating distinct biological changes and health effects, the science is not well understood by most people. The field of study called biology and electromagnetics is not well funded and there are problems getting some studies funded and replicated which could advance knowledge about possible adverse effects. Building awareness, developing consensus and calling for change - are all activities required to bring about reforms in public policy, safer products, and more public accountability from the electrical power, wireless communications and broadcast industries.

The Swiss government in 2000, adopted some of the lowest EMF exposure standards in the world based on "scientifically acknowledged harmful effects" to take "precaution in the interest of public health." In 2005, they issued "Electrosmog in the Environment", to justify and explain these standards in a visual and factual manner. These standards protect against ambient exposure to electrosmog, long term exposure, from cellular antennas, electrical powerlines, broadcast transmitters and radar for places of "sensitive use such as in homes, schools, hospitals, offices and playgrounds to reduce the risk of harm, based on the Precautionary Principle. Italy, China, Russia and many other Eastern block countries also have adopted lower exposure limit values to protect against electrosmog from one or more ambient EMF sources.

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The U.S. does not have an exposure limit for exposure to electrical power lines and appliances even though there are many studies showing biological effects have been seen as low as 2.5 millegauss and that since 2002 World Health Organization has recognized that 60 hertz frequencies for electrical transmission are a possible human carcinogen based on scientific links between power lines and childhood leukemia.

However, radiofrequency radiation exposure standards of the United States, Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Spain and many other western countries are only based on short term exposure (U.S. public exposure limits are said to be in effect for up to 30 minutes and for up to 6 minutes for workers); these standards only protect against thermal effects (i.e. heating of tissue, burn or shock); and, finally, these standards do not reflect the growing body of science that demonstrates biological and health effects at much lower levels of exposure, including the young or those who are electrically hypersensitive. Our communities, schools and workplaces are being chronically exposed and these standards are not relevant to the electrosmog conditions we now live in.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission radiofrequency radiation exposure guidelines are similar to standards set by the IEEE (Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers), the U.S. National Institute of Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.

An international effort is being led by ICNIRP (The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) to harmonize radiofrequency radiation exposure standards similar to the standards set by these agencies worldwide. Many public officials, scientists and advocates are concerned that these guidelines do not provide adequate protection for the public health. Until an independent, well funded research program is established to pursue the many scientific questions and issues that are raised. precaution is advised. The Swiss government is a leader in articulating this message of precaution given we are living in electrosmog conditions for the English speaking world.

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In summary, here is the state of the public health policy on non-ionizing radiation.

Extremely Low Frequency Radiation

Power frequencies (operating at 60 hertz in the U.S) are used for electrical power transmission, building wires and appliances and are now recognized as a possible human carcinogen under certain conditions of exposure by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) a branch of the World Health Organization. In June of 2001, IARC announced that extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields can cause cancer in humans, based on a weak association found between residential EMF exposure and childhood leukemia and two types of adult cancers (see http://monographs.iarc.fr, Vol. 80, ISBN 92 832 1280 0). In October, the World Health Organization endorsed the concept of "prudent avoidance in relationship to electrical and magnetic fields in advising that decisions on siting power lines should "consider ways to reduce people's exposures and that government and industry should offer the public suggestions for safe and low cost ways to reduce exposures" (see WHO Fact sheet no.263 at http://www.who.int/peh-emf/publications/facts_press/efact/efs263.htm). In July 2007, WHO released another policy advisory, "Extremely Low Frequency Fields Environmental Health Criteria Monograph No.238" recognizing that the use of precautionary approaches is warranted, stating in part:

• "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."

The determination that electrical and magnetic fields (60 hertz) radiation is a known human carcinogen needs to be translated into action through more requlatory intervention with the U.S. electrical power system. The September 2001 issue of the American Public Health Association Journal (Vol. 91, No. 9) made note of this important development in an article by Jamison and Wartenburg entitled, "The Precautionary Principle and Electrical and Magnetic Fields." which calls for a public policy response based on the precautionary principle. The authors criticize the current environmental regulatory framework as representing a "paternalistic policy more concerned to avoid false positives than false negatives, limiting opportunities for individuals to make choices between risk-taking alternatives"

Now that we know there is a health threat, especially to our children, it is time to call for public policy change. in siting of power lines near homes and schools to require full disclosure in the monitoring and reporting of EMF emissions from current sites and, by mitigating hazardous sites, to eliminate or reduce EMF fields to be within the safe limits. Many scientists now believe that, based on the scientific evidence showing biological effects as low as 3-4 millegauss, any chronic exposure over 2 milligauss should be avoided. In 1993, U.S. Rep George Miller introduced a bill to evaluate EMF exposures near schools. The bill did not pass even though a strong case was made for need at the time which is highly relevant today: Electromagnetic radiation and children

CHILDREN'S ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELD RISK REDUCTION ACT -- HON. GEORGE MILLER (Extension of Remarks - March 25, 1993) [Page: E781] ---

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HON. GEORGE MILLER

in the House of Representatives

THURSDAY, MARCH 25, 1993

Mr. MILLER of California. Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing the Children's Electromagnetic Field Risk Reduction Act of 1993. This legislation takes prudent steps to protect our children's health until such time as the Federal Government and scientists determine that electromagnetic fields [EMF's] created by transmission lines are not a threat to our children's health.

In fact, many expert researchers fear a dangerous correlation between exposure to EMF's and childhood cancer does exist. The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, conducted a study by M. Feychting and A. Ahlbom that confirms findings made earlier by other scientists, including Dr. David Savitz who testified on the health effects of transmission lines before my Subcommittee on Water and Power Resources in 1987. In addition, studies controlled by S.J. London et al., 1991; A. Myers et al., 1990; M.P. Coleman, 1989; L. Tomenius, 1986; J.P Fulton et al., 1980; and Wertheimer and Leeper, 1979, among others, have reported statistically significant associations between EMF exposure and the risk of some cancers.

In response to the studies, local communities, and States have begun to make policy changes affecting the proximity of transmission lines to schools. In California, the Department of Education plans to soon announce regulations restricting the location of transmission line easements adjacent to property for new schools. Approximately 600 schools under construction in California today will be built in compliance with the regulations. The new regulations are expected to require that new schools be located 100 feet from the edge of the easement to the school property line for 50-133 KV lines; 150 feet from the edge of the easement to the school property line for 220-230 KV lines; and 350 feet from the edge of the easement to the school property line for 500-550 KV lines. The Congressional Research Service estimates that transmission lines built in compliance with the California regulation would generate EMF levels ranging approximately from a low of .1 milligauss to a high of 2.5 milligauss. However, there is no correlation between kilovolts used in California's regulation, and milligauss--the standard cited in this legislation.

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Volts measure electric potential, and gauss measure magnetic field strength. Because the Karolinska Institute study and other studies address the biological effects of EMF milligauss levels on children, this legislation uses milligauss as the standard as well.

The Children's Electromagnetic Field Risk Reduction Act establishes a national policy to prohibit the construction and operation of new schools, and child care facilities, on property where the EMF exceeds an average two milligauss per day. The bill responds to a growing body of scientific studies showing a possible dose-response relationship between human exposure to electromagnetic fields from electric transmission lines and development of cancer, particularly childhood cancer. Most recently, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found that children exposed to 1 milligauss over long periods have twice the normal risk of developing leukemia, those exposed to 2 milligauss had three times the normal risk, and those exposed to 3 milligauss had 4 times the normal risk.

At the local level, two California communities--Irvine and Fremont--have implemented regulations concerning electromagnetic fields. In Irvine, residential construction may not occur on properties where the EMF exceeds four milligauss. In Fremont, property owners are required to disclose to potential buyers the proximity of transmission lines to the real estate.

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In New York, officials also have expressed concern about the proximity of transmission lines to schools. Attorney General Robert Abrams recently asked utilities to undertake a comprehensive survey of the location and strength of power lines near schools.

Mr. Speaker, the Federal Government has not kept pace with efforts undertaken by States and local communities. The Federal investment in research on the biological effects of electromagnetic fields has been minimal--approximately $11 million in fiscal year 1992. Last year, the Congress approved a provision in the Energy Policy Act authorizing a 5-year $65 million EMF research program jointly financed by the Federal Government and private sector. Given budget restrictions, prospects for appropriating this money are not good. Mr. Speaker, given the rising body of evidence suggesting a link between EMF exposure above 2 milligauss and cancer in children, why take the risk of building new schools and childcare facilities in areas where children risk dangerous exposure? This legislation will prevent communities and governments from wasting scarce resources to construct facilities that might have to be closed or destroyed if studies continue to support the link between EMF exposure and cancer.

This legislation also could effectively reduce legal fees for lawsuits involving claims of EMF-induced health damage from power lines near schools and childcare facilities. Legal costs, along with the reduction in property values adjacent to transmission lines, and efforts presently undertaken by utilities to retrofit lines to reduce EMF exposure roughly exceed $1 billion a year, according to an article in Science by J. Keith Florig of Resources for the Future. More importantly, Mr. Speaker, this legislation could help save children's lives if the link proves to be true. Until the evidence proves that electromagnetic fields pose no threat to human health, we should begin to take prudent steps to reduce EMF exposure to children. The Children's Electromagnetic Field Risk Reduction Act takes a first step. I encourage my colleagues to support this legislation.

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Radiofrequency radiation

Radio frequencies operate from less than 1 gigahertz to 100 gigahertz on the electromagnetic spectrum, between extremely low frequency and infrared frequency radiation. Society is being transformed by the new wireless communications systems that use these frequencies to transmit signal. There is growing concern that the current federal guidelines governing human exposure to radio frequencies are not protective enough. The Federal Communications Commission adopted industry derived standards which protect against tissue heating or burn but not the low level exposures which have been shown in many studies to cause biological effects which may generate adverse health effects.

At the present time, the "jury is still out" as to whether radiofrequency radiation poses a health risk. Until there is a public health agency review of the body of science on the biological effects of radio frequencies, public policy intervention is not likely. A new law was enacted in 1996, the Federal Telecommunications Act, a landmark bill, which mandated the rapid deployment of a new wireless communication infrastructure across the country. Section 704 of the act that prohibited local governments from denying carrier permit applications based on health concerns. As the level of risk have not yet been not been officially determined in the U.S., doesn't it make sense to find out before new exposures cause harm?

In 1993, the California State Health Department and the California Public Utilities Commission reviewed the body of literature at a special forum attended by many experts in science, engineering and public policy and determined there was no health risk from wireless communications technology. In 1994, the California Publc Utilities Commission determined that existing telephone carriers who provided wireless services were part of the public utility infrastructure. The CPUC extended that same definition to the new carriers who entered the field since the enactment of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. In California, at least, wireless communications is considered a public utility.

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In 2000, a bill calling for review of studies on the health effects of cell phones (SB 1699, was introduced by former Senator Tom Hayden in the California State Legislature in 2000. Hearings were held, where scientists and advocates for both sides testified. The bill passed the Health Committees of Senate and Assembly and the Senate Business and Finance Committee but landed on the cutting room floor in Appropriations, even though it was a no-money bill.

In 2000, at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Environmental Health Services has initiated several animal studies, evaluating the biological effects of radio frequency radiation to see whether there are any adverse health effects - carcinogenic, neurological or behavioral. These studies are believed by the Federal government to be needed in order to complete the body of science needed upon which to conduct a full scale evaluation of radio frequency as an environmental toxin (Click here for FDA report to NIEHS)

Members of Congress have sought in past Congressional sessions to introduce federal legislation to repeal section 704 of the Federal Telecommunications Act and restore local government ability to take health concerns into account when making local wireless facility siting decisions and to authorize research on the health effects of chronic exposure conditions to antennas and towers. At this time, there have been no bills introduced in the current session of Congress and no public hearings have been held. We urge you to contact your elected officials and ask them to support new legislation and hold public hearings so all the facts and anecdotal information are disclosed. For an update on the status of federal legislation, we refer you to the EMR Network's Action Alert page http://www.emrnetwork.org/action/action.

By contrast, by 2004, the World Health Organization and some countries in Europe may be reporting the results of some large scale human population studies currently underway to see if there is a link between long term heavy use of wireless digital mobile phones and cancer. One unpublished report by Swedish scientist Lennart Hardell shows a link between long term use of analogue phones and brain tumors and the tumor was typically found on the same side of the head as where the cell phone was consistently held, was released in June 2001.

Meanwhile, the number of people using cell phones and the number of antennas being installed are increasing as part of the buildout of the wireless communications infrastructure. There is no official public health position as to whether this technology is safe or not safe. There is no federal agency looking out for the public health on this issue. There are many anectotal reports of people who believe their health is affected. There are now class action suits and tort claims underway in various state courts against the U.S cell phone industry and the disposition of these lawsuits may determine the future course of this technology and shape what public policies are needed to protect the health of the general population and workers who are being exposed to radio frequency radiation. Until more is known, precaution is advised.

For more information, go to Resources and look under Scientific and Health Information.

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