UK accused of failing to use ‘precautionary principle’ in radiation risk from mobile phones
A cross-party committee of the House of Commons has recommended that lower limits on public exposure to radiation from mobile phones be introduced while research is conducted into effects on human health.
The Select Committee on Science and Technology has called on the UK Government to adopt guidelines issued by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNRP) as regards exposure to mobile phone microwaves.
The Committee rejected evidence presented by the body in charge of setting UK levels of exposure, the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), that the country’s comparatively high limits are acceptable.
While acknowledging that research and anecdotal evidence suggesting athermal damage to human tissues from mobile phones has yet to be proven, the Committee’s report states that the UK should apply the “precautionary principle” and limit the maximum exposure limits to ICNRP’s specific energy absorption rate of 0.2 watts per 10g of tissue.
“We agree… that the evidence of neurological problems reportedly caused by mobile phones – including symptoms such as headache, nausea, tiredness, sleep problems and memory loss – is unclear but there is sufficient anecdotal evidence and uncertainty to justify further research”. There are also questions regarding the role of mobile phones in the development of brain cancer.
Also contained in the report, is the Committee’s belief that the Government’s announcement of an Expert Group on Mobile Phones represents only a temporary measure. The Committee believes that it is the Government’s responsibility to monitor new technologies, including mobile phones, for their effects on human health and that the best way to monitor mobile phones would be to increase the funding for the Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation.
“We believe that the level of publicly-funded research into the effects of microwave emission falls short of an adequate programme into an area where public health implications should be regularly reviewed,” states the Committee.
Regarding membership of the Expert Group on Mobile Phones, the Committee is adamant that the majority of members should not come from the mobile phone industry.
In pressing the Government to adopt the tougher guidelines on microwave emissions, the Committee pointed to evidence provided by Motorola and Vodaphone, both of whom stated that the ICNRP guidelines had been expected for some time and that compliance by the mobile phone industry would not be an insurmountable difficulty.