on health concerns associated with electromagnetic fields

The following is an analysis of a Motion brought before the European Parliament by Belgian Liberal Member Frédérique Ries. The Motion was adopted by the lopsided margin of 559 vs. 22. It calls for a series of measures to greatly increase restrictions on EMF emissions. This motion is filled with unscientific claims and contains veiled criticism of the WHO, the world's most prestigious scientific body, as well as Europe's own scientific advisory body the SCENIHR. Apparently, the European Parliament wants its scientists to keep studying "the problem" of EMF until they find a problem. The fact that no health effects have been found after 30 years and tens of thousands of scientific studies is not sufficient to calm these politicians.
The full text of the motion is reproduced below in italicized text. Our comments are inserted in plain text. The full uncommented original Motion is available here.

The European Parliament,

-   having regard to Articles 137, 152, and 174 of the EC Treaty, seeking to promote a high level of human health, environmental protection and workers' health and safety protection,

-   having regard to Council Recommendation 1999/519/EC of 12 July 1999 on the limitation of exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields (1) and the related Commission implementation report of 1 September 2008

-   having regard to Directive 2004/40/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields) (2)

-   having regard to Directive 1999/5/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 1999 on radio equipment and telecommunications terminal equipment and the mutual recognition of their conformity (3) and to the respective harmonized safety standards for mobile phones and base stations,

-   having regard to Directive 2006/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on the harmonization of the laws of Member States relating to fields 0 Hz - 300 GHz (6)

-   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

-   having regard to the report of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (A6-0089/2009),

A. whereas electromagnetic fields (EMF's) exist in nature and have consequently always been present on earth; whereas, however, in recent decades, environmental exposure to man-made sources of EMF's has risen constantly, driven by demand for electricity, increasingly more specialized wireless technologies, and changes in the organization of society; whereas the end effect is that every individual is now being exposed to a complex mixture of electric and magnetic fields of different frequencies, both at home and at work,

There is nothing really new in man-made EMF. People have been exposed to EMF fields since the development of the telegraph by Morse in the 1830's, the production and distribution of electric power by Edison and Westinghouse in the 1880's and the development of wireless communication by Marconi in 1901. These early devices also produced a "complex mixture of electric and magnetic fields of different frequencies", often of much higher power than today's' devices. In this span of well over a century's worth of technological advances, there have been no scientifically proven health effects due to EMF.

B. whereas wireless technology (mobile phones, Wi-Fi/WiMAX, Bluetooth, DECT landline telephones) emits EMFs that may have adverse effects on
human health,

As this web site makes clear, virtually all the world's major public health organizations state that the overwhelming preponderance of scientific evidence shows that there are no effects (good or bad) on human health due to EMF.

C. whereas most European citizens, especially young people aged from 10 to 20, use a mobile phone, an object serving a practical purpose and as a fashion accessory, and whereas there are continuing uncertainties about the possible health risks, particularly to young people whose brains are still developing,

Emotional appeals about the safety of children in the absence of reasonable evidence are not grounds for "precautionary" measures. If society reacted to every hypothetical risk, paralysis would result.

D. whereas the dispute within the scientific community regarding the potential health risks arising from EMFs has intensified since 12 July 1999, when exposure limits for fields in the 0 Hz to 300 GHz range were laid down in Recommendation 1999/519/EC,

This "dispute within the scientific community" is being promulgated by a minority of scientists. Their views are not accepted by the majority of mainstream scientists nor by the majority of the world's public health organizations. Most of the studies promoted by this minority of scientists have been refuted by far more comprehensive and rigorous studies. The alarmist minority of scientists keep promoting the same flawed and discredited studies while ignoring convincing studies that show no harm. This is similar to the minority of scientists who attack the mainstream consensus over global warming.

E. whereas the fact that the scientific community has reached no definite conclusions has not prevented some national or regional governments, in China, Switzerland, and Russia, as well as in at least nine EU Member States, from setting what are termed 'preventive' exposure limits, that is to say, lower than those advocated by the Commission and its independent scientific committee, the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) (7),

Here the motion of the Parliamentary is recommending ignoring the advice of its own two scientific advisory bodies set up specifically to study this issue: the SCENIHR and the EMF-NET. Like certain countries, the commission is being urged to respond to political pressure from scientifically ill informed citizen's groups. The recommendations of the SCENIHR are consistent with those of  virtually every major other public health organization including the WHO, the European Cancer Prevention Organization, the US FDA, American Cancer Society, and National Cancer Institute, as well as those most EU member states including: UK Independent Group on Mobile Phones (IEGMP), UK National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), French Environmental Health and Safety Agency (AFSSE), French Academie Nationale de Medecine, German Research Centre, Radiation Authorities of Nordic Countries, Health Council of the Netherlands, and the Irish Expert Group on EMF, as well as those of may other countries.

F.  whereas actions to limit the exposure of the general public to EMFs should be balanced against improvements to quality of life, in terms of safety and security, brought about by devices transmitting EMFs,

G. whereas among the scientific projects arousing both interest and controversy is the Interphone epidemiological study, financed by an EU contribution of EUR 3 800 000, primarily under the Fifth RTD Framework Programme (8), the findings of which have been awaited since 2006,

The results to date for the Interphone series of studies do not show any clear increased health risk. However research is ongoing for long term use greater than 10 years. The final Interphone report has been delayed. However a difficulty with this type of study is that it relies on brain cancer patients to recall how much they used their cell phones over their lifetimes. Patients who have brain cancer, and have heard media reports of a possible association between cell phones and brain cancer, may unconsciously overstate their cell phone use and skew the results. This is what is termed recall bias. It is the issue of recall bias that is mainly responsible for the delay in the Interphone final report.

The series of cell phone studies conducted in Denmark are much more robust because they used actual cell phone records rather than relying on patient's memories. In addition, as both the European SCENIHR (Report of Jan. 2009) (P. 24), and the US National Cancer Institute have pointed out, there has been no increase in the of brain cancer since the introduction of cell phones. In a recent Bulletin (Sept 23, 2008) the NCI stated: "There was no upturn in the incidence of brain or other nervous system cancers between 1987 and 2005, according to data from NCI's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results

H. whereas, however, there are some points that appear to be the subject of general agreement, in particular the idea that reactions to microwave exposure vary from one person to another, the need, as a matter of priority, to conduct exposure tests under actual conditions in order to assess the non-thermal effects associated with radio-frequency (RF) fields, and the fact that children exposed to EMFs are especially vulnerable (9),

This statement is simply false. There is no "general agreement" that "reactions to microwave exposure vary from one person to another". In fact the majority of scientific opinion is that any such "reactions" are of a psychosomatic nature (nocebo effect). See WHO Fact Sheet on EHS and SCENIHR Report Jan. 2009 P. 8)

I.   whereas the EU has laid down exposure limits to protect workers from the effects of EMFs; whereas on the basis of the precautionary principle such measures should also be taken for the sections of population concerned, such as residents and consumers,

This is a false dichotomy. The limits recommended by the ICNIRP that have been in force in most countries since 1998 are intended to protect the general public.

J.   whereas the Special Eurobarometer report on Electromagnetic Fields (No 272a of June 2007) indicates that the majority of citizens do not feel that the public authorities inform them adequately on measures to protect them from EMFs,

The European Commission should be informing the public of the findings of the worlds' major public health organizations including the WHO and its own SCENIHR and EMF-NET, not fanning the flames of alarmism promoted by scientifically ill informed pressure groups.

K. whereas it is necessary to continue investigations into intermediate and very low frequencies so that conclusions can be drawn as to their effects on health,

There is no reason to believe that intermediate and low frequencies have any higher risk that the already well investigated RF frequencies.

L.  whereas the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) must not be threatened by Directive 2004/40/EC as MRI technology is at the cutting edge of research, diagnosis and treatment of life-threatening diseases for patients in Europe,

M. whereas the MRI safety standard IEC/EN 60601-2-33 establishes limit values for EMFs which have been set so that any danger to patients and workers is excluded (4),

It is interesting to note that the level of EMF from MRI machines vastly exceeds that from any source that consumers are exposed to. The magnetic field from MRI machines are in the range of 0.5 - 3.0 Tesla. Alarmist groups claim that magnetic fields from power lines in the range of 0.4 uT cause childhood leukemia. MRI machines produce fields that are more than 1 million times stronger. At least the European Parliament has the sense not to ban MRI machines - which really do save lives, over a phantom menace with no real scientific standing.

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