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Industry answers to Carlo's damning allegations

9:43am Thursday 18th September 2008

THE Stourbridge News put Dr Carlo's views on phone mast safety to Mike Dolan, executive director of the Mobile Operators Association who represent all the major mobile networks.

These are Mr Dolan's answers in full.

Dr Carlo says people living close to the site are in real danger from EM radiation because the human body has not evolved to cope with the type of signals emitted from the masts - Is there any scientific evidence that people will not be harmed by radio waves?

In the UK the mobile network operators design and build their networks to comply with the International Commission on Non-ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) radio frequency (RF)public exposure health and safety guidelines.

Over 500 audits have been carried out by Ofcom since 2000 and these have reported that RF emission levels from mobile phone radio base stations are small fractions of the ICNIRP guidelines.

The World Health Organisation concluded in a Fact Sheet in 2006 that: "Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects."

In the summer of 2005 the World Health Organisation held a three day conference in Geneva on the safety of mobile phone and other wireless base stations which was attended by a large number of scientists and regulators from around the world.

It was as a result of the discussions at that conference that the WHO issued its 2006 Fact Sheet.

At the RRT conference held in London last week the former Director of the WHO EMF Unit, Professor Michael Repacholi, confirmed that this remains the current position of the WHO. This was later reaffirmed at the same conference by the unit's current director, Dr Emilie van Deventer. Dr Carlo was present at the conference.

The Radiation Research Trust says 80% of research done points to a link between poor health and mast sites, how does the MOA respond to that claim?

That is a misleading assertion. In the summer of 2005 the World Health Organisation held a three day conference in Geneva on the safety of mobile phone and other wireless base stations which was attended by a large number of scientists and regulators from around the world.

It was as a result of the discussions at that conference that the WHO issued its reassuring Fact Sheet on base stations in 2006.

That remains the WHO position as well as the position of public health bodies around the world including the UK Health Protection Agency.

The studies referred to by the RRT were part of the WHO deliberations, but were not considered scientifically robust or persuasive enough to alter those conclusions.

That remains the case.

It is the quality - not the quantity - of the studies which is important.

A UK study on this subject has been undertaken by Imperial College in London and is expected to be published in the scientific literature later this year.

It is claimed minimum levels set for the UK are based on research done for microwave ovens - Does the MOA accept this and how does the MOA answer the claim the UK allows dangerously high levels compared to other countries?

No. The ICNIRP public exposure guidelines were recommended by the Stewart Report in 2000 as part of a precautionary approach.

This recommendation was reaffirmed by the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), now part of the Health Protection Agency (HPA), in January 2005.

The guidelines limit human exposure to radio waves and incorporate large safety factors for the general public, including children.

The ICNIRP guidelines are based on known thermal effects from radiowave exposure, but also in the knowledge of all relevant research undertaken including that relating to possible athermal effects.

At a conference in London last week the Chairman of ICNIRP, Professor Paolo Vecchia, confirmed that the guidelines remain appropriate for the protection of humans from radiowave exposures.

Dr Carlo was present at that conference. The ICNIRP guidelines were adopted by the European Council of Health Ministers in 1999 and are widely used throughout Europe.

Dr Carlo says the head of the ICNIRP admitted their research was limited - How does the MOA answer the claim we simply don't know what a safe level is and should site masts away from residential areas until more work is done to provide proof mast sites of this sort are safe?

The MOA relies upon the advice of the UK Health Protection Agency, the Department of Health, the World Health Organisation, and ICNIRP in relation to these matters.

I would dispute Dr Carlo's assertion regarding what Professor Vecchia said at last week's RRT conference in London.

I was at the conference and also heard Professor Vecchia speak.

Mobile phones need a network of radio base stations in order to work.

The base stations need to be located in places where people use their phones including residential areas.

Radiowave emission levels from base stations are typically small fractions of the ICNIRP guidelines and are generally about 1,000 times less than the radiowaves experienced by a mobile phone user holding his or her phone against the ear.

The further away a mobile phone is from a base station, the more power it uses to transmit or receive calls. This increases the RF emissions from the handset.

Is it safe for young children to use mobile phones?

The use of mobile phones by the under 16s is a matter of parental choice and responsibility.

Mobile technology offers reassurance to parents and children who value being able to stay in touch with one another. Parents are able to weigh up these immediate and tangible benefits against unknown health concerns when making choices about their children's mobile phone use.

The UK Health Protection Agency has adopted a precautionary approach to the use of mobile phones by the under 16s based on the premise that, if some presently unknown adverse health effect from mobile technology were to be established in the future, children might be more vulnerable than adults and would have a longer life-time exposure.

This precautionary approach is, however, not based on any established adverse health effect from mobile telephony.

All mobile phones sold in the UK comply with the guidelines set by the International Commission on Non Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and adopted for use by the European Council of Health Ministers in 1999.

Use of these guidelines in the UK for mobile phones and base stations was recommended by the Stewart Report in 2000 and reaffirmed by the National Radiological Board (of which Sir William Stewart was Chairman) in 2005.

The guidelines are kept under regular review by ICNIRP.
In addition, the WHO website contains the following statement relevant children's use of mobile phones: "Some recent media reports suggest that WHO's International EMF Project has changed its recommendation regarding precautionary measures for children using mobile phones. This followed a meeting in Ottawa, Canada in July 2005 to discuss the use of precautionary measures in areas of public health where there is scientific uncertainty.

To date, all expert reviews on the health effects of exposure to RF fields have reached the same conclusion: There have been no adverse health consequences established from exposure to RF fields at levels below the international guidelines on exposure limits published by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP, 1998).

The ICNIRP guidelines were developed to limit human exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) under conditions of maximum absorption of the fields, which rarely occurs, and the limits incorporate large safety factors to protect workers and even larger safety factors to protect the general public, including children.

Thus, the limits in the ICNIRP guidelines are highly protective and are based on all the available scientific evidence.

In 2000 WHO issued a fact sheet (#193) on Mobile Phones and their Base Stations.

In the section under "Precautionary measures" it states "Present scientific evidence does not indicate the need for any special precautions for the use of mobile phones. If individuals are concerned, they might choose to limit their own or their children's RF exposure by limiting the length of calls, or by using "hands-free" devices to keep mobile phones away from the head and body."

Not only is the information provided in this WHO fact sheet still valid, but the precautionary measures suggested are still those recommended by the International EMF Project. For further information readers are referred to: http://www.who.int/emf. WHO's International EMF Project does not change its position through media reports, rather policies and recommendations will only be amended in documents published through normal WHO information outlets."

Are phones and masts subject to pre and post market testing?

All mobile phones used in the UK and their supporting radio base stations comply with the ICNIRP public exposure radiofrequency guidelines.

Ofcom has been carrying out audits of radio base emissions since 2000 and these have reported emission levels well below the ICNIRP guidelines.

Use of these guidelines in the UK was recommended by the Stewart Report in 2000 and reaffirmed by the National Radiological Board (of which Sir William Stewart was Chairman) in 2005.

The guidelines were adopted by the European Council of Health Ministers in 1999. The guidelines are kept under regular review by ICNIRP.


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