The EU's European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) recently issued a draft document on Electromagnetic hypersensitivity. It gives a superb analysis of the scope of the issue but what I particularly like are the very positive pro-active steps it proposes for dealing with EMFs. These steps fit into two broad categories:
- Recommendations on how to prevent more people from developing the condition.
- Recommendations on how to help people that are already suffering.
The EU paper draws parallels between the current situation regarding electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and the way asbestos was initially dealt with.
By way of introduction the document notes that :
– Two international bodies have drawn up guidelines on exposure limits for workers and the general public (ICNIRO and IEZZ). Following on from these recommendations, international organizations like the Council of Europe and the World Health Organization (WHO) have established electrical sensitivity as a “health condition that can prevent people from exercising an occupational activity”.
– Despite the many studies which have been published by universities from across the world since the 1930s and the fact that the WHO has acknowledged that radio frequency electromagnetic fields are potential cancer risks, there is no scientific consensus on the matter.
– Some countries consider ES to be an occupational illness whereas others treat it as a functional disability.
– More and more people are suffering from electromagnetic and environmental hypersensitivity syndrome.
– Possible symptoms include headaches, chronic fatigue, recurring infections, difficulties concentrating, memory loss, inexplicable unhappiness, dermatological symptoms, irritability or sleeplessness, heart problems, poor blood circulation, disorientation, nasal congestion, reduced libido, thyroid disorders, eye discomfort, tinnitus, increased need to urinate, listlessness, capillary fragility, cold hands and feet, and stiff muscles.
– People affected by EMFs display no symptoms whatsoever when not exposed to EMFs which leads to the conclusion that any symptoms that diminish or disappear when the person moves away from the source constitute electromagnetic hypersensitivity, even though according to some doctors, scientific evidence of a direct causal link is lacking.
– ES sufferers experience a serious deterioration in their quality of life, not only because of the physical symptoms it usually entails but also because their lives are totally disrupted by the need to avoid exposure.
This is what I liked most about this document. It gives comprehensive recommendations on how to help people that are already suffering from EMFs and how to prevent more people developing the condition. It recommends:
- That current sufferers should be assisted and steps should be taken to limit exposure to EMFs to prevent the number of sufferers from increasing in the future due to the expansion of devices using these technologies.
- The creation of white zones as an emergency measure for people worst affected.
- That legislation be drawn up according to the ALARA principle, a variant of the precautionary principle. That’s to say the thermal effects and the non-thermal (or biological effects) of EMFs are kept As Low As Reasonably Achievable. This would make it possible to adopt preventative measures and to review safety current limits without having to wait for total scientific consensus.
Public health measures should be considered. Reference is made to the current response to Ebola.
Consumer Economic and Social Policy
The EESC suggests the following measures on consumer, economic and social cohesion policy should be envisaged:
– A labeling system, similar to that used for energy efficiency could be created to warn of the presence of microwaves or EMFs. It would give the device's transmitting power, specific absorption rate and any health risks connected with its use.
– Restrict advertising for mobile phones that feature children.
– Prohibit all publicity that is intended to market mobile telephones to under fourteens.
– Prohibit free toys or gadgets for under fourteens that resemble mobile telephones.
– Restrict the use of wireless technologies in educational establishments (Wi-Fi, mobile phones, DECT, etc.) s and banning the use of mobile phones during lessons.
– Require each mobile phone sold to come with an accessory that protects the user's head from exposure to EMFs during calls.
The EESC suggests that particular attention should be paid to “electrosensitive” persons suffering from an EMF or environmental intolerance syndrome and measures should be introduced to protect them, such as recognition of the illness in the following sectors:
– Health sector: recognition of the illness of electromagnetic hypersensitivity as an EMF intolerance syndrome.
– Employment sector: recognition of hypersensitivity as an illness and adaptation measures.
– Social sector: recognition of the functional disability.
Research and Technological Improvements
The EESC suggest that:
- Studies and research in this area could be promoted.
- Research on new types of antenna, mobile phones and devices must be prioritized in order to reduce costs, save energy and protect the environment and human health.
- Research should be encouraged to develop technologies which are as efficient but have fewer negative environmental and health effects. For instance, monitoring and dosimetry systems could be developed for a more accurate understanding of adverse effects.
The EESC also recommends that systems for evaluating, preventing and managing EMF risks in the workplace need to be improved through the proactive adoption of appropriate measures to mitigate, neutralize or eradicate it wherever necessary.
Information measures could include:
– Establishing a register of products with EMF risks showing their potential for causing electromagnetic hypersensitivity.
– Information and awareness-raising campaigns on the prevention and management of problems associated with the condition that target people with “compatible profiles and particular long-term vulnerability” and explain the potential long-term risks.
– Raising awareness of the potential health risks of DECT wireless phones, baby monitors, and other household appliances that continually emit microwave pulses, such as electrical equipment that is left permanently on standby, and recommending the use of fixed corded telephones at home.
Rules concerning the planning of electric power lines and relay antenna base stations (cell towers) should be established by adopting legislation on:
- A safe distance between high-voltage power lines and other electrical installations and homes.
- Maximum permissible exposure levels and transparent control mechanisms.
Other measures proposed include:
– Best practice guidelines should be drawn up in the business sector on EMF mitigating and on measures to prevent, manage or neutralise health impacts.
– Access to EMF exposure maps identifying installations and emissions levels.
– EMF safety thresholds for the use of products should be regulated.
– Requirements for spatial planning tools should include public and private EMF-free zones or “white” zones, which would have to include housing, and public spaces that are free of electromagnetic pollution, including health centres, hospitals, libraries, workspaces, etc.).
– Protocols for prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of EMF related illnesses.
– Measures to address the private use of mobile phones, DECT-type cordless phones that are not Full Eco, Wi-Fi systems, WLAN and WiMAX for computers and other wireless devices such as baby monitors.
– The default mode on devices for wireless systems should be “off”.
The EESC document I have reviewed above was published in December 2015. To access the complete version of the document click here.
Why Am I talking About this?
Many people feel trapped by EMFs as if there's no escape, no way out. They get overwhelmed by EMFs, what EMFs are doing to them and what they are doing to the world. I'm talking about this because despite what many people think and feel, there is a way forward.
This paper is very much ‘work in progress' it's a draft and so will be subject to change. But it shows that as a society there is a way out, a way forward and that there is a movement towards this.
These measures may not be adopted for some time but they are on the horizon. In the meantime if you are suffering from EMF exposures you need to do all that you can do to get your life back on track and deal with EMFs. Personal solutions remain my focus. This is the information I will continue to share.
Don't wait for society to solve these issues for you. I didn't. And don't get wrapped up in all the negativity. I don't.
Your comments are welcome below.
Update 10 February: To read the final draft of this document click here.