EU Health Council Recommendation
20. On 8th June 1999 the European Union
(EU) Health Council agreed a recommendation, with the support
of the UK Government, for limiting exposure to electromagnetic
fields thereby establishing, for the first time, EU-wide safety
standards for mobile phone emissions.
The recommendation was based on the exposure limits recommended
by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection
(ICNIRP), an independent international body of experts on electromagnetic
fields and health.
The recommendation proposes limiting public exposure to an SAR
of 0.2W per 10g of tissue for the head and 0.08W/kg for the whole
body (one fifth of the exposures permitted by the NRPB's guidelines)
whilst permissible occupational exposure would remain at the level
defined by the NRPB.
The recommendation has no effect in law and the Minister told
us the Government would not automatically adopt matching guidelines
for exposure limits in the UK but would "allow the NRPB to
consider the standards, to provide advice and then have
21. The ICNIRP guidelines include a "reduction
factor" of five in maximum SAR for the public as opposed
to occupational exposure. The NRPB argues that "there is
a lack of scientific support for the introduction and choice of
these reduction factors" and that the existing UK guidelines
of limiting exposure of the public "provide adequate protection
... the health benefits to be obtained from further reductions
in exposure have not been demonstrated".
22. The current guidelines for maximum SARs for mobile
phones were established before the major increase in frequency
and duration of use was envisaged and this has led some to suggest
that the NRBP guidelines should be revisited.
We agree with the NRPB that there is no validated scientific evidence
to justify lower exposure limits. Nevertheless, the extent to
which many, including the NRPB itself, are calling for more research,
particularly in the area of athermal effects of microwaves, justifies
a precautionary reduction in maximum exposure guidelines.
As the Minister pointed out, the impact on the industry would
be a factor in the Government's decision on whether or not to
adopt the EU guidelines. Motorola told us that the EU limits had
been expected for some time and therefore many parts of the industry
Similarly, Vodafone told us that they thought that "pretty
well all cell sites in the UK will comply today".
Therefore, although there is no scientific evidence to indicate
significant health risks, we recommend that the Government
adopt the ICNIRP recommended guideline limits for microwave exposure
as a precautionary measure. We further recommend that these guidelines
be introduced quickly but with a grace period to allow network
operators to achieve full compliance.