FURTHER MEMORANDUM FROM THE OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND
PROGRESS ON SELECT COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE
SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY SYSTEM: MOBILE PHONES AND HEALTH (THE COMMITTEE'S
THIRD REPORT OF THE 1998-99 SESSION)
Q1 We recommend that the Government adopt
the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection
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 (recommendation a; paragraph).
Select Committee's comment
The Government rejected this recommendation in its
response but appears to have accepted an almost identical recommendation
from the Expert Group. What action has the Government taken to
ensure that exposures from both mobile phones and base stations
in the UK comply with ICNIRP recommended limits?
The Government did not reject this recommendation.
The reply sought to explain the background and regulatory implications
of the ICNIRP Guidelines. It described how Government supported
the EU Recommendation on the limitation of public exposure to
electromagnetic fields when it was proposed in June 1999. The
EU Recommendation incorporates the ICNIRP public exposure guidelines.
The Government response to the S+T Committee explained that compliance
with the exposure guidelines was not specified in regulation,
and said the policies would be reviewed after the Independent
Expert Group had reported. The Government reply to the Independent
Expert Group's report did not seek to explain the detailed background,
but made the reference to the EU Recommendation explicit.
Whilst the way in which the Recommendation might
be implemented in totality is still under consideration, it is
clear that public exposures arising from the operation of mobile
phone technologies will be below the ICNIRP guidelines in all
areas of normal public access. The Government explained that mobile
phones in use in the UK should already comply. With regard to
base stations it is possible that where close access to base station
antennas is possible, on open roof spaces for example, extended
exclusion zones may have to be put in place. The network operators
are presently undertaking assessments of such situations and implementing
exclusion zones where appropriate.
The Board of NRPB has accepted the recommendation
of the Independent Expert Group on the adoption of ICNIRP public
exposure guidelines for mobile phone technologies. NRPB is currently
developing a response on possible options for wider implementation
of the ICNIRP guidelines in the UK.
Q2 We agree that there is a "need to
confirm or deny the work on microwave-induced DNA fragmentation".
We note with approval that industry is co-operating with the World
Health Organisation and the European Union's fifth framework programme
to determine priorities for a collaborative research programme
to examine athermal effects of non-ionising radiation and endorse
the need for this (recommendation h; paragraph).
Select Committee's comment.
The Government's response expressed disappointment
that some of the higher priority programmes in this area had not
been supported through the FP5 Quality of Life Programme and stated
that "we will maintain pressure on the Commission to fund
more work in this field, sooner rather than later". What
pressure has been applied and what has been the outcome of this
The Environment and Health Key Action (K.A. 4)
of this programme encompasses research on mobile phones. There
was an initial call for proposals in this area in 1999, with some
research being funded and several proposals failing in open competition.
The outcome of this call, together with the recent expert reports
on this area from the UK and elsewhere, were considered earlier
this year by an independent group of scientific experts whose
role it is to advise the Commission on future priorities. Since
the report of the Select Committee, the work programme has been
revised, taking on board the recommendations of this so-called
External Advisory Group (EAG) and the Programme Management Committee
(PMC). The UK representatives (from OST and MRC) on the PMC ensured
that the Commission was fully aware of the requirements for further
research in this area and have endorsed the revised work programme
The revised work programme for 2001, includes
research on EMF (RF) radiation and cellular phones as a priority
area. The only area that is now excluded for RTD projects (although
still open for other types of funding), when compared to the original
work programme is possible carcinogenic effects, which where judged
by the EAG to have been adequately covered in the original call.
All other areas are open for the full range of funding modalities
including RTD projects. Highlighted research priorities include
"cognitive and other effects, combined exposures and the
quantification of exposures".
Failed proposals from the first call in 1999,
can be resubmitted, for the 15 March 2001 deadline, if they fit
with the new programme and assuming that they have been revised
to respond to the concerns expressed by the original reviewers.
Hopefully new proposals will also be submitted. However, all proposals
will be independently peer-reviewed and considered for funding
in open competition with other applications under the Environment
and Health Key Action. Thus, as with the earlier EC call for proposals
in 1999, there is no absolute guarantee that further research
will be funded on mobile phones.
Q3 We believe that the level of publicly-funded
research into the effects of microwave emissions falls short of
an adequate programme into an area where public health implications
should be regularly reviewed. We recommend that the Government
ensures that a higher priority is given to a research programme
into the health impacts of mobile phones. The public health aspects
of new technologies should be incorporated into the Foresight
Programme (recommendation j; paragraph).
Select Committee's comment
The Government's response noted that there would
be Foresight consultations on this issue with emerging outputs
placed in the Foresight Knowledge Pool and that the Foresight
Healthcare Panel would also report on this issue. What has emerged
The announcement of a comprehensive research programme
in mobile phones and health is imminent.
Foresight Panels published their consultation
documents earlier this year. These and the responses to them are
available on the Foresight website (www.foresight.gov.uk). Panel
reports are scheduled for publication during the first week of
December. The report from the Foresight Healthcare Panel will
be published on 5th December, followed by reports from each of
the nine Healthcare task forces as amplification, including the
task force on International Influences on Health and Health Care,
addressing the need for the systematic study of the health impact
of technologies and public policies. The Foresight programme continues
into a phase of implementation, ensuring that recommendations
and issues raised in the reports are addressed.
Q4 It is essential that there is an independent
and appropriately-funded research programme which is seen to be
objective and which is seen not to be directed by commercial interests,
even if industry makes a contribution, to the funding (recommendation
k; paragraph ).
Select Committee's comment
The Government's response stated that "appropriate
mechanisms for channelling industry support for research, so that
it does not prejudice the independence of the research will need
to be considered and agreed. Proposals in this area of research
will also be considered through existing mechanisms". What
new mechanisms have been established for funding research in this
area and have any new research programmes commenced?
Such a mechanism is being established using the
LINK framework. A research programme is to be announced soon with
50% Government and 50% industry funding. The management structure
ensures that the administration of the overall programme, and
the selection of individual projects to be funded, is demonstrably
independent of the industry sponsors whilst ensuring appropriate
feedback channels for all funding organisations.