Newsletter (15 January 2005)

The NRPB and its cautionary never-never land

With all the hype about the NRPB Stewart report on mobile phones it is worthwhile remembering how the NRPB is (mis)handling the power frequency issue.

The NRPB's latest sales pitch for accepting the ICNIRP guidelines is taking the definition of a precautionary approach even further into never-never land. It is available from their web site at:

(Advice on Limiting Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (0-300 GHz)

Volume 15 No.2, 2004)

We have the usual 'feel good' but meaningless statements about precautionary approaches, etc. but the document's idea of following a precautionary approach is to adopt the ICNIRP guidelines. To Quote from the Conclusions and Recommendations:

"The review of current scientific knowledge, the adoption of a cautions approach to the interpretation of these data, and a recognition of the benefits of international harmonization, combine in a recommendation to adopt the ICNIRP exposure guidelines for occupational and general public exposure to electromagnetic fields between 0 and 300 GHz."

SO now a precautionary approach is defined as adopting ICNIRP. BUT what does ICNIRP's Paulo Vecchia say about precautionary approaches?


"Future developments in ICNIRP, by Paulo Vecchia

"ICNIRP only considers acute effects in its precautionary principle approach. Consideration of long term effects [are] not possible."

"Precautionary actions to address public concerns may increase rather than mitigate worries and fears of the public. This constitutes a health detriment and should be prevented as other adverse effects of EMF."

So ICNIRP must now class precautionary actions as a thermal effect!

SO where does this leave the NRPB's platitudes about precautionary actions/approaches?

The NRPB report acknowledges that "There is some epidemiological evidence that time-weighted average exposures to power frequency magnetic fields above 0.4 uT is associated with a small increase in the absolute risk of leukaemia in children" but then does a questionable numbers game to discount that fact. The report claims that such exposures ( 0.4 uT or 4 milliGauss) "are seldom encountered by the general public (again, questionable) in the UK" and then suggests that the risk may not be real, thus conveniently discounting all the epidemiological evidence. Later in the report it is stated that "It is concluded that restricting time-weighted average magnetic flux density of 40 mT for whole-body exposure is appropriate for the general public." For occupational exposure (this would include pregnant workers) the "appropriate" exposure level is set at 200 mT.

Appropriate for whom?

Is this the NRPB's idea of a precautionary approach???

In Section 136 "Power frequency fields" the NRPB then goes on add one of their feel good but meaningless statements: " There remains concerns about possible effects of exposure of children to power frequency fields. The view of NRPB is that it is important to consider the possible need for further precautionary measures in respect of exposure of children to power frequency magnetic fields."

I wonder what those further measures could possibly be? Perhaps they may tell us in 15 -20 years time....

Its interesting that no matter how much solid evidence is presented that ICNIRP is severely flawed, national EMF standard setting bodies such as the NRPB uncritically accept it's assurances. Forget science - its really a social class thing - elites supporting their fellow elites in a global power sharing game. The Australian aboriginals have a name for it, "secret men's business".

Don Maisch



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