EU passes the buck on EMF occupational guidelines

The EU Council of Ministers have shown themselves to be totally ignorant of the science by declaring (for occupational EMF exposures): " Because for the moment there is insufficient scientific evidence of possible long-term effects, the Directive is limited to the short-term effects of exposure to EMF." (See press release below)

The ignorance of this statement is astounding. For power frequency EMFs they are endorsing the ICNIRP guidelines that allows a maximum magnetic field exposure of 5000 milliGauss for workers.

This ignores the consistent evidence for a doubling of the risk of childhood leukaemia at 4 mG? In their infinite wisdom the Council of Ministers have apparently decided this is not relevant to occupational settings since kids are not in the workforce!

What they have not thought through however is consideration of at what point does the increased risk of childhood leukaemia start? From my understanding that increased risk begins after conception, not just after birth.

In the old industrial society it could be said that, as a general rule, the majority of the industrial factory work force was male but in the modern information age this is no longer the case. Now we see a high percentage of females employed in the modern equilivant of the factory - the officeplace (I think in Sweden, for instance its about 50-50). Therefore for any female worker who wants to have a family and is pregnant, or is thinking of getting pregnant, the 4 mG finding IS an occupational health & safety consideration.

The EU Council of Ministers is, in effect, ignoring a significant OH&S standard setting issue. Do we have a male gender bias here on behalf of the EU Ministers?

Old Sir Richard Doll, himself hardly an icon of un-biased science, has at least termed 4 mG as an unusually "heavy" exposure level. What would Sir Richard then consider 5000 mG to be - Crushing?

There is no scientific justification for maintaining this level in something which is supposed to be a "health based"guideline. However if ICNIRP is considered as an economics based 'guideline' - it then makes more sense by providing protection against litigation for the power industry. And that is what the scientific inflexibility of ICNIRP is all about.

Note in the below press release that the responsibility of employee OH&S safety is being passed on to the employer - a move sure to meet with corporate approval.

Don Maisch


(EU Council of Minister's press release)

The Council of Ministers of the European Union in Brussels have adopted the Directive on Physical Agents - minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to electromagnetic fields - with amendments proposed by the European Parliament.

The Directive will complement Directive 89/391/EEC on the safety and health of workers, laying down minimum requirements and allowing the Member States to adopt more protective provisions. It gives priority to reducing exposure at source, through preventative measures related to work station design, work equipment design, procedure and method.

The Directive establishes "exposure limit-values" and "action-values" based on recommendations drawn up by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation protection (ICNIRP). It attributes responsibility to employers for assessing exposure levels, adopting preventative measures and arranging for information and training for their workers. Because for the moment there is insufficient scientific evidence of possible long-term effects, the Directive is limited to the short-term effects of exposure to EMF"


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Juli 2004

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