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EMF Studies

25 January 2014

France: The Law on Electromagnetic Waves in 5 Questions

For cell phones, manufacturers will have to recommend use of hand-free kits. All advertising targeting children under 14 will be banned. Regarding children, the initial proposed bill of the ecologists aimed to ban Wi-Fi in all establishments for those under 6. But the Government voted an amendment restraining this measure to those under 3, that is, to childcare facilities. It will thus not concern nursery schools.

Regarding persons suffering from electrohypersensitivity, the government will have to provide the Parliament with a report dealing in particular with “the opportunity to create areas of limited electromagnetic radiation, notably in the urban environment”, as well as “taking into account the conditions” of their difficulties in the workplace.

[Translator's note:  We have translated "crêches et garderies" as "childcare facilities" and "écoles maternelles" as "nurseries".  According to the article on the same subject from Le Nouvel Observateur, publicity for tablets has been banned for those under age 14 (risking a fine of 75,000 euros) , as is already the case with cell phones, as well as advertising cell phones without headsets.  Operators must moreover propose headsets compatible with the size of a child's ears if the buyer requests this.  Reader, you may correct me regarding childcare facilities and nurseries/kindergartens!]

The Law on Electromagnetic Waves in 5 Questions

by Audrey Garric et Pierre Le Hir, Le Monde.fr, 24 January 2014 (translated from French by the Editor of this blog)

One year after « a first-class burial » in the eyes of the Ecologists, the Assembly adopted, on Thursday 23 January, a proposed bill of compromise to limit exposure to electromagnetic waves generated by wireless technologies – mobile phones, tablets, Wi-Fi.

The ecologist text, the fruit of labor with socialists and the Government, appears to be a « constructive compromise » and « a first response » to the preoccupations regarding waves, according to the Minister for Ecology, Philippe Martin. Telecoms operators, however, fear that it will hinder development of the sector, giving birth to “irrational fears”.

What does the bill adopted by the Deputies foresee?

“Moderation” is the key word of the bill “relating to sobriety, transparency and discussion with regard to exposure to electromagnetic waves”. This moderation will not lead to a lowering of the regulatory limits of exposure of the population, but will be valid particularly for “atypical sites” where “levels of exposure significantly surpass the average observed on a national scale”. According to Fleur Pellerin, Minister for Digital Economy, cited in Le Parisien of 23 January, this concerns “around a thousand sites”.

For cell phones, manufacturers will have to recommend use of hand-free kits. All advertising targeting children under 14 will be banned. Regarding children, the initial proposed bill of the ecologists had aimed to ban Wi-Fi in all establishments for those under 6. But the Government voted an amendment restraining this measure to those under 3, that is, to childcare facilities. It will thus not concern nursery schools.

Finally, regarding persons suffering from electrohypersensitivity to electromagnetic fields, the government will have to provide the Parliament with a report dealing in particular with “the opportunity to create areas of limited electromagnetic radiation, notably in the urban environment”, as well as “taking into account the conditions” of their difficulties in the workplace.

What are the principal sources of exposure to waves?

Waves are widespread in our daily environment. All switched-on electrical devices create the effect of an electromagnetic field. The primary source of exposure is “by far” the cell phone, according to the national Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Safety (ANSES). Relay antennas for mobile telephony, which are developing very rapidly with deployment of 4G, also generate waves, although average exposure is well below that of phones. Outdoors, electrical lines, transformers and railway lines are also sources of electromagnetic waves.

Finally, all connected devices in our personal environment expose us to radiofrequencies: computers and tablets, Wi-Fi technology, Bluetooth and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification, or electronic chips), as well as fluorescent lights, microwave ovens, induction hotplates and washing machines.


Density of relay antennas in the biggest cities in France.


What is their health impact?

While this controversial question is generating abundant scientific literature, it has not yet been settled. In May 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified electromagnetic waves as “possibly carcinogenic” because of studies evoking a possible increase in the risk of a brain tumor for intensive users (over 30 minutes daily).

Two years later, in an analysis published in October 2013 evaluating more than 300 international studies, ANSES drew attention, with limited levels of evidence, to the biological effects on humans and animals concerning sleep, male fertility, cognitive performance. In spite of everything, it considers that “the conclusions of the evaluation of risks do not demonstrate adverse health effects”.

ANSES emphasizes, however, « the massive development of technologies relying on radiofrequencies, leading to intensive exposure of the population, specifically more sensitive persons, which cannot be avoided”. The deployment of 4G “will be accompanied by increased exposure of the public”, adds experts of the Agency. ANSES generally urges “limiting exposure of the population”, particularly to cell phones, and encourages the use of an earpiece.

Should the limit values of exposure be lowered?

Exposure to electrical waves is measured in volts per meter (V/m). In France, the limit values for exposure of the public have been fixed by a decree from 2002, transposing a 1999 European recommendation into national law.

For mobile telephony, these limits depend on the frequency used by relay antennas. They are from 41 V/m to 58 V/m for 2G mobile telephony, and 61 V/m for 3G; 4G is also within this range. The “anti-wave” associations are in favor of the implementation of the precautionary principle “ALARA” (As Low As Reasonably Achievable), requesting a lowering of the exposure limit to 0.6 V/m, a level recommended in 2011 by the Council of Europe.

Average exposure in France is in fact much lower than the regulatory limits, since it is 1 V/m. But it is not only a question of average. According to a study by the Operative Committee on Mobile Telephony Waves (COPIC) of 16 towns representing different environments, around 90% of the levels of exposure were below 0.7 V/m and 99%, below 2.7 V/m. However, peeks up to 10 V/m were observed. The same study concludes that a lowering of exposure to 0.6 V/m would lead to “a significant deterioration in network coverage, particularly inside buildings”, which would have to be compensated by a three-fold increase in the number of relay antennas.

The ecologists and associations moreover consider that a reduction in the limits is possible. Eight Member States of the European Union (Belguim, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovenia) have adopted more restrictive limits than those of France, notably in “residential areas” and “sensitive locations”. This is also the case of Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

What are the claims of the electrohypersensitive?

Electrohypersensitive persons (EHS) suffer from diverse pathologies (headaches, skin reactions, insomnia, tachycardia, etc.) that they attribute to electromagnetic fields. This affliction, which is not recognized in France, affects 3% of the population according to the associations, a figure impossible to confirm in the absence of a national evaluation. Supported by around 15 groups (Une Terre pour les EHS, Robin des Toits, Priartem), the EHS, a number of whom are obliged to live on the fringes of society, are asking for the “urgent” establishment of white zones, free of waves.

In October, a small town in the Hautes-Alpes, supported by the EELV MEP Michèle Rivasi, announced its desire to create the first white zone in France, in order to welcome about thirty persons for a limited period of time. In the planning stages, the site requires adjustments, notably burying an electrical line and transformer, as well as installing gas heating for persons intolerant to emissions from electrical waves; it could see the day in two or three years, said the MEP.

Original article in French:
http://www.lemonde.fr/planete/article/2014/01/24/tout-comprendre-sur-la-loi-sur-les-ondes-electromagnetiques_4353906_3244.html

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