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20 February 2018

Wales: We Need to Protect Wales from the Harmful Effects of Modern Wireless Technologies

We need to protect Wales from the harmful effects of modern wireless technologies
by Annelie Fitzgerald, Opinion, nation.cymru
20 February 2018

The pioneering Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 is an ambitious piece of legislation which aims to improve the quality of life for people in Wales.

The Act requires public bodies in Wales to carry out sustainable development in order to achieve the seven well-being goals it sets out.

The WFG Act seeks to prevent short-sighted policy-making, “where things done to meet short-term needs may have detrimental long-term effects.”

The environmental issue at the heart of the WFG Act is climate change. However, the terms of the legislation mean that public bodies in Wales must now take action on another environmental issue: anthropogenic radiofrequency radiation (RFR).

Man-made RFR is a growing yet invisible form of environmental pollution.

Its main sources are modern wireless technologies: mobile phones and masts, cordless phones, WiFi routers, baby monitors, smart meters, 5G, etc.

The rapid proliferation of wireless technology ignores the impacts on health and well-being of chronic, cumulative and overlapping exposures to the low levels of man-made RF electromagnetic fields (EMFs) it generates.

Warnings from around the world

There is now a substantial body of scientific evidence that exposure to man-made RF-EMFs at levels well below currently permitted limits is detrimental to health.

In 2015 over 200 scientists from 41 nations, all specialists in the biological effects of EMFs, signed the International EMF Scientist Appeal.

The effects of low-intensity EMF noted by these scientists included increased cancer risk, cellular stress, free radical formation, increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier, and genetic damage.

Genetic damage is clearly not good news for future generations. Other potential effects include learning and memory deficits, neurologic/neurotransmitter disorders, reproductive effects, and negative impacts on general well-being.

Most people are unaware that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified RFR as a 2B ‘possible’ carcinogen in May 2011.

This decision was strengthened in May 2016 when the preliminary findings of a $25m study into the carcinogenicity of RFR by the US National Toxicology Program were given early release.

The researchers thought the findings warranted immediate precautionary recommendations from governments and health agencies.

Exposure to RFR was associated with a statistically significant increase in rare tumours in the brains and hearts of rats.

Failing public health

Regarding RFR, leading scientists from around the world have underlined “the critical need to face difficult questions, make mid-course corrections, and try to repair the damage already done to this generation, and to think about protecting future generations.”

At present nothing is being done in Wales to address the issue of increasing anthropogenic RF pollution and its potential impacts on the health of the nation.

Public Health Wales currently offers no recommendations on mobile phone use or exposure to other sources of RFR in the modern environment. This stance misleads the people of Wales into believing that the technology poses no risks.

It also discourages them from taking simple steps to limit their exposure: the small print of most mobile devices stipulates that a distance should be maintained at all times between the device and one’s body.

PHW also fails to mention that the NHS Choices website advises that children should only use a mobile phone for essential purposes and keep all calls short. How many parents in Wales are aware of this?

The people of Wales need to be informed about the potential adverse health impacts of chronic exposure to RFR and encouraged to reduce their personal exposure in their homes and everyday lives. Public bodies in Wales must also act to reduce the exposure of their staff and users to RFR.

Wales trails other nations

Wales lags far behind other countries in implementing precautionary measures on RFR exposure.

France, for example, legislated in 2015 in favour of ‘sobriety’: measures include banning WiFi from nurseries for children aged 3 and under, and stipulating that WiFi must be disabled in primary schools when not in use.

Last year, the French equivalent of Public Health Wales (ANSES) noted a possible effect of exposure to RFR on the well-being of children and on their cognitive functions (memory, executive functions and attention) and recommended reducing children’s RFR exposure.

Elsewhere too, action is being taken. Many other countries—Argentina, Belgium, Cyprus, Italy, Israel, Poland—are advising caution or seeking to reduce public exposure to RFR.

While the WFG Act should put Wales at the forefront of initiating policies to reduce public exposure to RFR, in reality, Wales has a lot of catching up to do.

An opportunity for Wales

Taking action to reduce RF pollution presents Wales with the opportunity to draw on the talent in our universities, our industry and business communities to pioneer the development of new bio-friendly telecommunications technologies which put the health of people and the environment first.

Olle Johansson, Professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and one of the world’s leading specialists on the health impacts of RFR, told me: “In Norway they see this [EMF-related] crisis as a potential platform to build tomorrow’s green, human- and environmentally-friendly technology. That’s smart and will probably make Norway richer than Japan ever was.” What is stopping Wales from showing similar ambition?

Besides helping to breathe new life into Wales’s economy and skills base, developing clean, non-toxic and sustainable alternatives to today’s wireless technologies would help Wales fulfill its goal of global responsibility in a way which would complement its transition to a low-carbon economy: a low-EMF economy.

Wales must dare to be different

Devolution means that we do not have to toe the line adopted by other parts of the UK when it comes to health and environmental issues.

Recent legislation shows how the ground-breaking WFG Act is helping to shape Wales’s commitment to sustainable practices, long-term thinking and prevention: the Environment Act 2016 committed Wales to substantially reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and to managing our natural resources sustainably, while the Public Health Act 2017 placed further restrictions on smoking in public places.

The roadmap for action on RFR is set out in the Council of Europe’s Resolution 1815 (2011). Measures include substantially reducing permitted exposure levels, preferring wired internet access over wireless in schools, hospitals and other public places, and running public health campaigns to inform the people of Wales of the risks from prolonged and ill-considered use of wireless technology.

Wales must take action

RF pollution is set to increase enormously if the roll-out of 5G goes ahead. This recently prompted an international appeal by scientists for a moratorium on 5G in the EU (13thSeptember 2017).

The 180 signatories note: “5G technology is effective only over short distances. It is poorly transmitted through solid material. Many new antennas will be required and full-scale implementation will result in antennas every 10 to 12 houses in urban areas, thus massively increasing mandatory exposure.”

Rolling out more large-scale wireless infrastructure like smart meters and 5G is a short-sighted and wrong-headed policy which contravenes the WFG Act.

As is the case with climate change, remedial action in the future is likely to prove far more costly in human, environmental and economic terms than sensible decisions made now in the light of the substantial amount of scientific evidence of harmful impacts already available.

Wales must have the ambition to take up the challenges of developing bio-compatible alternatives to today’s wireless technologies. In conformity with the WFG Act, RF pollution in Wales must also be reduced. This will help make our ecosystems and our economy more resilient and ensure a healthier future for the people of Wales.

https://nation.cymru/2018/we-need-to-protect-wales-from-the-harmful-effects-of-modern-wireless-technologies/

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