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31 October 2019

Phonegate: Exposure to Mobile Phones Under French Government Scrutiny

Exposure to mobile phones under government scrutiny
By Damien Coulomb, Le Quotidien du médecin, 28 October 2019 - English translation by Phonegate Alert

Photo credit: Phanie
The Ministries of Health, Ecological and Solidarity Transition and Economy and Finance have announced measures to limit exposure to emissions from certain mobile phones.

In particular, France will ask the European Commission to strengthen the requirements for new mobile phones placed on the market. The government will require that the certification tests be performed on contact with the device and not at 5 mm as is currently the case.

This series of measures follows the opinion issued on 21 October by the National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES). The latter noted that a significant number of mobile phones in circulation did not comply with the new European directives known as "RED" (transposed into French law in 2016).

Measurement at 5 mm distance from the trunk

In France, the regulatory limit value for the specific absorption rate (SAR) is set at 2 W/kg. This value has not been modified by the 2016 regulatory standards. On the other hand, manufacturers are now required to measure exposure under realistic conditions of use, i.e. when the phone is placed very close to the body, at a maximum distance of 5 mm, against values previously chosen by them between 0 and 25 mm.

According to ANSES, tests on nearly 300 phones positioned near the trunk, in contact and at a distance of 5 mm, were carried out between 2012 and 2016. The results showed that a large proportion of the phones tested had SAR values above 2 W/kg, some exceeding 7 W/kg on contact. In particular, the agency recommends the distribution of software updates for mobile phones to correct their emission levels.

Concerning the risks of this level of exposure, ANSES notes that "the literature focuses exclusively on experimental studies carried out in animals and on cell cultures [...] The results of the expertise highlight, with limited evidence, biological effects on brain activity related to exposures above 2 W/kg, but do not allow to conclude whether or not there are effects on other biological functions specifically associated with such exposures at the level of the trunk".

Cautious associations

A member of the ANSES dialogue committee, Dr. Marc Arazi, president of the Phonegate Alert association, has long campaigned for better regulation and communication with regard to mobile telephony. While he sees the government's position as a "victory", he points to the lack of consultation on the ANSES opinion: "Completed in April and published only in October, this opinion was put online without consulting the dialogue committee," he reproaches. "If this had been the case, we would not have missed several things, such as the fact that the agency finds it "comprehensible" that no studies have been carried out in humans, since the regulatory exposure limit value for the SAR trunk is precisely set at 2 W/kg. On the contrary, we believe that it is absolutely necessary to carry out such studies."

Regarding government measures, Dr. Marc Arazi regrets that the issue of exposure to mobile phone waves at the trunk level is not addressed in the six good practices promoted by the government. He called on physicians "to take matters into hand, whether it is their own level of exposure or the awareness-raising they can provide to their patients.

The Phonegate Alert association has also been trying for several years to obtain more transparency regarding access to the mobile phone test reports produced by ANFR. In 2016, Dr. Arazi obtained the publication of the results of the ANFR tests. These data had revealed that the standards had been exceeded many times. The association has since filed a request with the Melun Administrative Court for the publication of the complete test data. The court rejected the request in December 2018, a decision that was confirmed by the Conseil d'Etat on 30 September.

Original article in French:

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