Risks posed by exposure to low intensity electromagnetic fields: Commission answers parliamentary question

October 24, 2003

Strasbourg, 23 October 2003

Verbatim report of proceedings on 23 October 2003, Part A

The Commission is aware of the study done in the Netherlands. This study focused on relations between exposure to low intensity fields of base stations used for GSM 900, GSM 1800 and UMTS (3rd generation) networks. An unexpected but small negative correlation between well-being and exposure to UMTS exposure was found. No such correlation was observed for exposure to GSM fields. A positive correlation between cognitive capabilities and exposure to GSM fields, also observed in other studies was confirmed. The study calls for an independent confirmation of its results and an extension of the study method.

The Commission is currently supporting under the 5th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (Quality of Life, Key Action 4: Environment and Health), a mix of studies in different research areas in order to evaluate potential adverse health effect of electromagnetic fields, including mobile communication technologies. This programme includes different types of studies in order to investigate distinct aspects of this issue. The total cost of the projects involved is more than €32 million, with a Community contribution of over €12 million. Included are four projects dealing with the possible carcinogenic effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF), one project on terahertz radiation related to medical imaging applications, and further two projects on possible effects on hearing and on possible biological effects and hazards due to exposure of brain and nerve cells to high frequency electromagnetic fields (GSM 900 MHz, GSM 1800 MHz, UMTS). The results of all the above mentioned studies will be available by end 2005.

In addition, under the 6th Framework Programme, the Commission is at the moment negotiating a contract for a Network of Excellence called EMF-NET aimed at improving the co-ordination of the results of the research activities related to the biological effects of electromagnetic fields. This network should also consider the potential risks related to occupational exposure. The EMF-NET Consortium involves all the co-ordinators of the Union (FP5) funded active projects, and of the main research projects at national level (Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, United Kingdom). In addition it involves other international activities, such as the World Health Organisation EMF project and the COST 281 Action, associations of industries and manufactures, regulatory bodies, scientific association, and trade union associations. This network will also monitor emerging and third generation technologies, identifying the main needs in terms of co-ordination and studies. In this context, the study done in the Netherlands will certainly raise attention to the phenomena observed.

The REFLEX project has terminated at the end of August 2003 but the Commission is waiting for the final report of the project, which is due at the end of October. A summary of the final report will be made available to the public.

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