On October 15, 2013, in a significant announcement, the French health agency, ANSES, published results of its assessment of risks related to exposure to radiofrequencies based upon a review of the international scientific literature.
An ANSES press release begins with the statement:
“Faced with the rapid development of wireless technologies, ANSES issues recommendations for limiting exposure to radiofrequencies, especially for the most vulnerable populations.”
“Limited levels of evidence do point to different biological effects in humans or animals. In addition, some publications suggest a possible increased risk of brain tumour, over the long term, for heavy users of mobile phones. Given this information, and against a background of rapid development of technologies and practices, ANSES recommends limiting the population’s exposure to radiofrequencies – in particular from mobile phones – especially for children and intensive users, and controlling the overall exposure that results from relay antennas. It will also be further developing its work on electro-sensitive individuals, specifically by examining all the available French and international data on this topic that merits closer attention.”
The telecommunications industry will undoubtedly focus on one statement in the French agency announcement:
“The findings of the risk assessment have not brought to light any proven health effects.” [emphasis added]
The word proven is generally interpreted to mean: “Having been demonstrated or verified without doubt.” Well, almost nothing can be “verified without doubt” in science or medicine. So although the French announcement includes the statement that health effects have not been “proven,” the tide appears to be turning in favor of prudence, collective evidence, and an interest in protecting public health and safety.
The French health agency announcement continues:
“The findings of this expert appraisal are therefore consistent with the classification of radiofrequencies proposed by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ for heavy users of mobile phones. In addition, the expert appraisal nevertheless shows, with limited levels of evidence, different biological effects in humans or animals, … these can affect sleep, male fertility or cognitive performance.”
To limit exposure to radiofrequencies, especially in the most vulnerable population groups, the ANSES recommends:
- “For intensive adult mobile phone users (in talk mode): use of hands-free kits and more generally, for all users, favouring the purchase of phones with the lowest SAR values;
- Reducing the exposure of children by encouraging only moderate use of mobile phones;
- Continuing to improve characterisation of population exposure in outdoor and indoor environments through the use of measurement campaigns;
- That the development of new mobile phone network infrastructures be subject to prior studies concerning the characterisation of exposures, and an in-depth study be conducted of the consequences of possibly multiplying the number of relay antennas in order to reduce levels of environmental exposure;
- Documenting the conditions pertaining at those existing installations causing the highest exposure of the public and investigating in what measure these exposures can be reduced by technical means;
- That all common devices emitting electromagnetic fields intended for use near the body (DECT telephones, tablet computers, baby monitors, etc.) display the maximum level of exposure generated (SAR, for example), as is already the case for mobile phones.”
To review the entire English version the ANSES press release, refer to the following link:
Updated Entry 10/17/13:
Somewhat predictably, headlines differ on the reaction to the above ANSES report.
The British The Telegraph headline was “Children’s exposure to mobile phones should be limited,” and “French safety watchdog recommends limiting exposure to radiofrequencies for children and intensive users.”
However, according to a telecommunications industry group, GSMA, the appropriate headline was that “French government finds mobile phones have no proven health effect and keeps existing safety standards.”