UK's Stewart Committee reports

EMR Australia - Monday, June 12, 2000

An independent panel of twelve, Chaired by Sir William Stewart, has just released its findings about the risks of electromagnetic radiation after months of taking public submissions and examining relevant research.

According to the report, “if science has greater power to do good, it also has greater power to do harm. They therefore advocate a precautionary approach to new technology where there are uncertainties about the associated risks.” Suggested measures include:

  • reduction of exposures from the levels of the NRPB guidelines to those of the ICNIRP guidelines (note that the levels recommended by ICNIRP allow higher exposure than those presently used in Australia);
  • carriers require council planning permission for all base stations, including those under 15m now exempt;
  • councils should be notified of all proposed base stations;
  • RF emissions of all base stations be kept to lowest practical levels;
  • the beam of greatest RF intensity from a base station inside or outside a school yard should not fall on any part of the school property without permission from parents and the school.
  • warning signs be erected at entrances to hospital buildings indicating that mobile phones should be turned off.

The report takes a particularly strong stand on the risks associated with mobile phone use by children. Sir William said that, while he used a mobile phone himself, he would not want his grandchildren to use one.

The report states, “ ...children may be more vulnerable because of their developing nervous system, the greater absorption of energy in the tissues of the head ..., and a longer lifetime of exposure. In line with our precautionary approach, we believe that the widespread use of mobile phones by children for non-essential calls should be discouraged. We also recommend that the mobile phone industry should refrain from promoting the use of mobile phones by children.”

On using mobile phones while driving, the report said, “current evidence indicates that the negative effects of phone use while driving are broadly similar whether the phone is hand-held or hands-free. We conclude that the detrimental effects of hands-free operation are sufficiently large that drivers should be dissuaded from using either hand-held or hands-free phones while on the move.”

Other recommendations in the report were that:

  • a national data base providing details of all base stations and their emissions be constructed;
  • an independent, random and ongoing audit of all base stations be made to ensure standards or specifications are not exceeded.

In the course of its investigations, the panel was denied vital information. When it requested copies of research including a study on the effects of shortwave radar on children in Latvia, the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) replied that the study had not been published and was not available. However, this information is quite untrue, as the study was published in 1996 and is easily accessible by the public.

The full report can be found at:

EMRAA News June 2000, Vol 5 No 2

About The Author - Lyn McLean is a consumer advocate, author and educator and has been monitoring and writing on the subject of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) for over 20 years. She is the director of EMR Australia.

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