Press Release WHO/88
17 November 1998
WHO LAUNCHES AN INITIATIVE TO HARMONIZE ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELD STANDARDS WORLDWIDE
The World Health Organization (WHO) Electromagnetic Field Project (EMF) is launching an initiative during the Fourth European BioElectromagnetics Association (EBEA) congress in Zagreb, Croatia, 18-22 November 1998, to develop a framework for internationally-acceptable electromagnetic field standards for human exposure. These fields are emitted by such sources as high voltage power lines, radars, mobile telephones and their base stations. The standards are developed in order to ensure that they don't cause adverse health effects, that these devices are safe and that their use does not electrically interfere with other devices.
Over 21 countries will be represented in the initial meeting to identify a process for developing such a framework: Australia, Austria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russian Federation, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America. This WHO initiative is a response to the fact that many countries from the former Soviet Union and elsewhere are now considering new EMF standards.
Globalization of trade and the rapid introduction of mobile telecommunications worldwide, have focused attention on the large differences existing in standards limiting exposure to electromagnetic fields. Differences in the EMF exposure limit values in standards in some Eastern European and Western countries are, in some cases, over 100 times. This has raised concerns about their safety and has led to public anxiety about increasing EMF exposures from the introduction of new technologies.
WHO established the International EMF Project to review scientific studies relating possible health effects from exposure to electromagnetic fields to identify research that will allow improved health risk assessments to be made. Health risk assessments from the International EMF Project will provide the basis for future EMF exposure standards.
Dr Michael Repacholi, manager of WHO's International EMF Project stresses that "Facilitation of harmonized electromagnetic field standards worldwide is a logical extension of the WHO's International EMF Project. However, agreement may take some years to achieve and much hard work since there are large differences between national standards."
The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), a formally recognized non-governmental organization, that drafts international EMF standards will also participate in this initiative. Professor J. Bernhardt, Chairman ICNIRP emphasized that "ICNIRP relies on health risk assessments from WHO to draft electromagnetic safety guidelines. WHO's initiative to develop a framework for internationally acceptable standards will greatly assist ICNIRP in drafting its next EMF guidelines on exposure limits."
For further information, journalists can contact Philippe Stroot, Coordinator Media Relations, WHO, Geneva. Telephone (41 22) 791 25 35, Fax (41 22) 791 48 58. E-mail email@example.com
All WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets and Features as well as other information on this subject can be obtained on Internet on the WHO home page http://www.who.int/