Monday, 17 June 2019

Ten year review of mobile phone safety standard underway

Aust standardThe safety standard for exposure to radio frequency emissions from mobile phone technologies will be reviewed this year, as part of its normal review process, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) told a senate committee considering a proposed law to review the standard every five years.


“The Radiation Health Committee has an existing review program whereby publications are normally reviewed every 10 years or as key scientific developments become clear. This gives the Radiation Health Committee flexibility to respond to emerging developments in science and technology” Dr Carl-Magnus Larsson, ARPANSA, Chief Executive Officer, told the committee.


The Australian standard was last published in 2002 and the 1o year review in the absence of any scientific developments is therefore already underway and is expected later this year, Dr Larsson said.


“In conclusion, we support the review of our national standard as is already being done on an ongoing basis by the Radiation Health Committee. Such reviews are required by the present ARPANSA Act and any revision to a national standard is made public and open for consultation,” he said.


Recently ‘The Australian’ reported “Australia’s radiation limits for mobile phones and transmitters may be changed for the first time in a decade, after a string of European countries lowered their limits.”


However, ARPANSA made it clear to the committee that there was no scientific basis for the lower standards some countries such as Switzerland had adopted.


“None of the countries in the EU that have introduced lower levels have done so on the basis of any particular scientific evidence. They have done it as an undirected reaction to public concern,” Dr Lindsay Martin, Manager of ARPANSA’s Non-Ionization Radiation Section told the senate committee.


ARPANSA also explained in a written answer to a question on notice that Switzerland has a Federal Law relating to Protection of the Environment which has an additional precautionary requirement.


The Swiss environment law requires exposures to be ‘as low as technically achievable’ rather than on known health effects in some limited circumstances.


In 1999 Switzerland adopted the same exposure limits in the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) Guidelines developed in 1998 that are also used as the basis of Australia’s safety standard.


To satisfy the precautionary requirements of the law, the Swiss also have separate exposure limits for base stations near ‘sensitive locations’ such as children’s playgrounds.


The exposure limits for these base stations are set at about one per cent of the overall ICNIRP limits and are based on their “practical experience of what has been achieved previously” rather than any scientific concern about health effects, ARPANSA wrote. 

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