Noxtak Technologies

Council of Europe’s Resolution 1815: A major advice on the health risks of electromagnetic radiation

CEO's Office - J. Joaquín Machado

Abstract:

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted Resolution 1815 (2011) in which it considered that there was sufficient proof of the potentially harmful effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) on the environment and human health. In this document, the Council proposed that its member states take measures concerning the use of mobile phones and WiFi networks and specifically asked for a ban on such devices in schools.

The resolution recommends that the member states of the Council of Europe apply the precautionary and ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) principles for EMF exposure, with its constant update on the basis of the latest knowledge of biological and adverse health effects (thermal and non-thermal). 

The Council of Europe, known as the European Convention on Human Rights, published a report on 6 May 2011 under the chairmanship of Jean Huss on the dangers to public health of electromagnetic fields. The committee calls for the lowering of exposure limits. But the committee goes further than that: they recommend removing all wireless equipment from classrooms and call for special measures to be taken to protect people who are sensitive to electromagnetic radiation, including the setting up of ‘radiation-free white zones’.

The Council of Europe resolution was based on the conclusions of the BioInitiative Report in which 26 scientific experts in the field took part and which reviewed over 1.500 recent scientific research papers. The report argued that it is necessary to revise permissible exposure levels and public policy decisions on the impact of EMF on health.

Prior to this, in a resolution adopted in plenary in April 2009, the European Parliament had already asked the Commission to bring forward an EU Directive which would go beyond the provisions of Council Recommendation 1999/519/EC in establishing stricter and more binding exposure levels for all devices transmitting EMF in the 0.1 MHz‑300 GHz frequency range.

Council of Europe’s Resolution 1815/2011

The potential dangers of electromagnetic fields and their effect on the environment

Author(s): Parliamentary Assembly

Origin – Text adopted by the Standing Committee, acting on behalf of the Assembly, on 27 May 2011 (see Doc. 12608, report of the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs, rapporteur: Mr Huss).

  1. The Parliamentary Assembly has repeatedly stressed the importance of states’ commitment to preserving the environment and environmental health, as set out in many charters, conventions, declarations, and protocols since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and the Stockholm Declaration (Stockholm, 1972). The Assembly refers to its past work in this field, namely Recommendation 1863 (2009) on environment and health: better prevention of environment-related health hazards, Recommendation 1947 (2010) on noise and light pollution, and more generally, Recommendation 1885 (2009) on drafting an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the right to a healthy environment and Recommendation 1430 (1999) on access to information, public participation in environmental decision-making and access to justice – implementation of the Ǻrhus Convention.
  2. The potential health effects of the very low frequency of electromagnetic fields surrounding power lines and electrical devices are the subject of ongoing research and a significant amount of public debate. According to the World Health Organization, electromagnetic fields of all frequencies represent one of the most common and fastest growing environmental influences, about which anxiety and speculation are spreading. All populations are now exposed in varying degrees to electromagnetic fields, the levels of which will continue to increase as technology advances.
  3. Mobile telephony has become commonplace around the world. This wireless technology relies upon an extensive network of fixed antennae, or base stations, relaying information with radio-frequency signals. Over 1.4 million base stations exist worldwide and the number is increasing significantly with the introduction of third generation technology. Other wireless networks that allow high-speed Internet access and services, such as wireless local area networks, are also increasingly common in homes, offices and many public areas (airports, schools, residential and urban areas). As the number of base stations and local wireless networks increases, so does the radio-frequency exposure of the population.
  4. While electrical and electromagnetic fields in certain frequency bands have wholly beneficial effects which are applied in medicine, other non-ionising frequencies, whether from extremely low frequencies, power lines or certain high frequency waves used in the fields of radar, telecommunications and mobile telephony, appear to have more or less potentially harmful, non-thermal, biological effects on plants, insects and animals as well as the human body, even when exposed to levels that are below the official threshold values.
  5. As regards standards or threshold values for emissions of electromagnetic fields of all types and frequencies, the Assembly strongly recommends that the ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) principle is applied, covering both the so-called thermal effects and the athermic or biological effects of electromagnetic emissions or radiation. Moreover, the precautionary principle should be applied when scientific evaluation does not allow the risk to be determined with sufficient certainty. Given the context of growing exposure of the population, in particular, that of vulnerable groups such as young people and children, there could be extremely high human and economic costs if early warnings are neglected.
  6. The Assembly regrets that, despite calls for the respect of the precautionary principle and despite all the recommendations, declarations, and a number of statutory and legislative advances, there is still a lack of reaction to known or emerging environmental and health risks and virtually systematic delays in adopting and implementing effective preventive measures. Waiting for high levels of scientific and clinical proof before taking action to prevent well-known risks can lead to very high health and economic costs, as was the case with asbestos, leaded petrol, and tobacco.
  7. Moreover, the Assembly notes that the problem of electromagnetic fields or waves and their potential consequences for the environment and health have clear parallels with other current issues, such as the licensing of medication, chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, or genetically modified organisms. It, therefore, highlights that the issue of independence and credibility of scientific expertise is crucial to accomplish a transparent and balanced assessment of potential negative impacts on the environment and human health.
  8. In light of the above considerations, the Assembly recommends that the member states of the Council of Europe:

8.1. in general terms:

8.1.1. take all reasonable measures to reduce exposure to electromagnetic fields, especially to radio frequencies from mobile phones, and particularly the exposure to children and young people who seem to be most at risk from head tumors;

Now we need to work on a plan based on the options we have available at the moment with science-based solutions to reach the point in which we actually reduce the exposure. And for this specific point, we need Non-Profit Pilot Projects Peer-Reviewed, open to tests, and prove different approaches applicable to each type of Electromagnetic exposure. As a co-founder of NOXTAK, I openly offer our tech and expertise to participate in such types of projects. 

We have several case studies in pilot projects successfully executed in different countries, and I know how effective could this be if we take the case to governmental and institutional levels. This is not just about one tech, but about all the scientific approaches possible promoted by non-profit organizations. We can easily ensure all communities know about the existence of solutions to deal with this, and stop just explaining the problem.  

8.1.2. reconsider the scientific basis for the present standards on exposure to electromagnetic fields set by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, which have serious limitations, and apply ALARA principles, covering both thermal effects and the athermic or biological effects of electromagnetic emissions or radiation;

The ALARA principle is crucial, however, we need a global consensus of the exact point at which the ALARA principle is achieved and what happens with the rest of the emissions still present, How low is sufficiently low?

In my opinion, and according to the experts collaborating on the BioInitiative Report, there is no safe level. So, what can we do? Well, we can consider the passive filtering approach, always assessing its effectiveness through constant biophysical tests and double-blind studies, like the ones we perform monthly on our SPIRO® products. 

8.1.3. put in place information and awareness-raising campaigns on the risks of potentially harmful long-term biological effects on the environment and on human health, especially targeting children, teenagers, and young people of reproductive age;

I have written about the importance of educational programs about harmful effects oriented to children and teenagers. They are the ones who will conduct a new outlook in the future massively. Please read my special article on this topic.

8.1.4. pay particular attention to “electrosensitive” people who suffer from a syndrome of intolerance to electromagnetic fields and introduce special measures to protect them, including the creation of wave-free areas not covered by the wireless network;

In my opinion, it is not realistic to pretend to have areas free of wireless networks. Even in the open air, nowadays you can find distant farms that are still exposed to high-frequency radiation from wireless connections. For that reason, in Europe, there is one specific area officially made to be free of wireless networks in every city, and even so, we have several thousand people suffering from EMF sensitivity or electrosensitivity in every city worldwide. 

Since these recommendations went out 10 years ago, there have been no actions. From my point of view, the governments are clueless about how to proceed with these recommendations. But I think that it must be easier if we go by steps: 

  • Produce a global medical assessment to determine if a person is experiencing EMF sensitivity with more certainty. That’s a challenge, but it’s definitely possible. In that order, we need a  psychophysiological multidisciplinary approach and protocols to conduct a differential diagnosis of other types of health conditions. In that direction, I personally promoted in 2016 the recollection of what are the common symptoms manifested by people who were saying they were suffering from reactions to electromagnetic radiation. From that data, the NOXTAK Group came out with the survey of 29 common symptoms of EHS, now being endorsed by the EFEIA Foundation to become the first preliminary survey in the right direction. I truly believe we need to deepen into this, for that reason, my colleagues and I promoted an updated survey where we included different other assessments for differential diagnosis with an environmental health approach. So, by doing that, I’m convinced we need to include an environmental medicine approach and non-conventional medical tests need to be considered as well. From my experience, these different types of tests were very helpful to help hundreds of people suffering from this condition. In the meantime, while we don’t have the medical protocol for this, at least conduct this type of test, and others about the types of wireless networks and exposures to ELF, looking for patterns we can relate with specific symptoms and reactions on their bodies. Conducting preliminary surveys of signs and symptoms like the ones I’m using, helps to get an idea of the the level of severity of each case and what type of sources are harming these subjects.  
  • We need to promote the creation of the Electro Healthy Environments Standard, a realistic approach to controlling electropollution on a large scale in urban areas. That’s why as a scientific advisor in the IGEF (Internationalen Gesellschaft für Elektrosmog-Forschung) and founder of the EFEIA (Electrosmog-Free Environments International Accreditation) Institute, I am promoting what is going to be a global standard for electropollution free environments following the ALARA principle and the Passive Protection Principle; this last one I will elaborate more in future articles like this one. 

8.1.5. in order to reduce costs, save energy, and protect the environment and human health, step up research on new types of antenna, mobile phone and DECT-type device, and encourage research to develop telecommunication based on other technologies which are just as efficient but whose effects are less negative on the environment and health;

This is a very important recommendation. The technologies we are using today are not the highest level of quality we can produce, we can definitely do better. But until we send the request to our manufacturers to consider the quality of the transmission in terms, not of efficiency, but also in terms of healthy emissions with the ALARA principle, all manufacturers capable of doing so much more, will just keep doing the same because it’s not something useful for them to sale. 

That is a sad reality. In that sense, we can still do a lot in terms of setting a principle that manufacturers can follow, that is, the creation of Electro Healthy Devices with studies of passive protection in the health of different types of users. This is not a utopia, now it is possible, we can do it with certainty and we can promote it as a quality standard for manufacturers. 

8.2. concerning the private use of mobile phones, DECT wireless phones, WiFi, WLAN, and WIMAX for computers and other wireless devices such as baby monitors:

8.2.1. set preventive thresholds for levels of long-term exposure to microwaves in all indoor areas, in accordance with the precautionary principle, not exceeding 0.6 volts per metre, and in the medium term to reduce it to 0.2 volts per metre;

It is time, essentially now, to review deeply this safety level to act really following the precautionary principle mentioned above. Otherwise, manufacturers and other interested parts will always say the levels are fine and healthy, even when it’s sufficiently clear they are not. It is also crucial to consider and study the possibilities of new technologies, like SPIRO®, that are capable of efficiently producing a passive protection filtering effect, reducing to zero the harmful effects of EMF for humans and nature alike. 

8.2.2. undertake appropriate risk-assessment procedures for all new types of device prior to licensing;

Independent studies, laboratories, and expert institutes in the field of Electromagnetic Pollution are quite rare. That means that the ones that are going to really understand the level of pollution produced by specific electronic devices are few people. , this monitoring quality inspection is not for organizations focused in engineering or in medicine need to be both approaches multidisciplinary to have an expert opinion to be taken into account. 

8.2.3. introduce clear labelling indicating the presence of microwaves or electromagnetic fields, the transmitting power or the specific absorption rate (SAR) of the device and any health risks connected with its use;

The industry and governments need to do more than only the SAR level examination on electronic devices. SAR is a good test, and, from my point of view, needs to be included for WiFi Routers, Computers, Laptops, and any tablet going to the market. Additionally, we need more tests related to athermal effects and set values that the manufacturers can use to claim a higher level of protection and quality. And most importantly, we need to generate interest in the industry to look at this new quality standard we propose. 

8.2.4. raise awareness on potential health risks of DECT wireless telephones, baby monitors and other domestic appliances which emit continuous pulse waves, if all electrical equipment is left permanently on standby, and recommend the use of wired, fixed telephones at home or, failing that, models which do not permanently emit pulse waves;

Definitely, the most important and realistic suggestion is the one oriented to produce devices that can be more efficiently and electromagnetically friendly with less pulsed emissions. 

8.3. concerning the protection of children:

8.3.1. develop within different ministries (education, environment and health) targeted information campaigns aimed at teachers, parents and children to alert them to the specific risks of early, ill-considered and prolonged use of mobiles and other devices emitting microwaves;

8.3.2. for children in general, and particularly in schools and classrooms, give preference to wired Internet connections, and strictly regulate the use of mobile phones by school children on school premises;

8.4. concerning the planning of electric power lines and relay antenna base stations:

8.4.1. introduce town planning measures to keep high-voltage power lines and other electric installations at a safe distance from dwellings;

8.4.2. apply strict safety standards for the health impact of electrical systems in new dwellings;

8.4.3. reduce threshold values for relay antennae in accordance with the ALARA principle and install systems for comprehensive and continuous monitoring of all antennae;

8.4.4. determine the sites of any new GSM, UMTS, WiFi or WIMAX antenna not solely according to the operators’ interests but in consultation with local and regional government authorities, local residents and associations of concerned citizens;

8.5. concerning risk assessment and precautions:

8.5.1. make risk assessment more prevention oriented;

8.5.2. improve risk-assessment standards and quality by creating a standard risk scale, making the indication of the risk level mandatory, commissioning several risk hypotheses to be studied and considering compatibility with real-life conditions;

8.5.3. pay heed to and protect “early warning” scientists;

8.5.4. formulate a human-rights-oriented definition of the precautionary and ALARA principles;

8.5.5. increase public funding of independent research, in particular through grants from industry and taxation of products that are the subject of public research studies to evaluate health risks;

8.5.6. create independent commissions for the allocation of public funds;

8.5.7. make the transparency of lobby groups mandatory;

8.5.8. promote pluralist and contradictory debates between all stakeholders, including civil society (Ǻrhus Convention).

A deeper look into the resolution

The proposals

One of the main purposes of this resolution was to reconsider the scientific basis for the present electromagnetic fields exposure standards set by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, which have serious limitations and apply “as low as reasonably achievable” (ALARA) principles, covering both thermal effects and the athermic or biological effects of electromagnetic emissions or radiation.

According to the precautionary principle, the idea was to set preventive thresholds for levels of long-term exposure to microwaves in all indoor areas, not exceeding 0.6 volts per meter, and in the medium term to reduce it to 0.2 V/m (Volts per meter). They also proposed to ban all mobile phones, DECT phones, or WiFi or WLAN systems from classrooms and schools, as advocated by some regional authorities, medical associations, and civil society organizations.

We have to keep in mind that most western countries have adopted the exposure limits for electromagnetic radiation set by the ICNIRP, a non-governmental organization. But in the resolution 1815, the Council of Europe heavily criticized these limits. For example, the current standard is 40 V/m, but the Council recommends a new directive for the maximum field strength of 0.2 V/m, and wireless devices exceed by far the level of 0.2 V/m in an area of about 3 meters.

Noting the biological effects

The resolution also notes that there’s a need to pay particular attention to electro-hypersensitive people and introduce special measures to protect them, including the creation of wave-free areas not covered by the wireless network. They take as a basis the many corroborative results of clinical and biological analyses in proving that there is indeed such a syndrome of intolerance to electromagnetic fields across the whole spectrum of frequencies. In this context, Sweden has granted sufferers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity the status of persons with reduced capacity so that they receive suitable protection.

They also point at the possible effects this constant exposure could cause on the environment, specifically in plants, insects, and animals. “The problem of electromagnetic fields or waves and their potential consequences for the environment and health has clear parallels with other current issues, such as the licensing of medication, chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals or genetically modified organisms… the issue of independence and credibility of scientific expertise is crucial to accomplish a transparent and balanced assessment of potential negative impacts on the environment and human health”.

My conclusions

According to the World Health Organization, electromagnetic fields of all frequencies represent one of the most common and fastest growing environmental influences out there; but we are increasingly seeing how the lack of scientific consensus is creating growing anxiety and lots of speculation and misinformation online. Of course, even when there’s a huge amount of evidence, the potential health effects of electromagnetic fields surrounding power lines, telecoms, electrical and wireless devices are still the subject of ongoing research and a significant amount of public debate, and this is not meant to change anytime soon. 

However, papers like this resolution are valuable and reliable sources of information that should be more accessible. These documents set an action course, a continuity to follow up studies and decisions, and point to a full awareness based on real scientific criteria and evidence of the potential hazards of EMF for public health and the environmental balance. 

For example, I firmly believe that Resolution 1815/2011 from the Council of Europe is a clear continuation of the Seletun Statement (2009), which also stated the importance of applying the precautionary and the ALARA principles in order to set safer and healthier standards for electromagnetic radiation exposure. Seletun sets scientific criteria as a basis, while this resolution, from a governmental position, sets the actions worth taking.

On this resolution, we could clearly see that, despite the numerous calls for respect of the precautionary principle and all the recommendations, declarations, and the huge number of statutory and legislative advances, the assembly regrets the lack of reaction to known or emerging environmental and health risks. According to them, this is what creates those systematic delays in adopting and implementing effective preventive measures. 

As previously stated by the Seletun scientific panel, this resolution also agrees that waiting for more scientific, technical, and clinical proof before taking action to prevent the already known risks of EMF can lead to massive health and economic costs in the future, as was the case with asbestos, leaded petrol, and tobacco. 

For some years now, all populations have been exposed to varying degrees to electromagnetic fields, the levels of which will continue to increase as technology keep evolving and we get more dependent on it.  At this point, we need to understand how necessary technologies have become to us, and not just for comfort and luxury, but for work, health, and even educational purposes; which has been demonstrated during this pandemic era. So leaving out technologies is not and it has never been an option. 

So what needs to be done then? I think the key is not related to twisting the existing regulations, it starts by raising awareness, changing the way in which technologies are designed and developed; and with the birth of a new standard, new regulations will gradually come. Once again, it’s important to highlight the huge role of governments in this, as urban planning also needs to be improved in order to decrease exposure levels and guarantee full accessibility to sensitive people.