20 January 2003
Autorité de régulation des télécommunications (ART) felt it useful to survey the current state of medical and scientific data on the possible effects of exposure to fields emitted by mobile telephone base stations and terminals.
- to examine the results of scientific studies which appeared in 2001 and 2002, since the publication, in early 2001, of the report from the group of independent experts ordered by the Ministry of Health, and overseen by Dr. Zmirou
- to analyse these scientific data in light of the concerns expressed by the public regarding mobile terminals and base stations
The bibliographic study, conducted by Institut national de l’environnement industriel et des risques (INERIS) and made public today, had two goals :
Certain politicians in particular, continue to express concern, echoing the fears of citizens, regarding the possible effects on our health of electromagnetic radiation from various sources (televisions, radio, mobile telephones, etc.). Because debates have focused primarily on the installation of mobile telephone base stations, ART focused its study on these as well as mobile telephones.
Scientific studies have been conducted for a number of years to determine any effects radio frequencies might have on human health. However, the report from Dr. Zmirou’s group states that "none allowed to conclude that exposure to the radio frequencies emitted by cellular telephones or their base stations have any negative impact on health".
The limits for exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF), below which there is no known health risk—proposed by recommendation 1999/519/CE dated 12 July 1999, taken from the work of ICNIRP and taken up in the Zmirou report—were integrated into law by decree 2002-775 published in May 2002. All radio transmitters must respect these.
What do these new studies tell us?
- for base stations
The level of the general public’s exposure to fields emitted by base stations is far lower the threshold of any known health risk.
As for exposure in close vicinity, these guidelines require the establishment of a safety perimeter preventing access to the public.
- for terminals
Epidemiological studies in recent years, as well as all studies to date on digital cellular telephones, have not shown any consistent risk to health.
Some studies note heating, produced by the terminal and not linked to electromagnetic radiation. The effects of this heating—probably having no impact on health—must still be studied.
According to the conclusions of the INERIS study, "Some recent experimental work indicate potentially damaging effects in rats at levels above those produced by terminals. These effects should be specified taking into account thresholds, immediate or long-term seriousness, and probability of occurrence in actual use by humans".
Moreover, the lack of hindsight, in particular with respect to the latency period of some effects, the limited size of the statistic samples used, and the difficulty in determining past exposure, are the primary limitations of current results of epidemiological studies. Other exposure parameters will have to be evaluated in order to take into account the development of new technologies (different frequencies).
Finally, by overcoming the previously indicated limitations, the large-scale Interphone epidemiological study, conducted by the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 14 countries, will offer a more precise answer in 2004.
- ART also publishes a review of municipal bylaws concerning the deployment of mobile telephone networks
ART also publishes a second report, of a legal nature this time, written by the Rambaud-Martel legal firm, and entitled: "Telecommunications and the environment, the case of mobile telephone networks".
- measures taken by some municipalities to prevent the installation of base stations, as a precautionary measure
- recourse taken by operators against these measures
The purpose of the report was to survey :
The study analyses international, European and national texts, as well as jurisprudence, as regards the installation of base stations. This study can shed light on specific decisions taken by various local authorities.
1 Recommandation du Conseil du 12 juillet 1999 relative à la limitation de l’exposition du public aux champs électromagnétiques (de 0 Hz à 300 GHz) 1999/519/CE
2 Commission internationale de protection contre les rayonnements non ionisants
Press contact: Jean-François Hernandez
Tel.: +33 1 40 47 70 33 - Fax: +33 1 40 47 71 98
INERIS contact: Dr. René de Seze
Tel: +33 3 44 55 65 94 - Fax: +33 3 44 55 66 05
These studies are available for downloading : Electromagnetic fields and health Legal aspects of the installation of base stations