In this consumer-driven, information-hungry society of ours, technology is enthusiastically embraced for its ability to meet our needs for speed and instant gratification. But this technology has its price. Every building we enter, every power-driven appliance or machine we operate; every computer or mobile phone we use emits electromagnetic radiation (EMR).
EMR has been associated with a litany of health problems. Studies have found that exposed populations have a higher rate of leukemia, brain cancers, breast and other cancers, depression of the immune system, learning and performance problems, neurological problems and changes to brain wave patterns. There is also evidence of a host of cellular effects including breaks to DNA strands, changes to gene expression, activation of allergic responses and effects on enzymes and neurotransmitters. And these are just some of the effects that have been found!
Since its inception in 1996, EMRAA has played an important role in providing information about the health effects of EMR. We have:
EMRAA currently has a network which spreads throughout this country and overseas. We receive up-to-date information about the issue and are in regular contact with leading researchers on the issue. It is our observation that, as communications technology proliferates, so does the demand for information about its health risks. To see EMRAA's website click HERE
- Contributed community representatives to the following committees:
- ACIF committee, developing a Code of Practice on the Siting of Telecommunications Infrastructure;
- Standards committee;
- EME Reference group, Department of Health.
- Provided submissions to the federal government on a number of relevant issues including the 2000 Senate Inquiry into EMR.
- Provided support for groups and individuals concerned about the health risks of proposed infrastructure. (EMRAA receives numerous calls and regular correspondence.)
- Provided information to the public through:
- Quarterly newsletter, EMRAA News;
- Articles in other newsletters and papers;
- Media interviews;
- Presentations to numerous groups, including participation in 1999 "Mind of a Child" conference;
- In house publications.
- Conducted measurements of homes and workplaces and reduced fields where appropriate.
EMRAA Report 2001
The past 12 months have seen an unprecedented level of public and media interest about the health effects of electromagnetic radiation (EMR). With it have come enormous opportunities for - and demands on - EMRAA.
In a year of bountiful highlights, one of the most significant was the Senate Inquiry into EMR. In addition to providing a voluminous written submission (in June 2000), EMRAA gave an oral presentation to the Committee in November 2000. The release of the Committee's Report(s) in May this year, brought invitations for EMRAA to speak on radio and TV and to further increase public awareness of this important issue.
A great deal of media interest was generated also by the release in March this year, of a report by renowned British epidemiologist, Sir Richard Doll. The report considered data from a range of studies and concluded that "taken in conjunction they suggest that relatively heavy average exposures of 0.4 uT [4 milligauss] or more are associated with a doubling of the risk of leukaemia in children under 15 years of age." EMRAA was fortunate to be involved in the media response to this report (4 TV interviews and 7 radio interviews).
Not long after the Doll report, the "New Idea" ran a three-page article on the link between powerlines and leukemia which featured quotes and tips provided by EMRAA. We were literally inundated with callers requesting information and EMR surveys, with calls continuing into late August, some three and a half months later. The article generated a considerable demand for information and for EMR surveys by John Lincoln (Sydney) and Roger Lamb (Melbourne). John and Roger agreed to provide EMRAA with funds for a new subscription for each home subsequently surveyed and this has resulted in a considerable expansion in newsletter distribution.
During the past 12 months, EMRAA has been involved in the development of two important documents relevant to telecommunications frequencies. The first is the ACIF Code of Practice on the Deployment of Radio communications Infrastructure devised by a committee of which Lyn is deputy chair. When the first draft of this document was released for public comment late last year, Lyn travelled to five states with the Committee to take part in meetings with councils and members of the public. As a result of the public comment received, the document was substantially revised and was 04.02.08
When registered, the Code will become binding on telecommunications carriers. In its present form, it requires carriers to: locate infrastructure so as to minimise radio emissions and avoid "take into account" community sensitive locations, council policies etc, design infrastructure to minimise radio emissions, consult with councils and communities about all new telecommunications infrastructure, provide information to councils and communities about their facilities and their emissions, establish complaint-handling procedures.
The second document, is the new standard for RF exposure, developed by a working group of ARPANSA, of which John is a member. The draft standard, which was released for public comment in May, is based on the guidelines of ICNIRP (International Commission of Non Ionising Radiation Protection) and will allow the community to be exposed to up to four times as much radiation as at present at some frequencies. This concession is sought by industry to accommodate the 3G technology that operates at higher power.
One of the major achievements of the community/union representatives on the committee has been the inclusion of a precautionary statement in the document. The standard is likely to be adopted, perhaps without a formal vote.
EMRAA has had the opportunity of providing information about EMR in a variety of public forums. During the last year, Lyn addressed a conference of the Consumers Telecommunications Network and both Lyn and John addressed the RF Spectrum conference organised by Professor David McKenzie of Sydney University. We have also addressed a number of groups and public meetings.
EMRAA has been involved in meetings about the proposed NSW Code of Practice on the siting of mobile phone towers being developed by the NSW Dept of Urban Affairs and Planning. In May this year, we organised a meeting attended by councils and community representatives and hosted by DUAP. We are currently in the process of organising a broader forum for Sydney councils in conjunction with Sutherland and Burwood Councils.
Lyn has finally completed the manuscript of her book, "Watt's the Buzz?"- five years in preparation - which provides a comprehensive review of evidence of risk from EMR and ways of protecting the community. The book is to be published by Scribe, probably in February or March of next year and there appears to be interest, as well, from an overseas publisher.
As we move into the new year of activity, we will do so with a name change that we hope will signify a greater level of maturity and experience. No more the EMR Alliance of Australia, we will be the EMR Association of Australia, an incorporated organisation that will continue to operate under the umbrella of the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre.
EMRAA Report to 2000 AGM
While each years since EMRAA's inception in early 1996, we have boasted of its activity, no year has been more hectic, demanding or rewarding than the past twelve months.
In a year of opportunities, one of the most exciting was my involvement in the Mullumbimby DC powerline dispute. In February I was flown to that delightful community for an interview with A Current Affair. The following month, I was sponsored by Byron Shire Council to address a public meeting in Mullumbimby about the potential health effects of the line. In the course of that exercise, I was able to provide relevant information about health effects to the scientist representing ARPANSA.
Since December 1999 I have been the Deputy Chair of a committee establishing a new Code of Practice on the siting of telecommunications infrastructure, which includes mobile phone towers. In the course of many meetings, in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, a Code has emerged which offers genuine concessions to community concerns (though many would say, not enough) and which is being watched with great interest by international corporate and industry interests.
Since March this year our Convenor, John Lincoln, has been involved in an ARPANSA committee establishing a new standard for radiofrequency radiation. As result of his input, the committee is now considering studies that show health effects from very low levels of exposure.
Also in March a Senate Inquiry on EMR commenced, to which EMRAA contributed a lengthy written submission and we anticipate providing oral evidence for the Senate Committee in the next month or so.
In April, I organised a study to assess the effectiveness of a device claimed to reduce radiation from a mobile phone. Twenty volunteers were exposed to radiation from a mobile phone with and without the device. Though the tests did not find the device to be effective in reducing exposure, it did find that the exposure significantly impacted the endocrine (hormonal) systems of the volunteers - an important and unexpected result. At present, exploration of the results is continuing with the aim of producing a journal article.
Throughout the year EMRAA has provided a wealth of information to the public. Our quarterly newsletter has gained wider distribution, with the addition of recent overseas subscribers. We have written articles for "Sydney's Child" and "Melbourne's Child" and the newsletter of the natural health society. We have written facts sheets currently being distributed to occupational health and safety officers by the ACTU, to councils and community groups in Victoria by the VLGA and to councils throughout Australia by the ALGA. We have provided a number of radio and television interviews and addressed quite a number of public meetings. More people are accessing our web page, requesting information by email and phone and commissioning John to provide EMR surveys of homes and offices.
EMRAA - a busy and productive year (1999)
The last 12 months has been a busy and productive time for EMRAA.
One of our main achievements has been the construction of a comprehensive web page which contains information on health effects of EMR across the spectrum.
For much of the last year EMRAA has been actively involved in activity to devise a new standard for radiofrequency radiation.
The site contains information about our organisation, services and publications, facts sheets on mobile phones, towers, powerlines, microwave ovens and house hold appliances.
It has a comprehensive section on health and a section on RF standards which contains lists of studies that have found adverse effects from radiofrequency radiation at levels below the standard.
The site is being increasingly accessed by visitors from around the globe and has attracted praise. It was constructed and is maintained by Simon Kimberley, with never a cross word or suggestion of impatience and we are indebted to him for his help with this - and much other - work.
We have continued to provide support the community with information and phone advice. John has established an in-demand part-time business conducting EMF measurements of homes and businesses.
Late last year EMRAA's Convenor John Lincoln and member Don Maisch were appointed to the Standards Committee TE7, where they were instrumental in preventing adoption of a new standard that would have allowed increased levels of radiation exposure for the public.
As a result of that action, the Standards Committee was effectively disbanded and the standards-setting process taken over by the Australian Communications Authority (ACA). The ACA proposes to have ARPANSA construct a new numerical standard and the industry body ACIF devise a complementary Code of Practice.
EMRAA has met with the ACA to discuss these proposals and has regularly submitted criticisms to both it and ARPANSA.
We have lobbied to have our representatives included on the relevant ARPANSA and ACIF committees and await the outcome.
We have written a number of articles
We have written submissions as required
article called Hi there, honey. What's cooking? Appeared in the Bogong Journal of the Canberra & Southeast Region Environment Centre.
An article on the relationship of EMR and chemicals appeared in the newsletter of the National Toxics Network
We have formed closer working relationships with other individuals and groups working on EMR. These include:
Submission on revision of Standard AS2772.1, January 1999
Two Submissions on "Review of Telecommunications (Low Impact Facilities) Determination 1997", Feb.99, June '99
John and Lyn have been reappointed to the EME Reference Committee, which has moved from Department of Communications to Department of Health. This is an opportunity to represent the public and to provide suggestions.
- CTN (Consumers Telecommunications Network)
- international readers of the E-list email network
- Australian Democrats
In an effort to expand the network, we have provided information about EMRAA to subscribers to a closed rival newsletter, to other networks and to every environment group in Australia - a project being undertaken by Jim.
A highlight of the year was the opportunity to present a paper and conduct a workshop at The Mind of a Child Conference in August.
We have interested a number of researchers in applying for research funding from the telecommunications grants scheme, for which applications close on October 8. If these applications are successful, EMRAA will be participants in the research.
Our paper on "The Effects of Electromagnetic Radiation on the Brain was well-received and researching it expanded our own understanding of the effects of EMR.
The conference showed an extraordinary similarity in symptoms between people affected with immune dysfunction problems and those with electrical sensitivity.
We made connections with a number of researchers who are interested in the EMR-health connection.
For our continued operation, EMRAA is extremely grateful to the Centre and all its many workers. To the volunteers, thank you for folding newsletters, filing notes, handing the accounting, posting information, photocopying booklets - and so much more. And Simon, your ever-willing support, help and advice is invaluable and much appreciated.