A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

U.K. NRPB Favors ICNIRP Limits

March 31, 2004

The U.K. National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) is recommending the adoption of the ICNIRP limits for human exposures to EMFs in the 0-300 GHz frequency range. In its Advice, issued on March 31, the NRPB cites its “review of the science, the need to adopt a cautious approach and recognition of the benefits of international harmonization” as the rationale for tightening the U.K. standards, which are among the least restrictive in the world.

The board stresses that it may be necessary to adopt “further precautionary measures” for the exposure of children to power-frequency magnetic fields. This view represents the latest evolutionary step in the NRPB’s and its scientific advisors’ outlook on EMF leukemia risks.

In a report issued three years ago, a panel chaired by Sir Richard Doll acknowledged a possible EMF–cancer link among children but found that it was still very weak (see MWN, M/A01, p.1). This in itself marked a break from previous statements which were openly skeptical of such an association. Sir William Stewart, the NRPB chairman, notes that this new recommendation reflects “the need for a precautionary approach when there are genuine uncertainties in our knowledge, ” according to the NRPB press release.

Alastair McKinlay, who leads the NRPB’s work on non-ionizing radiation, recently stepped down as the chairman of ICNIRP.

Rick Saunders, one of the authors of the new NRPB review and advice, joined the WHO EMF Project two weeks ago (see our March 3 post).

Last year, the WHO, after initially invoking a precautionary approach to EMF health risks, later backed away from such policies (see MWN, M/A03, p.1 and M/J03, p.1). Mike Repacholi, the head of the EMF project in Geneva, is instead developing a comprehensive framework for all types of environmental risks. This new framework has not yet been released. NRPB’s detailed review of the scientific evidence, like its advice, is available at no charge on its Web site.