The French National Assembly has adopted a bill to limit exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) generated by wireless technologies – cell phones, tablets, Wi-Fi etc. This bill will mean the following:
• A ban on Wi-Fi in all childcare facilities for children under the age of 3.
• Cell phone manufacturers will have to recommend the use of hand-free kits.
• A ban on all advertising targeting children under 14.
Children’s exposure a cause for concern
Children’s EMF exposures are a particular cause for concern. Studies show that children’s brains can absorb up to three times as much radiation compared to adults.
A recent International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report suggested that EMF exposures can be more devastating in children because:
• their brain tissue is more conductive
• their skull is thinner
• their smaller brains and softer brain tissue allows radiation to penetrate more effectively
• their potentially longer period of exposure due to their use startimg at an earlier age
This new French bill seems to have taken these concerns into account.
Principal sources of exposure to EMFs
EMFS are widespread in our daily environment. Anything electrical creates an electromagnetic field. According to the French national Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Safety (ANSES):
- The biggest source of EMF exposure by far are cell phones
- Cell towers exposures are developing very rapidly with the deployment of 4G, but average exposure is well
below that of phones
- Electrical power lines, transformers and railway lines are also sources of EMFs
- Wireless devices in our personal environment expose us to radiofrequency EMFs: computers and tablets,
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and electronic chips, as well as fluorescent lights, microwave ovens, induction hotplates
and washing machines
French National Agency calls to limit EMF exposures
ANSES now urges “limiting exposure of the population”, particularly to cell phones. It also encourages the use of an earpiece.
ANSES already rang the alarm bell in October 2013. After evaluating more than 300 international studies, the agency published a report highlighting the biological effects of EMFs on humans and animals concerning sleep, male fertility and cognitive performance.
A spokesperson for ANSES stated that “the massive development of technologies relying on radiofrequencies, leading to intensive exposure of the population, specifically more sensitive persons, which cannot be avoided”. They went on to say that the deployment of 4G “will be accompanied by increased exposure of the public”.
Lower exposure limits adopted in Europe
French exposure limits are based on a 2002 decree. They are set at 61 volts per meter (V/m) for 3G and 4G, the same as in the USA. The Council of Europe recommends an exposure limit of 0.6 V/m, some 100 times lower.
Switzerland and Liechtenstein and eight Member States of the European Union (Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovenia) have adopted more restrictive limits than those of France.
Progress for electrosensitives
In Europe there is a growing recognition of the plight of persons suffering ill health from exposure to electromagnetic fields, a condition known as electrical hypersensitivity or electrical sensitivity. This new bill requires that the French government provides Parliament with a report detailing “the opportunity to create areas of limited electromagnetic radiation, notably in the urban environment”. It also requires that the conditions of electrosensitives be taken into account in the workplace.
Though this bill has to be adopted by the French Senate for it to be made into law, clearly this bill reflects the build-up of public opinion in France and other European countries that EMF exposures are dangerous and the public needs protecting.