Dr. Christopher Portier, Fmr. Director of the US CDC, calls for invoking the Precautionary Principle for RF-EMF

One of the most widely accepted definitions for the Precautionary Principle is from the Rio Conference in 1992 where Principle 15 states: “Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” A key aspect of invoking the Precautionary Principle is what, if any, actions that should be taken. For example, in California, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Proposition 65) is invoked if “an Authoritative Body” declares a chemical to have sufficient evidence for carcinogenicity (in animals and/or humans). When invoked, the chemical is added to the Prop 65 list and warnings are required to protect the general public. If RF EMF were a chemical, then California would require labeling of RF EMF devices for a possible cancer risk because IARC “is designated as authoritative for the identification of chemicals as causing cancer (Section 25306(m)).”

In the EU, the February 2000 Communication from the Commission on the Precautionary Principle states that “Recourse to the precautionary principle presupposes that potentially dangerous effects deriving from a phenomenon, product or process have been identified, and that scientific evaluation does not allow the risk to be determined with sufficient certainty.” In addition, they state that action should be “proportional to the chosen level of protection” and “In some cases, the right answer may be not to act or at least not to introduce a binding legal measure.” Thus, invoking the precautionary principle does not immediately mean actions should be taken. In my support for the resolution, I will demonstrate that a careful review of the scientific literature demonstrates there are potentially dangerous effects from RF EMF and that the data is insufficient to allow the risk to be determined with certainty.


The “2013 Late Lessons from Early Warnings” report is the second of its type produced by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in collaboration with a broad range of external authors and peer reviewers. The case studies across both volumes of Late lessons from early warnings cover a diverse range of chemical and technological innovations, and highlight a number of systemic problems. The ‘Late Lessons Project’ illustrates how damaging and costly the misuse or neglect of the precautionary principle can be, using case studies and a synthesis of the lessons to be learned and applied to maximising innovations whilst minimising harms. And also note that it was the ordinary and non-scientific person who first drew the authorities attention to environmental dangers before the scientific community gave any form of notice.


In 2000, the WHO recommended that the precautionary principle could be voluntarily applied to cell mast radiation. This principle is “a risk management policy applied in circumstances with a high degree of scientific uncertainty, reflecting the need to take action for a potentially serious risk without awaiting the results of scientific research.”

In May 2011 the WHO position still comes with this warning: “Where data are scarce, the absence of evidence of harm should not necessarily be interpreted as evidence that no harm exists. Further research should focus on long-term effects and should include children and adolescents.” This follows the reclassification of radio frequency radiation as a class 2B carcinogen now that more evidence is available.

And in May 2011 the EU Parliamentary Assembly Report concurred, “One must respect the precautionary principle and revise the current threshold values; waiting for high levels of scientific and clinical proof can lead to very high health and economic costs, as was the case in the past with asbestos, leaded petrol and tobacco.

The World Health Organisation’s project also pointed out on their website that “Electromagnetic fields of all frequencies represent one of the most common and fastest growing environmental influences, about which there is anxiety and speculation are spreading.[sic] EMF exposure now occurs to varying degrees to all populations of the world, and the levels will continue to increase with advancing technology. Thus, even a small health consequence from EMF exposure could have a major public health impact.”

However in the technology race, the fear of “falling behind” has been fuelled by industry. For example, at a GSM conference in 2012, Michael Repacholi encouraged parents to get their children using wireless devices so that they wouldn’t be left behind. Mr Repacholi is man of substantial influence who chaired the WHO EMF project until 2006 and was co-founder of ICNIRP which he chaired from 1992-1996, subsequently remaining chairman emeritus. His position is that mobile phones and towers can’t impact on health and so precaution is unnecessary. Having received funding though from the mobile industry (even while chairing the WHO EMF project) there is clearly a conflict of interest.

This is what the 2002 ICNIRP General Approach Guidelines have to say on p546:

Different groups in a population may have differences in their ability to tolerate a particular NIR exposure. For example, children, the elderly, and some chronically ill people might have a lower tolerance for one or ore forms of NIR exposure than the rest of the population. Under such circumstances, it may be useful or necessary to develop separate guideline levels for different groups within the general population, but it may be more effective to adjust the guidelines for the general population to include such groups. Some guidelines may still not provide adequate protection for certain sensitive individuals nor for normal individuals exposed concomitantly to other agents, which may exacerbate the effect of the NIR exposure, an example being individuals with photosensitivity. Where such situations have been identified, appropriate specific advice should be developed-within the context of scientific knowledge.


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