Radiofrequency waves: A day to take stock of knowledge
The French agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (ANSES) is hosting a feedback event for research projects on radiofrequency radiation via the Health and Radio Frequency Radiation Foundation and the Agency’s National Research Programme for Environmental and Occupational Health. Three hundred participants, including scientists and representatives of civil society, health authorities and industry were present at the event. It was the occasion to take stock of the scientific developments in the area of radiofrequency radiation and also to identify the research areas which have yet to be explored.
These last twenty years, information technology has profoundly altered our lifestyles, notably with the huge growth of the Internet and mobile telephones. This transformation is dual in nature. On the one hand, these new products are highly appreciated by the public, and on the other hand they elicit mistrust, due in particular to the electromagnetic waves they use to function. This mistrust is heightened when the exposure is imposed, as in the case of relay antennas.
In this context, radio frequency waves are a major topic of interest for the Agency. Following the transfer of competences of the Health and Radio Frequency Radiation Foundation to ANSES in 2011 and within the framework of its research programming activity, the Agency finances numerous research projects. The knowledge gained within this context aims to provide answers to the questions surrounding this issue and to contribute to ANSES’s risk assessment work.
In order to widely diffuse the results of this work, ANSES is hosting a feedback event today. The presentations are a way to take stock of the developments in knowledge on the subject and of research issues to explore in three key areas:
– the availability of effective measurement tools (metrology): Whether in the search for a biological effect or the assessment of a population group’s exposure, it is crucial to have effective measurement tools at one’s disposal. The projects supported by ANSES strive to develop more reliable measurement tools and to characterise exposure in detail. The project led by the Joint research unit for epidemiology and transportation, occupational and environmental surveillance (UMRESTTE) of the University of Lyon 1 has been working to individually characterise the exposure of a group of workers who work on relay antenna sites, in order to attempt to identify the determining factors involved in their exposure (types of site locations, tasks performed, etc.).
– the health effects of radio frequency radiation on living organisms. The results of the laboratory work conducted on the effects of radio frequency waves at the cellular level, as well as epidemiological studies such as the Mobikid study, which seek to determine whether a correlation exists between the onset of certain pathologies and the level of exposure to radio frequency waves, were put up for discussion.
– electromagnetic hypersensitivity. One of the research themes examined during the event was the existence of groups of people who are highly sensitive to electromagnetic waves. In order to understand the mechanisms that might explain this particular sensitivity, the recently-launched HSEMsensi research project was presented.
And in conclusion, a round-table discussion with the members ANSES’s Radio frequency radiation and health dialogue committee was an opportunity to summarise the event and to highlight the expectations of the stakeholders regarding the research issues yet to be explored.
Considering the social context surrounding the radio frequency radiation and health topic, and faced with the large number of scientific publications on the subject, the Agency, upon its establishment, decided to set up a general procedure for examining this issue as a whole. Aware of society’s questions on the use of radio frequency waves, ANSES intends to set up a “Radio frequency radiation and health” dialogue committee. This group, which will involve all the stakeholders interested in the issue, will enable the Agency to more effectively integrate the preoccupations of society into the research questions it asks via the call for “Environmental and Occupational Health” research projects, as well as in its expert assessment work. In addition, in order to remain on the cutting edge of scientific developments in this area, the Agency has created a permanent expert group in charge of drafting an annual scientific developments report to provide updates on the collective expert assessments on the health effects of radio frequency radiation. Publication of the first report from this group is expected in 2013 and provide an up-to-date review of all current knowledge made available since the Agency’s 2009 report. It will include the results of research work funded by the Radio Frequency Radiation Foundation, some of which were presented at today’s event.
ANSES and support for research
Among its other missions, ANSES coordinates and supports research. This includes running the National Research Programme for Environmental and Occupational Health (PNREST), an essential resource for acquiring the knowledge necessary to assist the authorities and for health risk assessment at the Agency. It is within this context that the call for research projects in environmental and occupational health is launched each year. In order to showcase these studies and in the context of its Scientific Conferences, ANSES organises two sessions a year for programme feedback at which the research teams can present their work to the public.