In what could hardly be considered a master stroke of public relations, Australian authorities have both reneged on their undertakings to the Australian community and alienated the EHS population of the country. 

On the evening of Tuesday 11th November, Australia’s research consortium, the Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research (ACEBR) and the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute hosted a public forum at Wollongong University on the topic of electromagnetic hypersensitivity. The forum featured a line-up of speakers well-known for their no-effects stance on EMR. 

Professor Rodney Croft, Director of ACEBR, told the meeting that reviews had found ‘no evidence of health effects’ from electromagnetic radiation. ‘If you ask me: do I think we’ll find an association between symptoms and RF, I’d say certainly I don’t.’ 

Dr Eric van Rongen, from the Health Council of the Netherlands, said that symptoms of EHS—such as sleep disorders, fatigue, headaches, concentration difficulties, skin prickling—were attributed to electromagnetic fields, but not necessarily caused by them. The incidence of such complaints varied from 1.5% of the population (Sweden 2002) to 13.3% (Taiwan 2011). He said there was ‘no relationship between actual electromagnetic exposure and occurrence of symptoms’ and continued that there was more evidence of a relationship between symptoms of EHS and psychological problems than symptoms of EHS and electromagnetic fields. 

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Similarly, Professor Michael Repacholi, former head of the WHO’s EME project, dismissed any connection between electromagnetic hypersensitivity and electromagnetic radiation. ‘EMF does not cause EHS,’ he told the meeting. ‘Affected individuals should seek help from appropriate health care professionals.’ 

In presenting their views that electromagnetic fields are not involved in electromagnetic hypersensitivity and do not cause health problems, the speakers ignored a substantial body of scientific evidence that they are and they do. Numerous studies show a connection between symptoms, adverse biological effects and exposure, as reported in ’EMR and Health’ for more than a decade.

The meeting was attended by a considerable number of members of the general public, many of whom suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity and who were not convinced that exposure was not responsible for their symptoms.

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‘I went to the ICNIRP/ACEBR workshop hoping that EHS would finally get the recognition that it deserves, but came away sorely disappointed,’ said EHS sufferer Steve Weller.

When asked by Facilitator Professor Ray Kemp, who in the audience felt the Australian standard did not provide sufficient protection, there was a considerable show of hands.

The Australian community could reasonably have anticipated a different approach to addressing the problem of EHS from its authorities. At last year’s Science and Wireless event in Melbourne, ARPANSA’s Chief Radiation Health Scientist, Dr Stephen Solomon, responded to the audience’s concerns about health effects from EMF, saying ‘There is something happening here. We do need to work out a strategy to deal with this.’ He subsequently told a meeting of the EME Reference Group that ARPANSA would host a public forum on EMR and health this year.

ARPANSA has neither developed a strategy, nor hosted a public forum on EMR and health.

If ACEBR felt it was stepping into the breach with the forum of 11th, it may actually have done more to alienate the EHS community than to assure it.

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About The Author – Lyn McLean is a consumer advocate, author and educator and has been monitoring and writing on the subject of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) for over 20 years. She is the director of EMR Australia.

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