A ground-breaking Australian seminar considers the legal implications of EMR-related injuries.

The Australian legal community is expressing interest in the link between electromagnetic radiation and injury, in light of a number of international compensation claims and increasing scientific evidence linking adverse effects to exposure.

On Wednesday 14th October, the Faculty of Law at the University of NSW hosted an educational seminar entitled ‘Wireless Devices: Risk, Regulation, Compliance and Liability.’ Its speakers discussed legal and scientific developments that are of significance to all employers, schools, industries and governments, as well as individuals exposed to wireless radiation.

‘It was an experiment that worked,’ said Dr Karin Lemercier from the UNSW Faculty of Law and one of the organisers of the event. ‘We brought together scientists and lawyers. We asked three scientists and an electrical engineer to summarise the present knowledge about the biological and possible health effects of exposure to non-ionising radiation. Then we asked three partners from law firms to summarise the regulatory framework and the statutory and common law that would be relevant in a work health and safety matter. Finally, the lawyers considered a case that had just been filed in USA in which an 11 year old boy became sick after new WiFi was installed in his classroom. The facts could apply to any workplace. Each person had studied the case. The lawyers asked the expert witnesses for their evidence. It was a real life ‘Hypothetical’. No one left before the end of the 4 hour session!!!’

The meeting was hosted by Robyn Williams AM, from the ABC’s Science Unit. He told the audience that he does not own a mobile phone and has no intention of doing so. However, he does have a wooden model of a phone that he’s able to take to restaurants and other public places so as to blend in with other phone users!

The general consensus of the speakers was that Australian standards, which protect primarily against short-term, acute, heating effects of radiation are not adequate and that better standards are required.

The seminar comes in the wake of the International Appeal in which scientists from 39 nations called on the United Nations and World Health Organisation to recognise the inadequacy of international radiation guidelines and take actions that will ultimately benefit the public.

Paul Wentworth

Lawyer Mr Paul Wentworth provided an introduction to the Australian legislative framework. The relevant standard, known as RPS 3, was developed by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). While it claims to protect everybody, including children, ‘no safe levels [are] specified for low level, long-term exposure,’ he said. As well as the standard, and the Radiocommunications Act 1992 which enforces it, employers also have to comply with Work Health and Safety legislation and with Common law.

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Are the current regulations adequate? Mr Wentworth drew the audience’s attention to the International Scientists Appeal lodged in May—an appeal to the United Nations and World Health Organisation (WHO) by 206 scientists from 40 countries asking for tighter standards and greater protection. ( See EMR and Health, June and September, 2015).

Dr Mary Redmayne

Dr Redmayne, a researcher at Monash University, spoke about international policies relating to the exposure of children and workers to wireless radiation. ‘Young people’s use of devices has skyrocketed,’ she said. ‘They are spending more time on them and using them younger.’ She showed evidence that exposure does cause effects and that intensive screen use is related to the growing prevalence of myopia.

Different countries take different approaches to standards-setting, Dr Redmayne explained. While the less stringent, such as Australia’s, aim to prevent thermal (heating) effects of exposure, the more stringent, such as Russia’s, aim to prevent thermal affects along with other biological damage. Dr Redmayne described the Australian approach to radiation exposure—requiring compliance with a thermally-base standard—as a ‘red herring’ because it doesn’t address typical low level, long-term exposures.

She advised that schools develop policies for safer use of wireless technologies and suggested approaches for doing this. ‘I recommend that parents and schools minimise their children’s exposure to RF-EMR as a precautionary health and safety step,’ she said.

Dr Priyanka Bandara

Dr Bandara, a molecular biologist, discussed research on the biological and health effects of wireless radiation. She said that this radiation, at levels that comply with Australian standards, can damage DNA, cells (nucleus, mitochondria and membranes), the blood-brain barrier, sperm and is linked with neurological symptoms. Moreover, greater effects occur at some ‘windows’ of exposure (eg ranges of frequencies) than others—a fact not taken into account by thermally-based standards.

‘Electricity is essential for the survival of each cell,’ she said, ‘It should not be a surprise that man-made EMF could interfere with it.’

Dr Bandara referred to the work of Professor Martin Pall (see pages 3 and 6) which shows that exposure activates voltage-gated calcium channels, leading to chemical reactions that can explain the neurological symptoms that are commonly reported among exposed people and are not addressed by the Australian and WHO standards.

‘Exposure to microwaves starts from conception,’ Dr Bandara said and raised the question of its long-term impacts on children. She referred to studies showing exposure affects the development of the foetus and of children, including behavioural changes such as ADHD and, perhaps, autism.

Associate Professor Ray Kearney OAM

Professor Kearney, from the Department of Medicine at Sydney University, shared a personal family anecdote. Twenty five years ago his young daughter developed severe and unexplained headaches. On investigation, he found a high magnetic field from a switchboard behind her bed and power cable under the bed that fed it. Once she was moved from this bedroom, her headaches disappeared.

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Professor Kearney referred to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (1966) including ‘The prevention and reduction of the population’s exposure to harmful substances such as radiation and harmful chemicals or other detrimental environmental conditions that directly or indirectly impact upon human health”. ‘Is Australia in breach of this article?’ he asked. ‘Emphatically yes.’

Professor Kearney discussed three mechanisms which explain how electromagnetic fields can cause health problems.

The first involves the hormone melatonin which plays important roles in a number of critical body functions. It scavenges free radicals, prevents DNA damage and protects against cancer; it reduces the stress hormone cortisol, plays vital roles in immunity, inhibits ‘bad’ cholesterol, decreases blood pressure, reduces obesity and sympathetic nerve activity and induces tumour cell suicide.

Paul Wentworth

Lawyer Mr Paul Wentworth provided an introduction to the Australian legislative framework. The relevant standard, known as RPS 3, was developed by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). While it claims to protect everybody, including children, ‘no safe levels [are] specified for low level, long-term exposure,’ he said. As well as the standard, and the Radiocommunications Act 1992 which enforces it, employers also have to comply with Work Health and Safety legislation and with Common law.

Are the current regulations adequate? Mr Wentworth drew the audience’s attention to the International Scientists Appeal lodged in May—an appeal to the United Nations and World Health Organisation (WHO) by 206 scientists from 40 countries asking for tighter standards and greater protection. ( See EMR and Health, June and September, 2015).

Dr Mary Redmayne

Dr Redmayne, a researcher at Monash University, spoke about international policies relating to the exposure of children and workers to wireless radiation. ‘Young people’s use of devices has skyrocketed,’ she said. ‘They are spending more time on them and using them younger.’ She showed evidence that exposure does cause effects and that intensive screen use is related to the growing prevalence of myopia.

Different countries take different approaches to standards-setting, Dr Redmayne explained. While the less stringent, such as Australia’s, aim to prevent thermal (heating) effects of exposure, the more stringent, such as Russia’s, aim to prevent thermal affects along with other biological damage. Dr Redmayne described the Australian approach to radiation exposure—requiring compliance with a thermally-base standard—as a ‘red herring’ because it doesn’t address typical low level, long-term exposures.

She advised that schools develop policies for safer use of wireless technologies and suggested approaches for doing this. ‘I recommend that parents and schools minimise their children’s exposure to RF-EMR as a precautionary health and safety step,’ she said.

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Dr Priyanka Bandara

Dr Bandara, a molecular biologist, discussed research on the biological and health effects of wireless radiation. She said that this radiation, at levels that comply with Australian standards, can damage DNA, cells (nucleus, mitochondria and membranes), the blood-brain barrier, sperm and is linked with neurological symptoms. Moreover, greater effects occur at some ‘windows’ of exposure (eg ranges of frequencies) than others—a fact not taken into account by thermally-based standards.

‘Electricity is essential for the survival of each cell,’ she said, ‘It should not be a surprise that man-made EMF could interfere with it.’

Dr Bandara referred to the work of Professor Martin Pall (see pages 3 and 6) which shows that exposure activates voltage-gated calcium channels, leading to chemical reactions that can explain the neurological symptoms that are commonly reported among exposed people and are not addressed by the Australian and WHO standards.

‘Exposure to microwaves starts from conception,’ Dr Bandara said and raised the question of its long-term impacts on children. She referred to studies showing exposure affects the development of the foetus and of children, including behavioural changes such as ADHD and, perhaps, autism.

Associate Professor Ray Kearney OAM

Professor Kearney, from the Department of Medicine at Sydney University, shared a personal family anecdote. Twenty five years ago his young daughter developed severe and unexplained headaches. On investigation, he found a high magnetic field from a switchboard behind her bed and power cable under the bed that fed it. Once she was moved from this bedroom, her headaches disappeared.

Professor Kearney referred to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (1966) including ‘The prevention and reduction of the population’s exposure to harmful substances such as radiation and harmful chemicals or other detrimental environmental conditions that directly or indirectly impact upon human health”. ‘Is Australia in breach of this article?’ he asked. ‘Emphatically yes.’

Professor Kearney discussed three mechanisms which explain how electromagnetic fields can cause health problems.

The first involves the hormone melatonin which plays important roles in a number of critical body functions. It scavenges free radicals, prevents DNA damage and protects against cancer; it reduces the stress hormone cortisol, plays vital roles in immunity, inhibits ‘bad’ cholesterol, decreases blood pressure, reduces obesity and sympathetic nerve activity and induces tumour cell suicide.


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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