Non-ionizing radiation in the household(2005)
Sense and nonsense of electrostress and electrosmog
The past decades we witnessed an intensification of the use of all kinds of new technologies and devices. That increase in the use of electric machines and appliances explains why more and more electromagnetic radiation can be measured in our everyday environment.
There are lots of different so-called ‘electromagnetic fields’, depending on the originating source. Inside and round the house for instance, these sources are just simple home appliances such as microwaves and the ubiquitous mobile phones and transceivers, wireless networks, sunbeds, laser pointers or high-voltage power lines.
To a greater or lesser extent, all these high-tech, often wireless gadgets bring about ‘electromagnetic radiation’. To many people, the word ‘radiation’ sounds frightening or has a negative connotation, whereas in reality there is nothing wrong. Often, the radiation in question is too weak to have any effect.
But in a densely populated country with lots of simultaneous radiation sources, it might be important to know if and how all these forms of radiation affect the home environment where people spend a lot of their time. Since children are especially vulnerable, extra caution is called for.
Regularly, alarming information turns up in the media suggesting that the increasing ‘electrosmog’ levels — an umbrella term for all kinds of electromagnetic fields and radio frequency radiation — accounts for the phenomenon of what is called ‘electrostress’. The latter is also a generic term for various wellness complaints and health symptoms which, according to certain information, might be connected with ‘electrosmog’.
For lots of citizens, a transmitter in the vicinity of their home is considered to be a risk to health or wellbeing. For an assessment of the new developments and eventual risk to be as realistic as possible, clear and independent scientific information is of utmost importance.
What happens when people are exposed to all kinds of electromagnetic fields? Who is responsible for standardization and regulation and based upon what criteria? Are the standards strict enough and what about compliance and control? What policy options do the authorities have in order to protect the public health? Where are the bottlenecks to be situated? And which are the fields where more research would be advisable?
This concise status quaestionis gave answers to all these questions and led to a series of precise recommendations for the Flemish parliament, which have received a lot of interest in the form of parliamentary hearings.