Appendix A
Why does the government not take the precautionary approach?

If there is so much evidence of adverse health effects from microwave-based communications technology, it is on the face of it puzzling that the government and the local authority do not take the precautionary approach advised by the Stewart Report.

From my reading it appears that the evidence for adverse health effects is scientifically accepted; i.e. the methods, equipment and materials used, and the results, are not in dispute. The problem in some cases is that while some research studies have shown that there are health effects, others have not. 99

If this view is correct, the problem is not the evidence, but how to explain the evidence. This is a matter of theory, of how to describe what is going on. Any theory would have show why adverse health effects are sometimes observed, and why at other times, they are not.100

The absence of evidence for adverse health effects in some cases cannot then be said to disconfirm its presence in others, and vice versa.

Given scientific consensus over the evidence, but uncertainty over the theory, any attempt to prioritise either evidence for adverse health effects, or evidence of none, is bound to arise from reasons outside science, relating in particular to health, politics or commerce. As parents, we inevitably give priority to the evidence for such effects: our paramount concern is the health of our children. If there is evidence for adverse health effects, that is what counts.

Government and industry however have huge financial interests in disregarding that evidence, emphasising research in which no evidence for health effects is found. 101 While this does not mean that government and industry do not recognise the possibility of such effects, it does perhaps help to explain their lack of action. Some people have likened the telecoms industry in this respect to the tobacco industry.102

The present scientific uncertainty does not then mean that the evidence for adverse health effects may be mistaken or that it can be disregarded. It means only that scientists have not come to an agreement on how to understand it. In view of the political and commercial interests in turning a blind eye to the health issue, parents themselves have to decide whether the precautionary principle should be applied for their children.


next ...


99 See for example the Discussion section of the following paper, in which the subject is addressed in relation to the blood brain barrier: Nittby et al (2008), Radiofrequency and Extremely Low-Frequency Electromagnetic Field Effects on the Blood-Brain Barrier, Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, 2008 27:2, 103–126 HERE
Also Henry Lai (1998), Neurological effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation, Mobile Phones and Health, Symposium, October 25-28, 1998, University of Vienna, Austria HERE
100 It is the absence of an agreed theory of this kind that enables the HPA to say that there is no ‘consistent’ evidence of adverse health effects. The job of theory is to provide a consistent account of what is going on. But the first priority in relation to health is not theory—which is a matter of ideas—but evidence, or the observation of effects.
101 For example, in 2000, the government raised £22.5 billion from the sale of third-generation mobile phone licences (2.5% of GNP -- see HERE). In addition, “the telecommunications industry contributes over £13.6 billion to the UK GDP ... and the government receives £15 billion in tax revenue.” Alasdair and Jean Philips (2009), Mobile Phone Masts and Wireless Computing, p.3 (ISBN 0 - 95245 033 – X)
Pdf HERE.
102 Professor Lawrie Challis, who heads the Government’s official mobile safety research, is reported as saying that the mobile phone could turn out to be “the cigarette of the 21st century”. (Quoted in ‘Danger on the airwaves: Is the Wi-Fi revolution a health time bomb?’, Independent, 22.4.07) LINK