[ RadSafe ] Scientific Advice on the EU Physical Agents Directive

Dawson, Fred Mr Fred.Dawson199 at mod.uk
Fri Jun 30 07:42:23 CDT 2006

Scientific Advice on the EU Physical Agents Directive.
A report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.


The Health Protection Agency notes that the Science and Technology
Committee (STC) has chosen to examine how scientific advice was used by
Government to inform and advise on legislation emanating from the EU, in
particular in relation to the Physical Agents (Electromagnetic Fields,
EMFs) Directive1. The purpose of the Directive is to provide minimum
health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to any
risks arising from exposure to EMFs. 

The Committee particularly examined concerns that have been expressed by
the medical community that the Directive could restrict the use of
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the treatment of patients and in
medical research. The Committee considered this topic as an example of
how the Government uses scientific advice in influencing policy in the
European Union.

The Agency will study the criticisms made by the Committee carefully and
ensure that any lessons are learnt from this issue. However it is hard
to understand the criticism that the Agency's consultation procedures
for providing advice on the EU Directive were flawed and that the Agency
was characterised by "an instinctive and dismissive resistance". We have
to state clearly, to avoid misunderstanding and further
misinterpretation, that neither the Agency nor its predecessor
organisation the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) played
any part in the legislative and negotiation process related to the
development and agreement on the EU Directive. This was the
responsibility of Government Departments and regulatory bodies.
The Agency, and previously NRPB, has the responsibility for giving
advice on exposure guidelines for the UK. The Agency undertook extensive
public consultation during 2002/03 in relation to its review of
scientific evidence2 and the development of its advice on EMF exposure
guidelines3 published in 2004. The advice refers to exposures of people
(not just workers) to EMFs at various frequencies and is not aimed at
specific industries or practices. This process was quite separate from
the formal negotiations in Europe on the EU Directive. We note the
Committee accepts that the review of evidence published in 2004 "is
widely regarded as a definitive summary of the state of the science".

The Agency is seeking to meet representatives from the STC to clarify
the role of the HPA in advising Government on exposure guidelines.

1.       House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology
(2006). Watching the Directives: Scientific Advice on the EU Physical
Agents (Electromagnetic Fields) Directive.
2.       A F McKinlay et alia 2004. Review of the Scientific Evidence
for Limiting Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (0-300 GHz.). Doc.
15(3), 1-195.
3.       A F Mckinlay et alia (2004). Advice on Limiting Exposure to
Electromagnetic Fields (0-300 GHz). Doc NRPB 15(2), 1-31.

Fred Dawson
Health Physics Assistant Director & Team Leader
Directorate of Safety & Claims
6-D-30 MOD Main Building
Whitehall, LONDON  SW1A 2HB
phone   +44 (0)20 7807 0215
mobile   +44 (0)7 973 169 339
email     dsc-hpad at mod.uk

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