Electromagnetic Fields: Health Effects

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 5:06 pm on 25th June 2019.

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Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Public Health) 5:06 pm, 25th June 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr Hollobone.

I start by thanking my hon. Friend Tonia Antoniazzi for securing this debate and for her excellent speech, which set the scene and informed us all about this issue. Earlier this year, I met her to discuss it, so I am pleased that she was able to secure the debate on it.

I also thank my hon. Friend Dr Drew and Martyn Day, who spoke for the Scottish National party, for their thoughtful contributions to this debate. There were also excellent interventions by my hon. Friend Geraint Davies; I am pleased that he is still with us in Westminster Hall, as he had said that he had to leave early.

As we have heard, the World Health Organisation has concluded that current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields. I know that the Government have followed a similar line, with the independent Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation concluding that although a substantial amount of research has been conducted in this area, there is no convincing evidence that electromagnetic field exposures below guideline levels cause health effects in either adults or children. However, as we have heard, concerns exist about the long-term impact of electromagnetic fields, and although my hon. Friends did not go into great detail about individual cases, I have read of such cases and I am sure that all hon. Members have also read some of the details about them. As we become ever more reliant upon modern technology, such concerns will only increase.

On a more light-hearted note, those people who have Netflix might have seen the impact of electromagnetic fields being played out, albeit in a fictional sense, in a programme called “Better Call Saul”, in which the brother of the main character is terribly affected—indeed, he is housebound—by EMF. It is often said with these types of issues that Hollywood leads the way in bringing them to the public’s attention, and this example is definitely a case in point.

International studies, such as the cohort study of mobile phone use and health, or COSMOS, and national studies, such as the study of cognition, adolescents and mobile phones, or SCAMP, exist to continue research into any possible impacts. It is important that such studies continue, so that the public can be aware of all the current advice about electromagnetic fields. As we have heard, as technology develops there will be concerns—new and old—about the impact that it could have on our health. What assessment has the Minister made of all those studies, specifically those that conclude that radio waves are carcinogenic? As we have heard, Cyprus and Austria advise children and teenagers how to limit their exposure to radio waves. Will the UK Government consider doing that, too?

Some of my constituents have written to me with concerns about the new 5G network, as also reported by other hon. Members, and I am grateful for the Minister’s response on that. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Gower has had conversations with her constituents, who are concerned about the new technology being rolled out across the country. As she said, she would like white zones to be considered and protected. White zones give people who are sensitive to electromagnetic fields, or are concerned about their impact, somewhere to live without interference from radio waves, and that is why it is important that the matter is looked at cross-departmentally.