Transcript of Dr Michael Repacholi's appearance at the Australian Senate Inquiry into cellphone and health standards.
Cellphone Standard's Inquiry
by the Australian Senate

STANDING COMMITTEE ON THE
ENVIRONMENT, COMMUNICATIONS, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE ARTS


Thursday, 31 August 2000.

Note: this is an uncorrected copy of the Transcript of Dr Michael Repacholi's appearance at the Australian Senate Inquiry into cellphone and health standards.

Dr. REPACHOLI

    I am here representing the International Electromagnetic Field Project of the World Health Organisation. I have made a special visit to Australia this time because Australia is a supporter of the international EMF project at WHO, and a very good supporter. I appreciate that very much. The reason I have come is to say what we are trying to do at WHO. WHO, as you know, normally deals with developing countries and diseases that occur in these countries.

    However, this technology of mobile telephones has been growing so rapidly that it is now going straight into developing countries as well. They are missing the landline systems and going straight into mobile telecommunications so if there is any health problem then it is a global problem and we need to deal with it as soon as possible.

    I established at WHO a program that would go through a series of logical steps to resolve this issue. The steps-and I will give a short presentation on this-are really to review the literature, identify the gaps in knowledge that we need filled so that we can make good health risk assessments, coordinate research world wide to ensure that those gaps are filled and then set up formal task forces, which WHO does for many physical, chemical and biological agents as a routine, to establish what the health effects are so that we use the normal criteria that WHO has for determining health effects of any physical, biological or chemical agent. I think that is the only reasonable way-in my view, anyway-to resolve this problem. I know that the public has tremendous concerns, and I empathise with those concerns, because the technology has been propagated into people's working and living environments without very much consultation. It is when such base stations are placed in schools, parents would ask, 'Are there any health effects?' and if we are in a period of debate about the science then that is not very reassuring for parents.

    So what we have tried to do within this project is complete initial reviews, and a lot of the research that we found was necessary is taking time. It takes time to do this research; it cannot be done very quickly. And so we are in this research period that we hope will last probably about three years. Then we will be able to set up our formal health risk assessment committees and we will be publishing the results, and the project will conclude at WHO. It is a time-limited project; it is due to end in 2005. Maybe the best thing I could do is to give you my presentation.

SEN. ALLISON (CHAIR)

    This is the presentation you have given us copies of?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    Yes. [Overhead transparencies were then shown]

Dr. REPACHOLI

    So we have at WHO the International EMF project, and it has already been going for some five years. It is a project that has a large number of international partners. All the international agencies that have any responsibility for non-ionising radiations are involved in this project, including organisations like the United Nations Environment Program; the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, which is the NGO that is formally recognised by WHO to deal with non-ionising radiations; the International Labour Office to deal with worker related concerns; the International Electrotechnical Commission to provide the technological input; the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is a WHO specialised agency that just does research and evaluation of carcinogens to determine whether any physical, chemical or biological agent is carcinogenic; NATO, which obviously has a military concern about exposure to their personnel; the International Telecommunications Union; and the European Commission. We currently have over 45 countries-national representatives-involved in the project, and we have specialised collaborating centres in the United States, UK, Japan, Sweden and Germany.

    This provides essentially a schematic overview of what we are trying to do within the project. International reviews are conducted. As I said, they provide health status reports-what we know from the information we have available-and also identify research that is still necessary. We are currently coordinating we estimate approximately $100 million worth of research world wide. These are research organisations that have asked WHO what research is necessary so that WHO can make better health risk assessments. In this case, the Australian government, through its electromagnetic field project, has approached WHO and identified a number of projects that are currently ongoing. We are collecting a database of information and then we will go through the review and health risk assessment processes that will finally, hopefully, lead to standards.

    We are also looking at the environmental impacts of electromagnetic fields. We have already held an international conference on this and we are currently writing up a review article that will summarise all of the information. It relates primarily to major development projects that emit large amounts of electromagnetic fields into the environment. We want to know what non-human impacts occur. We have the paper written and it is currently going through a review.process. It will be published and it will be available, for example, to organisations that need to do environmental impact statements for these major development projects.

    We have a large information and training program. We have facts sheets on most things in 14 different languages so that people can look at these things in their own language and get the information they need.

    We also have a standards procedure that I would like to say more about today because I know that the review is primarily addressing the Australian standard and what should be done about that. This standards harmonisation project has reviewed standards world wide and is providing working groups that will develop the framework for a global standard so that, once we have the framework, the health risk assessment process can come into the global standards. We also have a risk perception communication program through which we try to better understand public concerns about the issue and how scientists, government and the public can communicate better on it. We will produce documents that provide information about that. It is a fairly comprehensive program.

    I will not go through this information because you have it in your notes, but it essentially outlines what I have just explained: the series of logical steps that we are going through to try to resolve this issue in the best possible way. We have conducted our reviews and we are currently promoting research. We have research coordination committees to identify what research is ongoing and what we still need so that we can promote what is needed in order to maximise available resources.

    I would like to pause briefly to indicate that there are big differences between what is considered to be a biological effect that is found through scientific study and what is considered to be a health effect. First of all, WHO has a definition of health, as you might expect. It is defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. We consider wellbeing within our program-so people who consider themselves to be under some psychosocial stress because of electromagnetic fields are considered within the program.

    Biological effects that are produced in scientific studies are generally measurable responses to EMF. For example, a biological effect could be a very small rise in temperature which has no significance to the body. It could be any one of a number of things that are easily compensated for within the body. In our Canberra environment, you go out into the cold and the body compensates. The body is responding to what is effectively a hostile environment all the time.

    A health effect is a biological effect that produces a consequence which is outside the body's normal range of physiological compensation and is thus detrimental to the health or wellbeing of the person. This is something that the committees within WHO look at to find out whether there is a true health effect that could be produced by this biological effect. Obviously, you can do limited experimentation on humans. Short-term effects can be determined and that is expected to be coming up under the British program following the Stewart committee inquiry.

    There will be substantial funding to get volunteers within the laboratory and find out exactly what occurs with exposure to telecommunication fields. With this criteria, we work through.

    People probably have difficulty in understanding that it is not any one study that can produce a definitive result-it has to be replicated independently. These are criteria that WHO uses before it can accept a result. I will mention my own study because of the concerns that that has raised. So it has to be replicated independently and has to be shown to be good science, and that is very important. There are a lot of studies in this area which are very poor science and we can identify those relatively easily.

    When we look at the evidence, though, we have to look at the strength of the evidence, because you can never prove that something does not happen-you cannot prove a negative.

    You cannot say that there is no health effect possible. But, by the number of studies that are produced, you can produce a weight of evidence which indicates overwhelmingly that there is no effect or that there is an effect and that is what we have to realise when we develop the database on which standards are written. The health risk assessments are set up under WHO task groups which are identified by the executive director of WHO.

    Let me briefly say something about my mouse study, which has given grief around the world.

    I should give a little background to this, because it is important that this study was actually an add-on study to another long-term study that was produced, or that was being funded, on the 50 Hz fields. We had a very elaborate set-up for the 50 Hz exposures. Then we were approached by Telstra, which said, 'The model looks good and we would like to find out if there are any effects to this model of mouse which could occur from telecommunications frequency fields.' I was actually given a golden opportunity. I was told, 'Go and find the most sensitive model that you can possibly get to look at the incidence of cancer from a physical agent such as this.' The ???pim1 mouse is a transgenic strain of mouse where extra cancer genes are put into the DNA to make them predisposed to the cancer that you want. Transgenic animals are becoming very popular in science because if you want, for example, to look at asthma or some other ailment, you can insert the appropriate genes into the DNA to make it predisposed to get asthma and then you can expose it to whatever other physical or chemical agent you are going to be exposing them to.

    These animals are extremely sensitive. Twenty per cent of these animals in this case were going to get lymphoma, which in fact was what we found, but we also found, of course, that if you expose them to GSM signals this doubled the incidence of cancer. There have been a number of criticisms of the study, that it did not go for long enough. We only did 18 months, and the reason for doing 18 months was because we did not want to have the diseases that occur with age. In the last six months you get all sorts of age related diseases occurring, which can confuse the results, so we wanted to have a look at 18 months when they were relatively healthy, and we could just concentrate on what we wanted to do.

    The subsequent studies, however, are using now the two-year period, which is a national toxicological program-type assay with a full two years to look and see what happens over that period. And people criticise the 18 months because, while the cancers were increasing, so were the number of cancers in the controls, but there was a doubling here of the incidence, and they feel that maybe the controls would have caught up with the exposed group at the end of two years. I do not believe that myself. I think a real difference had occurred, but we have just got to await the results. The problem is that we only looked at one exposure, and to give a result credibility you like to see that increasing exposure will increase the effect. The dose response is something where, when you look at toxicology, you want to see that increasing the dose of chemical, for example, increases the effect: you get higher incidences of the cancer or whatever.

    My study was not able to test that because it only had one point.

Senator HARRIS

    Chair, can we ask questions as we go, or would you prefer not to?

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    I would normally prefer not to, but it depends. Dr Repacholi, how much longer do you expect to be with that presentation because we are all getting a bit anxious to ask you questions.

Dr. REPACHOLI

    Yes, I understand. I have only got about 11 slides or something like that.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Okay, if you can perhaps try and not repeat what is already here because we have got it in front of us and can read it.

Dr. REPACHOLI

    Sure, I understand. I am trying to just use this as a memory jolt. The study that is being held in Adelaide now is under a standard procedure that has been used for testing carcinogenicity in experimental animals. It is using the US national toxicology program-type protocols. So there are other difficulties. Obviously, it is a difficulty extrapolating mice to humans because of the different RF absorptions, and humans do not have these genetic changes.

    The mechanisms to account for this are very difficult because I have no idea what has produced this effect, and we spent a long time looking at this before we finally finished our publication because we thought we had done something terribly wrong because it seemed that the result was quite dramatic. We knew that we had not overheated the animals, but we did not know what else could have occurred, so that delayed the study-plus a few journals felt that it was too hot to handle so we got a few rejections on the publication.

    I will just mention, as you probably know, that under the EMF projects at WHO IARC is going to conduct a huge mobile telephone study that will be done in probably 14, maybe more, countries where there will be 3,000 cases of brain tumour compared with 3,000 controls. This will be a huge, very sensitive study, and there is an Australian component of the study funded by the Australian government. The beauty of this study is that they are all working under the same protocol so we can pool the results and come up with a very sensitive result.

    Uncertainty is something that the public and many others are unable to deal with very well. I do not want to labour this, but uncertainty exists. You will notice in the papers that I gave to the committee there is a publication from WHO, a backgrounded document, plus an article that we sent to Science about the precautionary principle. These things are looking at uncertainty and how it can be dealt with.

    Normally, uncertainty is dealt with in a science based way by using safety factors that incorporate reductions in the exposure levels to account for the uncertainties and unforeseens.

    We know that we have some uncertainty still. There are some results in the EMF area that we want to follow up, but we do know that if there is an effect it is going to be quite a subtle effect.

    There are 5,000 to 6,000 publications now in this area that relate to EMF, and especially mobile telecommunications.

    We have embarked on a standards harmonisation project. WHO does not develop standards, but it goes through its NGO, which is ICNIRP in this project. We have got the major standard setting countries in every country in the world involved in this project for standards harmonisation. The benefits are obvious. It increases public confidence. It reduces debate and fears. People are protected to the same high level and obviously with our globalisation of trade we would expect that there would be benefits to health care by having standards.

    As for precaution, we know and understand that there is a growing movement to adopt precautionary approaches to manage health risks with scientific uncertainty. I have recently spent about an hour with the minister of health in Belgium. She was asking what she could do about precautionary measures. I will indicate what was the outcome from that.

    WHO does not normally advise national authorities to set policies to go beyond established knowledge. We set health risk assessments based on the knowledge that we know. However, there was a ministerial conference in London recently and we were asked to look at the need to rigorously apply the precautionary principle in assessing risks and to adopt more preventive, proactive approaches to hazards. WHO has not caught up with that. The EMF project is certainly right in the middle of this and we feel that we want to provide some leadership in WHO for this.

    The European Commission has provided a document on this, but I will not go into it. It has certain criteria for using the precautionary principle. If you use those criteria, the precautionary principle as it is should not be applied to EMF; but it does not mean to say that you cannot have precautionary measures, it is just that you cannot invoke an established principle like the precautionary principle.

    What are the recommendations to member states? There is the need to address the health issue, which should be done through mandatory, science based standards. There is a need to address public concerns. We suggest that this should be through a separate policy of voluntary precautionary measures. Unfortunately, a few countries are now introducing additional ad hoc safety factors into the science based standards as a precautionary measure. This undermines hundreds of millions of dollars worth of science that went into developing the standards, for no apparent benefit to health.

    These voluntary measures can be through increased research, encouragement of manufacturers to keep exposures to minimum needed for the technology, better risk communication, targeting audiences with honest and accurate information, public involvement in decision making, and the sighting of facilities to minimise public exposure and concerns.

    People would generally be happy with those sorts of measures because it has their involvement and they do not feel taken out of the equation.

    I have just summarised our most recent fact sheet into which I will not go. I will just say a couple of things that need to be said. There have been a number of reviews and none have indicated that there are health consequences from exposure to either the mobile phones or their base stations. There are gaps in knowledge where we are conducting research, and this research is going through. We recommend that governments have a role to play in setting health based standards and introducing additional precautionary measures, as they feel fit.

    Individuals can be encouraged to take their own precautions if they have concerns about children. There was a lot of press following the Stewart inquiry about children being more sensitive. If people feel that this is the case-and there is no evidence for that, but it is a possibility-then hands-free kits or limiting times of calls are good ways to reduce exposures.

    The one message I would really like to convey though is that motorists should be strongly discouraged from using mobile phones while driving. There is no doubt that-

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    They get brain tumours, do they?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    No, they are wobbling all over the road. Maybe I can leave it there. Thanks very much.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Can I kick off by referring to the comment you made a moment ago that the standards that you are promoting for harmonisation are based on science. What precisely was the science that set those standards up in the first place? Can you give the committee examples of the sorts of studies that led to those standards?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    There were studies that were done on primates. These tend to be very expensive studies, but primates have, essentially, very similar characteristics to humans. It is as far as you can go without actually exposing humans to radiofrequency fields. The basis of modern standards now are the studies that were done on-

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Can you give us a reference for those studies? Were they based on heat generated from-

Dr. REPACHOLI

    Yes, there is no doubt they are heat based standards.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Who conducted the studies?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    There were a number of studies done, predominantly in the United States.

    There is John D'Andrea.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    In what year were they done?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    They were done some time ago.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Can you be precise?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    These were behavioural studies where they found that the primates had a change in behaviour or they were unable to do tasks as well as they should have.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    So were they in the 1920s, 1930s, 1950s?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    No, most of those studies were done in the late 1970s and 1980s. There have been follow-up studies done, as you probably know, by Henry Lai. He is finding behavioural changes at levels which are at the lower end of what has been found before. The studies are essentially based on changes in behaviour or tasks in mazes where, for example, animals are put into a radial arm maze and food pellets are put at the end of each. Then you can train them to go around and pick up all the pellets quickly. In time they become very accurate or the timing can be done fairly precisely. Then you expose them and find out if they do it in the same time. They can forget that they have already been down a maze and they will go down that maze twice and so take a longer time to find the food pellets.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    So that behavioural study in the 1970s determined the current proposal in terms of exposure. Why did it take so long? Why didn't Australia adopt that back in the 1970s if that was so pivotal to setting standards?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    They did not think of standards. Most countries did not think of standards. It was mostly the Soviet Union and the US that dealt with standards. Most European countries, until recently, did not look at standards for this area. The standards were introduced primarily because of the introduction of radar. In fact, as the stories of-

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Dr Repacholi, what I am trying to get at is this: what we understand to be the case is that Australian standards are likely to be relaxed, and they are to be relaxed in line with your recommendations for harmonisation. What I think the committee needs to understand is why it is that Australian standards should be relaxed to this harmonisation level. Another aspect of this is why the World Health Organisation should play a role. I am sure we can understand why the industry would want harmonisation, but why should that be of concern to the World Health Organisation?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    There are two questions there. I was involved in the early attempts to develop an Australian standard. The standard was developed primarily on the international standard at the time and follows the international standard except in one region, called the microwave region. There was so much discontent about this that the level ended up being a negotiated level. It was not based on the science. Everything was based on the science up to that point, but the last part was not based on the science-it was negotiated between the unions and the government at the time.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Is the new standard based on science?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    Australia does not have a standard at the moment.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    The proposed new standard which would harmonise us with the United States and other countries.

Dr. REPACHOLI

    Yes, because the shape of the standard relates to the absorption of energy.

    You assume that a certain amount of energy is absorbed and will produce an effect.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    But what is the science that tells you what the effect is at that point? What I am trying to get at is: what informs the current proposal in terms of the science, precisely?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    The studies that have been done have indicated that an SAR of four watt per kilogram

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Which studies are these?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    These are all the animal studies, the ones that wer??

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    From the seventies?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    The seventies and eighties, yes. These are the early studies on primates. It was indicated that four watt per kilogram seemed to be a threshold, above which there were changes in behaviour.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Unusual behaviour?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    Yes. Below that, there did not seem to be any, unless the environmental temperatures were high and then that four watt per kilogram came down to one watt per kilogram.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Given the sort of research work that has happened since the seventies, that seems to me to be rather imprecise and not terribly scientific, especially in terms of biological responses. It does not sound very sophisticated.

Dr. REPACHOLI

    The problem is that behavioural changes are quite variable between peopl?3/4different people behave differently. It can be partly that. It is also the imprecision of the studies and imprecision in the dosimetry-knowing that you have, in fact, given four watt per kilogram to the animal and not 3.8 or whatever. There is a certain amount of imprecision there. This is why safety factors are incorporated: because of that imprecision and the variabilities that occur. Essentially, that threshold was noted some time ago. There was a factor of 10 reduction in the SAR to produce the occupational level and a factor of 50 reduction for general public levels. When you have a constant SAR over the spectrum, that dictates the shape of the curve. In other words, if you are going to get a constant 0.4 or 0.08 watt per kilogram, then you need to be exposed to certain levels before you get that absorption. That is what dictates the shape of the international curv?3/4it is just the absorption. But what happened was that this part of the curve was just straightened out and it did not follow the science because, in fact, to produce this level, you need even lower absorption and you do not get the standard 0.08 watt per kilogram at that point.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    All of this is based on animal studies, behavioural studies with primates?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    Yes, but you can extrapolate absorption of energy to humans because there has been a lot of work done on the dosimetry of mice, rats, guinea pigs, humans and monkeys.

    You can use that data to extrapolate what the absorption would be in animals from the monkey studies.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    It would be useful for the committee to have the progress, if you like, of what you are talking about with the SAR and so on that actually leads you to the view that this is the right standard as opposed to some other standard. Given that Australia is facing a relaxation in its standards, this is a critical question.

Dr. REPACHOLI

    It is not actually a relaxation, it is just a correction back to the science.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Nonetheless, it is a relaxat ion, is it not?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    There is a confusion in the Australian standard at the moment. It says that the standard is 0.08, but in fact it is not. The limits that came out were not 0.08. Down here it is about 0.01. If you stick to the basic standard it will not be a relaxation. If you stick to the limits that were identified to get that, then yes, it will seem like a relaxation.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Can I ask you about the production of the fact sheets? What you have said to us tonight is that there remains quite a lot of uncertainty. Certainly you have identified a lot of work that still needs to be done in terms of the research. Don't you think it is a little premature to be producing fact sheets for people? The suggestion here is that part of the problem for the World Health Organisation is uncertainty. Is that a reasonable position to take?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    We do not think there is a big uncertainty. We have a very large volume of literature and we can say something from that literature. There are thousands of studies, and these are what are reviewed. We have to be able to say something. We cannot wait until the end and think, 'Okay, now our database is full', and then make some recommendations. So these are interim recommendations as we go along. They are produced by an international advisory committee which is composed of all the international organisations that I mentioned at the start of the presentation, plus the 45 national representatives that come along, and they review all of these studies. What we did was do our international review first and then collect all the information that we could, and then that goes through a review process through the international advisory committee. The latest fact sheet actually went to our director-general. She is personally interested in the EMF and so she signed it off-begrudgingly in some points, but she feels the process has been followed and this is what the international consensus is and so that is what WHO produces. But she is somewhat worried about EMF as well.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Can I just ask you about your own study on mice? This is to be replicated, and thank you for explaining some of the method changes. Will you at any point in time be able to precisely replicate the previous study? That is, if you go from 18 months to two years, will you stop at the 18-month point and see whether in every respect the methodology is the same so that it can be a true replication?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    I guess in those studies a true replication, and in this case they are using better dosimetry. We have mice, for example, just able to run around in the cages, which is what people normally do, which meant that the variation in the amount of the radio frequency field they absorbed varied quite a lot from 0.01 to four watts per kilogram in this case, which is not very helpful for development of standards. So the new studies are going to be putting the mice into tubes, holding them during the exposure, they have got a fixed orientation to the field, and then the RF absorption is well-known and precise. That is one change. They are also going to do the dose response by exposing the mice to different levels of RF-although we did, I think, incredibly good pathology because we had it checked at three levels, including going to the US National Cancer Institute and having them check our pathology.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Can I interrupt there? Isn't the point of replication to use precisely the same methodology? Isn't that the problem with so much research, that it is not replicated and you need to do that replication in order to verify whether your first results have any validity or not? How can you change the methodology and still call it replication?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    We tend to call it confirmation of a result. The reason is that in initial studies they may have done something that is not particularly helpful or there is a better way of doing it. If the result is a true result it should still occur in the animal. There is no reason to expect that you are still exposing the animal to radiofrequency fields using the same pulsing regimes, maybe different times, different orientations, but if there is going to be an effect it should still occur. We were very careful in reviewing the follow-up study in Adelaide, and there is another study being done in Europe, to make sure that, yes, what was done in the original study is going to either be confirmed or not confirmed in these studies. I feel confident in that; and I want that myself because it is my result and I want to make sure that they do it right. If there is any deviation from that, then it is going to be criticised, so they are going to waste millions of dollars and then end up being criticised for something that they should have done.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    What is the cost of that study?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    The one in Adelaide is just over a million Australian dollars. The one in Europe is about-

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    That million dollars comes from this government's $4.5 million?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    Yes.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    What stage is it at at present?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    They are probably two-thirds of the way through the exposures now.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    What time period is that?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    They should be finished the study at the end of next year.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    So you are already at the 18-month point?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    Not quite-they are about 15 months through at the moment.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Are there any preliminary observations?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    It is a blinded study, so the people doing the study do not know which group are exposed and which are not exposed. Only an independent person is able to say, at the end when all the statistical analyses are done, that this one was exposed and this one was not, because you have got to take out biases. I know people criticise scientists for not coming up with preliminary results, but, in many cases, preliminary results have come out and they have said, 'Wow, we have found a big effect,' and then at the end of the study there was no effect, it all washed out. So scientists generally want to have their results peer reviewed and published.ECITA 12 SENATE-References before they announce them. That is quite standard in science. It is only in EMF that this has tended to sway away from the norm. It has been unfortunate, because a lot of people have come out with these preliminary results, there has been a lot of media and a lot of concern, and then there was nothing at the end.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Telstra funded the last study. Do they also have any money in this project, or not?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    Probably the Australian government leaned on them to put some money into it, but it all came from the government.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    What is the total value of the study?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    I honestly do not know what the Australian government did, but I think they did want a contribution from industry as well. I am not privy to that information.

Sen. MARK BISHOP

    Could you track back to the earlier discussion you were having with Senator Allison about the establishment of the Australian standard and could you put on the record for us how it was established, what it sought to achieve, your criticism of it and your view on the adequacy or otherwise of the current interim standard? I was intrigued by that discussion.

Dr. REPACHOLI

    The original standard came out in the 1980s, when I was not back in Australia-I was in Canada at the time. Then I was asked to chair an Australian standards committee on radiofrequency field under WorkSafe. We used this as a basis, and this was where I found out what the history of that standard was. I tried at that stage to bring it back to a more solid, scientific basis, but was unsuccessful. Then there was the Standards Australia effort where we joined with New Zealand to try to develop a joint standard.

Sen. MARK BISHOP

    Why do you assert that the original standard set was-and is- deficient in some respect?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    It is not deficient from my viewpoint, but it does not follow the science. It partly follows the science in the absorption curve. As you increase the frequency, the absorption changes and, at this point, it departs from the normal absorption curve, which is well known and well established in science. The shape of the standard should follow the normal absorption curve for human beings. The negotiated point is the only point of departure from the science.

Sen. MARK BISHOP

    What in your view are the consequences or effects of departing from what science suggests the standard should be?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    There is no effect on health. It is just that, from my viewpoint, I would like to see something that is science based and take away the subjectivity or the various opinions of people. Healt h is not negotiable; it should be based on something that is substantiated so that you know what level of protection you are providing to people. That is one of my criticisms of increasing safety factors, for example. In this case, safety factors are incorporated maybe for base stations but not for mobile phones that cause a thousand times more exposure. If you are protecting against health effects, why would you address just one source of exposure and not airport radars or radio and television transmitters? As a person working in a technical health agency, I want to protect people's health against a physical agent. I am not protecting them against a base station; I am protecting them against radiofrequency fields. I encourage people to adopt a standard that looks at the protection of health.

Sen. MARK BISHOP

    Is the current Australian interim standard linked to the science? Has the debate you are speaking about been resolved?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    No. The Standards Association does not have a standard now, so there is no interim standard. I understand that the regulatory authority for mobile telecommunications is using the ICNERP standard as an interim standard because there is no Australian standard and they must have something to go on in the meantime.

Sen. MARK BISHOP

    What is the ICNERP standard?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    It is the international standard, which is science based. They use WHO's health risk assessments to derive the standard. Let me give some examples. It is a complex issue. For example, the Russians have standards that are about a thousand times below international standards. We are encouraging them to look at the whole of the literature, not just the Russian literature, in developing their standards. I was in Moscow recently and I asked whether these standards were being complied with. They said they were. But the question then is: how come anyone is using a mobile phone, because if you use a mobile phone you exceed the Russian standard by about 100 times.

Sen. ALLISON (Chair)

    Is that not the case in Australia too? Do we test the mobile phones that are used here?

Dr. REPACHOLI

    I have had assurances that they comply, but I would like to see testing of mobile phones. If you have a standard, you should determine compliance with it. I do not trust the manufacturers to say, 'Yes, we're doing it.' The problem at the moment is that there is no standard protocol for measuremen?3/4you know, what size phantom and what the characteristics are of the measurement that you should take to determine compliance with this. That standard will be out at the end of this year. So there will be a standardised procedure and manufacturers should be made to show exactly what SAR they have for that phone under this standard procedure; that is not unreasonable. They should be made to comply with the standards.

    I was also going to give an example here. A lot of the eastern European standards tended to be paper tigers in that they came out with a standard which, for the public, sounded very protective. But, in fact, they could not operate any technology with the standards that they had because, if they did any measurements, they would find that the standards were exceeded. So are you protecting health or are you using it as a political statement? I am sorry, I do not like political statements, but I like health statements. I like people to be protected to a known level, so that if you are going to increase the level of protection, which from WHO's view point is absolutely okay, why wouldn't you, if you have a chemical, say, 'This dose is okay but, if countries lower the dose, it will be more protective'? You know that chemicals may not have a cut-off. It is like ionising radiation. Any dose of ionising radiation is going to cause some harm, so what you have to do is minimise the harm and maximise the benefits. It is a trade-off. In this case, though, we have a threshold below which we do not find any effects but above which we do, and we want to make sure that we eliminate those effects. This is the basis for a health base standar?3/4to get well down, 50 times below the level at which health effects are starting to be seen. Most technologies are actually 1,000 or 10,000 times below. I mean, the base stations are some 10,000 times below the international standards, and still they get singled out. I know there is pressure by people, but the pressure is really because the base stations are ugly-looking things. They are in people's living environments-probably by schools-and people do not want anything happening to their children, which is absolutely right, so they pick on a technology. They do not worry about the paging transmitters, because the paging transmitters are much smaller, but they emit much higher levels than base stations. I just want to make sure that we protect health, and that is my primary concern in trying to follow the science. I think science does a good job, by and large, when it is given a chance.

    CONTINUED:



Stewart Fist, 70 Middle Harbour Road, Lindfield, 2070, NSW, Australia.
Tel: +61 2 9416 7458 Fax: +61 2 9416 4582. E-mail: fist@ozemail.com.au