European EMF policy

There is quite a lot of activity in Europe on EMFs. We gather together here information on what is happening on several different fronts, such as exposure limits for the public and workers and reviews of the science by the Commission and the Parliament.  The Commission also provide an overview of European activity.

Exposure limits

Exposure limits for the public

The EU issued a Recommendation on exposures for the public in 1999, based closely on ICNIRP 1998.  See more details in the section on exposure lmits.

The EU has compiled a report on the status of the EU Recommendation in the  various countries of Europe followed up by a second report in 2008.

Exposure limits for workers

The EU passed a Directive setting exposure limits for workers in 2004.  They then delayed the implementation to allow it to be revised.  That eventually resulted in the 2013 Directive, based, for low frequencies, on ICNIRP 2010.  member states have until 1 July 2016 to implement this in national law - see more on how the UK is doing this.

The EU have also published a non-binding Practical Guide to the Directive.

Scientific opinion of the Commission

Scientific opinion of the Commission

The most recent  scientific opinion of the Commission on EMFs was produced as a draft for consultation in September 2006 and then adopted in final form in March 2007 by SCENIHR – the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly identified Health Risks. It was then updated in January 2009.

Their conclusion on power frequencies was:

“The previous conclusion that ELF fields are possibly carcinogenic, chiefly based on childhood leukaemia results, is still valid. There is no known mechanism to explain how electromagnetic field exposure may induce leukaemia. The effects have not been replicated in animal studies.”


“For breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, recent research has indicated that an association is unlikely. For neurodegenerative diseases and brain tumours, the link to ELF fields remains uncertain. No consistent relationship between ELF fields and self reported systems (sometimes referred to as electrical hypersensitivity) has been demonstrated.”

See here for full details and the previous opinion in October 2002 by CSTEE – the Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment.


European Parliament

Scientific opinion of the European Parliament

The European Parliament passed a resolution on EMFs in 2009.  The Commission then published a response.

Previously, STOA – Scientific and Technical Options Assessment – commissioned a report for the European Parliament on EMFs from Essor France in 1999. The Parliament then commissioned a supplementary report from Dr Gerald Hyland. That supplementary report was criticised heavily by various organisations, among them ICNIRP and Cost 244.


Council of Europe

Council of Europe

flag of Council of EuropeThe Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (a separate institution from the European Union) passed a resolution concerning EMFs in May 2011.  Much of the detail is concerned with microwaves but there are some references to power frequencies, for example it calls on member states of the Council to:

“8.4. concerning the planning of electric power lines and relay antenna base stations:

8.4.1. introduce town planning measures to keep high-voltage power lines and other electric installations at a safe distance from dwellings;

8.4.2. apply strict safety standards for the health impact of electrical systems in new dwellings;…”

This resolution does not carry any force within member states.

Although the Council of Europe is a separate institution to the European Union, it shares a flag - see above!

European Economic and Social Committee

EESC flagThe EU's European Economic and Social Committee have decided to create an Opinion on hypersensitivity (they are using the acronym EHS, electromagnetic hypersensitivity).  This is in response to their perception of growing concerns among the European public, and would serve to raise the profile of the issue, and specifically to encourage the Commission to initiate some action.

A workshop took place on 4 November 2014 in Brussels,  Following that, a working group will develop a draft text of the Opinion, with a view to it being adopted in January 2015.

See more on hypersensitivity

See also: