From Prudent Avoidance to Precaution: understanding the risk ...

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1. From Prudent Avoidance to Precaution: understanding the risk communication challenges EMF SCIENTIFIC WORKSHOP Melbourne, Tuesday 17 November 2009 Mike Dolan Executive Director Mobile Operators Association, UK www.mobilemastinfo.com

3. Key Issue Drivers Emerging science worldwide (30 years +) Duelling PhDs (WHO vs Bio-initiative) Media interest (power lines /leukaemia/ protests) Increasing concern regarding public safety and infrastructure Political pressure (local and national) Ongoing litigation (particularly in USA)

4. Risk and risk perception factors – why are people concerned? Risk perception Perception = Reality Precautionary recommendations can increase concerns WHO supports the levels set by ICNIRP as they are based on up to date scientific information WHO recommends against arbitrary precautionary levels. My reality is likely to be different from yours. Age, gender, cultural background, family and education all influence risk perceptions. Talking about EMF may increase some peoples concerns as they may not have considered the issue previously. Linking EMF to precautionary issues may be interpreted as confirming the possibility of a risk When faced with calls for precaution, emphasise the protective exposure standards with large safety standards, and the technology that minimises exposure and on going research. My reality is likely to be different from yours. Age, gender, cultural background, family and education all influence risk perceptions. Talking about EMF may increase some peoples concerns as they may not have considered the issue previously. Linking EMF to precautionary issues may be interpreted as confirming the possibility of a risk When faced with calls for precaution, emphasise the protective exposure standards with large safety standards, and the technology that minimises exposure and on going research.

6. ELF and Health in the UK Trench warfare during 1980s/1990s New enlightened approach in 2000s Stakeholder engagement process started by National Grid plc, 2003 Stakeholder Advisory Group on ELF established 2004 SAGE First Interim Assessment, 2007 SAGE second phase, 2008

8. SAGE and UK policy (1) Stakeholder Advisory Group on EMF (ELF) Initiated by National Grid plc but process handed over to independent facilitators Process used to manage public debate about ELF EMF and precaution in the UK Relationships with NGOs much improved All stakeholders invited to participate

9. SAGE and UK policy (2) Process came before outcomes Included all viewpoints without censoring, but also without endorsing them Sought to achieve ALARA - “reasonably” Assess “reasonably” using cost-benefit tools Discussions included alternative views Ultimately a decision for Government

10. SAGE and UK policy (3) Government response 16th October 2009 published online at: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publichealth/Healthprotection/DH_4089500 The Government supports the implementation of the low-cost options to: (i) support the optimal phasing of overhead power lines in those circumstances where this would significantly reduce public exposure to ELF EMF and would be cost effective to do so; (ii) draw the attention of manufacturers of electrical equipment to the advice issued by the World Health Organization on low-cost ways of reducing exposure; (iii) request the HPA to keep under review the possible relationship between childhood leukaemia and other causes of ill health and ELF EMF exposure; (iv) work with the HPA to deliver public messages that provide clear information about the risk of exposure to ELF EMF in the context of other societal risks.

11. SAGE and UK Policy (4) SAGE's cost benefit analysis does not support the option of creating corridors around power lines on health grounds. The Government therefore considers this additional option to be disproportionate in the light of the evidence base on the potential health risks arising from exposure to ELF/EMF and has no plans to take forward this action. The HPA advises that the EMF association with childhood leukaemia is weak and unproven and supports no cost/low cost options to reduce EMF exposure. Our position is in line with the WHO recommendation to explore low-cost ways of reducing exposure to ELF EMF.

12. Europe: the Precautionary Principle

14. ELF and Health in Australia NSW Gibbs Inquiry (quasi-judicial), 1990 NSW Gibbs Report, 1991 – “no health effects” But, precautionary (“Prudent Avoidance”) policy Electricity supply industry (ESAA) adopts policy of “acting prudently” including PA for new HVTLs, 1991 + distribution networks, 1992 Australian Federal Government endorses policy of PA for new HVTL development, 1998 PA = modest cost (5%), minimum inconvenience

15. Prudent Avoidance PA actions can apply at design, construction or operational stages Reduction of magnetic and / or electric field strengths – no specific target defined Can apply to distribution or transmission but mainly applied to new facilities Measures with modest cost and without undue inconvenience Paying particular attention to proximity to sensitive locations and groups No specific trigger under exposure standards and justifications not based on childhood leukaemia association

16. Prudent Avoidance “…doing what can be done without undue inconvenience and at modest expense to avert the possible risk to health from exposure to new high voltage transmission facilities. In practical terms this means designing new transmission and distribution facilities having regard to their capacity to produce EMFs, and siting them having regard to the proximity of houses, schools and the like.” (former Chief Justice Sir Harry Gibbs)

18. New Radiation Protection Standard Limits and Precautionary Measures for Reducing Exposure to Electric & Magnetic Fields — 0 Hz to 3 kHz The Draft Standard includes: mandatory Basic Restrictions for both occupational and general public exposure involving all or part of the human body; indicative Reference Levels for measurable quantities derived from the Basic Restrictions; approaches for verification of compliance with the Standard; requirements for management of risk in occupational exposure and measures for protection of the general public; precautionary measures to assist people on when and how to reduce exposure to electric and magnetic fields.

19. Risk Communication and ELF For ELF, the interpretation of scientific information often differs according to the source and the recipient Ambiguity surrounding the meaning and implications of the health risk information is a key characteristic of ELF Stakeholders are quite varied in background and skills, and often highly motivated Stakeholders interpret “precaution” according to pre-conceptions The potential for risk amplification and ‘risk indulgence’ is high. By risk indulgence we mean that some stakeholders will demand risk reduction measures that are disproportionate to the issue This requires effective risk management risk communication

21. Issues lifecycle Early risk management is better than CRISIS management Early intervention can minimise delay due to public concern. A combination of different risk communication approaches may be appropriate.Early risk management is better than CRISIS management Early intervention can minimise delay due to public concern. A combination of different risk communication approaches may be appropriate.

22. Risk Communication challenges for ELF International best practice suggests the following steps are necessary: Preparation Planning Competency establish an overall policy position engage stakeholders in dialogue to set the issue in context build bridges with trusted third party advocates develop guidance on where, when and how to consult develop supporting communication materials implement consistently, and review effectiveness

23. Why all this Matters Ethical and responsible position Enhances a climate of consent and strengthens trust in the regulation of health and safety Poor communication increases social costs and raises unnecessary anxiety – for all concerned Encourages “win-win” solutions for society

24. Thank You! Mike Dolan and Ray Kemp

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