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ITU Workshop on Human Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)

Turin, Italy, 9 May 2013

Opening Address

Buon giorno


Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to this workshop on human exposure to electromagnetic fields.

I would like to thank again the Italian Ministry of Economic Development for co-organising the events here this week, and especially Mauro Fazio, Director General of the Ministry for being with us, Telecom Italia for providing these excellent facilities, and Huawei for its sponsorship of the events.

I would also like to thank Mike Wood, ITU-T Study Group 5, Working Party 2 Vice-Chairman, and an expert in this filed, for agreeing to chair the workshop.

Wireless connection is the preferred means of connection for many people, and for many in developing countries it is the only means of connection. As information and communication technologies pervade all aspects of modern living whether related to economic activity, healthcare, education, or environmental protection as we have heard this week, administrations need to take account of the increases in radio frequency radiation emitted by more and more base stations, especially those installations erected in residential areas.

As the World Health Organization has pointed out, there are possible health risks associated with electromagnetic fields, which need to be properly considered and reported during the rollout of these new technologies.

A number of regulations and standards specify the factors to be considered when a deploying a base station, covering, among other things, the proximity of base stations to local communities and the means of measuring the specific absorption rate of radio frequency electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile-telephony base stations.

In the absence of regulation, people, in particular in developing countries, become more and more doubtful and are increasingly opposing the deployment of radio installations in their neighbourhoods. The rational solution to citizens’ concerns regarding exposure is to ensure that the actions of national regulators and network operators are accompanied to the greatest possible extent by transparency and communication with citizens. Citizens’ resistance to the establishment of base stations will diminish significantly if they are assured that regulators and network operators have complied with international best practices in deploying base stations.

International standards such as those published by ITU are a way to mitigate the potential risks in an environment where there is huge growth in deployment of wireless technology and infrastructure. ITU has been mandated to address this issue by Plenipotentiary Conference Resolution 176, World Telecommunication Standardisation Assembly Resolution 72, and World Telecommunication Development Conference Resolution 62. Resolution 72 calls on ITU-T, in particular ITU-T Study Group 5, to expand and continue its work and support in this area, including conducting workshops such as this.

ITU-T Study Group 5 is the world’s leading authority on EMF, and its Working Party 2 studies EMF issues under Question 7/5: “Human exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) due to radio systems and mobile equipment”. The resulting international standards (ITU-T Recommendations) provide high-level frameworks for the management of human exposure to EMFs emitted by telecommunication equipment, and also offer guidelines for the assessment of human exposure, based on existing ITU-T Recommendations and standards produced by other standards development organizations.

A recent key outcome of Study Group 5’s work includes the development of a new EMF handbook, and EMF Estimator software that calculates the cumulative radio frequency exposure levels in the vicinity of transmitting antennae. EMF Estimator also contains the library of the radiation patterns of transmitting antennas for a wide range of radiocommunication and broadcast services. A typical application for EMF estimator would be the calculation of EMF levels in a local community from a cellular base station or community broadcast service. I am sure this will be a very useful tool for administrations.

Additionally ITU-T Recommendations provides guidance for compliance with safety limits for human exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) as it relates to telecommunications installations, mobile handsets and other consumer devices emitting electro-magnetic radiation.

More details will be provided during the coming sessions from Tariq Al-Amri, Vice Chairman of ITU-T Study Group 5, and colleagues from the Radio and Development Bureaux of the ITU.

Today, we are becoming more and more reliant on ICTs and wireless communications, which offer unlimited opportunities. However, citizens and their health must not be side-lined. A balance must be achieved between the well being of citizens and the integration of ICTs in their lives.

We are fortunate to have a unique gathering of leading experts speaking on today’s programme, including World Health Organisation, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, International Electrotechnical Commission, regulators, policy makers, academia, vendors, and operators. I hope you will all join forces and begin the process of overcoming the prevailing concerns. It is a sensitive and sometimes political issue, but that is no reason not to address it, quite the opposite.

As with all our workshops, we would like to invite you at the end of the day to identify some actions that ITU, in collaboration with other relevant organisations, could take to improve the situation, and address the issues raised in Resolution 72.

I would like to thank the speakers, moderators, and all participants, and I wish you a rewarding and enjoyable workshop.

And finally let me once again thank Flavio Cucchietti and his Telecom Italia team, together with Cristina Bueti and her ITU colleagues, for all their effort in putting together the successful series of events this week.

Grazie mille