Rachel's Precaution Reporter #107

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, September 12, 2007........Printer-friendly version
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Featured stories in this issue...

Germany Warns Citizens To Avoid Using Wi-Fi
  People should avoid using Wi-Fi wherever possible because of the
  risks it may pose to health, the German government has said. Germany's
  official radiation protection body also advises its citizens to use
  landlines instead of mobile phones, and warns of "electrosmog" from a
  wide range of other everyday products, from baby monitors to electric
Q&A: Mobile Phone Safety
  A series of conflicting reports has led to suspicions that mobile
  phone usage and the accompanying base stations may harm health and
  increase the risk of cancers.
Report Buttresses Argument Against Power Lines
  A new scientific report joins others in raising serious public
  health concerns over long-term exposure to electromagnetic fields from
  high-voltage power lines.
Danger To Children from Food and Drink Additives Is Exposed
  In England, adults are being advised to check for harmful food
  additives by scrutinising labels, yet many sweets and cakes are sold
  loose without labels, as is ice cream. The move has confounded experts
  and health campaigners, who say the government had missed an
  opportunity to take a tougher line by banning the additives completely
  instead of placing a huge burden on parents.
Food Alert as Every Additive Comes Under New Suspicion
  The safety of every food colouring and additive is being assessed
  independently by the European Food Safety Authority. Food safety
  experts expect most of these artificial colourings to be banned or
  phased out within two years.
Early Warning Ignored
  The chemical known as diacetyl was identified by scientists at the
  U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2002 as the cause
  of a debilitating and sometimes fatal lung disease among workers in
  the plants where it is produced, as well as plants where it is added
  to popcorn. Now a popcorn consumer been reported ill.
Reserve Ban on Mushroom Picking
  A nature reserve in mid Wales is banning all visitors from picking
  wild mushrooms because it says some species are in decline.


From: The Independent (UK), Sept. 7, 2007
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Environment Ministry's verdict on the health risks from wireless
technology puts the British government to shame.

By Geoffrey Lean

People should avoid using Wi-Fi wherever possible because of the risks
it may pose to health, the German government has said.

Its surprise ruling -- the most damning made by any government on the
fast-growing technology -- will shake the industry and British
ministers, and vindicates the questions that The Independent on Sunday
has been raising over the past four months.

Germany's official radiation protection body also advises its citizens
to use landlines instead of mobile phones, and warns of "electrosmog"
from a wide range of other everyday products, from baby monitors to
electric blankets.

The German government's ruling -- which contrasts sharply with the
unquestioning promotion of the technology by British officials -- was
made in response to a series of questions by Green members of the
Bundestag, Germany's parliament.

The Environment Ministry recommended that people should keep their
exposure to radiation from Wi-Fi "as low as possible" by choosing
"conventional wired connections". It added that it is "actively
informing people about possibilities for reducing personal exposure".

Its actions will provide vital support for Sir William Stewart,
Britain's official health protection watchdog, who has produced two
reports calling for caution in using mobile phones and who has also
called for a review of the use of Wi-Fi in schools. His warnings have
so far been ignored by ministers and even played down by the Health
Protection Agency, which he chairs.

By contrast the agency's German equivalent -- the Federal Office for
Radiation Protection -- is leading the calls for caution.

Florian Emrich, for the office, says Wi-Fi should be avoided "because
people receive exposures from many sources and because it is a new
technology and...research into its health effects has not yet been
carried out".

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From: BBC News, Sept. 12, 2007
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More research is to be carried out into mobile phone use

The debate about mobile phone safety has raged for years.

The UK's biggest investigation into mobile safety has now drawn up its
own conclusions.

What is the latest study?

The UK Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme was
established in 2001 on the recommendations of the independent
government-commissioned report chaired by Sir William Stewart.

The £8.8m programme has been jointly funded by government and
the industry, although it has an independent management committee.

Members mainly include university academics.

The first of the 28 research projects into mobile phones, base
stations and masts started at the end of 2001 and to date 23 have been

What health effects have mobile phones been linked to?

Fears have been raised about a number of possible adverse effects to

The highest profile consequence, some research has suggested, has been
an increased risk of brain and ear tumours.

But there have also been claims that radiofrequency fields affect
brain function, which could lead to problems with blood pressure and
heart rate.

And some argue that they are responsible for electrical
hypersensitivity, sufferers of which report headaches, dizziness and

They attribute these problems to devices such as mobile phones, base
stations, computers and televisions.

The 2000 Stewart report concluded that mobile phones did not appear to
harm health, but recommended further research was carried out.

And in 2005 Sir William added that mobile phone use by children should
be limited as a precaution -- and that under eights should not use
them at all.

Does the latest report give mobiles a clean bill of health?

It does rule out short-term effects to brain function and links to
electrical hypersensitivity and says further research is now not

But on the issue of cancer, it is more ambiguous. No evidence of a
greater short-term risk was found -- but researchers said the problem
was that cancers do not generally emerge until 10 to 15 years after
the event.

There were very few people in the study who had been using mobiles for
longer than 10 years, the researchers said.

But they added those that had did show a "hint" of an excess risk,
although this was only on the borderline of statistical significance.

Base stations were not looked at in as much detail as mobile phones.

But researchers said radio frequency exposure is much lower --
although there are problems measuring this exactly as it depends on
where they are sited -- and there are no health risks.

The programme did not look at mobile phone use in children.
Researchers said at the time mobile phone use by children was less
common than it is now and there were ethical concerns about testing

What is happening next?

The programme has been given over £6m to expand its remit. It
will now look at the effect of mobile phone technology on children as
well as carry out longer term studies on the risk of serious disease.

This will include looking for links to cancers and degenerative
conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

The research is likely to involve over 200,000 people and include
researchers from Denmark, Finland and Sweden as well as the UK.

What is the advice on mobile phones?

Professor Lawrie Challis would not be drawn on whether people -- and
in particular parents -- should restrict mobile phone use.

He said it was up to the government to offer advice, although in
previous media interviews he has warned about letting children use

The Department of Health said the precautionary principle set out by
Sir William still stands.

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From: The Province (Vancouver, B.C.), Sept. 6, 2007
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EMF emissions would be 149 times level recommended

By Brian Lewis, The Province

A scientific report released late last week joins others in raising
serious public-health concerns over long-term exposure to
electromagnetic fields from high-voltage power lines.

This one was compiled by international scientists, researchers and
public-health professionals from the University at Albany in New York
state, and concludes that existing limits are inadequate for public

Such emissions are linked to increased cases of childhood leukemia and
adult cancers later in life.

The new report recommends that allowable exposure to EMFs be limited
to about one milligauss (an EMF measurement).

That got the attention of the Tsawwassen Residents Against Higher
Voltage Overhead Lines, a group trying to block the B.C. Transmission
Corp.'s plan to replace two existing 138-kilovolt transmission lines
that run through their back yards, parks and the local high school
with 40-metre towers carrying 230-kilovolt power lines to Vancouver

Evidence at last year's B.C. Utilities Commission hearing, which gave
the project a green light, was that the new high-voltage lines will
emit 149 milligauss -- or almost 150 times the report's recommended
EMF levels.

The problem here is that the linkage of EMF exposure to cancer has not
been proven absolutely, unlike tobacco use or exposure to asbestos.

But increasingly, studies conclude such links exist, and the
Tsawwassen residents' group has turned to the Supreme Court of Canada,
where it seeks leave to appeal on the grounds that if an EMF health
risk is even suspected, the project shouldn't be built.

This is called the "precautionary principle," and it's been adopted by
some governments and jurisdictions, including the United Nations.

But the residents' group says concerns reach beyond caution. During
the utilities commission hearing, the group introduced affidavits from
58 households showing an above-average rate of cancer among family
members -- and among household pets -- along the power-line route.

However, despite the residents offering a viable route or construction
alternatives to reduce or eliminate these risks, the provincial Crown
corporation and Gordon Campbell's government have refused to back down
on the proposed routing.

The residents' group thinks it knows why.

"If we're successful in court, it'll set a huge precedent for the
government and the BCTC because much more due diligence will have to
be applied to these projects," says group co-chairman Cec Dunn.

Adds director Bernadette Kudzin: "Because the B.C. transmission grid
is so old, the Tsawwassen project is only the start of a lot of
upgrading -- this is all about money."

Kudzin is particularly concerned about the lines crossing South Delta
Senior Secondary School's grounds.

"Most of the high-school kids in our neighbourhood go to that school,
so they live under these power lines 24/7," she says.

Group members also point out that the existing 28-year-old limit of
833 milligauss, which the transmission corporation often cites, is
only for short-term exposure. They say there are no EMF limits in
Canada for long-term exposure.

For its part, the transmission corporation is fully aware of the
studies but says it's sticking with the current EMF guidelines even
though this latest report say they're not good enough.

Clearly, only the country's highest court will be able to decide this

Copyright The Vancouver Province 2007

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From: The Guardian, Sept. 6, 2007
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** Study links to hyperactivity and disruptive behaviour

** Government body tells parents to check packaging labels

** Angry reaction as decision on law change is passed to Europe

By Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent

Parents are to be warned of the dangers of giving their young children
drinks, sweets and cakes containing specified artificial additives, as
a result of new findings being made public for the first time today
which confirm their link with hyperactivity and disruptive behaviour.

The government's Food Standards Agency is taking the significant step
of issuing revised guidance to consumers recommending that they steer
clear of products containing certain E-numbers if their children are
showing signs of hyperactivity or attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD).

The release of the new public health advice follows the results of the
biggest UK study into the links between hyper-activity and chemical
food additives, which was commissioned by the government and published
today in the medical journal the Lancet.

But the move has confounded experts and health campaigners, who say
the government had missed an opportunity to take a tougher line by
banning the additives completely instead of placing a huge burden on
parents. Adults are being advised to check for additives by
scrutinising labels, yet many sweets and cakes are sold loose without
labels, as is ice cream.

The FSA also said it would not be issuing any formal advice about the
findings to headteachers about the content of school meals via the
School Food Trust.

The agency said yesterday it was passing them to the European Food
Safety Authority for it to make a decision about a ban as part of re-
evaluation of the safety of all food colours.

Hyperactivity is a behaviour officially indicated by increased
movement, impulsiveness and inattention, and can impair learning. It
is unclear how many people in the UK are affected by hyperactivity
conditions. In its more severe form ADHD is believed to affect between
2.4% and 5% of the population.

For their research, scientists from Southampton University recorded
the responses of 153 three-year-olds and 144 eight to nine year-olds
to mixes of additives placed in different drinks; they found that
artificial food colour and additives were having "deleterious

The children drank mixtures of additives, which included artificial
colourings and the preservative sodium benzoate, which is commonly
used in soft drinks. The mixtures were designed to reflect what a
typical child might eat in the course of a normal day.

The results of the Southampton study show that when the children were
given the drinks containing the test mixtures there was an increase in
hyperactivity. However, the responses were not consistent; some
children reacted significantly, others not at all.

The study found that the deterioration in behaviour after consuming
the additives occurred in children in the general population, not just
in those identified as suffering from hyperactivity.

Professor Jim Stevenson, who headed the Southampton study, said: "We
now have clear evidence that mixtures of certain food colours and
benzoate preservative can adversely influence the behaviour of
children. There is some previous evidence that some children with
behavioural disorders could benefit from the removal of certain food
colours from their diet."

He said it was his "personal view" that the government could easily
have taken a tougher line and banned the colours, although he admitted
the issue of sodium benzoate was more complex.

Dr Andrew Wadge, the FSA's chief scientist, said: "We have revised our
advice to consumers: if a child shows signs of hyperactivity or ADHD
then eliminating the colours used in the Southampton study from their
diet might have some beneficial effects."

He went on: "If parents are concerned about any additives they should
remember that, by law, food additives must be listed on the label so
they can make the choice to avoid the product if they want to."

A spokesman for the Hyperactive Children's Support Group said: "This
research confirms what many of us have known for 30 years. But we
seriously question the implementation of the new advice. Is it
practical to expect parents to quiz headteachers about additives in
school meals, or to ask parents about the contents of party bags?"

Popular drinks and sweets that still contain one or more of the named
additives include Diet Coke, Irn-Bru, Orangina, Refreshers and

Richard Watts, coordinator of the Children's Food Campaign, said: "The
junk food diet turns out to be bad for children's mental health, as
well as their physical health. We need to go further to make parents
aware of the potential health problems created by additives, as well
as do more to persuade children to eat less E-number-riddled junk food
by restricting its marketing and labelling it clearly."

The food and drink additive industry is worth more than $25bn
(£12.4bn) a year globally. But the impact of the research will
be much wider, affecting the whole of the food and drink industry.

Julian Hunt, of the Food and Drink Federation, stressed the work it
had already done to cut additives, and added: "As a responsible
industry, we shall be studying the detail of the research and
companies will clearly take account of these findings as part of their
ongoing review of product formulations. The industry continues to
respond to consumer demand by reducing the use of additives... many
food and drink products on supermarket shelves contain no artificial

The British Soft Drink Association said in a statement: "All
additives, including colours used in food and drink, have been
approved by the FSA as being safe for use and are carefully selected
and monitored. They are included to meet the expectations of the
public about the appearance and shelf-life of products and to enhance
the choices that are available to them."

Copyright 2007 Guardian Unlimited

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From: The Times (London, England), Sept. 6, 2007
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By Valerie Elliott, Consumer Editor

The safety of every food colouring and additive is being assessed
independently by the European Food Safety Authority. Food safety
experts expect most of these artificial colourings to be banned or
phased out within two years.

The Food Standards Agency made clear yesterday that it had the option
to introduce a unilateral ban, but it believes that an EU-wide ban
would be more effective, especially as many manufacturers operate
across the Continent. Scientists at the food safety authority's
headquarters in Palma, Italy, have examined the Southampton research
findings and are preparing a report for the European Commission.

Some experts believe that action may be taken sooner on colourings
than on the preservative sodium benzoate while manufacturers resolve
technical difficulties. Sodium benzoate extends the shelf-life of
drinks to about two years. Without it, many products would have to be
refrigerated while in storage.

The links between artificial colours and hyperactivity in children
have been known since the 1970s and companies have been lobbied by
parents and health campaign groups to remove them. Nestle has removed
artificial dyes from Smarties, and Burton's Foods removed them from
its Jammie Dodgers after consumer concerns.

Leading brands, including super-market own-labels, are unlikely to
contain many of these additives. Sainsbury's Kids range is already
free from artificial flavourings, colours and sodium benzoate, and the
company is reformulating more than 12,000 of its own-label items. A
spokeswoman said that it was seeking natural alternatives in canned
strawberries, raspberries, glace cherries, processed peas and angel
cake. She said that any additives were clearly labelled.

Marks & Spencer has also removed all artificial colourants and
flavourings from 99 per cent of products and has even introduced a new
range of gourmet jelly beans, using natural colours such as beetroot
red, concentrated plum, pear and pineapple juices or banana, peach and
raspberry fruit purees.

Consumers should be suspicious of any brightly coloured food and drink
products, especially in cheaper products. Icing on cakes and biscuits,
sweet desserts, instant pudding mixes, some jellies and confectionery
are the most likely candidates for E numbers. Sweets that are sold
loose and are frequently found in children's birthday party bags are
also prime suspects.

Malcolm Kane, a food technology consultant, campaigns for the removal
of additives. He said that after the war there were hundreds of
artificial colourings but these had been whittled down over the years
by health concerns. "What we are left with is about 12 azo dyes still
found and deemed safe to use in foods. But now is the time to ban them
from foods in the precautionary principle. We need to do this for food

"Everyone will remember the illegal use of Sudan I red dye in scores
of products. There are other illegal azo dyes but the testing
procedure makes it difficult to distinguish between a lawful and
illegal dye.

"It would make the control of such illicit dyes much better. We could
test for azo dyes and if any were found, food would immediately be
removed from human consumption."

Copyright Copyright 2007 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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From: Halifax (Nova Scotia) Chronicle, Sept. 10, 2007
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Popcorn producers warned in April 2006 about a chemical

By Jeff Nesmith

Over a year after they were given the secret results of an
Environmental Protection Agency study of potential health risks of a
chemical in microwave popcorn, major popcorn producers have begun
removing the substance from their product.

The results of the EPA study still have not been made public.

The chemical, known as diacetyl, was identified by scientists at the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2002 as the cause of a
debilitating and sometimes fatal lung disease among workers in the
plants where it is produced, as well as plants where it is added to

CDC's National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has called
the condition bronchiolitis obliterans, or "popcorn lung."

Diacetyl is used to make popcorn smell "buttery." An EPA study of
whether that appetizing smell endangers consumers was launched in the
aftermath of the CDC report.

In April 2006, EPA scientists at Research Triangle Park, N.C.,
completed an analysis of air released from bags of microwaved popcorn,
internal agency documents indicate.

Copies of the results were provided to popcorn producers three months
later, but for the following 13 months EPA has refused to make a
report containing data available to the general public.

During that time, Americans have consumed more than 750 million pounds
of home-popped popcorn, according to statistics posted online by an
industry group.

Last week, a health advocacy organization at George Washington
University here revealed that a Colorado physician had notified the
Food and Drug Administration in July that she had a patient who had
developed "significant lung disease whose clinical findings are
similar to those described in affected workers."

The patient had eaten "several bags of extra-butter-flavored microwave
popcorn" per day for several years, said the physician, Dr. Cecile
Rose of the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

David Michaels, an associate professor of environmental and
occupational health at George Washington University and director of
the university's Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy,
last week posted a copy of Rose's letter on his blog, the Pump Handle.

On Aug. 28, Weaver Popcorn Co. of Indianapolis became the first
microwave popcorn company to announce that it was removing diacetyl
from its product.

"It was a challenge to eliminate diacetyl from our flavorings and
still maintain the great buttery taste that consumers love, but we've
done it," Mike Weaver, president of the company, said in a news

He said the action was taken because "we know consumers are becoming
increasingly concerned about this issue."

The Associated Press reported that other large popcorn producers,
together responsible for more than 80 per cent of the U.S.'s supply,
said they would follow suit.

In response to a request under the federal Freedom of Information Act,
EPA recently released to Cox Newspapers several hundred pages of
documents related to the diacetyl study. However, it withheld the
study report, as well as comments the agency received from popcorn
companies after they were allowed to see the document.

The industry comments were withheld under a provision that exempts
confidential business information from mandatory disclosure.

The study itself was withheld under a FOIA provision that allows
agencies to withhold documents that are part of their pre-decisional,
deliberative processes.

EPA public relations personnel have said the study was being held back
so that it could be submitted to a peer-reviewed scientific journal
for publication. That has not yet taken place.

The records released to Cox show that EPA bowed in 2004 to industry
pressure regarding the manner in which the study results would be

This happened after an official of one company -- Weaver Popcorn -
warned that media attention resulting from the study "could
irreparably damage the industry."

Andrew Miller, then a Weaver vice-president and now director of the
Indiana Department of Agriculture, appealed to EPA scientist Jacky Ann
Rosati to withhold preliminary results until the final study was

"If this is combined with the issues surrounding worker safety and the
popularity of popcorn, the media could have a field day," Miller said
in an e-mail.

He said he expected media coverage would "go something like this: "The
EPA completed its research on America's favorite microwave popcorn and
found that 11 nasty compounds circulate through your microwave when it
cooks.' "

He warned that "any misstep could have a sizeable economic impact,"
adding: "I can only imagine what will happen to sales and subsequently
jobs and companies if consumers start believing that microwave popcorn
is turning their kitchen into a gas chamber."

A few days later Rosati, a principal investigator on the study,
replied that "after lengthy discussion with our public relations
staff, we will likely publish one complete paper on this study."

Copyright 2007 The Halifax Herald Limited

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From: BBC News, Sept. 11, 2007
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The Elan Valley Trust which is responsible for flora and fauna at the
reserve said any lesser restrictions would be impossible to police.

The trust's head ranger said some people were "cashing in" by selling
car boot loads of the mushrooms.

But it is unclear how the trust intends to prevent mushroom picking.

Chairman John Evans defended the blanket ban at the site known as the
Elan Estate.

"Our feeling is that if you permit some people to take some fungi,
some of the time, in some places, that it is impossible to police
that," he said.


I have been doing this for nine years without any problems, and there
is no scientific evidence that I'm causing any damage whatsoever by
picking mushrooms. -- Daniel Butler, tour guide


"Applying a precautionary principle, we think it is wiser to have a
total prohibition on the removal of any fungi on the estate.

"To study fungi, we do not believe it is necessary to remove the

To illustrate the problems faced by the trust, Mr Evans said a rare
bog orchid had been picked to extinction on the estate.

Head ranger Peter Jennings said there were no plans to erect warning
signs on the 70 square mile (181.3 square kms), 42,000-acre (16,997
hectares) estate which is in the counties of Powys and Ceredigion.

He claimed that some people were "cashing in" on the mushrooms as

He said: "We have had people from eastern Europe picking whole (car)
boot loads for commercial purposes.

Fantastically edible

"I have been here 20 years and in my time numbers have declined and
some species have disappeared from some sites, and it's no coincidence
it's the ones that sell for the most money."

However, Daniel Butler, a mushroom tour guide at the reserve,
questioned the ban.

"I have been doing this for nine years without any problems, and there
is no scientific evidence that I'm causing any damage whatsoever by
picking mushrooms," he said.

Asked why he had to pick the mushrooms instead of just looking at
them, he added: "They are fantastically edible, but some are only
about an inch off the ground and difficult to see without picking.

"I'm not commercially exploiting the valley, but I want to open
people's eyes to mushrooms."

Mr Butler claimed that his fungi tours generated about £25,000
for the local economy, and this year 84 people are expected to take

He said there were about 10,000 species of mushroom in Britain and
about 1,000 were found on the estate.

Copyright BBC MMVII

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  Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
  examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in
  action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making
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  principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

  We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we  
  believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what
  their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed
  to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

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