Date: 4 July 2003

Media Contact:
Brendan Elliott
ARPANSA Public Affairs
0407 496 184

Electromagnetic Radiation Health Complaints Register Launched

Australia has its first centralised Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) Health Complaints Register from today. The CEO of ARPANSA, Dr John Loy, said in Sydney: "Members of the public who believe they have suffered ill-effects as a result of exposure to EMR can now lodge a written complaint with a national database administered by ARPANSA. The agency cannot investigate or attempt to resolve individual complaints, but a standard reporting form allows people to describe the nature of their exposure and any adverse health effects they claim to have experienced. ARPANSA will protect the privacy of complainants."

"The Health Complaints Register will collect reports of health concerns related to possible EMR field exposures in the range of 0-300 GHz. Therefore, it is important to note that the register will not be limited to telecommunications equipment like mobile phones and broadcasting transmitters but will also include sources such as powerlines, induction heaters, microwave ovens and other personal, industrial and scientific EMR producing equipment."

John Loy added: "In designing the Health Complaints Register ARPANSA consulted with other government departments, industry, and community organisations. Relevant data gathered will be used to produce statistical summaries for the public, and the Commonwealth Government, on the nature and level of complaints received. Information could be used by ARPANSA to help identify future areas of research into the effects of electromagnetic fields on people and the environment. Register information may also be disclosed to the National Health and Medical Research Council for its consideration."

The Health Complaints Register honours an undertaking made by the Commonwealth Government in response to recommendations of the Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee inquiry into EMR in late 2000. The Committee report was tabled in May 2001. Government Senators considered (p.180): "…that the development of a database of reports of adverse health effects from mobile phones and other sources of radiofrequency radiation would assist researchers in formulating research hypotheses, and contribute to public confidence in measures being adopted to minimise health risks associated with EMR."

To avoid restricting and distorting responses the standard reporting form asks people to record six things:

  1. personal details;
  2. whether they are willing to be contacted by the NHMRC and/or ARPANSA if necessary;
  3. symptoms which they believe result from their EMR exposure;
  4. whether they have seen a medical or health practitioner about their complaint;
  5. the EMR exposure source; and
  6. acknowledgment that they understand the purpose for which the information has been collected, and the conditions that surround its collection, retention and use.