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French Senate passes bill to add precautions to wireless networks and mobile phones

The French senate has passed a bill in an attempt to introduce additional precautions for the use of wireless networks and mobile phones, such as, turning off wireless networks in primary schools when they are not in use and requiring new mobile phones to include specially designed hands-free kits for children.

“This amendment takes into account the rights of parents to be informed when their children are exposed to electromagnetic fields. It also follows the principles of common sense in switching wireless networks off when they’re not in use,” Joël Labbé, Greens Senator for the department Morbihan in Western France, said.

The heavily amended bill on “sobriety, transparency and consultation regarding exposure to electromagnetic fields” (in French) had previously passed through the National Assembly, or lower house, where it must return for a second vote in its current form before being mandated into French law.

A large part of the bill is in response to community concerns that children are more affected by exposure to electromagnetic fields than adults – a view which is not supported by international health authorities. In January 2014 the French National Academy of Medicine (Academie Nationale de Medecine) warned that the bill would unnecessarily increase public anxiety.

The bill requires that Wi-Fi networks in primary schools be switched off when not being used for educational purposes and also requires that when sold to a child under the age of 14, a mobile phone must include a hands-free kit specifically designed for children.

The bill also requires that operators reduce “outlier” points – which are areas where radio frequency and electromagnetic field exposure measure about the national average. French operators will be given a six month period to achieve these reductions.

If the bill is enacted, within a year the Government will be required to submit a report to Parliament into electro-hypersensitivity. Although, the European Commission’s expert independent advisory group – the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) –2014 opinion (pdf) specifically addresses electro-hypersensitivity and concludes:

“The symptoms that are attributed by people to RF [radio frequency] exposures can sometimes cause serious impairments to a person’s wellbeing. However, research conducted since the 2009 opinion adds weight to the conclusion that RF exposure is not the cause of these symptoms.”

Since first passing through the lower house in January the bill undergone a total of 55 amendments including using “sobriety” instead of “moderation” as the term was deemed to be difficult to define in a legal context.

The large number of amendments also means that the bill covers a variety of subjects broadly related to electromagnetic fields and mobile phone use.

The bill was sponsored by the Greens and was supported through the senate by the socialist and communist parties, 163 voted in favour of the bill with 149 in opposition.

The Greens also attempted to include a ban on the targeted advertising of tablets to children under the age of 14 but were not successful.

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