I set up an Inter-departmental Committee on the Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields, in September 2005, to consider the recommendations contained in the report, "Non-ionising radiation from mobile phone handsets and masts", published in June 2005 by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.
In that report the Joint Committee recommended: "That no mobile phone handsets should be allowed for sale in Ireland unless they are certified as complying with the International Commission for Non Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) standard."
And: "That all mobile phones should have a label that details its non-ionising radiation level — this to be similar to the A/B/C electricity efficiency rating applied to white goods."
It is already the case that all mobile phones and the associated base stations must comply with the international emission standards developed by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation (ICNIRP), and endorsed by the World Health Organisation and the European Union under Council Recommendation EC/519/1999. These standards are continually under review and take account of the totality of the latest scientific research.
Mobile phones on sale in Ireland must carry the CE mark to demonstrate compliance with these standards in accordance with the EU Council Radio and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Directive (RTTE), 1999/5/EC, transposed into Irish legislation under S.I. 240 of 2001.
Following their review, the Inter-departmental Committee noted that any further labelling would be contrary to that EU directive. Mobile phones are supplied with their tested maximum Specific Absorption Rate (SAR).
The Committee was guided by the science-based advice provided by an Expert Group, established by the Committee, who concluded that: "no adverse short or long-term health effects have been found from exposure to the radiofrequency signals produced by mobile phones and base station transmitters. Radiofrequency signals have not been found to cause cancer."
The Inter-departmental Committee has now reported to Government, which has decided that the current responsibilities of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in relation to the health effects of EMF will become the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government from 1st May 2007.
Furthermore, the Government decided that a single State agency be established to deal both with ionising radiation and non-ionising radiation. This will be achieved by extending the statutory powers of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) to include responsibility for matters relating to non-ionising radiation.
The details of implementation of the new mandate for the RPII, in particular the powers and functions and the resources necessary to deliver the extended functions, will be presented to Government for approval in due course by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, following detailed consultation with other relevant Government Departments and agencies.
Government has also agreed to establish a national research programme to undertake further scientific research in Ireland on the health effects of exposure to EMF. This research programme will build expertise in Ireland and contribute to global knowledge.