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Environ Health Perspect. 1996 Sep;104(9):908-11.

An evaluation of precaution-based approaches as EMF policy tools in community environments.

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  • 1Health Research and Evaluation Division, Southern California Edison Company, Rosemead, CA 91770, USA.


This paper explores the use of precaution-based approaches as policy tools when responding to concerns about power-frequency electric and magnetic fields (EMF) in community environments. The combination of public concern and scientific uncertainty about potential health impacts from exposure to EMF challenges society to adopt EMF policies that balance the benefits of electric power against the possibility that some aspect of the use of electricity may be harmful. Inappropriate policy responses can undermine the economics of society's use of electricity and have other adverse consequences on public health. These adverse consequences result from the inappropriate diversion of scarce public and private resources. Precaution-based approaches are rooted in individual concepts of common sense and can be an effective component of a comprehensive set of EMF policy options. Precaution-based approaches do not replace science-based policy options and should only be used when the available science-based guidelines are not applicable. The application of these approaches should balance the real and expected costs and benefits of taking or not taking action. Given our current scientific knowledge, actions taken to reduce EMF exposure should necessarily be low cost because the expected benefits are uncertain. Society also needs to avoid adopting EMF policies that could incur high costs from distorting resources from other, more important, personal and public health priorities.

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