This is not a new story but with the ever more urgent push to bathe us all in 5G radiation, both from the telecoms industry and government who are raking in the license fees, it is worth revisiting.
I was reminded of it by a colleague who pointed me to an article in Principia Scientific International (of which more anon) – but the issue has been on the minds of insurers for ten years. Back in 2010 in their report, Electromagnetic fields from mobile phones: recent developments, Lloyds were already drawing the parallels with asbestos. As a result they were wary about accepting too trustingly the assurances that exposure to electromagnetic radiation was harmless. Note the cautious tone of the conclusion to their 20 page report:
The large bulk of scientific evidence shows that exposure to EMF from mobile phones does not cause cancer, with the exception of exposure over ten years where there are some indications of an increased risk of certain types of brain cancer, namely acoustic neuromas and gliomas. Similarly, other health problems, such as self-reported symptoms do not seem to be caused by EMF. However, the lack of long-term data coupled with the long latency periods of many cancers means that further long-term studies are needed to confirm there is no health risk from long-term low EMF exposure.
With regards to the implication to insurance, as the current scientific evidence stands, it is unlikely that insurers will be liable for compensation for bodily injury on product liability policies. However, as asbestos has shown, new scientific developments coupled with a small number of key legal cases can change the situation very rapidly.
10 years later
Now, nearly 10 years later, a great deal more scientific evidence has accumulated as to the possible health risks, especially to children, of man-made electromagnetic radiation (see the Bioinitiative Report’s latest 2019 updates). Meanwhile the use of the technology has proliferated massively. As a result insurance companies are increasingly nervous about the possible financial implications for them.
Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest insurance companies, in their Emerging Risks Insight in 2013, class the possible ‘overall impact’ as ‘High’ within a 10 year time frame:
Unforeseen consequences of electromagnetic fields
The ubiquity of electromagnetic fields (EMF) raises concerns about potential implications for human health, in particular with regard to the use of mobile phones, power lines or antennas for broadcasting. Over the last decade, the spread of wireless devices has accelerated enormously. The convergence of mobile phones with computer technology has led to the proliferation of new and emerging technologies. This development has increased exposure to electromagnetic fields, the health impacts of which remain unknown.
Anxiety over the potential risks related to EMF has risen. Studies are difficult to conduct, since time trend studies are inconsistent due to the still rather recent proliferation of wireless technology. The WHO has classified extremely low-frequency magnetic fields and radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, such as radition emitted by cell phones, as potentially carcinogenic to humans (Class 2B carcinogen). Furthermore, a recent ruling by an Italian court suggested a link between mobile phone radiation and human health impairment. Overall, however, scientific studies are still inconclusive regarding possible adverse health effects of EMF.
If a direct link between EMF and human health problems were established, it would open doors for new claims and could ultimately lead to large losses under product liability covers. Liability rates would likely rise.
And now Lloyds of London and its underwriters, CFC Underwriting, in their 2015 Policy Document for Architects and Engineers (P.7) include claims arising out of
32. Electromagnetic fields –
directly or indirectly arising out of, resulting from or contributed to by electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic electromagnetism, radio waves or noise.
in their list of ‘exclusions’ – eg claims that they will not cover.
If an insurance company will not cover a risk that is because they regard it as a genuine risk with a credible likelihood of claims that will cost them a lot of money.
Badly burnt by asbestos, they see all too many parallels between it and EMR: a heavy push by industry and government to use a new technology, initially very little research on the health risks, a growing scientific and public concern over these risks backed by more and more credible evidence – but denied by industry and governments now heavily invested in the technology. What the insurance industry envisions is that the refusal to apply the precautionary principle may end in a pandemic of EMR-related illnesses, potentially far more costly than asbestos which was at least limited to one, albeit fatal, condition.
If they are worried, should we not be worried too?
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