Social Issues and Public Communication

A lack of good risk communication and understanding of the public’s perception and acceptance of risk seem to be a major contributor to the fear about possible health effects from mobile communications technology. Also important is the public’s understanding of science.

Fear of technology is not novel. There has been fear of detrimental health effects when telegraph wires, TV sets, power transmission lines, aspartame, silicone breast implants, and many others were first introduced. Also, EMFs are not perceptible to our senses, adding to the public’s concern.

An obvious way to alleviate this fear and anxiety about possible RF effects is to provide people with as much information as possible (user education), provided such information is well proven and provided by qualified experts and organizations. Every effort must be made not to increase peoples’ concerns. For example, discussing scientific uncertainty and implementing precautionary measures may have a negative impact on the public’s perception of risk or its trust in policies and government agencies if not done with care.

An important factor for public acceptance of new technologies seems to be risk/benefit comparison, which is not obvious. Of particular interest to mobile phone users, industry and government is the fact that there have been few recent studies on risks versus benefits for mobile communications, compared to many other technologies that have a strong impact on society.

Despite the existence of an overwhelming body of serious research demonstrating no confirmed detrimental health effects from RF, with the exception of using a mobile phone while driving, alarmist media reports have created a public view that is out-of-step with the scientific evidence.

All technologies have their share of risks. These must be counterbalanced by a careful study of its benefits. Such is the case of automobiles, airplanes, chemicals used in agriculture, food conservation, oil and coal combustion, nuclear power, genetically modified foodstuffs, etc. Society has recognized and accepted all of them, due to their extreme usefulness provided the risks are managed by enforcing exposure limits, making technological modifications, or similar measures to reduce risks. Thus, there is a need for more studies focusing on the social and economical benefits of mobile communication technologies.

This section covers the report on social research and communication to the public, and addresses several interrelated topics, such as risk perception, risk acceptance and risk/benefit issues, social resistance to new technologies, the understanding benefits: perceived and real impacts of mobile communication on health, well-being and security of the public, public understanding of science. public communication on EMF and health issue,communicating about uncertainties in science. applying and communicating the precautionary measures, evaluating the quality of information to the public and ethical and professional responsibility of the mass media.

Latin American references on public communication and social research on EMF are scarce. Most of this review was based on references from country reports in Europe, the USA or other non-Latin American countries.

It is suggested there should be a reference location for the Latin American region providing Internet coverage of all relevant issues related to EMF and Health. It should be located either in the appropriate government regulatory agency or in a prestigious university or research institute.

Having many different rules only creates confusion and mistrust of government. Every effort should be made to harmonize standards at all levels (from national to state or municipality level) adopting science-based standards recommended by international bodies such as ICNIRP.

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