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New Zealand's regulatory situation for EMF exposure

Our regulatory system for standard-setting falls under a number of different government ministries, committees and mechanisms

Standards are set by: 

  1. The interpretation of scientific reports by an NZ committee: The Interagency Committee on the Health Effects of Non-Ionising Fields.

  2. Advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO)

  3. The international Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) who are an organisation that creates multiple standards for electronic equipment. The specification of most equipment conform to IEEE standards.

  4. Other regulatory standards cover the ownership of parts of the EMF spectrum

For example, meteorologists get their own part of the spectrum. 

Standards are: 

  1. Radiofrequency field standard: New Zealand standard NZS 2772.1:1999. This standard is set by the Interagency Committee. It focuses on the heating effect of EMF and ignores the literature on other effects. Part 2 of the Standard NZS 2772.2:1999. (AS/NZS 2772.2:2016 focuses on the principles of measuring this. The limits in the Standard are based on guidelines published in 1998 by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), who advise the WHO.


Cell tower roll out and siting is managed nationally

By the intent of the law, local councils have very little say in the rollout and siting of towers. The National Environmental Standards for Telecommunication Facilities (NESTF) regulations control this and the output of the towers conform to the above NZS 2772.2:1999. (Australian version: AS/NZS 2772.2.:2016) standard.  

The general public is also disenfranchised under this legislation: if a cell phone tower is going to be sited beside your home, you have very little redress under this law. Schools and pre-school environments can have cell towers right beside them.

The Interagency Committee

This is a committee which reports to the Director-General of Health and meets every six months and provides reports to the Chief Executives of the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Economic Development. The composition of this committee has been dominated by industry representatives rather than health scientists and Safe ICT NZ doesn't find the scientific representation fully independent.


Safe ICT NZ understands that academics publishing in this field, those with expertise in biological effects including a former advisor to the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited (ESR), and a lawyer knowledgeable in this field, have not been allowed entry into this committee.

Under the terms of reference of the Interagency Committee (shown below), there should be representatives of many groups on the committee.


Ministry of Health details of the committee composition, from  terms of reference:
The membership of the Committee will include representatives from the following agencies, organisations, and sectors:
Ministry of Health
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment: Energy Safety Service, Workplace Health & Safety, Radio Spectrum Management
Ministry of Education
Ministry for the Environment
public health unit
local government
electrical industry: transmission and supply
telecommunications industry >Ineragency Committee: Terms of Reference (doc, 33 KB) sic


Regulations regarding cell phone tower output and siting, come under the Resource Management Act (1991) NESTF regulations, controlled nationally by the Resource Management's  National Environmental Standards for Telecommunication Facilities (NESTF) Regulations 2016. In 2008 the NESTF 2008 came into effect and were updated in 2016, with a user guide published in 2018. Recently, the New Zealand Outdoors Party contested the legality of the NESTF regulations which all rest on the out-dated principle that non-ionizing radiation only does harm if it is strong enough to heat you. Unfortunately, the Government upheld this standard. Despite issuing an invitation for submissions, the government didn't wait for these submissions to be received before deciding to continue on with what is in effect an old and never actually properly protective standard.

Rather than take a precautionary approach our standards tend to fit with industry need 

The Australian standards-setting agency  Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) is invited to take part in the Interagency Committee as NZ and Australia tend to share standards (RPS3 AS/NZS 2772.1:2016).

Dr Donald Maisch has written his doctoral thesis on how our combined standards cut off from consideration scientific data which doesn't conform to industry needs. 

Donald Maisch was a member of the Standards Australia TE/7 committee which examined what constituted a suitable precautionary approach when setting radio frequency (RF) exposure standards in order to address scientific uncertainty and provide adequate public health protection.


Rather than taking a precautionary approach, our standard-setting organisations have followed a Procrustean approach. This consists of cutting off from consideration, scientific data that does not conform to their bed of knowledge. This is detrimental to public health protection. A PDF summary of his thesis is here. 

In short: New Zealand regulation, in all guises, depends on the advisors to the World Health Organisation for its standards.
WHO's advisor's ICNIRP ignore, and fallaciously denounce, many robust studies including the International Agency for the Research on Cancer and 30 million dollar National Toxicology Programme's study. 
ICNIRP who advise WHO, are a self-appointed group, and there is a lack of transparency of their activities and their decisions in matters of the interpretation of the scientific evidence. This is both according to the other scientists in this field and a recent report by members of the European Parliament.
Our own Dr Neil Cherry said of ICNIRP “They consistently
misquote and misrepresent the published research results.
No scientist opposing the view that heating is the only relevant potential health-factor of non-ionizing radiation worth considering—has ever been accepted as a member of ICNIRP. 

New Zealand STANDARD

NZS 2772.1:1999 sets basic restrictions on the amount of radiofrequency power absorbed in the body. This is measured as the specific absorption rate (SAR) – the rate at which radiofrequency radiation is absorbed in the body, measured in watts per kilogram (W/kg).

Under NZS 2772.1:1999, for exposures of the public the SAR averaged over the whole body must be less than 0.08 W/kg. When using a transmitter close to the body (for example, a cellphone), localised increases up to 2 W/kg over any 10 g of body tissue are allowed.

There is an open-access report commissioned by two members of the European
Parliament on ICNIRPs conflict of interest

Summary of Don Maisch's thesis: outlining how our standard (shared with Australia) meets industry needs, rather than taking a precautionary approach in relation to our health.

World Health Organisation (WHO)

Dismissal of non-thermal effects

"Interestingly and importantly, ICNIRP (The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) advisory group to WHO, dismisses completely the existence and significance of 'non-thermal' effects. They dismiss the existence of the risk of cancer in long term avid users of mobile phones,  They dismiss the  International Agency for the Research on Cancer (IARC)’s classification of RF as a possible human carcinogen. The IARC review of science was not included in the list of science reviews used by ICNIRP in preparation of the new guidelines.—Dariusz Leszczynski (Invited Reviewer to the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP); biological effects of radiation emitted by the security devices; 2000)

2011 unanimous agreement RF radiation possible carcinogen

In 2011, a group of international experts agreed unanimously in advising the WHO to classify non-ionizing radiation as a possible carcinogen. Instead of updating this categorisation to probable carcinogen as members of that group believe should happen, recent appointments to the advisory have returned to a message of not enough consistent evidence to conclude harm. There is even a picture on the 2014 WHO website of a very young child with a working phone. Experts in the field see this interpretation of the science as showing an industry preferred interpretation. (It has parallels with the tobacco Industry claims of not enough consistent evidence to conclude harm.)  Regarding independence from industry and impartiality, there are claims by WHO of independence, but this amounts to signing a paragraph on a contract, and some refuse to be involved with ICNIRP because of this lack. You can see the thermal effects argument in their latest standards document put out in March 2020.

ICNIRP Lack of transparency

Dariusz Leszczynski also says "On the contrary to ICNIRP claims, there is a complete lack of transparency of their activities and their decisions in matters of the interpretation of the scientific evidence. There is a complete lack of supervision of its activities, that is being purported by the self-claim of scientific independence."

ICNIRP's Dismissal of the findings and methods of the NTP report unsubstantiated

You can read a rebuttal of ICNIRP dismissal of the National Toxicology Programme's findings here by the NTP study designer Dr Ronald Melink. He says “At the very least, ICNIRP should promote precautionary advice for the general public rather than trying to justify their decision to dismiss findings of adverse health effects caused by RF-EMFs and thereby retain their 20+-year-old exposure guidelines that are based on protection against thermal effects from acute exposures.” It is clear that ICNIRP has made "unsubstantiated" claims about the NTP study. 

Lancet report on the WHO

In 2007 The Lancet published a report on WHO, saying "When developing "evidence-based" guidelines, the World Health Organization routinely forgets one key ingredient: evidence."

The study was conducted by Dr. Andrew Oxman and Dr. Atle Fretheim, of the Norwegian Knowledge Centre for Health Services, and Dr. John Lavis at McMaster University in Canada. They interviewed senior WHO officials and analyzed various guidelines to determine how they were produced. What they found was a distinctly non-transparent process. 

"If countries do not have confidence in the technical competence of WHO, then its very
existence is called into question," said Horton, the journal's editor. "This study shows that
there is a systemic problem within the organization, that it refuses to put science first."

Excerpt from Alison Katz leader of The Independent WHO

Open letter to Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization 

". The private sector has no place in public health policymaking at a global or national level...As you know, public-private partnerships have become the policy paradigm for
global health work despite the evident conflict of interest which would have outlawed such arrangements thirty years ago.

Agencies and organizations with public responsibilities are "partnering" with the private sector for one reason. It (appears to have) become the only source of funds. This situation has arisen because under neo-liberal economic regimes, public sector budgets have been slashed and tax bases destroyed. Those developments are themselves the result of the influence of transnational corporations on governments and the international financial institutions". 


Note at the end of the open letter, Alison is now the leader of The Independent WHO fighting for it to be transparent and accountable. "My post was abolished three weeks after the work stoppage and three weeks before the normal renewal of my two-year contract, after 17 years service. This has been qualified as retaliation for industrial action (a violation of human rights) by Swiss unions and staff association lawyers".

In the  European Union's Reflex Report the late Dr Ross Adey laments the evolving pattern in research funding:

"Not only have governments permitted corporate interests in the communications industry to fund this research, but they have also even permitted them to determine the research questions to be addressed and to select the institutions performing the research. 

Participating scientists have all too often accepted unrealistic expectations that, in a matter of a few years, they will provide answers to pivotal questions in cell and molecular biology that can only be achieved slowly, painstakingly and collaboratively over a decade or more."(page 17) 

Adey (one of the most esteemed researchers in this field) also says "Formal instruction in physics, theoretical and applied, has become the weakest link for those entering on a
a career in medical research....without versatility in biophysics that matches their
typical knowledge in molecular biology and biochemistry, none of these students may cross this threshold to the cutting edge of in future medical research".


IEEE standards are all based on avoiding the heating effect, once again, a regulation developed in 1998 prior to a lot of research being completed. "Several members of ICNIRP are also members of ICES that form the safety committee of the IEEE.

Rationale and Evidence for Russian standards being safer sidelined by WHO's EMF Project 

Olga Sheean who worked for WHO and also suffers electro-sensitivity and had a brain tumor removed has done a lot of research to determine how this happened to her. She has written a document called "World Health Organization Setting the standard for a wireless world of harm" discussing the EMF Project by WHO.

In this document she highlights how the Chinese and Russian scientists work: important primary research studies, and papers describing the rationale and  evidence for the Russian standards being 100 times more stringent (safer) than those of ICNIRP, Canada, the USA and most European countries, have been made to 'un-happen'


She writes: "UN documents are translated into the official UN languages of French, Spanish, Chinese and Russian, among others. The UN has translators in all languages and ample expertise at its disposal. Yet, in Appendix X of the draft RF EHC monograph, Under X.1, Relevant studies, line 46, WHO claims that, “due to restricted language competence of available experts and restricted options for translations, none of the identified Russian papers and only epidemiological Chinese papers have been included”. 

Furthermore, only “...experimental studies with laboratory animals and
observational studies on domestic animals were considered, ruling out "...elegant, well designed and blinded study conducted on the European robin,26 clearly demonstrating non-thermal effects of ambient radiofrequency radiation, will be excluded—as will the many studies on insects and plants, which
unequivocally show non-thermal effects at below international standards.

The  Insurance Industry has serious concerns about the health effects, and exclude cover for EM and RF from their policies.

Our most experienced and well-trained risk assessors are in the insurance industry are they not?

Insurance underwriter's Lloyd’s of London excludes coverage for injury from RF-EMR exposure claims, they say: 

"We will not

a) make any payment on your behalf for any claim, or
b) incur any costs and expenses, or
c) reimburse you for any loss, damage, legal expenses, fees or costs sustained by you, or
d) pay any medical expenses . . . for . . .[damage from]

32. Electromagnetic fields (General Insurance Exclusions –Page 7 of the policy): directly or indirectly arising out of, resulting from or contributed to by electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetism, radio waves or noise.”

These details are from a post on Scientists for Wired Technology

Interestingly, this also includes the use of electromagnetic radiation emitted from Smart Meters (AMR, AMI, PLC), from Home Area Network devices and appliances (including thermostats), from Wi-Fi transmitters, from wireless devices in schools, offices, and homes, and from wireless sensors and wireless-connected fire alarms.

Michael Repacholi, the founder of ICNIRP, established
the WHO International EMF Project (IEMFP) in 1996 and remained in charge of it until 2006, when he reportedly resigned after allegations of corruption to officially become an industry consultant. In 2004, Repacholi stated in a conference presentation that the IEMFP was able to “receive funding from any source through Royal Adelaide Hospital; an agency established
through WHO Legal Department agreement to collect funds for the project”—an arrangement
that reportedly enabled receipt of annual payments of $150,000 from the cellphone industry.
Thus, in spite of their stated rules and protestations to the contrary, there have been persistent allegations that both ICNIRP and the relevant section of WHO is riddled with undeclared conflicts of interest. In the USA, the Federal Communications Commission, whose function it is to
regulate the wireless industry in that country, has been openly characterized by the Edmond J.
Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University as “a captured agency”—Dr Susan Pocket. Published and then retracted paper from Magnectochemistry in 2019.
In Russia the maximum
allowed levels of human
exposure to EMF is 10 µW/сm2 recommended by Dr Oleg Grigoriev chairman of the Russian Committee on Non-ionizing Radiation and based on effects on the  nervous system.

Safe Information and Communications Technology for New Zealand 

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