Probing electromagnetic safety

Guest post by chinadialogue intern Zhang Chun.

On June 18, the Chinese Society for Environmental Sciences organised a seminar in Beijing on public understanding of the risks of electromagnetic radiation. Experts and academics taking part argued that erroneous statements and sensationalist media reports had had a detrimental impact on public awareness of the issue and perception of the risks.

Panel members pointed out that, thanks to a wide range of – often untrustworthy – sources of information about electromagnetic radiation, public understanding is often misguided. People are excessively concerned about electricity frequencies and radiation encountered in daily life, including high-voltage electricity lines and transformer sub-stations, as well as mobile phones and wireless internet devices, they said. 

A representative from Beijing-based NGO Green Beagle said that lines of communication between scientific research and public awareness had been hampered on this topic.

Yang Xincun, former senior advisor to the electromagnetic impact laboratory of the State Grid, added that inconsistencies in expert statements and exaggerated media reports had caused unnecessary fear among the public. Authoritative voices on the issue are lacking, and dissemination of reliable information has been poor, Yang said, urging the media and public interest groups to look to international standards when reporting the issue, and to be more rigorous in their coverage.

Engineer Zhu Kunhe and Ministry of Environmental Protection radiation expert Yuan Yuming both said electromagnetic issues are likely to become even more complex in the future, and that both scientists and the media must assume more responsibility in terms of public education and guidance.

Translated by chinadialogue volunteer 凯利