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Physical Agents Directive

In 2004 scientists and researchers objected to an EU Directive, planned to be incorporated into UK law in 2008, that set limits on occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields which would have made many procedures using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) illegal.

Sense About Science, the Royal College of Radiologists, the Institute of Physics, the British Institute of Radiologists and the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine, campaigned with scientists to repel the directive. We ran briefing sessions in Parliament, gave evidence to government enquiries and the Commons Science and Technology Committee and raised awareness of the issue in the media. There is a timeline of the campaign below. In October 2007 the implementation of the directive was delayed for four years, pending further research.

Tracey Brown, Managing Director, Sense About Science:When scientists approached us with their frustrations at the lack of response to their concerns about the legislation, we were surprised that no-one involved in the policy had considered the public impact - not only the unnecessary threat to healthcare and research, but also the likely confusion about the relative risks of different types of scans. The scientific reasoning was largely absent but there was a lot of resistance to changing a directive already passed. The repeal of the Directive shows that, armed with scientific reasoning, scientists were able to convince individuals in parliament and government, and eventually the Commission, that the problem needed to be sorted out. It’s a victory for scientific reasoning over obstinacy.”

Professor Peter Jezzard, Centre for Functional MRI in the Brain, University of Oxford; Co-Director, Oxford Centre for Clinical Magnetic Resonance Research:Clearly there is still work to be done in convincing the Commissioner of the safety of MRI, given that the problem is only defered, but the delay does at least provide the scientific community with an opportunity to assemble further evidence supporting the assertions that we have made all along.”

 

Timeline of the campaign

EU flag
 EU announces Physical Agents (EMF) Directive

2004

 

 

 

 Husband and Dixon
Radiodiagnostics briefing in Westminster

February 2005

 

 

 Briefing panel
Letter to Secretary of State

September 2005

 

 


Meeting with Department of Health

October 2005

 

 

Questions asked in the House of Lords

Two peer reviewed papers published criticising the evidence for PAD

December 2005

 

 


Federation of European Academies of Medical Sciences meets EU Health Department

January 2006

 

 


Campaigners meet with Commissioner Spidla

March 2006

 

 


The Health and Safety Executive begins its investigation into effects of the Directive

April 2006

 

 


Science and Technology Committee hears evidence from campaign

May 2006

 

 

Committee report
Science and Technology Committee publishes report, criticising handling of directive

June 2006

 

 


HSE working party meets for the first time

November 2006

 

 

EU Expert Committee begins investigation of Directive

EU Commissioners write to member state governments regarding implementation of Directive

January 2007

 

 

Crozier Report
Crozier Report criticises the Directive

May 2007

 

 

EU flag
Implementation of directive delayed for 4 years, pending further research

October 2007

 

 

HPA report
HPA report on non-ionising radiation is published

May 2008

 

 

IOP report
Institute of Physics publishes report examining the impacts of the Directive

December 2008