Canadian Underwriter

Lloyd’s report explores links between electro-magnetic field (EMF) exposure and asbestos exposure

November 15, 2010   by Canadian Underwriter

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A “large bulk” of scientific evidence shows exposure to electro-magnetic fields (EMF) from mobile phones does not cause cancer, although not enough long-term data is available to rule out the risk conclusively, Lloyd’s of London says in a November 2010 report, Electro-Magnetic Fields From Mobile Phones: Recent Developments.
The report likens insurers’ exposure to EMF from cell phones to insurers’ exposure to asbestos.
“The comparison here with [asbestos and] EMF is obvious,” the report notes. “If [EMF] is proven to cause cancer, then the injuries may not become clear until many years after the exposure due to similarly long latency periods.
“The danger with EMF is that, like asbestos, the exposure insurers face is underestimated and could grow exponentially and be with us for many years.”
The report cites an estimate that product liability cases related to asbestos exposure in the United Kingdom market would amount to £8 billion pounds between 2009 and 2040. This is double an initial estimate of £4 billion over the same period.
“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,” the report says. “However, as asbestos has shown, new scientific developments coupled with a small number of key legal cases can change the situation very rapidly.”
In particular, more research needs to be done on the effects of EMF on children, the report says.
The report notes EMF cases would differ from asbestos cases in terms of apportioning liability.
“Although if it is proved that EMF does cause cancer, the problem of apportioning liability due to different cell phones used at different times will be similar to the difficulties witnessed in determining which company was responsible for the injury caused by asbestos,” the report says. “However the situation is more complex with EMF than asbestos.”
For example, whereas mesothelioma can, as a rule of thumb, only be caused by asbestos exposure, brain cancer can be caused by variables unrelated to EMF, and some of which are unknown.

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