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Environmental Health Investigations Branch

About

EMF Program Goal

The California EMF Program's charge is to support research and provide education about whether exposure to EMF generated by the use of electricity can affect human health. Our goal is to foster a rational and fair approach to dealing with the potential hazards, if any, of exposure to EMF. We do this through research, policy analysis, education, and technical assistance.

Creation of the California EMF Program

California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Decision 93-11-013 created the California Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) Program to research and provide education and technical assistance on the possible health effects of exposure to electric and magnetic fields from powerlines and other uses of electricity. In addition to funding research and policy analysis on this issue, the EMF program provides education and technical assistance to government agencies, professional organizations, businesses, and members of the general public. Under the CPUC decision, this program is funded by money provided by the state's investor-owned utilities, and is based in the California Department of Health Services (CDHS). The California EMF program produces periodic reports to the CPUC, and our goal is to make our research, policy analysis, and educational products useful to the CPUC in future decision-making. Program Organization

The California Department of Health Services assigned Dr. Raymond Richard Neutra of the Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control to head the EMF Program. Funding for the EMF program became available on January 1, 1994, and the Public Health Institute (PHI, formally the California Public Health Foundation) became the program's nonprofit fiscal manager on April 30, 1994. PHI assists CDHS by handling the fiscal and administrative matters of the education unit, overseeing the extramural research unit and its subcontracts, and staffing the Stakeholders Advisory Consultants (SAC). After the formation of the SAC and an international search, the research director joined the staff on February 1, 1995. The PHI- hired staff work under the direction of Dr. Neutra.

Stakeholders Advisory Consultants

The CPUC decision that created the California EMF Program states that the involvement of stakeholders and the public is very important to the development of effective EMF policies. This decision asks DHS to determine what form of stakeholder and public involvement best meets its needs. CDHS decided that the most appropriate role for the SAC would be to advise the program on the development of the research projects and on budgetary matters, and to monitor its progress to ensure that the scientific and technical staff can exercise their responsibility and authority to carry out an effective program on behalf of the CPUC. The EMF program assembled the SAC in 1994 and they have met several times a year since then.

One important function of the SAC is to serve as a forum where all citizens can ask questions and express their concerns about the possibility of health effects from exposure to EMF and express their opinions about EMF policy. All SAC meetings are open to the general public. Stakeholders' concerns about the research projects have surfaced through discussions that extended in some cases over several quarterly meetings. For some important issues, such as conflict of interest and property values research, consensus was not possible. In these cases the program tries to find solutions that are technically and scientifically sound while being responsive to the basic concerns of the various stakeholders.

More about the Stakeholders Advisory Consultants


Science Advisory Panel

At the request of the Stakeholders Advisory Consultants (SAC), the California EMF Program created an external Science Advisory Panel (SAP) to provide scientific opinions and guidance on the program's Risk Evaluation Guidelines and the Risk Evaluation itself. An additional function of the SAP is to comment on whether the policy analysis documents incorporate the uncertainties about potential biological effects of EMFs in a scientifically sound and unbiased manner. To form the panel, the California EMF Program chose several areas of scientific expertise and then selected two candidates for each scientific area. To ensure that the candidates had no conflicts of interest that would prevent them from being on the Panel, candidates had to be free of any financial conflict of interest and could NOT have already taken a position as to whether EMFs did nor did not have adverse health effects. SAC members reviewed the résumé's of these candidates and took a vote for each scientific area. After considering these votes, the California EMF Program selected one scientist from each category. The list of SAP panel members, their areas of expertise and their academic affiliations can be accessed from the link below.

Science Advisory Panel


Research Unit

The goal of the Research Unit is to help answer the following four questions that decision-makers face as they deal with the EMF issue:

  • Is there a health problem? (risk research)
  • Where is the problem? (exposure assessment and analysis)
  • What can be done about it? (mitigation research)
  • What should policymakers do, or what are the policy options and their pros and cons? (policy analysis)

In order to answer these questions, the program's research priority areas are policy analysis, exposure assessment, epidemiology, and electrical engineering and mitigation.

More about the Research Unit


Education and Technical Assistance Unit

The goals of the Education and Technical Assistance unit are to:

  • Provide a trustworthy and balanced source of information about potential EMF health risks and mitigation options
  • Provide technical and consultative services to state and local officials, professional organizations, and the public about EMF exposures and health risks thought to be related to EMF
  • Facilitate and maximize opportunities for public input into program projects and goals and provide support and training to enable stakeholders to use and remain informed about the research program results
  • Coordinate actions within DHS, with other California state and local agencies, and with programs sponsored by the federal government, other state governments, and investor-owned and municipal utilities
  • Act as liaison between the program's Stakeholders Advisory Consultants and staff by organizing and facilitating meetings and preparing and distributing meeting minutes
  • Provide education and support for stakeholders and the public through the program newsletter, and prepare and distribute important program materials.

To accomplish these goals, Education and Technical Assistance staff write and distribute educational materials, organize meetings and workshops for stakeholders and the general public, produce a newsletter to keep stakeholders and interested parties informed of program activities, and respond by telephone, mail, and electronic mail to questions raised by members of the public.

More about the Education and Technical Assistance Unit


Program Synthesis Projects

One of the most important issues discussed with SAC is the "Program Synthesis." This is the final phase of the EMF program, during which the research results will be reviewed and used as the basis for preparing reports and products to inform future discussions on this issue. As a result of SAC discussions EMF decided to pursue a program synthesis that includes four elements:

  • An evaluation of the evidence of risk based on results of this program as well as other research
  • A policy integration document to help decision-makers use the policy analyses' results
  • A well thought-out process for releasing the data collected in and results of the research projects
  • Opportunities for potential end-users of the research effort to familiarize themselves with complex technical documents

The addition of this program synthesis required two applications to the CPUC for no-cost extensions of the program. In 1997, the CPUC responded to the first request by ordering an extension of the program through March 1, 2000. When it became clear that it would not be possible to complete all of the program's projects by that date, the program requested a second extension through the end of 2001. This request was granted, and the program is now scheduled to end by December 31, 2001.

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What's On This Page:

EMF Program Goal

Creation of the California EMF Program

Program Organization

Stakeholders Advisory Consultants

Research Unit

Education and Technical Assistance Unit

Program Synthesis Projects