After months of negotiations, the Italian ministries of the environment, health and telecommunications announced agreement yesterday for tough new limits for electromagnetic fields (EMF), based on the precautionary principle. Following recommendations by the Italy's environment agency and the national health institute the new government decree, which will come into force on 2 January 1999, sets a limit of 6 V/m for electric emissions and 0.016 A/m for magnetic emissions. While no evidence exists of adverse effects of EMF on the population, the Italian government has "decided to apply the precautionary principle and take into consideration not only the possible direct effects, but also any medium and long-term risks," said junior environment minister Valerio Calzolaio. "In 1998, Italy made a cultural and institutional shift by focusing its attention on this type of pollution," he added. "1999 is the time for political choices and practical changes to protect public health." Referring to a meeting of EU health ministers due to be held next Thursday, he urged the Italian delegation to put pressure on its European partners for the adoption of the precautionary principle. An EU draft recommendation, as it stands at present, makes no mention of the possible medium to long-term effects of EMF (ENDS Daily 22 June). Mr Calzolaio also urged electricity supplier ENEL to increase its efforts to minimise the environmental and health impact of its plants. He said that a joint protocol setting the framework for a new planning strategy that takes into account the needs of local populations should be discussed before the end of the year.
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