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Complaints stall European MRI limitation law

A European law which would have restricted the use of MRI scanners has been put on hold after complaints from UK scientists and MPs that potential health risks from the machines were being exaggerated.

A UK parliamentary committee condemned the law in a report a year ago expressing “alarm” that the European Commission was relying on 10-year-old risk assessment information in such a fast-moving high-tech area as MRI scanners.

And a recent report submitted to Brussels by UK scientists also helped win a four-year postponement while EU experts reconsidered the plan.

MRI machines are used to detect early signs of cancer, brain tumours and other serious illnesses, but faced EU limits on their use as part of a review of the dangers to health from electromagnetic fields.

The Electromagnetic Fields Directive was due to come into force next April, banning new MRI machines and severely limiting staff operating times in the use of existing machines.

The legislation has been approved by MEPs and EU government ministers – but a UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report a year ago was scathing: “It is deeply regrettable that the impact of the directive on MRI procedures was not established before the directive was adopted.

“This case study illustrates the potential consequences of the failure of policy-makers to seek comprehensive scientific advice early in the policy formulation process and to commission the necessary research to inform this process where uncertainty or gaps in knowledge exist.”

But a commission spokeswoman has said the directive will now be reviewed again following the UK studies “to take account of the newest technological developments”.

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