The insurance industry is, reasonsbly enough, a cautious one. And, because their very survival depends on it, they are experts in assessing risk. I quote:
Emerging risks are particularly relevant for the insurance industry because many of its actions are still based on historical data, i.e. yesterday‘s experience. However, when the future is no longer a simple linear extrapolation of the past but rather characterised by rapid and continuous change, looking back will no longer be sufficient to assess tomorrow‘s exposures.
This quote comes from the Swiss Re SONAR Emerging Risks report, 2013, which covers risks that could ‘impact the insurance industry in the future’. Among the risks they list are cyber attacks, supply chain vulnerability, social unrest, endocrine disrupting chemicals, changing communication patterns, emerging infectious diseases, unresolved sovereign debt crisis, imminent global talent crunch – and – ‘unforeseen consequences of electromagnetic fields’. This risk, as you can see below, they predict to have a ‘high overall impact’. Read on…
Overall impact: High – Potentially high financial, reputational and/or regulatory impact or significant stakeholder concern
Time Frame: 10 years
The ubiquity of electromagnetic fields (EMF) raises concerns about potential implications for human health, in particular with regard to the use of mobile phones, power lines or antennas for broadcasting. Over the last decade, the spread of wireless devices has accelerated enormously. The convergence of mobile phones with computer technology has led to the proliferation of new and emerging technologies. This development has increased exposure to electromagnetic fields, the health impacts of which remain unknown.
Anxiety over the potential risks related to EMF has risen. Studies are difficult to conduct, since time trend studies are inconsistent due to the still rather recent proliferation of wireless technology. The WHO has classified extremely low-frequency magnetic fields and radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, such as radition emitted by cell phones, as potentially carcinogenic to humans (Class 2B carcinogen). Furthermore, a recent ruling by an Italian court suggested a link between mobile phone radiation and human health impairment. Overall, however, scientific studies are still inconclusive regarding possible adverse health effects of EMF.
Potential impact on the insurance industry
If a direct link between EMF and human health problems were established, it would open doors for new claims and could ultimately lead to large losses under product liability covers. Liability rates would likely rise.
UK government – take note!