The wireless industry has praised a parliamentary committee report calling for more studies into the possible health hazards of low level electromagnetic radiation from cellphones and microwaves.
The industry has long supported by research by “credible scientists” into health and safety issues, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) said in a news release Thursday after the report was released.
“The overwhelming evidence, as determined and published in studies worldwide by the respected scientific community, continues to support the conclusion that there is no public health risk associated with the use of wireless technologies,” association CEO Bernard Lord also said in the release. “Government agencies in Canada and around the world responsible for establishing safety standards also support that wireless technologies are not a health risk.”
The committee began looking into radio frequency (RF) radiation in March after a number of citizen groups and scientists alleged the government isn’t taking RF radiation concerns seriously. Included were those who alleged Wi-Fi base stations in public schools pose an RF hazard to children.
“Some witnesses appearing before the Committee were of the view that limits established by Safety Code 6 were not stringent enough to protect Canadians from potential negative health impacts of long-term exposure to RF electromagnetic radiation,” the committee report said.
Specifically, some scientists have done research indicating there were “non-thermal biological effects resulting from exposure to RF electromagnetic radiation” below the frequency limit established by Safety Code 6. In their view, these biological effects could result in “negative health outcomes” for humans, and in particular children, the report said.
Other scientists cited studies that found other potential links between cell phones and the development of brain tumours among children, and links between cordless DECT phones and affects on the heart such as arrhythmia and tachycardia.41.
These scientists also complained studies showing no health damage from long term RF exposure had been funded by the wireless industry, the report said.
However, the committee report also noted other scientists insisted there was “significant evidence” to support the current guidelines for exposure to electromagnetic radiation under Safety Code 6.
Still, the report pointed out, these scientists acknowledged there are gaps in the
existing scientific literature related to the effects of long-term low-level RF exposure on brain functions and reproductive outcomes.
Both the wireless industry and Health Canada beat back suggestions the government or the committee issue a precautionary warning to the public about the use of wireless devices, or raise the safety code standard higher than international standards.
In the end, the politicians on the committee made the following recommendations:
— that the government consider providing funding to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for long-term studies into the impact of RF exposure on people;
–that Health Canada ask an independent institution to assess scientific literature and compare RF public policies of other countries;
–that the government develop a “comprehensive risk awareness program” on the exposure to RF;
–that Health Canada ensure it has a process to receive reports on adverse reactions electromagnetic radiation emitting devices.
In a minority report the New Democrat members of the committee complained scientists who speak on the adverse biological effects of RF “are being marginalized.”
Existing warnings on cell phone packaging indicating the distance the device should be held from a user’s head, the NDP added, should be printed large not only on the box but also the device.
“While the recommendation for further study is warranted, it would also be appropriate to let Canadians know that the safety of this technology is not guaranteed, but only theoretical at this point, particularly in the case of children,” the NDP wrote.
“Concerned parents who fear their children are being exposed in classrooms to a dangerous technology, when less-contentious options exists that can deliver the same benefit, must have public options available to them. If the ‘unaccepted’ science is in fact correct, Canada will face larger health care costs for the treatment of biological effects including cancers and fertility problems. With this in mind, children should not be forced to be exposed to this technology in their schools until it is actually proven safe, not just theoretical acceptable.”