Can your phone or tablet gi\ve you cancer? A large group of international scientists thinks so.
Almost 200 scientists and academics from over three dozen countries have issued a letter calling for the United Nations, World Health Organization and governments around the world to tighten regulations around electro-magnetic field (EMF) exposure coming from handheld devices.
Anthony Miller, University of Toronto Professor Emeritus at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, is one of 190 signatories, including eight Canadians, to the letter. He noted that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has already flagged EMF as a possible human carcinogen.
The letter’s signatories also say much of the research saying EMF is safe is commissioned and paid for by telecom companies. Miller expresses concern that this practice is prevalent in Canada.
“I think part of the problem here is that the reassurances we keep getting from the manufacturers and distributors of WiFi – Rogers, Bell and whatever – and Health Canada are not sufficiently satisfactory, particularly for the possible risks to children,” Miller said in a conversation with Yahoo Canada.
Health Canada experts were unavailable for an interview, but a response to the letter was issued late yesterday.
“The prevailing scientific evidence demonstrates that the health of Canadians is well protected from RF (Radio Frequency) energy by the human exposure limits in Safety Code 6,” the Health Canada statement said, citing the relevant regulatory provision.
“Health Canada’s conclusions are consistent with the findings of other international bodies and regulators, including the World Health Organization, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the United Kingdom Health Protection Agency.”
But Miller said those findings aren’t consistent with the latest research.
“A recent study in Sweden, and also a large study in France, say the potential risks are more than the IARC group felt, and this should be regarded as a possible human carcinogen – category 2B. Once you’re in that situation, then it’s impossible to ignore it.”
Miller stresses that many cancers result from prolonged exposure to a carcinogen. Just because specific cases cannot be immediately identified, it doesn’t mean potentially dangerous damage isn’t being done, he said.
“We’re talking about people of all ages now being cumulatively exposed to radio frequency fields, and those particularly who use their cell phones and hold them against their ear, and tend to use the same side of the head most of the time, as most of us do. Also children who are exposed to EMF from laptops – particularly in schools where this can be fairly prominent.
Health Canada said it is continuously monitoring new research on the long-term effects of RF and EMF.
“Departmental scientists considered all available peer-reviewed scientific studies when developing the exposure limits in the revised Safety Code 6,” the starment said.
“Should new scientific evidence arise demonstrating that exposure to RF fields poses a health risk to Canadians, Health Canada will take the appropriate action to safeguard the health of Canadians.”
For Miller, that’s not enough.
“People must understand there is a potential hazard, and perhaps they’ll take action. And that is what Health Canada is meant to do – protect the health of the public.
“We have to act now, in my view, and that is why I signed this statement.”