A parliamentary committee has waded into the murky scientific debate over cellphones, warning that the ubiquitous devices may cause cancer, infertility, or learning disabilities and urging parents to shield their children from unnecessary exposure.
But several leading Canadian health experts say that cellphones and Wi-Fi devices pose less risk to humans than run-of-the-mill fevers.
The House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, in a report released this week, urges the federal government to launch a public awareness campaign about the possible hazards and safe use of wireless technologies. The 10-member panel also wants the government to consider funding research into potential links between radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic radiation exposure and cancer, genetic damage, infertility, development and behaviour problems, and possible harmful effects to the eyes and brain.
It wants federal workplaces to recognize employees who have “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” and is urging the Canadian Medical Association and other medical bodies to update guidelines on the treatment and diagnosis of the highly controversial condition.
The Conservative-dominated committee also says more efforts should be made to reduce exposure in children under 14.
“The committee agrees that the potential risks of exposure to RF fields are a serious public health issue that needs to be brought to the attention of Canadians so that they have the knowledge to use wireless devices responsibly,” reads the report.
But experts say there is no evidence of any harmful effects from RF exposure.
“Right now, we are literally bathing in radiation coming from everywhere — Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular towers, in addition to the usual radio and television broadcasts,” said Natalia Nikolova, Canada Research Chair in high-frequency electromagnetics at McMaster University in Hamilton. “I’m not worried at all about short-term exposures, because I can assure you there is no harm.”
And B.C.’s top health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, says there is no scientific evidence that current standards for wireless exposure present a health risk to either children or adults, and he suggested the parliamentary report had been influenced by an advocacy group that disagrees with the findings of a report by the Royal Society of Canada.
“They were reviewing a report that had been undertaken by the Royal Society of Canada, which basically found that there was no convincing evidence, again, for the health concerns that were being raised,” said Kendall. “It is sometimes a public policy challenge when you get advocacy groups that are convinced about something going before a political body that doesn’t have the background,” he said. “So the European parliament and a number of other parliaments have gone against the scientific evidence and have made recommendations or have changed standards.
“I think most of the scientists who look at this wouldn’t agree there is a compelling rationale for it.”
Dr. Patricia Daly, the chief medical health officer at Vancouver Coastal Health, also reviewed the recommendations in the report and still has no concerns about Wi-Fi expansion in public places including schools, community centres and health care facilities.
The parliamentary committee heard testimony from witnesses over three days of hearings who cited studies linking RF exposure with up to four-fold increases in cancer, as well as a doubling of the risk of glioma, a rare and deadly brain tumour, after just two years exposure to cellphones. Witnesses cited reports of women who developed unusual breast cancers in the same position they kept cellphones tucked into their bras, and of testicular cancers among police officers who had used radar guns to detect speeders, but who “very seldom turned off the guns and just kept them in their laps.” Some linked cellphone exposure to increased risks of autism; others said it damages the number and motility of live sperm. (Vancouver Sun)