Cell Phone Use And Health Concerns Draw
July 14, 2008
Public Health is advising parents to make sure their children take
simple precautions to minimize exposure to radiofrequency (RF) waves if
they use a cell phone.
Cell phone use has risen consistently in the last decade in Canada,
health officials describe. In particular, the number of children who
use cell phones has increased greatly. A new report responds to the
Board of Health's request for further information on the use of cell
phones by children and youth and their consequent exposure.
However, mobile phone providers, citing the authority of the World
Health Organization, maintain the technology poses no health risks and
that radiation from cellphones falls well below government safety
guidelines. The Board of Health also cites the World Health
Organization (WHO), and suggestions to limit the length of phone calls,
or using "hands-free" devices like headsets or ear phones, to keep the
cell phone away from the head and body.
There are currently no specific Canadian recommendations with regard to
cell phone use by children. Some jurisdictions in Europe recommend that
children decrease their exposure to RF by strictly limiting their use
of cellular phones and some have strongly recommended that use be
The Toronto Board of Health and Toronto City Council recently endorsed
a Prudent Avoidance Policy that will help ensure that public exposure
to radiofrequencies (RFs) from cell phone towers is 100 times below the
current Health Canada exposure standard known as Safety Code 6.
This policy does not address public exposure to RFs from the use of
telecommunication devices such as cell phones. RF exposure from using a
cell phone can be considerably higher than environmental exposure to
RFs from local cell phone towers or antennas, the policy adds.
The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA), an
industry group of wireless telecom providers, is an important
information source on these matters, as it reports maintaining close
liaison with government agencies including the CRTC, Health Canada and
Industry Canada. CWTA also maintains close liaison with key US and
international organizations including the World Health Organization.
CWTA says that the overwhelming evidence in the scientific community as
determined and published in numerous studies worldwide supports the
conclusion that there is no demonstrated public health risk associated
with the use of wireless phones.
Health & Safety issues related to wireless communications have
increasingly been the focus of media attention. These issues fall into
one of three categories including: health concerns in relation to
hand-held devices and antenna installations; the responsible use of
mobile phones while driving; and the use of mobile phones for emergency
The wireless industry in Canada as well as around the world is 100 per
cent committed to a completely open process in the study of health and
safety issues related to wireless technologies. All research is made
public and fully open to scientific and public scrutiny.
Government agencies responsible for establishing safe limits for signal
levels of radio devices also support that wireless telephones are not a
health risk. The signal levels from all wireless devices are well below
the safety limits established by Health Canada and other international
Health Canada's Safety Code 6 sets the limits for safe exposure to
radiofrequency (RF) fields at home or at work. The Code also outlines
safety requirements for the installation and operation of devices that
emit radiofrequency fields, such as mobile phones and base station
antennas. This code is based on current, accepted scientific data and
is among the most stringent in the world.
In its May 2008 report entitled, Children and Safe Cell Phone Use, the Toronto
Board of Health stated that
Radiofrequencies (RFs) are energy waves that are part of the
electromagnetic spectrum. RFs occur between FM radio waves and
microwaves. People are exposed to many sources of RFs. Cell phone
towers, cordless phones, pagers, remote control devices, wireless
Internet services (also know as WiFi) and cell phones all emit low
levels of RFs.
Health Canada's guidelines for exposure to RFs (known as Safety Code 6)
protect the public from short-term, high exposure effects of RFs.
Studies of adults who have been using cell phones generally conclude
that there are no effects on their health; however, it is still not
clear what the impacts might be from using a cell phone for many years.
It says research on the health effects from cell phone RFs on children
is very limited since the use of cell phones by young people is a
relatively new trend. Scientists are not yet sure what the health
effects in children are from using a cell phone. While research
continues in this area, many scientists feel that children may be more
susceptible to harmful effects of RFs from cell phones for several
Pre-teen children have a smaller head and brain size, thinner skull bones, skin and ears.
Their nerve cells also conduct energy like RFs more readily than an adult's or teenager's nerve cells.
Children's brains and nerves are also still developing so they are
likely to be more sensitive to exposures of RFs, the report describes.
Today's children have started to use cell phones at a younger age,
therefore their lifetime exposure to cell phone RFs will likely be
greater. As a result, the chances that a child could develop harmful
health effects from using a cell phone for a long time may be greater.
The Board of Health cites the World Health Organization (WHO), and its
suggestions limiting the length of phone calls, or using "hands-free"
devices like headsets or ear phones, to keep the cell phone away from
the head and body.
The amount of RF energy absorbed decreases quickly with increasing
distance between the antenna and the user, the report noted. People can
also use the speakerphone mode if appropriate, or use text messaging
According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA),
the level of RF waves emitted can be obtained by using the FCC ID
number usually printed on the case of the phone. Information about each
individual ID number and corresponding cell phone is availablr from the
a US government website, at www.fcc.glv/oet/fccid.