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Wireless Technologies

Health risks


Radio frequency radiation - the kind of radition we're exposed to from wireless technologies - may have biological and health risks of which we're not aware.

Suppose several hundred marine biologists were to study your swimming pool. A reasonable percentage of them report that you’ve got sharks in your pool. Would you dive in? Would you let your kids swim in the pool? According to European reports, cellphone radiation may be the shark in the water, and it is endangering our health.

Radio frequency radiation–the kind of radiation we’re exposed to from sources such as cellphones, cellphone antennas, cordless phones, wireless routers, and other wireless technologies such as the iPhone–may have biological and health effects. Of the hundreds of studies conducted, 47 percent found increased cancer risks, 69 percent found disruptions to cell function, 77 percent found disruptions to electrical signalling in the body, and 83 percent found neurological, physiological, and behavioural effects.

No Proof of a Problem

This evidence has not convinced the major health agencies in North America to take action. In fact, the North American governments continue to reassure consumers: Health Canada says, “There is currently no convincing evidence, from animal or human studies, that the energy from cellphones is enough to cause serious health effects.”

Yet a survey by the European Union Commission found that most Europeans believe cellphones and cellphone antennas damage health. Most Europeans also reported feeling properly informed on these issues by health agencies and the businesses that provide wireless technologies.

At about the same time, two events reinforced these concerns. As with the European Commission survey, these events were covered extensively by the European media but not at all in the North American media.

WiFi in British Schools

The first event was a BBC television news program broadcast in May 2007 that reported on schools with wireless networks. The program claimed that children in those schools are exposed to radiation up to three times the intensity generated by a cellphone antenna. The program prompted Sir William Stewart, head of the UK Health Protection Agency, along with the UK’s Professional Association of Teachers, to call for an immediate moratorium. Some schools dropped plans to install wireless networks. Others initiated plans to remove wireless networks.

Health risks exposed

The second event to bring attention to wireless health risks was the release of the BioInitiative Report in August 2007. An international group of leading scientists formed the BioInitiative Working Group to summarize what is known about wireless health risks and to examine the inadequacies of current standards in light of that evidence.

The BioInitiative Working Group found significant evidence of harm: cancer (including childhood leukemia), nerve and brain damage, DNA damage, increased stress response, and decreased immune response. All of these effects were found at levels of radiation well below the current standards.

Almost immediately upon the report’s release, the European Environment Agency called for action to establish appropriate levels of exposure to minimize risk.

Reasonable Evidence of Harm

Why is the European Environment Agency ready to act while Health Canada and the US Food and Drug Administration are not?

The answer lies in the fact that Europe has a much stronger public health tradition than Canada and especially the United States. Those who reassure us that wireless technologies are safe say that a strong scientific consensus must be reached before they take action. In contrast, the public health approach taken by the European Environment Agency is to take action when there’s reasonable evidence of harm.

If you have reasonable evidence of sharks in your swimming pool, do you protect yourself? Or do you and your kids wait for scientific certainty as you dive in?



No Proof

No Proof

Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD