Scientists speak out against radiofrequency wave, WiFi report

A recent report giving a conditional stamp of approval to Canada’s guidelines for radiofrequency waves failed to give enough weight to research suggesting a link between wireless devices and cancer, two scientists argued Monday.

  • Apr. 16, 2014 1:57 p.m.

A recent report giving a conditional stamp of approval to Canada’s guidelines for radiofrequency waves failed to give enough weight to research suggesting a link between wireless devices and cancer, two scientists argued Monday.

The two men both independently reviewed the findings of the Royal Society of Canada, who released a report looking at existing Health Canada guidelines governing safe radiofrequency emissions from cellphones, WiFi equipment, cellular towers and other wireless technology.

The scientists took exception to the report, which concluded the current guidelines were adequate but could benefit from more research.

Dr. Anthony Miller, Professor Emeritus at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, said the Royal Society panel didn’t go far enough in its recommendations.

Miller contended the panel didn’t have the proper time or resources to devote to a thorough review of scientific data.

Still more problematic, he said, was the panel’s narrow scope which focused on established medical risks from radiofrequency waves rather than emerging research.

Several different studies, he said, suggest the waves emitted by much of today’s commonly used wireless technology could cause cancer.

“I think they tended to downgrade evidence that they should have considered, and they didn’t look into things in sufficient detail,” Miller said of the panel.

Martin Blank, special lecturer in physiology and cellular biophysics at Columbia University, went further.

“If you’re making a scientific decision, a scientific decision must bring in all relevant data. They did not. They ignored the data. They deliberately put it off the table.”

Comments made by panel members at the time of the report’s April 1 release indicate the link to cancer was on the group’s radar.

Paul Demers, the panel chair and director of Toronto’s Occupational Cancer Research Centre, said data on the issue had been inconsistent so far.

The panel strongly encouraged Health Canada to pursue further research on the connection, and Demers flagged the subject as a topic of concern.

“This is an area that certainly deserves further scrutiny, but at this point it’s still in the possible category in terms of a potential health effect,” Demers said at the time of the report’s release.

“So that’s why we recommend that there still be research ongoing.”

Miller felt the panel ought to have made more forceful recommendations, such as encouraging both individuals and businesses to take precautions against the possibly damaging effects of radiofrequency waves.

For Miller, those precautions are straightforward.

“Advise much more care around exposure to children, urging people to reduce their exposure as much as possible, and trying to ensure that cell towers are placed in such a way that they don’t impinge directly on people’s homes or places of work,” he said.

Health Canada said it is reviewing the Royal Society’s report. Advice from the expert panel and comments from an upcoming public consultation will be considered as part of the safety code’s final revision, the department said by email.

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