Experts weigh in on the dangers of cell phones
Published Friday, March 14, 2008 7:44PM EDT
Later this year, the health risks associated with cell phones will be front and centre with the release of a study of 15,000 people from 13 countries examining low-level radiation exposure.
The largest study of its kind, it has taken 10 years and $25 million to complete.
But will it provide any answers?
Approximately 25,000 studies and reports have already examined radiation from electrical devices, such as electromagnetic fields (EMF) and radiofrequency radiation (RF). Most of the studies focused on cell phone technology.
The overwhelming majority say there is nothing to fear if the devices are used properly.
"I think scientists could do a better job of explaining to the public the situation regarding the wealth of information we have about whether there are risks with radiation," said Daniel Krewski, director of the McGlaughlin Centre for Health Risks.
Ten years ago, Krewski chaired a Canadian study on cell phones in which 1,000 reports were examined.
The results concluded that there was no evidence of health risks associated with RF signals, but there was an indication of some biological effects.
"These biological effects do not seem to be significant but that is what we need to look at and better understand (to) determine whether these biological effects are of concern," Krewski said.
A 'moving target'
For the past 12 years, the World Health Organization's EMF Project has co-ordinated global research, made health recommendations and suggested research.
Emilie van Deventer, a Canadian electrical engineer, is one of the key researchers in the project.
"The main recommendation is that if you are concerned about any possible effects, then you need to do things to reduce your exposure, such as using a cell phone less," she said from her office in Switzerland.
Van Deventer said even after all the years of studying the issue, it was "very difficult" to determine if there was a real concern or not.
"It is a moving target we are dealing with. The technology is always changing," she said.
Old cell phones used a lot more power, making them a higher risk than current phones. Researchers can't keep up with the technology.
Protecting the public
Health Canada is left with the task of sorting through the research and setting standards for the public.
For the past decade, Robert Bradley, director of radiation safety at Health Canada, has overseen the Radiation Protection Bureau. He also says more research is needed.
The latest area of study is the impact of multiple sources of exposure.
"One of the issues and areas of concern is whether we have reached the saturation point in our ability to deal with all these things," Bradley said. "Part of our science will continue to be dealing with this multiplicity and in this context, are the limits still good from that perspective."
Experts say for those worried, "prudent avoidance" should be applied. This includes:
-limiting cell phone use
-using a hands-free unit
-avoiding high-power sources
-turning off some electrical sources
With a report from CTV's Paul Brent