WiFi session leaves sides polarized

So is it safe to have your little ones in a wireless WiFi environment without increasing the risk of cancer or developing electromagnetic hypersensitivity?

It’s not a question that’s quickly answered, but Melanie Stoiber, representing a group called SkepParents, wanted to leave that topic to experts who have spent years of research in their field.

“But just blaming WiFi does a disservice to the kids.

“If electromagnetic fields were even half as dangerous as these people are claiming, there should be a body count.

“Let’s not go out of our way to fabricate risks when there aren’t any.”

It’s time scientists on both sides of the debate about the health of cellphones and WiFi – the wireless devices that allow computers cable-free connection – started talking, said Una St. Claire-Moniz, with Citizens for Safe Technology.

About 90 people showed up at the Ridge Meadows Seniors Activity Centre last Wednesday to hear a panel of eight people address the issue. The evening was organized by Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Michael Sather.

St. Claire-Moniz pointed out Canada has some of the lowest standards when it comes to regulating electromagnetic waves.

“Business is booming. A cell tower is coming to a backyard near you and there’s not much we can do.”

She pointed out cellphone companies can’t get their own liability insurance for health claims and have to fund their own and cited a manual from a cellphone that notes there is a cancer risk.

“We’re not against technology. We’re wanting the safe use of it.”

She pointed out that in last year’s House of Commons standing committee on health, Swedish scientists said that Canada’s Safety Code 6, that regulates the topic, is out of date and obsolete.

According to Health Canada, radio-frequency energy coming from cellphone towers is thousands of times below the limits for public exposure.

“Based on to date and the weight of evidence from ongoing scientific literature reviewed by Health Canada scientists, the department is confident that Canada’s RF exposure limits remain current and valid,” it says on its website.

The department also has determined there is no scientific reason to consider cell towers dangerous to the public.

But St. Claire-Moniz also noted that Israel’s health and environment ministry opposes expansion of cell-phone infrastructure to accommodate fourth-generation devices until possible health effects are thoroughly studied.

The topic is one of the most studied, with about 27,000 done on the topic, said UBC psychiatrist Rob Tarzwell.

“The results are in, electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range is safe, particularly at the low wattage used.”

Some high-frequency electromagnetic waves such as X-rays, gamma or cosmic rays can cause cell or DNA damage, but not lower-frequency radio waves or microwaves, he said.

Tarzwell pointed out that energy emitted from a WiFi device is a million times lower than that of visible light.

He also cited a larger Danish study involving 400,000 cellphone users over a 20-year period that found the rate of brain cancer is lower in that group than the general population.

“There’s no measurable effect.”

So why have some countries said that kids under 16 shouldn’t use cellphones and why does China have lower exposure levels than Canada, asked a questioner.

Tarswell said he couldn’t explain why such policies are formed.

Thermographic image consultant Curtis Bennett pointed out the International Association of Fire Fighters in 2004 asked that fire halls not be used as bases for cellphone towers or antennas until it’s proven that low-intensity radio and microwaves aren’t hazardous to health.

Tarswell said someone from Health Canada should have attended the Wednesday meeting to provide technical explanations.

Retired UBC nuclear physicist Pat Walden was “astounded” that such a meeting was even being held. WiFi will have zero effect on human health, he added.

“So if you allow WiFi in schools, there will be no ill effects.”

But there needs to be more conversation about the topic on both sides, said Maple Ridge naturopath Samantha Boutet.

“I’m not in this for myself. I’m in it because I’m worried about my children.”

Electromagnetic radiation can affect different people in different ways, said St. Claire-Moniz.

“It’s not the same for everybody.”