In May 2011, The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) (PDF) concluded that RFs, including those from cell phones, should be classified as "possibly carcinogenic". This classification means that while there is still a lot of uncertainty, and that a possible risk exists, it is not yet confirmed.
For More Information
- It's Your Health: Safety of Cell Phones and Cell Phone Towers. Health Canada. (October 2011)
- International Agency for Research on Cancer article. (July 2011)
- Canadian Cancer Society. Cell phones. (June 2011)
- Toronto Cell Tower and Antenna Map
Radiofrequency fields (RFs)
- RFs are energy waves used for telecommunications.
- Cell phones, cell phone towers, cordless phones, remote control devices, Wi-Fi,water meters and smart meters all emit RFs.
Research on health and RFs
- Health Canada's guidelines for exposure to RFs (know as Safety Code 6) protect the public from short-term high exposure health effects.
- There is still a lot of uncertainty with the link between low level exposure to RFs and cancer, or other health effects. While a possible cancer risk exists, it is not confirmed.
- Many scientists agree that further research and tracking on the issue is needed.
- We do know that your exposure decreases the further away you are from the source of RFs.
The highest known risk from cell phone use is texting or calling while driving a car (or riding a bicycle). Pedestrians who text while walking also face possible harm. These are avoidable causes of injuries and deaths.
Cell Phones and Children
- Children are often more susceptible to environmental exposures than adults.
- Children have started to use cell phones at a younger age so their lifetime exposure is greater than past generations.
- Health Canada encourages parents to reduce their children's RF exposure from cell phones.
Reducing exposure to RFs
Because of the uncertainty in the available research on cell phone health risks, as a precaution you can take the following steps to minimize exposure to RFs:
- Make shorter phone calls
- Use a "hands-free" devices, like a headset or ear phones
- Use speakerphone
- Text message instead of calling
- Use a landline more often and use cell phones for essential calls
- While these actions reduce exposure, we don't know if they give a health benefit in the long run.
Cell Phone Towers
- RF exposure from cell phone towers is very low.
- Every time you double your distance from a tower, your exposure to RFs decreases by a factor of four.
- Trees, buildings and other objects screen RF waves and decrease levels.
- Exposure inside a building is about ten times lower than outside.
- You can find out the locations of cell phone towers on the Toronto Cell Tower and Antenna Map.
Regulations and Policies
- Industry Canada regulates and approves the location of cell phone towers and antennas
- The City of Toronto Prudent Avoidance Policy for new telecommunications towers recommends that exposure to RFs for the general public be kept 100 times below Health Canada's guidelines (Safety Code 6) because of the uncertainty in the available research.
- This policy only applies when Industry Canada requires that the cell phone provider consult with the City of Toronto.
- RF exposure associated with the use of Wi-Fi is very low.
- RF exposure associated with Wi-Fi use is not likely to lead to health effects in the general population, including children and seniors.
- There is no health reason to avoid the use of Wi-Fi.
Last updated November 2012