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EMF Studies

24 March 2017

Pocket Dialling to Danger

That phone in your pocket could be dangerous, according to
Marketplace.  Getty
MARKETPLACE: Pocket dialling to danger
24 March 2017

Should you carry your phone in your pocket? The answer is right there, inside your phone, in a government-mandated message that says you should hold your phone 5mm to 15mm away from your body to limit exposure to radiation. It varies from phone to phone.

But a survey from CBC's Marketplace reveals that most people have never seen the message and don't use their phones that way.

So if you slip your phone in your pocket, or tuck it into your bra, you're not following the guidelines. And here's the problem: The government test cellphone makers use to assess the safety of their products are based on the assumption that you are.

The tests measure the amount of radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic radiation absorbed by the body from phones, which in Canada is supposed to fall within certain limits determined by Health Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada as safe for humans.

RF radiation is waves generated by an electromagnetic field that transmit cellphone, radio and other signals. It has enough energy to set atoms vibrating and generate heat in fluids or body tissue but not as much as higher-energy radiation such as X-rays or UV light.

Regulators allow cellphone manufacturers to measure RF radiation up to 15mm away from the body - even though most cellphone users hold their devices closer than that.

As part of its investigation, Marketplace surveyed Canadians about what they know about their phones and how they use them.

The survey found that 81% of respondents who own cellphones had never seen the warning, 67% carry their phones in their pocket or directly against their bodies and 75% would change the way they carried their cellphones if they had the safedistance information.

The survey included responses from 971 adult Canadians of whom own and use a cellphone. Answers were collected in February and March 2017.

But more than 30 years after cellphones first hit the market in Canada, scientific studies continue to emerge that fuel the ongoing debate about their health effects.

Paul Demers, director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre at Cancer Care Ontario, says that he's not worried about cellphone safety because the body of evidence doesn't prove harm.

"Even if we think there currently isn't any evidence that's definitive to say that there are health effects, we're talking about something where almost everybody in society is exposed. And because of that, there's a responsibility to monitor, continue to be on top of the latest ways that we should be looking at things," he said.

Watch the CBC Marketplace investigation starting tonight at 8:00 p.m. on TV and online.


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