Scientific review processes to determine limits on exposure to radiofrequency radiation according to Safety Code 6

Petition: 407

Issue(s): Governance, human / environmental health, other, science and technology

Petitioner(s): Canadian organization

Petitioner Location(s): Dunrobin, Ontario

Date Received: 22 June 2017

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: The petition concerns radiofrequency radiation and the degree to which Health Canada’s guideline for exposure, Safety Code 6, protects Canadians. The petition draws attention to the Standing Committee on Health’s 2015 report, Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Radiation and the Health of Canadians,as well as the Government Response presented in Parliament on 6 October 2016.

The petition claims that Safety Code 6 assumes that thermal effects are the only negative impacts of electromagnetic radiation. The petition raises the concern that even at lower exposure levels where the increased heat on tissues is minor, adverse biological changes (non-thermal effects) may still occur as a result of electromagnetic radiation. The petition asks about the margins of safety Health Canada incorporated into Safety Code 6, and it asserts that the extrapolation or uncertainty factors used in calculating safe exposure levels are inadequate. The petition expresses concern that the standards for evidentiary consensus are too high and that they do not sufficiently adhere to the precautionary principle.

The petition asks about Health Canada’s systematic review process for the health effects of radiofrequency radiation, particularly the factors it considered when reviewing science on non-thermal effects. The petition references a list of 140 studies that it states were identified during the Standing Committee on Health hearing as indicating potential harm from radiofrequency radiation exposure. However, the petition claims Health Canada “missed completely” these studies in its review process.

The petition raises concerns about the implementation of Safety Code 6guidelines. It asks what modelling and surveillance programs Health Canada uses for tracking radiofrequency radiation in various public and private spaces. The petition also asks if this data is accessible to the public. The petition expresses concern over the Government of Canada’s capacity to ensure compliance with Safety Code 6,to stay up to date with the scientific literature, and to carry out adaptive management. The petition asks what the federal government is doing to identify data requirements, research, outreach, and exposure assessments regarding new higher-frequency technology, such as 5G technology.

Noting that many Canadians hold their cellphones closer to their bodies than what the Safety Code 6guidelines outline, the petition asks what measures the federal government employs to address circumstances resulting in electromagnetic frequency overexposure to individuals. Furthermore, the petition requests information on any initiatives that educate Canadians on the correct use of wireless devices, including ensuring that customers understand the “fine print” for their devices and respect manufacturers’ “distance requirements.” It asks how Health Canada incorporated into the Safety Code 6 review process the reality that people commonly use wireless devices incorrectly (for example, too close to the body).

The petition requests information about any incentives the federal government provides to industry to design and market information technology products that incorporate best practices to eliminate or minimize radiofrequency radiation exposure. It also asks whether the Minister of Science is responsible for ensuring the rigorous scientific review of adverse exposures of radiofrequency radiation, and if not, who ensures proper scientific research and review.

Federal departments responsible for reply: Environment and Climate Change Canada, Health Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada