Ontario NDP Health Critic Pushes for Cell Phone Warning Labels

by Jordan Richardson on November 4, 2010

Ontario’s NDP health critic France Gelinas wants cell phones to feature warning labels pertaining to the amount of radiation the product emits. Gelinas says that cell phones already carry such information in the owner’s manuals, but most people aren’t reading the fine print.

Gelinas wants a sticker warning that makes consumers aware of the “effects” of long-term exposure to cell phone radiation.

Professor Magda Havas of Trent University agrees, stating that there is a “lot of information” pertaining to the health effects of cell phone radiation. According to Havas, consumers should be aware of the specific absorption rate and radiation of each phone available on the market. The professor also warns that cell phone radiation levels increase as the phone moves further away from cell phone towers.

The debate over the dangers or potential dangers of cell phones and radiation has been taking place since the devices were first introduced. As with almost all pieces of new technology, from radio units to computers and beyond, scepticism emerges as natural social resistance. Sometimes the scepticism is warranted and public victories, such as over cigarettes for instance, are often helpful to society at large. Other times, however, the scepticism comes couched in pseudo-scientific claims and mass hysteria.

Here at The Telecom Blog, I’ve written extensively about cell phones and radiation. The case of cell phone towers in the sleepy hamlet of New Denver, for instance, was of particular interest to me. Another associated topic is that of Wi-Fi technology, as many current news story detail alleged health effects to the wireless network technology in schools.

Issues like these come down to whether or not we have reasons to believe what we do. In the case of Gelinas’ warning labels on cell phones, we need to examine the implications of affixing warning labels on products that may not actually be harmful to any meaningful degree. The efficacy of warning labels is also an issue, especially in light of the contentiousness of the issue.

Health Canada has been researching the “biological effects of radiofrequency” for over 20 years now and regulations are in place to align with those findings. Every single major scientific study on the topic has come up with similar results. And we can, of course, even trace the science on the topic back to Einstein’s research. With such a mass of scientific research on the topic, one wonders why the evidence is being ignored to such a tremendous degree.

Is there anything to the idea of hedging our bets and just “making sure” we cover our bases by providing warning labels on products whether they’re dangerous or not? Is this really responsible public policy or is it fear-mongering couched audacious and purposeful ignorance of the bulk of topical scientific research?

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