Ontario Government Rejects Cell Phone Warning Label Proposal

by Jordan Richardson on November 5, 2010

Yesterday I talked about NDP health critic France Gelinas’ insistence on having cell phone warning labels placed on the devices. It turns out that the Ontario government has already issued a response to the calls from the critic and the news isn’t good for those concerned about radiation.

“I am informed by scientists and doctors, and the chief medical officer of health, Dr. Arlene King, has assured us that we do not have to worry about the safety of these type of devices,” Health Promotion Minister Margarett Best said. “In fact, Health Canada also says that there are no risks associated with this.”

In other words, that’s a big juicy “no” with respect to cell phone warning labels.

There’s no question that the issue of cell phone radiation is one that concerns many, but there’s also no question that the major studies on the topic have reported no adverse health effects in terms of mobile phone use. Best says that she’s made her decision based on the evidence provided by the scientific community and by Health Canada, yet some claim that “experts” are still divided on the issue. Keep in mind that we’re also told that “experts” are divided on global warming by charlatans looking to politicize scientific issues.

In any event, I can certainly see the reasoning behind wanting a warning label to an extent. But the confusion can be maddening, especially for the uninformed.

Most of the problem here has to do a lack of understanding of radiation itself. There are two types of radiation: ionizing and non-ionizing.

Ionizing radiation contains a considerable amount of electromagnetic energy, enough to actually alter chemical reactions in the body while literally ripping molecules and atoms away from the tissue. Gamma rays and X-rays are two common examples of ionizing, hence the lead vests we’re have plunked on our chests during X-ray sessions.

Non-ionizing radiation has a heating effect, but it doesn’t strip away molecules and atoms and it doesn’t alter chemical reactions. Visible light, for instance, is considered non-ionizing radiation. Cell phones also emit non-ionizing radiation.

Now naturally the term “radiation” is used creatively here, but proponents of an alarmist ideology towards cell phones tend to avoid making the critical type distinction. As such, people panic over the misinformation. Affixing warning labels that mischaracterize radiation and obfuscate the basic science could conceivably only lead to more panic, especially if the rather problematic relationship between the government and the scientific community lies in the balance.

Despite evidence and studies, the issue of cell phones and radiation is going away any time soon. For some, the panic is like a drug and the worry is intoxicating. Science is secondary to the rush of taking up a “cause,” even if that cause is couched in junk science and misinformation.

I don’t normally applaud governments or corporations for anything, but in this case the government of Ontario has made the right decision in sticking by the extensive scientific research on the subject.

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