Health Risks From Cell Phones and Base Stations

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Some of the RF energy emitted by cell phones is absorbed in your body. The amount of energy you absorb depends on many factors, such as how close you hold the cell phone to your body and how strong the signal is. So far, the weight of evidence from animal, cell culture and human studies does not indicate that the energy emitted by cell phones is strong enough to cause serious health effects. Some scientists have reported that cell phone use may cause changes in brain activity, in reaction times, or in the time it takes to fall asleep, but these findings have not yet been confirmed.

Public exposure to RF energy from base stations is at a much lower level than that from cell phones. As long as exposures respect the limits set in Health Canada’s Guidelines, Health Canada has determined that there is no scientific reason to consider base stations dangerous to the public.

Cell phones are designed to operate at the minimum power necessary to connect and maintain a quality call. As a result, the intensity of the RF energy from cell phones is well below a level that would cause health concerns. In addition, cell phones and base stations in Canada must meet regulatory requirements that limit the amount of RF energy they emit. See the section below on “”The Government of Canada’s Role”” for further details.

Although the RF energy from cell phones poses no confirmed health risks, cell phone use is not entirely risk-free. Studies have shown that:

* Using cell phones or other wireless devices can be distracting. Your risk of serious injury may increase if you use these devices while driving, walking, cycling, or doing any other activity that requires concentration for personal safety.
* Cell phones may interfere with medical devices such as cardiac pacemakers, defibrillators, and hearing aids.
* Cell phones may also interfere with other sensitive electronic equipment, such as aircraft communication and navigation systems.

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The Issue

With the growing popularity of hand-held cellular phones (or cell phones), questions have been raised about the safety of being exposed to the radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic energy they emit. Some members of the public have also expressed concern about the possible health effects caused by living near cellular base stations, which are often called cell phone towers.

Background

Cell phones are portable devices that transmit and receive radio signals from a network of fixed, low-power, base stations. The base stations are usually located on rooftops, towers and utility poles. The transmitting power of a cell phone varies, depending on the type of network and its distance from the base station. The power generally increases the further you move away from the nearest base station.

The number of cell phone users in Canada rose from 100,000 in 1987 to more than 21 million by the end of 2008. To meet the demand for new wireless services, cellular base stations have been put up across the country. Along with the rapid increase in cell phone use, there have also been some alarming media reports and Web sites suggesting there may be a link between certain health problems and cell phone use and/or living near base stations. As a result, some members of the general public are concerned about potential health effects from long-term exposure to RF energy.

The RF electromagnetic energy given off by cell phones and base stations is a type of non-ionizing radiation. It is similar to the type of energy used in AM/FM radio and TV broadcast signals. Unlike ionizing radiation (as emitted by X-ray machines), RF energy from cell phones and other wireless devices cannot break chemical bonds. This means it is unlikely to damage your body’s genetic material.

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