Good morning, everybody. Welcome to the health committee. I am so pleased to see everybody here today.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we have a study on the impact of microwaves on human health. It is something this committee has wanted to pick up on and continue for some time. I am very pleased that the witnesses have been able to come today.
From the Department of Health, we have Beth Pieterson, director general, environmental and radiation health sciences directorate, healthy environments and consumer safety branch.
We also have with us Frank Prato, imaging program leader, assistant scientific director, from the Lawson Health Research Institute,
I'm so glad you could make it as well.
We also have, from the Simcoe County Safe School Committee, Rodney Palmer, who is a member.
Thank you for joining us today.
Joining us as an individual we have Anthony Martin Muc, adjunct lecturer at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, occupational and environmental health unit, University of Toronto.
You were here before. Welcome back. It's nice to see you here again.
Via video conference we have two guests. Curtis Bennett is president of Thermographix Consulting Corporation.
Welcome, Curtis. I'm glad you're here.
Also, from Columbia University, coming to us from Victoria, British Columbia, we have Dr. Martin Blank, associate professor of physiology and cellular biophysics, department of physiology and cellular biophysics.
We're very happy that all of you can be here. We will give you five minutes for a presentation from each organization. Then we'll have questions and answers. At the end of the committee meeting, at 12:45, I will suspend because we have some business we have to do for the final 15 minutes.
We will begin with Ms. Pieterson, please, for five minutes.
Thank you, Madam Chairperson and members of the committee.
I'm pleased to be back before the committee today to speak to Health Canada's position on the impact of microwaves on human health.
In April, when this issue was last presented before the committee, I spoke to you of Health Canada's awareness of concerns from some communities of stakeholders about the possible effects of radio frequency electromagnetic emissions on the health of Canadians, including our children. These ongoing concerns received significant press, largely buoyed by the media and by a small yet very vocal group of scientists; however, in many instances, the information communicated is misrepresented.
Health Canada acts within the authority of the Radiation Emitting Devices Act, providing advice and guideline development for electromagnetic energy emissions. Guidelines developed by Health Canada set recommended limits for safe human exposure to electromagnetic energy from various devices, including cellphones, Wi-Fi equipment, and cellphone towers. These guidelines, commonly referred to as Safety Code 6, were reviewed carefully and revised as recently as October 2009.
Health Canada's revision of Safety Code 6 followed a thorough evaluation of worldwide peer-reviewed scientific evidence and literature on the effects of radio frequency energy on biological systems. The department, furthermore, conducted its own in-house studies, also published in peer-reviewed journals, which to date do not support the position that electromagnetic energy emissions from cell towers and wireless technologies pose hazards to the health of Canadians.
Considering the quality of all the individual studies, the reproducibility of observed effects in different laboratories, and acceptance within the international scientific community, Health Canada established limits for human exposure that are well below the level that has been shown to cause any harm. Despite the lack of studies focused solely on children, the limits recommended for general public exposure were designed to provide protection to all age groups, including children, if exposed on a continuous basis.
There's no question about the widespread exposure to cellphones and Wi-Fi in schools, boardrooms, and households across the country. However, the large majority of scientists conducting work related to electromagnetic energy agree that exposure levels encountered by Canadians in these environments are, according to the vast majority of currently available evidence, well below levels that would result in any health effects.
During my last presentation before the committee, I referenced a report cited by electromagnetic field advocates and entitled “The BioInitiative Report”. This report suggests that regulatory authorities such as Health Canada should apply precautionary approaches to sources of electromagnetic field exposure and apply much more stringent limits.
It should be noted that in the international dialogue that followed the release of the BioInitiative Report, numerous electromagnetic energy experts, associations, and countries around the world issued statements refuting claims included within the report, expressing criticism for its lack of balance, lack of new scientific evidence, exclusion of numerous studies, internal inconsistencies, and a bias toward negative outcomes.
The science underpinning the report was not peer-reviewed, which is the gold standard for scientific publications, nor was it accepted by governments around the world. Having reviewed the report, Health Canada is of the opinion that there are insufficient grounds to revise our views on the electromagnetic field health risk assessment at this time.
I should emphasize that the scientific evidence supporting Health Canada's exposure limits is verified on an ongoing basis. Our Canadian exposure limits are comparable to those of other jurisdictions, including the United States and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. To our knowledge, there is no major jurisdiction in the world that has banned Wi-Fi from schools based on scientific evidence available.
The United Kingdom recently released on their website a general position statement on Wi-Fi, stating:
||There is no consistent evidence to date that Wi-Fi and WLANs adversely affect the health of the general population. Based on current knowledge and experience, radio frequency exposures...from Wi-Fi are likely to be lower than those from mobile phones.
They say, “On the basis of the studies so far carried out in house” at the Health Protection Agency in the U.K., they see “no reason why Wi-Fi should not continue to be used in schools”.
Just to conclude, Health Canada is committing to protecting the health and safety of Canadians and to ensuring that our guidelines are safe. We continually evaluate the science, and the guidelines are based on up-to-date science. As with any new technology, it is a sensible precautionary principle to maintain an ongoing review to provide Canadians with reassurance.
My name is Frank Prato. I'm assistant scientific director of the Lawson Health Research Institute. I've been doing research in non-thermal effects of electromagnetic radiation since 1982, when I was interested in the possibility that medical imaging using magnetic resonance imaging might have some effects.
Since then I've published a few papers in RF, but mostly I participate in reviewing the scientific literature. I have reviewed the scientific literature as a past president of the Bioelectromagnetics Society, the scientific literature as chair of Commission K, and also the biological effects of non-ionizing radiation for the International Union of Radio Science, and I sit on the long-range planning committee. I'm also Canada's representative to URSI, the International Union of Radio Science.
I've participated with the Royal Society with respect to reviews of the scientific literature and the review of Safety Code 6 in the late 1990s. I really believe that this process is an excellent process. Through the former chair of that committee, Dan Krewski, we continue to write reviews of literature every few years.
Safety Code 6, specifically in the area of RF and specifically in the area of Wi-Fi, addresses the issue of heating. Given that that is the major scientific finding, it protects the public from Wi-Fi, from cellphones, etc. The radiation from Wi-Fi is lower in electric and magnetic field intensity than the radiation from cellphones, particularly transmit of cellphones when they are held up to your face and you're going back to a base tower.
So if we allow cellphones in children's homes and allow children to use cellphones, and if we allow children to use Wi-Fi in their own homes, it seems a bit paradoxical that there would be some concern about using this in a more controlled environment in the schools. Nevertheless, I've been reviewing the research program on non-thermal radiation in the area of radio frequency for the Swiss national academy and recently I spent four or five days in Lund, Sweden, reviewing their work on non-ionizing radiation and cellphone effects in blood-brain barrier permeability.
More recently, new technologies have allowed us to particularly evaluate what happens during exposure. In the past, we would do an epidemiology study: someone is exposed for 10 years, and then we try to see whether there's an effect. Right now we can start looking for deterministic effects—non-stochastic effects, let's say—by actually exposing someone and looking to see whether their brain activity is changing during the exposure. These are new findings; they are not necessarily.... And new findings have been produced by the Swiss consortium. Repeated reproducible findings have been produced by the Lund group in Sweden, and these look to be reproducible biological effects, but not necessarily detrimental effects.
I believe the process that Canada has in place—and I'm biased, because I'm part of that review process—for updating Safety Code 6 is a process in which arm's-length committees look at literature and then Safety Code 6 responds to that literature with respect to recommendations for regulations. I think this is a good process. And I see a disconnect with individuals stating that Wi-Fi should be taken out of the schools when in fact those children are exposed to similar conditions everywhere they go these days, and particularly in the home, and particularly if they're allowed to use wireless communication devices.
Really, that's all I need to say.
We've heard a lot from Health Canada officials that Wi-Fi has absolutely no risk and it's perfectly safe, but I'm here to report that this statement is false.
There is a public health disaster unfolding among children in Simcoe County, north of Toronto, where the school board installed a commercial grade Wi-Fi system in every school about three years ago.
Since then, the health of many children has taken a dramatic shift. Some report chronic headaches so severe that their parents are called to the school to take them home. Some report dizziness and vertigo, but only when they're in the school. Others report a cognitive disassociation where they forget where they are sometimes or they can't hold a pencil.
The more severe cases involve heart problems, specifically, an erratic and sudden speeding heart rate known as tachycardia. The children with this condition have reported that they feel like they're having a heart attack at school. At least one child with this problem passed out on several occasions, one time hitting his head on the gym floor as he went down. At least two children have been evacuated from school because the teacher could see their little hearts pounding through their shirts and had to get them out and call their parents.
Two more children have suffered cardiac arrest in Simcoe County schools in the last year. One of them was revived by a teacher with CPR; another one was revived by an attending police officer with a defibrillator. Now every school in Simcoe County has its own defibrillator, as though teenage cardiac arrest is the new normal. Outside of Simcoe County, it's actually less than one in a million. Inside Simcoe County, it's 46 times higher since they installed the Wi-Fi.
The reality is that we're allowing an experiment to be conducted at our schools every day and nobody's taking notes. This is the state of affairs in a school board that installed Wi-Fi in just about every classroom and hallway, and it's most likely the case in every school board that has installed these powerful Wi-Fi systems, but nobody knows because no one is keeping track and, so far, nobody cares.
We've reported all of this to the school board and they say that it can't be the Wi-Fi because Health Canada says it's safe. We reported it to the public health unit, and they said it can't be the Wi-Fi: Health Canada says it's safe.
We've reported this right up to the for Canada and we're told the same story, often with the same cut-and-pasted, word-for-word explanation that “Health Canada has got our back, don't you worry, Wi-Fi is safe”. Beth Pieterson herself was quoted on national television two weeks ago as saying, “There's no scientific evidence that those kinds of effects are caused by the energy limits the kids are exposed to by Wi-Fi”.
Well, I have news. The U.S. government's National Institutes of Health published a study this year showing that children's health is profoundly at risk from exposure to wireless devices. The European Journal of Oncology published an entire volume this month on the dangers of low-level radiation, and one of those studies showed that this exact heart problem, tachycardia, which is being reported in our schools, is agitated by the exact frequency of Wi-Fi. Just yesterday, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine reported that only four hours of exposure from a laptop with Wi-Fi on can damage DNA in sperm.
So what arrogance declares that all of these scientists and all of their work don't exist?
I've found that by scratching only a thin surface of Health Canada you discover a conflict of interest with the wireless industry, a conflict of interest that might explain why they're ignoring the scientists who have proved time and again that Wi-Fi is in fact harmful, especially to children.
Even though this experiment that is being conducted in Simcoe County has failed miserably, we're about to roll it out in schools throughout Toronto, London, Ottawa, and across Canada until every child in this country is irradiated by microwaves all day long because Health Canada says that's okay. The parents will have no say in this, and when their kids start having heart problems, their doctors will be just like the ones in Simcoe County. They'll say to the kids that it can't be the Wi-Fi because Health Canada says its safe. Instead, they'll prescribe pharmaceuticals, like they do for kids in our schools, or as in the case of one little boy in Barrie, they'll install a permanent defibrillator in his chest.
Despite the statements of Health Canada, we are without a doubt endangering the future of an entire generation of Canadian children. And for what? So that they can connect to the Internet in a new and cool way. Well, hard wires do the exact same thing. They give them the exact same Internet and they're harmless.
The children of Simcoe County have been failed by every level of government oversight installed to protect them, but they are just the beginning. They're a harbinger of Canada's future of sick children irradiated daily by microwave exposure without consent, and here, in this room, is their last level. This is the last chance for these kids. What do we tell them in a decade or two when we finally figure this out?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I don't want to take too much time. I think questions and answers are more relevant and I'm here to try to share my experience with you on these issues.
Just for the record, Ms. Pieterson mentioned the RED Act. I started my career in non-ionizing radiation with drafting regulations related to microwave ovens in the early 1970s under the RED Act. I've done research in the area ever since then. I moved on to the Ontario Ministry of Labour and worked there more broadly, in non-ionizing radiation in general, which covers the so-called range of “DC to Daylight”. I've participated in the standard-setting process and I agree with Dr. Prato about the validity of that process, the serious attempts made, and the absolute attention to every detail related to every aspect of the science of the day.
In the early days.... Just let me make one other point regarding SC 6. While I was with the Health and Welfare Canada of that day, I was personally the author of the seminal drafts of SC 6, and it has evolved significantly since those days, just as understanding of the possible effects of microwaves, radio frequency energy, and non-ionizing radiation in general has evolved over that time. Just as Ms. Pieterson said, all of the standards and guidelines--SC 6, ICNIRP, etc.--are under the same process of evolution as time goes on, developing with advances in scientific knowledge.
Scientific knowledge is not just associations. It's not just indications. A rooster crows in the morning and the sun rises. The rooster does not cause the sun to rise. Many associations are shown in many studies related to the possible effects of RF and microwave non-ionizing radiation in general. They do not become established effects until they meet sufficient criteria related to the whole process of reproducibility, development of mechanisms, and realistic models of how things occur.
The other issue that I think is important in the context of this sort of discussion is the perspective. What risks are we talking about? Are these risks relevant? Are they advantageous to us in terms of expending resources to control things that are hypothetical and to literally not control things that we know are very, very detrimental to us? To me, the glaring example of that is things like automobile fatalities. Children are at higher risk of death and dismemberment going back and forth from school than they are from Wi-Fi, for example. There are many issues like that in the environmental area. I think scientists try to bring perspective and rationality to these kinds of issues.
I want to thank you very much for inviting me to testify at this committee.
I first want to tell the people in the room what my professional background is. I'm a government-trained provincial and national electrical professional, so I design magnetic fields for a living and install these applications for industry.
On top of that, I have a building engineering background. Really important in that as well is that I've built that education to complement a background in infrared technology, which allows us to see temperature beyond our visible spectrum. Now, that can't be overstated, because seeing temperature molecular levels has allowed us to do consulting for a multitude of industries in oil and gas. We are part of a team giving their professionals the ability to see beyond their visible spectrum.
It's really important for the committee to understand in regard to me being here that I've consulted on national security issues and on every part of industry. I lecture medical academia in the United States and Canada, where they get education credits they need for licensing. One of the things I educate on in medical academia is magnetic and electromagnetic interference with humans and what it means to interact with anything.
I'll give you an idea of how important this issue is. In the case of electromagnetic radiation, we just recently submitted information to Natural Resources showing that electromagnetic radiation from the sun was causing the excitation of buildings to generate heat close to boiling temperature.
What I also what to say about that is that I've actually imaged, for the medical community, the early detection of breast cancer. I've imaged cellphone radiation in arms, face, and ears without even understanding what I was looking at; nor could the patient see what was in front of me.
As an electrical professional, what I wanted to bring forward to this committee as well is the point that there's been an oversight in Safety Code 6, in that you didn't compare frequencies to frequencies. Children aren't inanimate objects sitting in a room. They are very intricate electrical systems, and in this application they are essentially bare conductors. Being a bare conductor means they're very susceptible to any electromagnetic fields.
Something I've done for industry--and I've done this for their insurers, for these guys, and for manufacturing or lumber industry at the same time--is to actually image this effect in an electrical application. I have imaged 60 hertz, a very low frequency interaction, with electrical components that would have caused failure in their operation, killed people, and shut down the whole process.
Now, that's 60 hertz. Compare that to these children who are functioning at low hertz, at 7.8 hertz, and now you're imposing 2.4 gigahertz, or 5 gigahertz on a 7 hertz signal. You're going to cause electromagnetic induction, which is going to produce heat. You're going to change the frequency and the electrical parameters of that child. Also, when you get into the higher radiations, all you're talking about is a bigger heating effect because you have more aggressive radiations with that.
Safety Code 6 says that what's “to be avoided is the unintentional stimulation” of tissue. Safety Code 6 says we're to avoid the heating effect. Because that oversight didn't include frequency to frequency and what this meant for biologic systems in this. Guess what's happening in schools? This is, in effect, causing the “unintentional stimulation” of tissue. This is causing a heating effect. When they talk about non-thermal issues, when you're talking about things in biologic tissue polarizing at high speeds, the fact that it produces a heat effect should be very disturbing to every professional. It's absolutely unnatural to have a mystery heating effect in an electrical application.
When I actually took this forward to Health Canada, to the radio frequency professionals, I got comments like “they're not electrical”, and that's the extent of it. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said the same thing. They laughed when they heard there was a mysterious heat effect, but they didn't know cause. Causality and biological plausibility are that you have a frequency and an electrical conflict inducing electrical currents into those children--into everybody.
This is also dangerous out in industry, because this is causing our ecosystems and our atmosphere to polarize up to 10 billion times a second, at twice the frequencies, and if you take anything and ask it to change direction by 4.8 or 10 billion times a second, you're going to have some problems and produce heat.
I'm looking forward to answering any questions related to this. The work that I do has humbled me, but we're here to tell the truth related to all issues.
Good morning. I am speaking from Victoria. I am a professor at Columbia University and I've spent a good deal of my life doing research.
I want to answer some of the questions that have come up from the speakers, but let me first give you the gist of my statement.
As a result of the research I do, I feel that I'm acting really as a translator for what cells would want to say if they spoke our language, because cells have a way of expressing what happens to them by the things they do.
One of the things we have found out and have published in peer-reviewed journals--and it has been shown by many other people as well--is that when there are electromagnetic signals in the air, the cells start to react as if there were a harmful stimulus around. They do this when there is an increase in temperature. They do this when there's a change in acidity. They do this when there are toxic ions around. Cells start to make stress proteins and the stress proteins are indicative of a potential harm.
Cells make stress proteins in the presence of radio frequency, EMF, in the environment. They do this even with a much weaker power line frequency. You can get this with 60 hertz as well as with 800 megahertz. This is a characteristic that goes up even into ionizing radiation. It's a characteristic which indicates first that the cells are saying they are hurting and they are going to do something to protect themselves. There's no question about this. This happens at a very low level. We've published thresholds for this kind of thing, and they are very low.
The other thing about the stress protein is that this is made across the spectrum. You find it in not only non-ionizing, but up into the ionizing range. You start getting stress proteins being generated on exposure to EMF.
The fact that this occurs over such a wide frequency range is characteristic of what engineers call a fractal antenna. A fractal antenna is unlike the antennas that we are used to. Many of you may remember that when TV first came in they used to have these bars on top of the roofs that would pick up these signals. You had a long bar and a much smaller bar on top. This was so that you could pick up different levels of signals. The length of the bar told you something about the frequency that it would respond to.
If you look at EMF, you see that it looks as if the DNA is picking up all kinds of frequencies; that is, frequencies that relate to all different lengths. If you look into the nucleus to see the structure of DNA, you see that DNA is actually made like a fractal antenna. There is a double helix that everyone is familiar with, but in order for this long six-foot piece of molecule, the DNA, to fit into the nucleus, which is about a micron and very much smaller, this thing is coiled and coiled. The helix is coiled and then that coil is coiled itself. This keeps on going many times over. This is a property that is characteristic of fractals and the fractal response to a variety of frequencies--a much broader range than a single frequency.
I am telling you that the DNA structure is telling you that this would respond to a great variety of frequencies. You not only have the worry that you're responding to radio frequency, but you're responding to power frequency and you're responding to all the other frequencies that are around. Cells would tell you this if they could speak. I am telling you this because I have studied them and I have found this to be so.
We have taken the DNA apart and found the pieces of DNA that actually respond to the EMF. At the very lowest level in the power frequency range, we can get a piece of DNA that responds to EMF and an adjacent piece of DNA that responds to a thermal stimulus. They are distinct and they can be isolated.
We have actually taken the DNA that responds to the EMF and transferred it to another piece of DNA, which we can turn on. We have shown that we can use this piece of DNA as an electromagnetic trigger. Columbia University owns the patent for this. It is an electromagnetic trigger based on the biology that we've been able to learn from studying the cells.
I thought I would take the last few minutes to make a few comments about the reaction to some of the comments that have been made before now.
In addition to what I said about being at Columbia University, I've been very active in politics. I've been a president of the Bioelectromagnetics Society, the Bioelectrochemical Society, and an officer in the Electrochemical Society, so my experience--
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses for coming.
It's not disputed that electromagnetic fields above certain levels can trigger biological effects in humans, and therefore exposures to these levels that might be harmful are restricted in Canada and internationally. I think the current debate centres on whether long-term low-level exposure can evoke negative influences on people's well-being.
You see differences between the WHO report and the 2007 “BioInitiative Report”. I'm wondering if you can explain the process of Safety Code 6 for me. How often does the group meet? What experts? Are conflicts of interest declared? What is reviewed? Is it peer-reviewed? Is it grey literature? How often is it reviewed?
Are you doing any research of your own? If you are, what are you measuring, please?
I can start and then people can add.
Safety Code 6 was first developed in the late seventies. I think Dr. Muc has referred to that. It has been reviewed many times since then. Most importantly, in 1999 the Academy of Sciences was asked to review all of the literature and provide advice.
But Safety Code 6.... Most lately, it was reviewed and updated last fall and came out in 2009. But most importantly, we review the literature all the time. We don't decide that five years is up and it's time to review all the literature. Health Canada scientists review on an ongoing basis. We talked about papers being published yesterday. My scientists would be on that and reading it, and as soon as we find out anything that warrants the updating of Safety Code 6, it would be done.
I think that's what has to be remembered here. It's ongoing, keeping up on world literature. We look at the grey literature, but most importantly, we put most of the weight on peer-reviewed science literature and discussions with our international colleagues.
And we do some in-house research--you asked that question.
I just want to reinforce that. We had an independent panel reviewing Safety Code 6 and we came out with a documented review of the potential health risks in 1999. Now, it was reviewed and sent out for review, but that's not the same as peer review: you're absolutely right. So we separately, then, published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B: Critical Reviews
. We actually published the contents of this complete issue. Then we went on to publish updates in 2001, 2007, and 2009.
So the Canadian community, unofficially, is doing peer review evaluation of the literature. For Safety Code 6, the responsibility of Health Canada has been to incorporate changes on a volunteer basis, clearly, since the original evaluation. For example, in Safety Code 6 version 2009 there are something like 35 references. I was very pleased to see three references to my work—that's fantastic, because I'm not an author of Safety Code 6.
I was also pleased to see one publication where we stated that there is a potential for pulsed RF to affect the electrical activity of the brain, and we did that review. That was published in the peer review literature as well. Safety Code 6 acknowledges that work and acknowledges that there are effects; it's just that some of them are not reproducible, and also they're not necessarily detrimental to health.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I want to thank the witnesses for being here. I know that Mr. Palmer wanted to speak, and I of course will give him the chance to do so.
First of all, I would like to ask Ms. Pieterson a question. We see that Mr. Palmer has some fears that may be justified. When we talk about child safety, we can definitely be more emotional at times; we can be personally affected. I understand that and I understand Mr. Palmer's fears very well. Earlier you said no study had been conducted specifically on children, that you were ultimately conducting studies at large and that children were included in that.
Don't you think a study could be conducted specifically for the Simcoe schools? Perhaps that might break things down as to whether there is a genuine fear or not.
Listen, something very important on Safety Code 6 is that it is an incomplete document. With all due respect to the professionals working on this, you can't compare frequencies to children as if they're furniture. Mr. Palmer has every right to be concerned about this, because Safety Code 6 says this: that we want to avoid the unintentional stimulation of tissue. In examples, studies have shown nerve and muscle depolarization. That's not electromagnetic hypersensitivity: what happens when the nerves in the body aren't working? Again, because these children, and people in general, are effectively unprotected conductors, you're going to have this frequency conflict; you're going to have this change and something related to this process.
Now I'm a nationally trained government professional, and I contacted the health minister on this. I got back a letter even though I said to the health minister that what's changed in Safety Code 6 is that causality has been found, a biological plausibility has been found, and reproducibility has been found. I got a letter back from the health minister just prior to this meeting thanking me for my interest and totally dismissing my qualifications as well as the science related to the frequencies.
You have to immediately go to your electrical professionals, who are trained and certified in every province, and ask what would happen when you take these high frequencies and have them interact with another lower frequency. But don't equate them to children, because even the electrical professionals didn't understand--
I agree with our friend from Health Canada that it is unethical to experiment on children, yet this experiment is being conducted. If we look at the fact--not a fear, not a concern, but a fact--that there is not a single scientific study on children...exposing them to this level of microwave for six hours a day, five days a week, 14 years long, starting at age four, you are conducting that experiment. We are allowing that experiment to be conducted except that there is no consent.
Now, if Health Canada would like to conduct a long-term exposure study on children, could you please provide your own? Because my children have not consented to be experimented upon and yet they are every day throughout Simcoe County. This is moving toward Toronto and it's moving across Canada.
It's ridiculous to say let's just wait for some more time while I'm sitting here crying out loud and reporting to you that they're falling down, they're getting defibrillators put in their little hearts, and they are getting cardiac arrest. Hello: this is real and it's happening. And it doesn't go away because we pretend that on paper it's all safe.
I just want to go back, because Safety Code 6 basically says that the code “cannot cover all possible situations” and that blind adherence to rules cannot substitute for the exercise of sound judgment.
So when we're looking at this, I think it's extremely important to realize there are effects happening. We are seeing children being affected. We are seeing people being affected; if I remember correctly, my colleague sitting beside me is sensitive to microwave radiation. So we're hearing about this, and I think it's very troublesome to say, well, we don't think it's detrimental, and we're willing to take the risk. Are we really willing to take the risk?
Before I continue my comments here and maybe ask some questions, I do want to give Dr. Blank a chance to respond to what he's heard so far today and maybe finish some of the points he wanted to make at the beginning, because I think it's very important to hear those comments before we continue.
I wanted to make a comment. Several people have mentioned the fact that results have to be reproducible and be peer-reviewed. I would like to point out the BioInitiative Report, which has been referred to several times. I was one of the people who contributed to it. The BioInitiative Report was written by working scientists, people who've actually been involved in the activities they wrote about, unlike some of the committees that are making the judgments. You have people who are basically experts writing about this and active scientists who are writing about this.
The other thing about the BioInitiative Report is that while it wasn't peer-reviewed in the classic way, it was peer-reviewed among the people who contributed. There was reading of it among those who contributed to it, but the same people who contributed to the BioInitiative Report updated their report and submitted it to a journal called Pathophysiology, and thus a peer-reviewed BioInitiative Report came out in August of 2009. So in effect, the BioInitiative Report has been peer-reviewed and it passes with scientific credentials as well—that is, official scientific credentials.
As a coda to this, I'd like to point out that the Parliament of the European Union actually voted--I think in September 2009--to review their own standards based on the BioInitiative Report. So if you get the occasional report going around from a few committees of mainly politician-scientists, as opposed to active scientists.... The European Union, in its collective wisdom, decided there was enough evidence in there...and by the way, the BioInitiative Report had over 2,000 references in it, so you can't say that it was just a cursory review. It was a very thorough review, and it's open to discussion.
The point is that it was put out so that people could see it and in general the public did see it. The reviews have been that people are now much more aware of the issues than they had been previously.
Thank you to the witnesses for coming today and contributing to this very important study.
After hearing from Mr. Palmer about the situation in Simcoe County, I actually have a concern about my riding in which a cellphone tower has been put up very close to a day care centre. We have received a number of concerns from parents in that area.
The fact is that I'm concerned as a member of Parliament but also as the parent of a small child. Parents are not scientists, and we get a lot of different information, whether it's from the Internet or different scientists like the ones we have heard from today. There's conflicting information.
I would like to ask Health Canada, as the highest authority here in Canada, how parents can be reassured about sending their children to those schools and to day care. How can they have confidence in Health Canada? What do you say to parents in this situation?
Yes, if I may. Actually, I'm trying to address what you've raised, and I will also use the example that was raised previously about peanut allergies. Peanut allergies are established as an effect in certain people, so it's reasonable to take action to deal with established effects.
But despite Mr. Palmer's observations of distressful occurrences in the schools, those effects have not been established as a consequence of Wi-Fi per se. Now, there has not been a study specifically of children to determine that kind of thing, but nonetheless the standards and guidelines have indeed, as Ms. Pieterson raised, the issue of modelling and so on.... It's established that at levels far below--which is what Wi-Fi produces--the levels that are accepted by SC 6, it is not expected that effects like that will occur.
I will also say that in my experience with these situations over the last four decades, there have been similar spectra of consequences and of observations in schools, related to things like flicker in fluorescent tubes and colour quality of lighting, whether it's full spectrum so-called solar or natural fluorescent tubes or standard fluorescent tubes. It's just as each new technology comes along.... We'e had compact fluorescents raised as a possible issue now as well. There are new technologies. High frequency is being used to stimulate them. Lord knows where it will go.
Yes. I have two quick comments.
The reason it isn't established like the peanut allergy is because it's currently unethical to conduct scientific experiments on children. As long as that remains, it will never--read “never”--be established, okay? So that's a ridiculous standard to hold us to.
I'll give you another ridiculous standard that just came out of the mouth of Beth Pieterson: “no consistent evidence to date”. Let's edit that. I'm not a scientist, but I was a journalist for 20 years in this country. I would edit that. I would take out the words “consistent evidence” and then the word “no” doesn't apply. You have to take out “no consistent”, so there is evidence that this causes harm.
They're throwing in what journalists so affectionately call weasel words when we hear from our bureaucrats and politicians. It's plausible deniability, so that when children start getting sick in bigger cities like Toronto, Ottawa, or London, Health Canada can say, “Well, there was no consistent evidence to date”. There is no consistent evidence by this standard that smoking for 40 years causes lung cancer, because only 30% of the people get lung cancer. so for that other 70% of the people, there's no consistent evidence.
So they're raising the bar, raising the bar, raising the bar.... If they get sick, well, it's only these kids. If it's more schools, it's only those schools, well, we want doctor's notes now....
I'm going to read it out, okay? I have it written down here. It's quite a complicated thing. I'm not convinced that it's interpreted well by all.
Health Canada uses it. There have been cases where it has been used; I think the latest one is the removal of bisphenol A in toys and things. It's used by regulatory agencies worldwide. It's “a public policy approach for risk management of possible, but unproven, adverse health effects” to underpin risk-related decisions. Risk assessments consider all data available in the scientific literature and focus on effects where scientists consider most relevant for human health, and based on such an evaluation, the department, or any other agency, takes action as required.
But the precautionary principle is used when there is only some evidence and it's not conclusive. In the case of electromagnetic fields, Health Canada's position is that there is sufficient evidence to show that adherence to Safety Code 6 will not cause harm to human health. That's why we do not advocate the precautionary principle in this situation.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
We have heard interesting comments today. Certainly, coming from the City of Barrie, where I've seen some newspaper coverage of the concerns in Collingwood, it brings this very close to home. I haven't heard any of these concerns in my own schools, but seeing some of the coverage of what Mr. Palmer has talked about obviously has left me curious.
I wanted to know, first of all from Mr. Palmer, did the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit ever get involved? Did they ever substantiate any of the effort that was raised?
I agree with you completely, sir. We have been entirely discounted. The children have been discounted.
For example, we did contact a biologist who is the president of Lakehead University, who is a school administrator in our area. Lakehead has a campus in Simcoe County, in Orillia. He has banned Wi-Fi on his campus, and we asked the school board, the Simcoe County District School Board, to invite him to lecture about why as a biologist he knows that Wi-Fi is potentially harmful, and why he chose to not have it in his school and instead use fibre optic cables to hard-wire the computers. They refused to invite him in.
We asked them to invite Dr. Magda Havas, a professor at Trent University, published in peer review journals and doing research on electromagnetic radiation--which I know Beth Pieterson is well aware of--and specifically on microwave radiation. The Simcoe County District School Board ignored that and did not have her in. They instead invited Professor Muc to come in, who admitted that he has no knowledge of biological effects because he's not a biologist. He's a scientist; he speaks within his realm of training.
They didn't ask a biologist to come in. They didn't ask a doctor to come in. They didn't ask anybody who has training in the biological effects of microwave radiation to come in. Instead, they just keep deferring to Health Canada.
The Interphone study was a multinational study. I forget how many countries were involved; Canada was involved, as were many other countries. It was released this past May.
It took place over 10 years and looked specifically at whether cellphones increased the risk of brain tumours. The results showed that there was not evidence that conclusively said, yes, the risk of brain tumours was increased, but it did recommend that longer-term studies be conducted, specifically on children.
As most of us know, cellphone use didn't really become widespread until the nineties, so children have not been exposed for that long.
So longer-term studies were warranted and Canada will hopefully participate.
I'm not prepared to give you a detailed kind of analysis, but there are people who have made analyses of the data. They have pointed out that there a number of things in the report indicate that it really is a document that does not give you the full story. It's the fact that they separated out some of the data in the appendices. It's in the appendices that they find the data there for longer periods.
I think for the 10-year periods the data shows that there is some indication that the greater the length of exposure, the greater your risk of getting cancer, that is, it approaches or may have actually reached significance. The end points there are cancer, and cancer is not something that shows up in a matter of a few years. You usually take induction periods of greater than 10 years, sometimes 15 or 20 years, before you start seeing cancer. The fact that you see it in those data indicates that there is something there that you ought to follow up and view with caution.
If you want to get more detail on what there is, there was an analysis that was published by Lloyd Morgan, and there may have been someone else on that. They went into the various flaws in the way they chose.... One thing I remember is that they defined “users”. In the Danish study, for example, a user was someone who used a cellphone once a week for six months. That's hardly “use”. You're loading your category of users with a lot of almost non-users. They also eliminated corporate users because the phones weren't registered in their own names, which means they were eliminating those who were most likely to use the phones. So you can see the ways in which the data could be skewed, and there are reasons to believe they probably were skewed.
The actual investigators on Interphone disagreed very, very strongly on the results of the Interphone study, and for years they could not agree on a common point of view. I think that's the reason they actually published it with these appendices: so that the appendices would show that there are data in there that shows there's reason to worry about some of the things they found.
With due respect, Martin, we do not have any epidemiologists amongst us researchers here. That is a very sophisticated question that you've asked and it should be asked to a scientist who is knowledgeable in that particular field.
But Dr. Blank is correct in the sense that in presentations of this particular work by Dan Krewski, who is a Canadian in Ottawa here, a well-respected man, he feels the results show that there is no evidence of effects. Maria Feychting of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, another epidemiologist, has stated that she believes the data show there is no effect. Dr. Martin Blank is correct. Elisabeth Cardis has suggested that there may be some bias in the data and that additional studies would have to be done to determine the outcome.
The problem, again, I state, from my particular specialty and my observation of epidemiology, is that epidemiology tells you if there are effects of the order of at least 50% or 25%. In smoking studies, for example, it's easy to show by epidemiology that smoking causes lung cancer because the effect is 20 times higher. But with respect to these studies on epidemiology and cellphones, we always have error bars that seem to straddle the no-effect point.
Absolutely. There's something I'd like to say about the World Health Organization--I say this with all the required professional humility--which is s that the World Health Organization missed the fact that there's an electrical conflict between frequencies.
As far as recommendations go, here is something that could be done immediately following the meeting. If Health Canada went to their industry-trained electrical professionals, the ones it has certified as professionals, and to the electrical engineers and any reference in Safety Code 6, and said that this is an electrical frequency problem between an unprotected conductor and these high frequencies, within one hour you would have those electrical professionals talking about this induced heat effect and this unintentional stimulation of tissue. That can be qualified before the end of the day.
The idea that we're going to subject children or anybody to this radiation when Safety Code 6 specifically says that example studies have shown nerve and muscle depolarization.... Any medical professional I've ever talked to, when you talk about your nerves not working... This is going to produce symptoms from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.
Again, I don't have the tools to determine exactly how widespread it is. We've asked the school board to do this. They can send a note and a health survey home with every child, and in about five days, they would find out how widespread this problem is. They've refused to do that. So we've set up a website for Simcoe County called safeschool.ca and have asked people to write to it.
We have similar symptoms being reported: these chronic headaches, and nausea, dizziness, and vertigo. Often they're reported by parents whose children have entered kindergarten, because they have the baseline: their children never had this problem at home and now they're getting it at school. Others say they noticed it when their child graduated to another grade that was out in a portable. Now, these portables are associated normally with toxic mould. The portables didn't have Wi-Fi and the children's symptoms disappeared. Profoundly strong and chronic headaches disappeared.
So the parents are kind of having these “aha” moments; they are in at least 14 schools across Simcoe County that have reported to us, and probably more by now. It's becoming something close to a full-time job for me to figure this out. I could organize the study—I already have—for the school board to actually figure it out properly with the Simcoe health unit, with the epidemiologists, and with all the proper professionals who are in place to do this, but so far they refuse to.