Thank you very much. I have some opening remarks to make.
Chairman and members of the committee, it is my pleasure to be here today to speak on Health Canada Safety Code 6. My name is Andrew Adams, and I am the director of the environmental and radiation health sciences directorate in the healthy environments and consumer safety branch of Health Canada. I am joined today by Dr. James McNamee, the chief of the health effects and assessments division in the consumer and clinical radiation protection bureau and the lead author of Safety Code 6.
Safety Code 6 is Health Canada's guideline for exposure to radio frequency, or RF, electromagnetic energy, the kind of energy given off by cellphones and Wi-Fi, as well as broadcasting and cellphone towers. Safety Code 6 provides human exposure limits in the 3 kilohertz to 300 gigahertz frequency range, and we have provided chart A of the electromagnetic spectrum, just so committee members can situate the frequency range we're talking about.
But Safety Code 6 does not cover exposure to electromagnetic energy in the optical or ionizing radiation portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Safety Code 6 establishes limits for safe human exposure to RF energy. These limits incorporate large safety margins to protect the health and safety of all Canadians, including those who work near RF sources.
While Safety Code 6 recommends limits for safe human exposure, Health Canada does not regulate the general public's exposure to electromagnetic RF energy.
Industry Canada is the regulator of radiocommunication and broadcasting installations and apparatus in Canada. To ensure that public exposures fall within acceptable guidelines, Industry Canada has developed regulatory standards that require compliance with the human exposure limits outlined in Safety Code 6.
I'd like to talk a little bit about the approach for updates to Safety Code 6. Safety Code 6 is reviewed on a regular basis to verify that the guideline provides protection against all known potentially harmful health effects and that it takes into account recent scientific data from studies carried out worldwide. The most recent update to Safety Code 6 was completed earlier this month. I will describe the process used for that update later in my remarks.
When developing the exposure limits in the revised Safety Code 6, departmental scientists considered all peer-reviewed scientific studies, including those pertaining to both thermal and non-thermal, and employed a weight-of-evidence approach when evaluating possible health risks from exposure to RF energy.
The weight-of-evidence approach takes into account both the quantity of studies on a particular end point and the quality of those studies. Poorly conducted studies receive relatively little weight, while properly conducted studies receive more weight.
Now I'll focus on the recent update of Safety Code 6.
The most recent update to Safety Code 6 was initiated in 2012, with the goal of ensuring that the most up-to-date and credible scientific studies on the potential effects of RF energy on human health were reflected in the code.
Health Canada proposed changes to Safety Code 6 that were based on the latest available scientific evidence, including improved modelling of the interaction of RF fields with the human body, and alignment with exposure limits specified by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. These changes were proposed to ensure that wide safety margins were maintained to protect the health and safety of all Canadians, including infants and children.
Some of you may recall that this committee previously conducted a study on the potential health impacts of RF electromagnetic radiation. Among the recommendations included in the committee's December 2010 report was a recommendation that:
Health Canada request that the Council of Canadian Academies or another appropriate independent institution conduct an assessment of the Canadian and international scientific literature regarding the potential health impacts of short and long-term exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation....
ln response to this recommendation, in 2013, Health Canada contracted the Royal Society of Canada to review the results of emerging research relating to the safety of RF energy on human health, to ensure it was appropriately reflected in the revised Safety Code, through a formalized expert panel process.
I'm sure you know that today we're joined by the chair of the expert panel and one of the members of the expert panel.
The Expert Panel of the Royal Society released their review in March 2014, concluding that in the view of the panel there are no established adverse health effects at exposure levels below the proposed limits.
Among the recommendations made by the expert panel was the suggestion that the proposed reference levels in the draft Safety Code 6 be made slightly more restrictive in some frequency ranges to ensure larger safety margins for all Canadians, including newborn infants and children.
ln the interest of openness and transparency, Health Canada also undertook a 60-day public consultation period for the proposed revisions to Safety Code 6 between May and July 2014. The department invited feedback from interested Canadians and stakeholders.
Comments related to the scientific and technical aspects of Safety Code 6 received by Health Canada during the public consultation period, as well as the recommendations provided by the Royal Society Expert Panel, were taken into consideration when finalizing the revised guideline.
The final version of Safety Code 6 was published on March 13, 2015. Health Canada also published a summary of the feedback received during the public consultation period. Given the scientific basis of the guideline, only feedback of a technical or scientific nature could be considered in the finalization of Safety Code 6; however, the summary of consultation feedback responds to both technical and non-technical comments received from Canadians.
With the recent update, Canadians should be confident that the radiofrequency exposure limits in Safety Code 6 are now among the most stringent science-based limits in the world.
To shift a little bit and talk about the scientific methodology that underlies the revision of Safety Code 6, a large number of submissions received during the public consultation period raised concerns that Health Canada had not considered all of the relevant scientific literature when updating Safety Code 6. ln particular, it has been stated that 140 studies were ignored. I would like to address that criticism here today.
ln updating Safety Code 6, Health Canada made use of existing internationally recognized reviews of the literature along with its own expert review of the relevant scientific literature. Numerous reviews on this issue have been written in recent years by international organizations such as the World Health Organization, the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Emerging Newly identified Health Risks, and ICNIRP. I believe we have provided links to some of these reports for the committee's interest.
While Safety Code 6 references these international reviews, the code is an exposure guideline, not a scientific review article. Accordingly, most individual scientific studies are not referenced in the code. However, this does not mean that Health Canada did not consider all relevant scientific information when deriving the science-based exposure limits in the code. I can assure you we did.
lt should be noted that studies with inappropriate study design or methodology can lead to erroneous results that are scientifically meaningless.
Studies were considered not to be of sufficient quality to inform the recent update if it was not possible to determine the dosage studied, if the study lacked an appropriate control, if experiments within the study were not repeated a sufficient number of times, if no statistical analysis of the results was conducted, or if other improper scientific techniques were used. Of the 140 studies that have been cited, a large number fall into this category.
Other studies were not considered to be within scope. For example, some of these studies looked at exposures to a frequency range outside of the frequency range covered by Safety Code 6 and were therefore not considered relevant.
However, Health Canada did consider all studies that were considered to be both in scope and of sufficient quality for inclusion in our risk assessment. While it is true that some of these studies report biological or adverse health effects of RF fields at levels below the limits in Safety Code 6, I want to emphasize that these studies are in the minority and they do not represent the prevailing line of scientific evidence in this area.
The conclusions reached by Health Canada are consistent with reviews of the scientific evidence by national and international health authorities. Of note, the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks earlier this month released its final opinion on the potential health effects of electromagnetic fields. SCENIHR concluded that there are no evident adverse health effects, provided exposure levels remain below levels recommended by European Union legislation.
Now I'd like to talk a little bit about an international comparison. Members of the committee may be wondering how the limits in Safety Code 6 compare with limits in other parts of the world. I refer you to the chart of radio frequency exposure limits for the general public in different countries. Internationally, a few jurisdictions have applied more restrictive limits for RF field exposures from cell towers; however, there is no scientific evidence to support the need for such restrictive limits. Canada's limits are consistent with, if not more stringent than, the science-based limits used in such other jurisdictions as the European Union, the United States, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
In conclusion, the health of Canadians is protected form radio frequency electromagnetic energy when the human exposure limits recommended in Safety Code 6 are respected. Safety Code 6 has always established and maintained a human exposure limit that is far below the threshold for potentially adverse health effects. The health of Canadians was protected under the previous version of Safety Code 6, and recent revisions to the code ensure even greater protection.
Health Canada will continue to monitor the scientific literature on this issue on an ongoing basis. Should new evidence arise that indicates a risk to Canadians at levels below the limits in Safety Code 6, the department would take appropriate action.
Thank you for your time.