Ont. rejects cellphone warning labels

Ontario is hanging up on a call to slap health warning labels on all cellphones sold in the province.

New Democrat's bill calling for special stickers expected to go nowhere

Ontario is hanging up on a call to slap health warning labels on all cellphones sold in the province.

Health experts are divided on the health risks of cellphone use, but the Ontario government says there's no need for special stickers warning consumers. ((iStock))
NDP health critic France Gelinas introduced a private member's bill Wednesday that would require every cellphone to carry a sticker warning of an increased risk of cancer.

The government promptly indicated it would not support the move.

Cellphone manufacturers already include warnings in owner's manuals stating that not using approved holsters could cause the device to exceed radio frequency exposure standards, which could "present a risk of serious harm."

But the companies bury the health warning so deep inside the manual, and in print so small, most people never see it, Gelinas said.

"You really have to be dedicated to read the manual," she said.

Ontario government says there's no risk

Health Promotion Minister Margarett Best said all the best scientific advice she's seen says there are no health risks associated with cellphone use.

Margarett Best, Ontario's health promotion minister, believes there is no risk associated with cellphone use. ((Frank Gunn/Canadian Press))
"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," Best said.

"In fact, Health Canada also says that there are no risks associated with this."

Health Canada, on its website, says the radio frequency energy from cellphones and cellphone towers poses no confirmed health risks.

The agency cautions, however, "that some scientists have reported cellphone 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."

Studies show some evidence of risk

Prof. Magda Havas of Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., said a lot of studies and evidence have shown negative health effects of radiation from cellphones, including cancers in the brain, eyes, ears and face.

"What's very interesting about these studies is that all of the tumours that are associated with cellphone use are occurring on the same side of the head that you use the cellphone," Havas said.

"All of these tumours are showing up after about 10 years of moderate cellphone use, so this is a development we have to be very much concerned about and aware of."

Children are more vulnerable than adults to the radiation, said Havas, but their preference of texting over talking on cellphones is actually a plus.

"Fortunately, a lot of young students are text messaging, which is a better way of using your cellphone because it only sends out the radiation when you (press) send, and you're holding it far enough away from your head," she said.

Questions about long-term use in children

"There have been a growing number of health agencies around the world warning that children under the age of 18 should minimize their use of cellphones."

Dr. Arlene King, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, says consumers don't need to worry about cellphone radiation. ((Nathan Denette/Canadian Press))
Toronto Public Health warns that children's cellphone usage should be limited. It notes younger and younger kids are using the phones, meaning longer exposure to radiation, and no studies have been done on those longer-term exposures to conclude they are safe.

"As a result, the chances that a child could develop harmful health effects from using a cellphone for a long time may be greater," the Toronto Public Health website says.

A sticker on every cellphone warning that long-term exposure could lead to cancer would help all users, Gelinas said.

"I call it giving ammunition to parents to fight the battles with their teens," she said.

However, the Opposition Conservatives joined the government in saying there was no need for warning labels on cellphones.

"Cellphones come with a warning within the instructions when you get the cellphone," said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. "I put my faith in the ability of families to make decisions to inform themselves about proper use."

Best said it was up to parents to educate kids about the proper use of cellphones.